This International Women’s Day, The New Craftsmen celebrates female creativity and the vision of female practitioners across all areas of craft.\n
Craft has been historically gendered as female, with the exception of areas such as woodworking and metalworking; overlooked by the arts as domestic and insignificant; and many women have been historically overshadowed by their male contemporaries. Last year we asked some of our makers about the women in craft who have inspired them, and we have continued this for another year, as it allows us an opportunity to share and reflect on the female contribution to craft - from making and mending to pushing the boundaries of craft. This time, we share the influences of April Mai of The Backward Vendor, Alexandra Robinson and Charlotte McLeish.\n
Leather artisan, April Mai, is the founder of The Backward Vendor, a London-based leather workshop. She has found herself looking to the work of Michelle Stuart, an American multidisciplinary artist who has created an expansive body of work including large-scale earthworks, multi-media installations, encaustic paintings, sculptural objects and more. Michelle Stuart is known for using organic materials, such as earth, wax, seeds and plants, and her influences range from botany to ancient archaeological sites.\n
Michelle Stuart at Tomkins Cove Quarry in 1977 \n
“For me, most of my works are rooted in everyday life; work, leisure, travel, history, our environment, and informed by the art of craft and the perfect imperfections of leather. I like how Michelle Stuart transfers her life findings into her artwork, she executes her ideas within the limitations of using certain materials to fuel her imagination - combining structure with chaos.”
Left: Michelle Stuart's seed calendar series of drawings treats time as an organic construct. Right: Michelle Stuart, Container, 1995. \n
Alexandra Robinson, designer of functional art, has shared two female practitioners with us who have inspired her for different reasons.
Artist Kim Lim \n
Kim Lim, a Singaporean-British sculptor and printmaker, most known for her abstract wooden and stone-carved sculptures and works on paper. Alexandra describes being inspired by Kim’s pure vision, line, execution and materials:
“I cannot resist excellent abstract abstract sculpture in wood, stone and of course plaster. The way I measure it is: if you want to touch it, it's working. A rough stone surface or warm polished wood, it is undeniable. I have always loved work 'in the round’, offering a different perspective, it surprises and delights. How is it placed? Where does the light catch and what shadow shapes does it cast? How does the negative space work with the object? It is endlessly appealing how thoughtful abstract sculpture is.”\n
Works by Kim Lim \n
Alexandra also noted being inspired by Vanessa Bell not for the work she produced necessarily, ‘but for the spirit in which she worked’.
“Art was a way to live. Constantly creating, across many different disciplines and thinking and evolving. How could this or that be elevated? And so practical. If urns in the garden were needed, they were made, and if they are going to be made then why not make them witty and unique? Creating works on canvas is just a small part of it all really. Home plays the central role - how to live, the space in which to create and, most importantly, the conversations had - these are the things that inspire me.”\n
Artist Vanessa Bell \n
Ceramicist Charlotte McLeish often looks to history to inform her work, from objects in museums to the history of an area and the people who have lived there. She highlighted the work of Ruth Duckworth, a British sculptor most known for abstract ceramics inspired by nature.
Artist Ruth Duckworth \n
Charlotte is inspired by Ruth’s varied approach to making processes:
“Rather than sticking to one method of making, she allowed the form to dictate how each piece is made. Moving between throwing, coiling and pinching meant each body of work had its own feel and identity, which I find particularly inspiring. I’m drawn to the use of texture in her ceramics - her use of glaze gives a sense of the clay and its texture below the surface.”\n
Works by Ruth Duckworth \n
This International Women’s Day we thank all of our talented female-identifying makers and we celebrate all of the women who craft - both in our wonderful community and those who have led the way before us. We encourage you to continue creating and supporting craftsmanship.
Explore a selection of exceptional craftsmanship by some of our female makers below.\n