Furniture Making in Print: Meet Amber Bailey

Not unusually for my age, I use social media a lot. In particular, Instagram, an image-based resource that is used by creatives throughout the industry to communicate, share ideas and raise their design profiles. It was through this outlet that I came to be in touch with Amber Bailey, a graduate from Buckinghamshire University and marquetry enthusiast.

As I learnt, Amber has been a contributor to several of the woodworking magazines in the Guild of Master Craftsmen publication Group, since she was nineteen. She started by writing a fortnightly blog for their website (www.woodworkinstitute.com) when she began her university course.

I was intrigued to hear about her experience as part of the woodworking publications industry.

“The magazines definitely hold a readership of skill levels from novices to masters and the wide-ranging age groups that can accompany this. There are women that read the magazines and I do occasionally hear feedback from them, however I would say it is definitely still a male dominated sector. Certainly today’s woodworking magazines are much better at including women contributors, this helps cater to female consumers. As a rule they still seem to be written for men and promoted in the male hobbyist magazine sections in shops. This can mean that unless women are purposefully searching for the magazines they are unlikely to be drawn to them by chance.

In publishing, women’s magazines are often penned as lifestyle guides rather than focusing solely on specific crafts in technical detail. This means that there are no woodworking magazines on the market designed to appeal solely to women however publications such as Woodworking Crafts Magazine are actually achieving this in a gender neutral manner, promoting techniques and a wider look at the lifestyle and industry that accompanies it.

I would say that I am not sure if I have ever seen a woman on the front of a woodworking magazine, certainly it is something very rarely attempted. The day I see a lady with girly nail varnish and makeup holding tools on a magazine cover than I will know that we have finally broken through the glass ceiling! – A girl can dream!”

And whilst I was leading my interview with Amber towards a discussion on gender, it is also important to note that whilst there doesn’t seem to be a woodworking magazine aimed exclusively to women, it also appears that there are few publications on craft targeting young people.

So, I suppose the question is: how can publications be more appealing to a female or young readership?

Amber offered an opinion of how a career in furniture design and making could be better promoted to women:

“There definitely needs be better promotion of the possibilities available to women, the easiest way to do this is better promotion of current female craftsmen. There are so many amazing women that are working almost as an underground movement; better public coverage would demonstrate aspirational careers and lifestyles.

We live in a society that is very susceptible to influence from public figures, seeing ‘famous’ female craftsmen on social media and television would have an instant positive effect of encouraging women to take those first few baby steps or to take existing hobbies far more seriously. Along the way there does also needs to be some validation of women’s technical ability and knowledge so that the both genders do not maintain an outdated ‘cutesy’ view of female competence in the workshop.”

I would also offer to the discussion that following the success of platforms, such as Instagram, that an image based publication that focuses on providing advice and guidance on projects relevant to young or female demographics would be more appealing. Hole & Corner Magazine (http://www.holeandcornermagazine.com/magazines/) includes articles on various craft disciplines and does so in an attractive, minimalist aesthetic, and is definitely worth a read. So perhaps the explanation is that few young people are reading paper copies these days, and the market is moving towards more digital platforms? However, I believe there will always be a market, no matter how small, that will still prefer a hard copy of a magazine to a smart phone version, because after all- we are crafts people, we like tactile objects!

Following this, I am pleased to announce that there are ten copies of the first This Girl Makes Zines, which will be on sale in the run up to Christmas. This edition includes original artworks by three illustrators and various extras, such as a sweet banana bread recipe! This is to launch the latest initiative as part of This Girl Makes, a quarterly zine featuring the latest work from those creative girls that like to make! Watch this space, or get in touch if you would like a copy or to contribute to the next edition (harriet_speed@hotmail.co.uk).

5 thoughts on “Furniture Making in Print: Meet Amber Bailey

  1. Alys Walton says:

    Harriet, this is a brilliant article, I agree with every comment apart from the dream to see ‘a lady with girly nail varnish and makeup holding tools’ on the front cover, as Amber goes on to say, it would be much better to promote a woman achieving excellence in her field. Your zine sounds very exciting, where can I buy a copy?

    Like

    1. Amber Bailey says:

      Hi Alys,

      The only reason I want to see a girly woman on the front cover is so that it would prove there is absolutely no prejudice left. In woodworking magazines it is far more acceptable to get published if you are a ‘plain Jane’ as it were, and today that is far less likely to be the case in actual workshops. There is no direct correlation between a personal choice to wear make up and how capable you are in the workshop. I used to get accused of being unprofessional for my decision to wear nail varnish in magazine pictures but this stopped after I had proved my ability and began to receive lots of compliments on the quality and content of my writing.

      That’s why a girly front cover would be important to me personally!

      Best Wishes

      Amber

      Like

    2. thisgirlmakes says:

      Thanks for a great response, Alys! I’m always so grateful when others contribute to the discussion. I am currently creating an online platform so I can start selling This Girl Makes merchandise, including the zine. Don’t worry, I will save you a copy.

      Like

  2. lucyandrina says:

    I have discovered this blog through Amber (i am her sister!) but I can fully endorse the fact that we need to include more women makers on more accessible platforms and also to minimise judgement of ability based upon appearances. A very interesting read. In the field of ceramics, it appears that more and more women are working professionally and the major ceramics magazine does a good job of promoting this. However, when looking for professional ‘potters’ for an apprenticeship it still seems that many of the big names are men. I haven’t quite worked out why that is, maybe generational and influenced by the training available in the 60s/70s.

    Liked by 1 person

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