The reason for This Girl Makes is to shine a light on those designer-makers who don’t fit the stereotype of white, middle aged males; inclusivity and inspiration is at the centre of what this blog was set up to achieve.
“Then why don’t you interview me?” proposed Dub, short for Dubhaltach: my 22-year-old, Irish-Londoner friend. Currently at Rycotewood Furniture Centre in Oxford, women are in the minority across all three years of the HE courses. However, as Dub pointed out, he is the only openly gay maker within the furniture department. Therefore, it appears he is more of a minority than myself. Putting labels on people is belittling and is not the aim of this discussion, however I was interested to hear how Dub finds the workshop environment and the stereotypes of this industry that come with it.
Prior to studying on the BA at Rycotewood, Dub studied one year at De Montfort University on their Product and Furniture design degree course. Finding the course too heavily based on industrial design, and not with enough focus on arts and crafts, he decided to explore other options. He secured a job at Opus Magnum where he was welcomed into a busy and thriving workshop. I am pleased to say that Dub spoke positively of his time working in Wimbledon. He told me about one colleague commenting on how he was the first gay trader he had met whilst working in the industry. I asked Dub why he thought this might be the case, particularly for the construction and trades industries.
“Perhaps because some men feel too insecure to come out at work. I have a friend in Birmingham, who thought he would be persecuted if he decided to”. This isn’t helped by the misconceptions and stereotyping that are associated with these kinds of industries: the use of “casual homophobia” and sexism within workshops and warehouses. But Dub pointed out that it’s a shame the stereotype of these industries doesn’t match the reality, as he has only ever experienced positive attitudes in workshops and factories.
If the workbench or design studio is where we come into our own and externalize our imagination, then it makes sense for these spaces to be safe and welcoming. I asked Dub, “do you ever feel you change the way you act, in order to ‘fit into’ the workshop environment?”
“I suppose I do, but then again most people change the way they act, in accordance to their environment; whether they are with company, or on their own. However, I feel I have the confidence at college to create more artistic and sculptural pieces, which is what I want to create”.
I have previous to this conversation told Dub about how much I admire the fact he has the will to be as creative as he’d like; I find him fearless. Whether it is creating a maze of shelves or a table made completely out of triangles and shoelaces; furniture would be boring and regressive if we all had the same style and design process, which is why diversity on these courses is so important. Establishments should encourage a variety of approaches to craft, no matter the designer-maker’s background; leading to ideas straying a bit further from the conventional ‘box’.