On Thursday 23rd November, as part of the Rycotewood 80 year anniversary exhibition at Oxford Brooke’s Glass Tank Gallery, fellow furniture student- Michael Buick- and I co-chaired a discussion panel; to explore how rapidly changing technology is affecting making. My contribution in the organizing of the event began with my observation that the event, as it initially was planned, would be a wholly male representation of designers and makers. This is what is described as a ‘manel’, as my sister pointed out.

“Why can’t we have women involved?” I asked.

The response I got was that there were no reasons not to have women represented in our discussion, the only issue was that no one had thought to contact any. A week before the event, we had two guests attending: Gareth Neal (http://garethneal.co.uk) and Rick Mower from RAW Workshop (https://raw-workshop.co.uk), but we were eager to have at least one more. Conscious that this was going to be happening at short notice, I put my college work to the side for about an hour, as I took it upon myself to not only fill out our panel, but to also make it more diverse.

“Hi, is that Sarah?” I said, as someone picked up at the other end. I was speaking to Sarah Kay, a furniture maker and Parnham College alumnus, who I have come to know through my writing for THIS GIRL MAKES. I was sorry to hear that Sarah was unavailable on the day of our event, but welcomed her suggestions for other craftswomen that she though I could approach.

I must admit, when Sarah said, “How about asking Tomoko Azumi? She is very approachable”, I met it with a response of, “Wow, she’s a big name!” I spent the rest of my dedicated hour contacting women from the list Sarah had sent me. I was familiar with a lot of their work, but had previously put off contacting many of them for the fear of wasting their time. However with the kudos of the Brooke’s event, I felt it was a golden opportunity to make contact. To my excitement, both Lucy Kurrein (http://lucykurrein.com) and Tomoko Azumi (https://www.tnadesignstudio.co.uk) responded with a ‘yes’; the show would go on!

Our discussion focused on the role of making in the context of an age where we are surrounded by computers and smart phones, and I was eager to hear the opinions of such experienced designers and makers. Now having had the job of chairing a discussion panel, I have an improved respect for those who do it, especially on even bigger scales. It was an exciting opportunity to be involved and learning how to organize such an event. I always look forward to meeting those who share my passion for making and for furniture, so it gave me great pleasure to meet each of our panelists in person. I hope the connections we made on Thursday extend into the future prospects for Rycotewood, as it is an establishment that should be cherished for generations to come.

#staycreative!

(For the context of the audio clip- at the beginning we are discussing Tomoko’s 1:16 scale models of iconic chair designs: https://designmuseumshop.com/products/one-to-sixteen-model-butterfly-chair. For the introduction each of our panelists were asked to show three images: two of their own work and one with an interesting point on how technology has influenced making.)