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.
(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.)