The 8th of March 2018 was a particularly special International Women’s Day because it marked the centenary of the year some women were granted the right to vote; specifically those who were over the age of 30 and either owned land themselves or were married to men with property. Now that we have the benefit of hindsight and an understanding of intersectionality, it is possible to fully appreciate how obscene in so many ways this notion really is. Especially when one considers how few women, even in 2018, would be eligible to vote under these conditions.

It was really refreshing to see how many institutes, companies, and brands embraced this occasion, whether for good intentions or not. Inclusivity riding is a concept that has been brought to light now that the conversation regarding intersectionality and inclusivity have gained in popularity and marketability. In some ways ‘any publicity is good publicity’, as it does provide opportunities for discussion. These feminist facades, usually from corporate brands, can be really harmful, and really it is in the interests of a fair and fruitful society for all, if the dialogue on equality comes from an honest place. I was so pleased therefore, to find myself featured in LINLEY Furniture’s blog in an article titled Women In Craft (read it here: https://www.davidlinley.com/blog/celebrating-women-craft/).

THIS GIRL MAKES celebrated the centenary with two Help Me Make style events; one in the Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford) and the other at the Shipley Art Gallery (Gateshead).

The stool-making workshop at the Pitt Rivers Museum was a real success, as it encouraged intergenerational teamwork through craft. The two available sessions were both fully booked, with a few additional participants added last minute. The first session coincidently seemed to be formed of mostly American families; perhaps this has something to do with the large woodworking scene in the states? But other participants included a mother with her son and daughter, and another mum with her three sons. This parent in particular was really impressive because for someone who openly admitted they had never done woodwork or DIY, she did extremely well helping all three children with their projects.

For those who were finished early or waiting for glue to dry, we had the museum’s Families and Communities Officer, Beth McDougall, on hand to engage and educate the young participants with some of the museum’s collection of stools; one of which was made by Rycotewood alumnus, Daniel Harrison (http://www.danielharrisonfurniture.com).

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The second workshop, to my surprise, included a furniture making friend of mine, Tim Evershed, who works under the name Brooke Studio (http://www.brook-studio.co.uk) and has previously featured on the THIS GIRL MAKES blog (https://this-girl-makes.com/2017/04/16/this-guy-makes-interview-with-tim-evershed-of-brook-studio/).

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The day was really enjoyable, not only because all of the participants successfully completed their stool and their feedback was really positive and encouraging, but also because I had the wonderful workshop assistance of Poppy Booth. Poppy is in her final year at Kingston University, studying furniture and product design, and whom I came to know fully through the LINLEY summer school in August 2017. Her help ensured that the event was reasonably stress free and the message that ‘women are furniture makers too’ was successfully reinforced.

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These events are so rewarding, especially when the groups give such positive feedback. I received this tweet from one of them: “My daughter really enjoyed this and felt so proud to have made something herself! She won’t let me post a picture but I just wanted to say thanks”.

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Later in March I headed back to the North of England to deliver another workshop. I was apprehensive for this one, as it was a trial session for the prototype of a new ‘build it yourself’ project. The plywood toolbox requires participants to screw its components together, and then to decorate its plain surfaces with a painted pattern or design. The additional challenge for this event was that the group was made up of native Arabic speakers, most of who spoke little English. I also decided to make it a women only event, as it was being specially organised to celebrate international women’s day.

The session was successful, as the components were assembled with reasonable ease, yet still provided the group with enough of a challenge. It was also really exciting to discover what they were all intending to use their boxes for, as well as seeing how each of them chose to decorate it. Some of the intended uses noted were: a plant box, a medicine box, a craft box, and a book box.

The Build Your Own Toolbox design came out of the research project I completed as part of my final year at Rycotewood, where I study Furniture Design and Making. My dissertation explored how craft provides solace during bereavement, and a toolbox was one of the images recorded during research. This is because if every bereavement we experience provides us with a tool for self-development and resilience, and we add these to our ‘toolbox of life’, then the more we learn to carry around with us, the stronger each of us becomes. I found this metaphor particularly touching, and it proved effective at easily translating into a ‘help me make’ style workshop.

The event at the Shipley Art Gallery helped inform me of how this particular workshop should be developed. So watch this space, as there will be more to follow soon!