Whenever I have a moment spare or am in need of something to help me switch off, I like to scroll through my Instagram feed, which I am sure does not make me unique. It is therefore always a pleasure to see the latest works from Heather Scott (@heatherscottdesign) who really is one of my women in furniture role models.
Not only has she established her own design studio and workshop, operating since 2013, but she has also mastered the skill of designing stunning pieces that echo the simple beauty of Japanese and Scandinavian design, as well as working with both wood and metal. This is largely due to her continued reference to her creative peers for wisdom and inspiration. Her network of makers and artists is a vital component of her work: mechanics have taught her ingenuity, ceramicists have inspired her to play with colour, and architects have encouraged her to push the boundaries of space. Knowing she shares the unique experience of making with these formidable people is what keeps her moving.
Heather’s design ethos can be summarised by three simple words: Design. Craft. Purpose. Meaning she creates objects that live with you, not around you.
I approached Heather to be part of this blog series about women working on site because I felt she shares a similar thirst to prove herself by taking on a diverse scope of creative projects, many involving construction and onsite work. What follows are her thoughts on the industry at present (which I 100% relate to):
“I think people approach things differently. I think people, on a completely individual level, approach things differently. But I do think there are also generalisations that we can make, in knowing that they’re generalisations, about confidence – that’s quite a cultural thing. That we bring men up to believe they can do things in a different way. And also, that men are brought up quite often in a way that they feel they should know stuff and can’t ask questions. And sometimes that comes across in a confidence that I don’t have. I will only tell someone I know how to do something if I really know how to do it. I don’t have a confidence that I’ll be able to work it out along the way, which is a big part of the job, as there’s always so much to learn.
“I find the most frustrating thing is people just not believing me when I say I’m a furniture designer, or that I’m building a straw bale house – which is what I’m currently doing. People are often surprised, and this often comes from a place of misguided respect. But it’s part and parcel of that feeling of having to prove myself over and over again simply because I’m a woman. So even if it comes from a place of respect and admiration and inspiration, it still feeds my feeling of having to prove that I do my job. And that I do it to a high industry standard. That yes, I do actually know what I’m doing.
“Of course it gets me down sometimes, but often it makes me more determined to prove people wrong. That’s definitely a part of it – a determination to challenge the stereotype. I find that a rewarding thing – to be a part of the change for a wider spread of people to have more choice in the careers they choose.
“To those who would make comments that a woman is just physically less able to make or build, I think it’s completely irrelevant. Because physically as humans we’re all ridiculously different when it comes to strength, regardless of gender. And with the tools we have today it becomes even more irrelevant. Woodworking isn’t what it was 100 years ago. We’re not out climbing and felling trees – at last not all of us are. We have tools and systems that aid us. These development make it much more accessible for anyone. Everyone will have their own physical limits and it’s just about finding a way to work within them. Some jobs are just two person jobs. That’s a ‘two person’ job, not a ‘two man’ job. I’m definitely tactful in how a work, and to what scale and what materials I use. And I’m very aware that I’m not as strong as some other people, but what I don’t have in physical strength I make up for in other skills. Skills, which are far more vital to my craft.”
To see more of Heather’s work, visit: www.heatherscott.org.uk