Girls on Site: Working with Women

This is the final installment in this series of blog posts about working on site, and what a journey it has been! The experience demonstrated that although I have finished my degree and no longer have formal access to a workshop, it does not mean it is the end of the road with regards to being able to make, as working on site is as possible as my confidence allows it to be.

The project was also a first for working in collaboration with a solely female collective, as well as with other creatives and designers, particularly those who come from other disciplines and backgrounds.

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This project offered me the chance to not only work with the wonderful women from the Young Women’s Music Project, but also the wider network of craftspeople that I am able to turn to in those moments that I am stuck scratching my head. Heather Scott in particular, who gave me a lot of food for thought, as I worked on this commission. In an interview I carried out with her prior to this build, she stated:

Kids that are taught to be creative have a greater idea of what is possible, because their imagination is broader and that has been tapped into. If girls are encouraged to be creative, even if they don’t end up working in a creative field, they’ll have the tools to think of what’s possible beyond what they can see, and to problem solve – which is such an important skill for women to have going forward, I think. I hope that by doing what I’m doing, along with other women in the trade, we’re putting on other girls’ radars another idea of what’s possible.”

I find this comment so enlightening, as it became apparent to me just how much the methodology of design is a tool for life. There may be lots of women in society who are not challenged with strict barriers, however for those who are, having the life skill to analyse, adapt and move past the problems presented to them is so important for a good quality of life. I think this way of thinking has also been demonstrated by the development of organisations like the Young Women’s Music Project, as it provides women with a designated safe space to pursue creative pathways and fully realise their potential as individuals.

Even within the realms of this two-week design and make project at Makespace (Oxford), this was proven. Ithar M Ghalifa said to me during one of our lunch breaks how much she had learnt just by observing me work over the course of the week, as she was able to ask questions and even try out some new equipment. Zahra Haji Fath Ali Terani was also intrigued to learn about how I would make the furniture for the space.

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THIS GIRL SANDS: Ithar M Ghalifa learning practical skills, as she uses a random orbital sander for the first time.


And it wasn’t just a one way thing, I took just as much from the experience as they did. I discovered that it is possible for a woman to work free-lance and make a living; I realised that good communication skills and a positive attitude are the key to effective project managering; and working in a team with a diverse skill set benefits the whole project. For example, Ithar created a beautifully designed brief at the start of the project, as well as creating 3D digital renders and a short video for marketing purposes (included below). This inter-disciplinary pollination of knowledge is extremely important within the creative sector, and learning from a range of people is only ever a good thing.

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Ithar M Ghalifa’s 3D renders of the space.



Heather Scott also said:

I wouldn’t exist without my community of women, especially my creative community of women. Amazing women who are running their own businesses and thinking differently, independently. I’m constantly propelled by the energy and fight they have. I couldn’t do it without knowing that those people were all there on the same train. There’s a constant feed of inspiration. You see other women doing it, and if they can do it, so can you – even if they’re in a different creative discipline. It’s not about the content, but the mind-set: the attitude of being inspired to do stuff. There’s a helluva lot of mutual respect. We sing each other’s praises and lift each other up.

“It’s a difficult to say what my advice to girls and women who’re interested in working in this industry would be. I want to be encouraging but also honest about the challenges. So to these women I say, try and put yourself in an environment where you’ll be encouraged and supported, because, honestly, you’ll need it. And have confidence in your difference. That what you bring may be different to someone else, but it’s no less. I fear that there are places that will be unwelcoming and unsupportive, but I can only hope that will change.

“It’s such an empowering thing to be able to create something that didn’t exist before. So find your own unique way to bring your skills, attitude and creativity into it. There’s loads of space for different types of people in the field. There’s loads of space for women.”

With this last point in mind, I think there are definitely arguments to maintaining women only spaces (which are trans-inclusive and fully intersectional). It was completely appropriate therefore that the team for this project at Makespace consisted of only women. In essence it is ‘made by women, for women’. And who knows, maybe one day THIS GIRL MAKES will have its own designated space…


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