When I first considered the topic of women in woodwork, I couldn’t help but think back to the early days and my first craft show as a participating woodturner. The day following the show I received a request from a local newspaper which wanted to run a story on me and woodturning. The story, as I discovered, had less to do with my turning and more to do with the idea that here was a woman in man’s world.
That was twenty-five years ago.
Today, highschools and colleges are no longer in the segregated dark ages, having opened their tech wings and wood shops to both genders years ago. This fact, accompanied by a change in social attitudes, has resulted in an increase in the numbers of women entering into the traditional male enclaves of wood and metal. Consequently, women are now better represented in these fields. In this new age, the focus has changed from the women themselves to the work they are doing, as it should. Although no one bats an eye anymore at women woodworkers, it is a phenomenon worth noting given the existence of exhibitions featuring women’s work only, such as the Women in Woodworking Symposium, held at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian in 2002 and the upcoming Showcase 2005 being held April 2 nd and 3 rd in Saratoga Springs, NY, featuring a special display of distinguished “Women in Woodwork”.
Women bring a unique perspective to woodworking. In general, we tend not to approach wood from a traditional, furniture-based viewpoint but rather a decorative, artistic one, a desire for expression through the making of beautiful objects. Women also bring with them a background of other craft influences and have few objections to using non-traditional applications of colour, pattern and decorative design.
More importantly, women have stories to tell through their work that are unique to the feminine perspective and follow feminine themes. In her article in Turning Points, (winter 2003) entitled “Betty Scarpino: a dialogue”, Betty writes, "The work of many women who work with wood is rich in metaphor and meaning, whether it is conscious, subconscious, or unconscious.” Themes of birth, motherhood, renewal and change permeate their works as self-portraits depicting the defining stages and relationships of their lives.
Women certainly don’t wish their work to be viewed as different or separate but want it to stand on its own merits, an existence and importance apart from its maker. Yet, at the same time, it is reflective of our unique outlook and experience. In this regard, the term “women’s work” takes on a whole new meaning.
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and is published with the permission of Marilyn Campbell