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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Women Art Workers and the Arts and Crafts Movement

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7 February 2019

Time: 6:00 - 7:30pm
Speaker: Zoë Thomas
Venue: Graduate Centre 6.04

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This talk offers a new history of the Arts and Crafts movement, framed around the lives of the, now little-known, network of professional women ‘art workers’ who worked at the heart of the movement. These women formed their own exclusive Guild, the Women’s Guild of Arts, and organised influential lectures, exhibitions, demonstrations, and parties at their businesses, workshops, guild hall, homes, exhibition venues, and studios. At these bases, art works were designed and made—from book cases, stained-glass windows, to chess sets—which were sent to customers across the world. In their spare time, they designed and made hundreds of posters, banners, and postcards for the suffrage campaigns.

Throughout the talk, I will focus closely on these buildings and spaces, and the relationships that played out within these sites, as a way to illuminate how these artistic individuals sought to construct professional lives and overturn gendered power imbalances in society. Through this myriad of spatial strategies, women art workers managed to play a critical role in disseminating the ethos of the Arts and Crafts across new local, national, and international spheres of influence, taking the movement to ever greater heights of public significance, and in the process playing an important role in the democratisation of artistic culture.