Friday, 8 July 2016

Looking at the Overlooked - Steph Rushton - Cheryl Buckley paper

Ahead of her part in the upcoming Woman's Work exhibition in September at AirSpace and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Steph Rushton is in residence with us researching gender roles in the Potteries. Steph will be blogging throughout her Residency.

More info on her residency Looking at the Overlooked can be found here
Today, looking at the historical issue of  gender stereotyping in the Potteries industry, I came across an interesting paper by Cheryl Buckley entitled 'The Noblesse of the Banks’ : Craft Hierarchies, Gender Divisions and the Roles of Women Paintresses and Designers in the British Pottery Industry 1890-1939.
Essentially this is an academic review of what I have always understood in an experiential way
(growing up in the Potteries and having many members of my family employed in the industry ) to be just the way things were..
‘ Opportunities for women designers and skilled women workers in the British pottery industry…. were mainly to be found in the decorating stages of the manufacturing process. These jobs were designated ‘ female within a hierarchical and gendered employment structure which protected and esteemed craft work done by men. At the top of the pay and status ladder where the skilled craftworkers who had served long apprenticeships; these were the master potters, art directors, throwers, modellers, engravers, and oven-men. The use of the words ‘master' and ‘men' in the job titles highlights the gender specificity. Master-Potter and oven-men had no female equivalent and only one skilled job was designated female in its name-that of paintress.
Although designer was a ungendered label, in practice a hierarchy existed within this area of work.’ 

Things didn’t seem to change all that much after this period either, speaking to a colleague who worked in the industry as a paintress in the 1980’s the role was still a female one with very little opportunity to advance further up the pay-scale.

Buckley, Cheryl. "'The Noblesse of the Banks': Craft Hierarchies, Gender Divisions, and the Roles of Women Paintresses and Designers in the British Pottery Industry 1890-1939." Journal of Design History 2.4 (1989): 257-73. Web.

Above, Young paintresses in the enamel department at Beswick’s Gold Street works in Longton, 1950. photo credit unknown.

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