Friday, 14 October 2016

Woman’s Work - Untitled (Equivalent) by Claire Hickey

Claire Hickey’s current practice uses brick stacks, embedded casts, and moulds to examine notions of pregnancy, labour, women's work, and the dichotomy of being both an artist and mother.

Untitled (Equivalent), a floor piece comprising of handmade, unfired bricks, imprinted with the names of female makers of 19th Century Birmingham, seeks to look at unrecognised, working women. The project was initiated by the discovery that the mass-market jewellery chain H Samuel was founded by a female jeweller, Harriet Samuel. The response of surprise that comes hand in hand with the discovery that H Samuel is a woman is infinitely telling. What does it say about our ingrained attitudes that we blindly assume that the successful chain was founded by a man? How many other female makers are left unknown? Hickey looked at the Birmingham Archives to unearth other unacknowledged female makers from the city.  Below is a list of the women and their professions, each of which Hickey has commemorated in this brick piece.

Women makers of Birmingham (mid 19
Harriet Samuel jeweller
Elizabeth Collins builder
Mary Edwards chair maker
Sarah Hastilow basket maker
Ann Bailey glove maker, hosier & haberdasher
Phoebe Kirby hatter
Betsy Knight baker
Ann L- odge statuary mason
Jane Mayrick dyer
Sophia Mason milliner
Esther Mousley butcher
Hannah Pugh pastry cook
Mary Reeves furrier
Rebecca Reading draper
Elizabeth Richardso
n cabinet maker
Jane Sanders gun barrel browner
Sarah Sanders cooper
Alice Pitt locksmith
Elizabeth Gill sword & gun maker
Lucinda Evetts brass founder
Constance Naden
Georgie Gaskin artist & jeweller
Kate Bunce painter
Myra Bunce designer (metalwork)
Ruth Worrallo file maker
Susannah Parkes gilt toy & watch chain maker
Catherine Holyoake horn button maker
Kathleen Dayus enameller & author
Susannah Roberts straw and tuscan bonnet maker
Emma Rooke stay maker
Martha Oakley shoeing smith
Charlotte Langford paper bag maker
Annie Thompson harness blacker
Sarah Avery wheelwright
Eliza Barber lapidarist
Maria Birch chandler
Ann Blick brewer
Nancy Brindley boot & show maker
Arabella Plant pearl button maker
Frances Moore dressmaker
Direc tory of Birmingham 1835
White's Trade Directory 1845
White's Trade Directory 1835
Kelly's Directory 1888
Birmingham: The Great Working City, 1994, C. Chinn
Birmingham Women, 2000, M. Green
Birmingham at Work, 1993, A. & J. Douglas
A History of Industry in Birmingham, 1977, M.B. Rowlands

Woman’s Work is a partnership project between AirSpace Gallery and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. Woman’s Work seeks to make visible the hidden and unsung labour carried out by women in the home, the workplace and public life, and in particular seeks to redress the imbalance in history and the arts, where work made by women has been undervalued, or simply not recognised.

The exhibition is open at AirSpace Gallery 11am - 5pm, Thursday - Saturday, 30th September to 5th November 2016. The evolving Woman’s Work programme at Potteries Museum and Art Gallery runs through to November 2017.

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