After the Make/Shift/Space residency, I was contacted by our project mentor Anna Francis about exhibiting some of my current work and developing the handmade bricks for a project she was devising. Woman’s Work is a partnership project between AirSpace Gallery and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery that 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 year-long project involves a number of exhibitions, events and activities including an exhibition of contemporary works and new commissions at AirSpace Gallery. Existing works of mine which explore changes to the female body through pregnancy were selected alongside a new commission of 40 handmade bricks imprinted with the names of women makers. In order to make these in time, I set up a regular Clay Club at home and enlisted the help of (mainly female) friends to shape the terracotta clay and select names from a long list of Birmingham women who had been recorded as a maker or manual worker in historic trade directories. Each brick is unique, differing in size and style and represents both the individual woman it honours and the person who made it. The temporary nature of the unfired clay references the low status of those women and how their contribution to industry could so easily be erased.