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RAE 2008

Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design

Background image by Akiko Kuwahata



An Introduction to the exhibition “Women Working in Wood” at London Metropolitan University

Are there any reasons for a gender specific exhibition? Even if woodwork may have been conventionally associated as masculine, this exhibition in the way that work is presented and described, is less concerned with aspects of gender than the specificity about materiality - particularly wood - either in regards to the work and/or the concepts and ideas or emotions that inform the practice.

Along with found parts from animals, stone and mud, wood was one of the materials early humans made use of and shaped. Archaeological finds display objects such as tools, sculptures and furniture, whereas the kind of woods used were native to the region and thereby determined the range of artefacts produced. Only as transportation and trade developed were more exotic woods made available. 'Woods' natural, yet prepared for function and highly manufactured such as plywood operate as the 'raw' material for the imagination of the craftsperson, designer and artist. Through the use of conventional hand tools and power tools, which can be digitally controlled, what then can be realized by a craftsperson is a chair, a table, a cupboard or any representation or imaginational object.
We see this in the series of events that make the Wonder of Making.

Underlining the making there is the requirement of material knowledge and skills. Is there an aspect of experience that may define something different to making? As Richard Sennett remarks in his book, The Craftsman:
experience, a fuzzier word in English than in German, which divides into two, ‘Erlebnis’ und ‘Erfahrung’. The first names an event or relationship that makes an emotional inner impress, the second an event, action, or relationship that turns one outward and requires skill rather than sensitivity.
The state of reacting or being sensitive to an external stimulus is no indicator for how thinks are made but what is the content of that which is expressed through making? Sennett goes on:
The idea of experience as craft contests the sort of subjectivity that dwells in the sheer process of feeling. Of course this is a matter of weights: impressions are the raw materials of experience, but only that – raw materials.
Sennett further argues, that the craft of making physical things provides insight into the techniques of experiences that can shape our dealings with others (Sennett, 2008, pp.288-289).

What, therefore, is the interest to the viewer? Is it the issue, a puzzle, of the gendering of the objects, or is it that which is entailed in the objects, be they furniture of more widely categorised, within their own 'spaces'? What is the interest that may be derived from this exhibition?
Jane Graves stated in her paper, ‘Making interest matter - an analysis of practice in psychoanalysis and art’:
Interest is the capacity to be engaged, to succumb to curiosity, to be distracted (Graves, 2008).
This is an act of being ensconced in an exhibition, yet also being distracted by both the internal and external worlds, making sense of these things in our lives, and how we might possibly experience them by the construct of stories; an inner discourse of one’s own social conversations and cultural context.

Seeing is a kind of reading the particular, that is to recognise and work on the material and experience, making a possible narrative; spinning a yarn. The onlooker’s own making is not in wood, but indulges in speculative inquiry, often accompanied by an element of doubt: a state in which the mind is suspended between different propositions.

Is it a paradox that material objects can have a gender? What is the range of characteristics used to distiguish the masculine and feminine attributes of the object? Can we read from the object ideas of gender or that the object is gendered?

What is clear is that the 'gendering' of objects changes across languages and cultures. What is absolute seems to be ephemeral.
Our culture sets most of our gender standards. Some even think that our cultural standards are absolute, being the only way possible. However, past cultures were different. For instance, in ancient Rome, men wore miniskirts and women wore flowing robes (Romana, 2008).

So this exhibition and symposium bring us wonder in both senses. The pleasure and excitement of the apprehension of the object and our wondering, thinking, around the object.

Simone ten Hompel and Chris Smith


Graves, J. (2009), Making interest matter – an analysis of practice in psychoanalysisand art.
Journal of Visual Arts Practice 8: 1+2, pp. 75–82, doi: 10.1386/jvap.8.1 and 2.75/1
Romana, A.(2008), The Gender of Objects. Retrieved from: http://www.processreality.com/objects-gender.html
Sennett, R.(2008), The Craftsman. London: Allen Lane


Wonder of Making

A series of events from the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Media and Design with the funding from ERDF

Upcoming events:


An event coordinated by Walford Mill Crafts, London Metropolitan University, Simone ten Hompel and Chris Smith

Cass Gallery - 41 Commercial road - London E1 1LA
17th November 2011-16th December 2011
Opening times: Mon - Fri, 12noon-6pm
Private view: 24th November 2011, 6pm-8pm


A symposium organised by the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Media and Design


Linden Reilly, Jane Barnwell and Karen Hansen

Parker Gallery - 41 Commercial road - London E1 1LA
24th November 2011, 2pm - 5.30pm


A workshop with Peter Bauhuis

5 December 2011 - 9 December 2011

This workshop, through making in wax and subsequent selection and casting in metal, enables the participants to recognize their own pattern of making. Bauhuis refers to it as: “The lingo of liquid wax, the makers innate dialect of form and forming”.


CYBORG Symposium

A symposium organised by the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Media and Design

8 December 2011

How can the organic and the artificial aspects of making be defined and what are the characteristics between craft and that of the artefacts enhanced in their normal capabilities through other technical methods?


London Metropolitan University