Women Working with Wood

Blanket (made of poplar wood and braided string) by Vivian Chiu 11 FD

In a refreshing rebuttal to the male-dominated world of woodworking, The Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia is highlighting the incredible and varied work of 43 artisans who identify as female.

The exhibiting artists and designers include President Rosanne Somerson, who made a name for herself as a studio furniture maker after graduating from RISD and helped found RISD’s Furniture Design department in 1995.

“...these talented women have made a profound impact... and serve as tremendous examples for [others] to find their own ‘seats at the table’...”

Rosanne Somerson

Curated by West Coast maker/educators Laura Mays and Deirdre Visser, Making a Seat at the Table: Women Transform Woodworking highlights the breadth of perspectives North American women bring to the field. A book by the same name features interviews and profiles of the women whose work is included in the survey exhibition and is expected to be released next year.

Child Trophy (hand-carved Honduras mahogany) by former RISD President, Rosanne Somerson
Child Trophy (hand-carved Honduras mahogany) by Rosanne Somerson

“I’m honored to be included in this exhibition with so many groundbreaking women designers and artists,” says Somerson, a former professor who taught several of the women in the show.

“The articulate voices and accomplished making skills of these talented women have made a profound impact on the field and serve as tremendous examples for other young women to find their own ‘seats at the table’ in whatever fields they may be interested in.”

Believing (ash, sterling silver) by Furniture Design faculty member Yuri Kobayashi
Believing (ash, sterling silver) by Yuri Kobayashi

Work by Furniture Design faculty member Yuri Kobayashi, who studied traditional woodworking in Japan before earning an MFA and launching her practice in the US, is also included in the exhibition, which opened in early October and continues through January 18.

In making “concept-based objects with an emphasis on the sculptural form,” she creates work that reflects her “identity, experience and empathy.”

Windsor Flower Chair (ash, glass vials, fresh-cut flowers) by Annie Evelyn 99 FD/MFA 09
Windsor Flower Chair (ash, glass vials, fresh-cut flowers) by Annie Evelyn 99 FD/MFA 09

Three of the other makers with work on view are alumni Vivian Chiu 11 FD, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University; award-winning furniture designer Annie Evelyn 99 FD/MFA 09, who is currently teaching at California College of the Arts in Oakland; and Chicago-based conceptual artist/designer/writer Fo Wilson MFA 05 FD, whose recent work “celebrates black femme representation and the black imagination as a technology of resistance and self-determination.”

Boa Bedside Table (sapele, steel, feather boa) by Fo Wilson MFA 05 FD
Boa Bedside Table (sapele, steel, feather boa) by Fo Wilson MFA 05 FD

“These makers are deploying their work to change models of education, production, entrepreneurship, distribution and community-building,” the curators explain, “positioning craft as a tool to imagine and create a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive future.”

Simone Solondz