Review: Stitched Up at The Victoria and Albert Museum The V&A has an excellent events program that run alongside both temporary and permanent exhibitions. One of these programs is The Friday Late, which takes place on (I’ll let you figure this one out). On 30th April a friend and I met to sample some of the delights at Stitched Up, a night of craft to complement the current quilt exhibition (which you can read about here on The 405). The program included a Tea&Make garden party, cross-stitch workshop with zinester, blogger and Daughter of Rob, Barbara Frankie Ryan and crafty DJs. Our highlighted event of the night was a talk, hosted by the exhibition curator and The Women’s Institute, on the subject of “Creativity and Domesticity”. Known more for its strict guideline rural jam making and flower arranging activities, the Women’s Institute has had somewhat of a resurgence in the past decade, attracting both a more urban based following and a younger generation of girls who like to make and do. Goldsmiths was the first university to set up a WI meeting place for students, followed closely by Brighton University where I’ve had the pleasure of taking part in dress making and badge making activities. These new groups are working wonders, lifting some of the cobwebs from this age-old institution and bringing it back to its roots. I was enlightened and inspired learning about the role of the Women’s Institute and it’s campaigning history. One of the key concerns when forming in 1915 was to tackle the issue of isolation so many women felt in rural areas. By coming together to make and mend feelings could be shared more openly about issues such as domestic violence, waste, human rights. This in turn led to active involvement in illustrating and bringing awareness of these issues to a wider audience. Considering how the WI began it is no surprise that there has been an increase in urban groups, such as the Shoreditch Sisters and Nottingham City. Living in a space so densely populated can be paradoxically incredibly isolating and having an activity to focus on when meeting new people makes for a really good icebreaker. One of the main issues in this particular section of the WI (and other craft related groups in urban areas) is that of consumer led societies and the benefits than can be felt by your pockets and mental health by participating in Make Do & Mend. After all this information and getting on so well with what the speakers had to say on the issue of Creativity and Domesticity there was something said that grated ever so slightly. Being the Women’s Institute discussion came up on the issue of femininity. Artist and WI member, Caren Garfen, had some “interesting” ideas on whether women would rather work or be at home. She seemed to think that most women would rather not work at all. This was backed up with statistics from London School of Economics, however it failed to mention what the exact question was and who was being asked. I can imagine this would be the case should the other option for these women would be a leisurely home life with a well to do general household income (and who’s income/ trust fund would it be?), as opposed to running around ragged trying to make ends meet, mending what little they have and ferrying cars of kids about only to find the cup of coffee/tea they made has gone way past cold and developed a thick skin and whole new species of mould. To say that women’s rights haven’t changed is a grand generalisation and just plain wrong. I’m not denying there are still some gender issues in the work place, but in our western society there is certainly more choice for everyone. If you don’t like your job you can change direction... no one says it’s easy but it is one hundred percent possible. …And thank you to the wonderful lady in the audience who brought to attention the fact that you guys out there are just as domestically creative as us girls! And just as aware of feminine issues. That generation the WI blames for not being domestically involved enough (i.e. Our mothers), has raised us with less gender stereotypes than ever before. I love that I’ve had guys at my craft club knitting and being quite good at it too. I think the WI should be welcoming this new generation of males with open arms and allowing them to attend regular meetings, some groups are already letting them sit in. The awareness campaigns that the WI embarks on will be so much more effective if they don’t exclude a whole gender! *** The 405 Craft Update: Interviewing and reviewing contemporary makers, organisers and craftivists all over this planet. If you have anything you feel is worth sharing please get in contact with me at:
More info can be accessed here: Facebook Group Words by Miss String (aka. Rachael Pictures and other research taken from and