When you think of woodworking, what image comes to mind? When you picture a sewing machine, what pops into your head? Do you associate men with one and women with the other? Throughout the DIY world there are increasing examples of people defying the gender stereotypes that permeate our daily lives. More women are entering into conventionally masculine creative pastimes like furniture building, and more men are delving into traditionally feminine crafts such as sewing and quilting.
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Beth Ireland is a prominent name in the world of woodworking, having taught, lectured, and exhibited her work throughout the U.S. However, it wasn’t easy getting there. In the Seventies, female students were barred from taking high school shop class, so Ireland had to wait until college to enroll in woodworking courses. In 1979, she decided to learn carpentry, but it took several attempts before she was given a chance as an apprentice.
Ireland tells Woodworking.com, “I must have made 50 calls to get a job, but everyone laughed at me, saying things like ‘we don’t hire girls.’”
Her persistence paid off a year later when she started as an apprentice carpenter. Ireland’s enthusiasm and willingness to learn helped her climb in the field. She opened Beth Ireland Woodworking in 1984, specializing in cabinetry and furniture.
In an effort to renew interest in the art of woodworking, Ireland embarked upon Turning Around America in 2010, a project to “empower people through the simple act of making an object with wood.” Ireland travelled over 25,000 miles and taught over 3,000 adults and children the art of craftsmanship and the value of making something by hand.
(Photo: Turning Around America)
White’s blog has become the go-to resource for furniture building DIYers, with over 1000 free plans, step -by-step project tutorials, and videos in which White explains power tools and how to properly use them. Individuals post their own furniture building successes and tips on the website’s brag board, where her fan base encourages and support each other. Her blog gets up to 4 million visitors per month (89 percent of whom are women), her Facebook page boasts over 250,000 followers, and her book The Handbuilt Home is an Amazon best seller.
From White’s perspective, women are becoming more and more comfortable with picking up power tools and paintbrushes than they ever have before. “Women are getting involved in everything from coming up with a design and picking material to building, painting and moving it into the room.”
(Photo: Ana White)
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Laureano Faedi is the man behind the sewing machine at San Francisco Breakers. After starting Gangs of San Francisco, a line of shirts and accessories based on the city’s history, he branched out to handmade goods. His line of leather, denim, cowhide and fabric tote bags are made by Faedi himself, and the reaction of customers is often astonishment.
"People are surprised when they find out I sew all the bags myself," he says. "And other makers assume that I get the bags made by someone else."
Artistic from a very young age, Faedi was never pressured by his family to replace his passion for a more masculine occupation. “Growing up, my parents always found creative ways to make a living. My mom made dolls, puppets, paper flowers and my dad always helped her. They made a decent living so they knew that you could make a living using your artistic creativity.”
(Photo: San Francisco Breakers)
”Man-Made: Contemporary Male Quilters,” an exhibit at the Craft & Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles through May 3rd, challenges the notion that masculinity and needlework are separate entities. The eight featured artists bring a fresh perspective to the medium by incorporating unconventional elements like concrete and heavy metal t-shirts and demonstrate the growing male presence in the traditionally female art form. Luke Haynes, whose quilts are included in the exhibit, credits the internet for providing knowledge of quilting to a wider audience, men included.
"Because there was a break in tradition, we’ve seen a huge jump in male quilters," he tells The Los Angeles Times. “It’s not moms to daughters, it’s YouTube to whoever is interested.”
(Photo: Portland Modern Quilt Guild)
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The DIY movement has shown strides in defying gender preconceptions. By stepping outside society’s gender boundaries and expectations, these makers are forging a new path for fellow and future crafters!
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