I post the largest portion of my social media content on my Instagram account @ninthwavedesigns, and several months ago I began using the hashtag #womeninwoodcarving as a standard tag for my posts. I started doing this for a few reasons, first being that I had seen the successful use of the tag #womeninwoodworking on many of the accounts I follow and thought it would be nice to have something specific that focuses on women wood carvers as well.
I regularly find in the comments on my Instagram posts that people still automatically assume I am male. It’s possible that one of the reasons this bias hasn’t gone away is that it is being regularly reinforced by things like this recent email I received from a leading woodworking supply retailer:
This isn’t the first time I have encountered advertising targeted at woodworkers that reinforces the assumption that the ability to grow a beard is an entry-level requirement for working with wood. Even after everything that has happened with the popularity of the maker movement and the increased visibility of women makers from all areas of creative work, this is still the default. I’m sure this advertisement is meant to be amusing and that it wasn’t purposefully designed to exclude anyone, but it makes me feel weary, and it definitely doesn’t make me feel like shopping.
Ultimately though, I decided to use the #womeninwoodcarving hashtag because of this:
When I was 19 years old I discovered the sheer undiluted joy of woodcarving while taking one of my first 3D art class as an art major in college. I had a small space in the basement of an academic building, and the autumn sun streamed in through the casement windows onto a large section of apple wood that was mine to chip away at with chisels and a mallet to create what was to be my first large scale wood carving – except I never finished that carving. My male professor, who also happened to be the department head, couldn’t keep his hands to himself. After a few incidents of being groped by this man who was at least 30 years my elder, I stopped showing up to my studio space. It was two or three weeks into the semester and I just never went back. I didn’t fail the class, he actually gave me a really good grade for doing nothing, and in an effort to avoid taking any more of his classes I chose to pursue printmaking as the concentration for my BFA. The only reason that this happened was because I am female. The assaults were minor, but creepy enough to derail me from pursuing wood carving at that time in my life, and it took me over 20 years to circle back around and reclaim that joy as my own.
And it is my own joy now, and I am happy to celebrate it even with such a small thing as a hashtag.
I invite all women woodcarvers to use this hashtag so that we can see each others work and share our process.
I invite everyone to use Instagram’s new feature to follow #womeninwoodcarving and the #womeninwoodworking hashtags to support and encourage our work in what is still considered a non-traditional pursuit for women. Use these tags to find and follow the accounts of these amazing creative women.
I also ask that you take some time to read Danielle Rose Byrd’s excellent thoughts on the topic of women in woodworking which she shared this past summer at a Lie-Nielsen presentation, the transcript of which can be read in its entirety on her blog here: Lie-Nielsen Presentation Transcript.