March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. In recognition of International Women’s Day, and to coincide with the Sydney Design Festival – which runs from 2-11 March and has its HQ at the Powerhouse Museum – we asked some of our amazing female curators to tell us about their favourite female designers respresented in the MAAS Collection.
Kristina Stankovski, Assistant Curator
Dr Anne Summers AO is a leading Australian feminist, writer and social commentator. Summers knitted this Pussyhat — “a brightly coloured…badge of pride,” as she described it in a Sydney Morning Herald op-ed in February, 2017 — using a pattern designed by Kat Coyle of the Pussyhat Project. A reaction to Donald Trump’s election, the Pussyhat made its debut in the Women’s March in Washington DC the day after Trump’s inauguration, and has since been worn at other protests worldwide.
Alysha Buss, Assistant Curator
Iris van Herpen is a significant innovator of digital techniques and materials in fashion and is known for her interdisciplinary collaborations. For this Lucid collection dress, van Herpen collaborated with artist, architect and academic Philip Beesley to investigate, among many things, how complex curvilinear forms could be translated into repeating cellular patterns. The resulting free-form hexagonal meshwork patterns create the look of a shimmering, bubbling, lace-like exoskeleton.
Sarah Reeves, Assistant Curator
In 2012 Marita Cheng was awarded Young Australian of the Year for her work as a technology entrepreneur and advocate for women in technology. She is the founder of aubot and Aipoly, two companies dedicated to designing robotic and technological products to improve the lives of people who are sick, elderly, or living with disabilities. Cheng is also the founder of Robogals, which aims to teach robotics to girls and encourage them to pursue careers in engineering. She is just one of the amazing female scientists and engineers featured in the Museum’s Experimentations gallery.
Angelique Hutchison, Curator
When she first joined Crown Crystal Glass in 1967, Denise Larcombe was one of only a handful of female industrial designers working in Australia. The Sydney glass maker Crown Crystal Glass (Crown Corning from 1972 to 1988) based in Waterloo was the largest and most successful manufacturer of Australian domestic glassware in the last half of the 20th century. Many of the company’s award-winning products, designed by Larcombe, can still be found in Australian households.
Eva Czernis-Ryl, Curator
When the Austrian potter Lucie Rie (1902-1995) migrated to England in 1938, she forged her own path creating innovative ceramic vessels rejecting the prevailing Anglo-Japanese aesthetic led by Bernard Leach. Trained at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna, Rie made thin-walled containers with textured glazes described as ‘breathtaking in originality’ by the Australian ceramic artist Marea Gazzard in the 1950s. Today, her modernist bowls and bottle forms are in museums around the world and she is recognised as a pioneer of studio ceramics and a ‘leader amongst 20th century potters’.
Min-Jung Kim, Curator
Joungmee Do (b.1966) is an established Korean-Australian jeweller who uses a traditional Korean metal technique called jjoeumipsa (chiselled inlay). This technique was not taught in the Korean university Do attended, where western metal smithing dominated. Instead, while a typical stay at home wife in Korea, Do began learning her signature technique from a master craftsman. In Australia, she was encouraged to resume her career as an artist.
Tilly Boleyn, Curator
The ‘Women of NASA’ LEGO set features computer scientist and entrepreneur Margaret Hamilton, astronomer and executive Nancy Grace Roman, astronaut, physicist and entrepreneur Sally Ride and astronaut, physician and engineer Mae Jemison. These women all battled against the belief, held by many in the 20th Century, that women should not want to be scientists. They helped begin to change entrenched attitudes at NASA and beyond. Maia Weinstock, a science writer, pitched the idea through the LEGO Ideas initiative. It’s only the second ever LEGO set showing women in professional jobs.
Katie Dyer, Curator Contemporary
Fiona Hall is an artist with a searing focus who relishes ‘staying with the trouble.’ Hall defies categorisation as she explores questions of social equity through her use of botanical illustration, photography, craft techniques, and landscape architecture. Her Xanthorrhoea plant tiara is both unique (only one other example exists) and it exemplifies her Australian vernacular, humour, and deep concern for the future of the environment.
Keinton Butler, Senior Curator
In 1952 British sculptor Mary Gillick designed the first portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for the obverse of British and Commonwealth coinage. Gillick won the commission when she was seventy-one years old from a field of seventeen artists, in a competition conducted by The Royal Mint Advisory Committee. Gillick refined the coin’s design sixty-three times, and with each variation a new mould and cast was made. Gillick’s design was seen as unconventional at the time, as it portrayed the Queen uncrowned, with many describing it as ‘fresh and approachable’.
Jacqui Strecker, Head of Curatorial
Marianne Brandt was one of the Bauhaus’s most talented students and metalwork designers. Brandt produced a range functional, geometric-inspired works, including this desk set, that successfully exemplified the ways in which art and machine technology could come together. Elegant, smooth and streamlined in appearance, many of the objects she created for use in the modern home or office have become icons of 20th-century design.
These objects are just a tiny fraction of the incredible female designers whose work is recognised and preserved in the MAAS collection. To explore more, visit our online collection search. And until next year, Happy International Women’s Day everyone!