December 24, 2021
A Survey of Women Designers Opens in Germany
London- and Hamburg- based designer Julia Lohmann is one of the contemporary designers included in Here We Are!: Women in Design 1900–Today, an exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil-am-Rhein, Germany. She is pictured in the studio of the transdisciplinary platform Department of Seaweed, where she and her colleagues explore the industrial design potential of this untapped biomaterial. Those unable to visit the museum in person can explore the exhibit on the museum’s YouTube channel and website.
A pioneer of recycled materials and the do-it-yourself movement, designer and teacher Louise Brigham published a groundbreaking furniture-making manual for thrifty families in 1909. Box Furniture: How to Make a Hundred Useful Articles for the Home is a practical guide to creating inexpensive household items such as a desk, high chair, and dressing table using wooden shipping crates.
Brigham may be the least-known of the 80 designers featured in Here We Are!: Women in Design 1900–Today, an exhibition at Vitra Design Museum in Weil-am-Rhein, Germany. On view through March 6, 2022, the show offers a broad survey of the often-overlooked commercial and creative contributions women have made to design.
Organized chronologically in four parts, with Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, and Patricia Urquiola among the better-known icons, the show digs deep to shed light on neglected historical evidence as well as the modern day’s improved climate. Today, despite a shortage of women-run studios, nearly 50 percent of all design students are women, Vitra Design Museum curator Viviane Stappmanns found.
The exhibit uses furnishings from the museum’s collection, as well as photographs, ceramics, toys, historical documents, and films from the museum’s archives and other collections to reveal the impact on the design world despite working conditions that, when permitting women, have often forced them into fields considered more “appropriate,” such as ceramic and textile design.
The curators took pains to include a geographic diversity of designers. Butaque, a low wood lounge chair, was designed in 1948 by Cuban-born Clara Porset, “who is being rediscovered because she was documented by people like photographer Julius Shulman and journalist Esther McCoy,” Stappmanns notes. And a Soviet spaceship living room is by Russian Galina Balashova, interior designer of the orbital modules for that country’s space program.
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