MA Fine Art student Grace Williams responded to several selected narratives and objects within the Birmingham City University Art & Design Archive collections resulting in multi faceted outcomes including exhibitions, collaborative workshops and an ongoing women only craft club led by artists, students, technicians and staff alike.
Inspired by a selection of photographs from the 1930s taken at the bi-annual School of Art ball Williams curated the exhibition 'Students Never Change: Art student parties and nights out 1930s to present day' combining double projection and sound. Williams displayed a selection of creative nights out, many including fancy dress and performance from the 1930's alongside contemporary photographs of current staff and student antics showing how art student parties have developed over the years.
The exhibition also exhibited archival sound clips of alumni speaking about their memories of the School of Art student balls.
The Craftswoman's Club was an exhibition of silk screen prints by MA Fine Art student Grace Williams which drew inspiration from the Craftsman's Club minute books held within the Birmingham City University Art and Design Archive.
Formed in 1902 with the object of establishing a high standard of craftsmanship in Birmingham, the Craftsman's Club was founded by Robert Catterson Smith (then Headmaster of Birmingham School of Art), C. Napier-Flavering and J. E. Southall and early members included H. A. Payne, A. J. Gaskin, C. M. Gere and W. H. Bidlake.
Only men were permitted to attend and they had to be established practising artists and/or craftsmen "of approved accepted method". These included painters, jewellers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, sculptors, architects and draughtsmen.
The fact that women were totally excluded from the original group sparked Williams to form The Craftswoman's Club as an imagined alternative.
"When looking through the original minute books I came across the set of rules that determined how the club was to be run including the never explicit but inherent 'No Women'. To me they appeared as commandments that completely obscured women's involvement in the arts."
Using these original rules as a guide Williams developed a series of silk screen prints that focused on these 'commandments' presenting them as decorative adornments as to how The Craftswoman's club should be run. Inverting the 'no women' to 'only women'.
Williams continued to build upon this exhibition by programming a series of events that launched The Craftswoman's Club as a cross student and staff level collective meeting twice weekly to share traditional skills amongst women. To date workshops have been hosted in Floristry, French Knitting, Embroidery and Japanese Book Binding with many more to come.