An exhibition featuring all female designers graced the halls of 1stdibs’ new in-house gallery in New York. Deeper Than Text was the inaugural NYCxDESIGN Week showcase from the Female Design Council (FDC), a community that supports women in the fields of design and creativity.
AN spoke with the exhibition’s curator, Lora Appleton of kinder MODERN and founder of FDC, about the 19 global makers highlighted in the show and how challenged adversity, stereotypes, and gender equality within the profession.
AN: The showcase featured women from as far as Los Angeles, Beirut, and The Netherlands. What were the criteria for selecting these diverse global makers?
Lora Appleton: It had less to do about materials and more about the practice of the individual. We wanted innovation at its heart and products from artists that produce a real, solid wow factor. In the exhibition, you’ll see an incredible use of metal, armor, brass and other materials that do demonstrate a connection between the pieces. But overall, we picked these items as stand-out pieces individually.
AN: There’s definitely a feeling of both subtlety and playfulness that links each piece in the show, yet they’re all alluring on their own.
LA: Take the Armor Triple Cluster Pendant by Konekt as an example of this. We hung it very, very low so viewers can get really up close to the armature. We did the same with Amanda Richards’s Pearl Sconces. Normally that type of lighting is placed high up, but we brought it down so you can see the incredible handwork done with the metal and resin.
I believe all the works bounce off each other and lift each other up. That’s also why we put the work of more experienced designers alongside up-and-comers to help lift them up as well. Everything and everyone is in conversation with one another.
AN: Is there a piece that surprised you when you were curating the exhibition or one that has garnered a unique reaction from viewers?
LA: Something that I adore is the special edition bronze sculpture, “Initiation,” by Justine Mahoney. Her background of growing up white in 1970’s Johannesburg and being hidden from the politics of South Africa through escapist American media is fused into her work. At first, the piece looks and feels kitschy—The PowerPuff Girls are on top of the African girl’s head. But when you dig into it, the piece is meaningful. The figure exudes an almost comical aesthetic while representing the fears, nightmares, and the dreams of children—themes Mahoney uses in her series of bronze army soldiers. I was really attracted to and inspired by that, and excited the piece had the ability to spark a political conversation.
AN: That one is radically different from the other furniture pieces that are mostly featured in the exhibition.
LA: That’s why we positioned this piece, as well as the Pompon Tiger by Myra Von Busekist, to greet you as you walked in. We like to introduce twists that may surprise the viewer or engage with them in a different way. The show was very colorful and uplifting and our goal was to make you smile and then think critically as soon as you stepped through the door.
AN: In relation to these pieces, what does Deeper Than Text mean to you?
LA: As women in this business, we have to fight through our own unique difficulties, including opinions by the press and statements on our work that relate to our gender. It was a big effort on us and 1stdibs to not have “female” in the name of this exhibition. To us, Deeper Than Text is the idea of going beyond the surface of writing about women and their work in design and instead, simply showcasing the strength of these pieces and these people regardless of their gender. We’re pushing passed surface-level impressions.
AN: Can you talk more about a specific item from the show that you think addresses this head on?
LA: Felicia Ferrone’s fluted glass series does this. The reason I wanted to include her glass work is to showcase someone who breaks the stereotypes of women’s work in industrial design. People usually think women produce curvier, pinker, and fleshier tones while men make colder pieces with harsher lines. You can see through her work in furniture, glass, lighting, and sculpture that she’s tough and she makes delicate curves with these architectural bases that are super sexy.
Items from Deeper than Text are available for purchase on 1stdibs.com.