To coincide with our ICA Fox Reading Room Touring Exhibition See Red Women's Workshop: 1974-1983, we reflect on how members of the workshop came to create their pioneering posters.
See Red Women’s Workshop is the second ICA exhibition to tour to Huddersfield Art Gallery. The workshop was a silkscreen printing collective that produced posters, illustrations and conducted service printing for the women’s liberation movement. Founded by three former art students in 1974 who met through an advertisement placed in a women's movement publication, the workshop grew out of a shared desire to combat the negative images of women in the media.
The exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery includes a series of posters designed by the women-only printing collective in the years 1974-1983. In the early days, the posters were mainly produced about their own personal experiences as women, about the oppression of housework, childcare and the negative images of women. An idea for a poster would be discussed in the group, a member would work on a design, bring it back for comment, someone else might make changes and so on until the collective was satisfied with the end result; no one individual took the credit. This was a concept many in the art world found hard to accept: "Who holds the pencil? Someone must hold the pencil!"
Equipment, inks and paper were acquired from firms closing down or through donations. Only oil-based inks were available at that time. The main printing technique was blocking out, using a water-soluble filler; prints were initially hung on lines to dry. They then progressed to drying racks. It was only after a year or two that it became possible to build a darkroom and buy equipment so that photographic stencils could be introduced.
The workshop changed focus in 1983 to printing for local women’s and community groups and, although the original posters continued to be printed and sold, no new designs were produced.
See Red Women’s Workshop are currently working on improving their website, exhibiting their posters and writing a book. The posters can be found in the V&A archive as well as The Women's Library. The collective can be contacted via their website. ■
A selection of posters by See Red Women's Workshop is on display at Huddersfield Art Gallery until 19 September 2015.