Laura Knight was a very talented artist and one of the first female artists to study life painting amongst men at art school - a radical thing to do in 1913 when she created Self Portrait with Model. She shows herself painting a nude model, with the model in the background and the work on a canvas - a very clever set up involving mirrors. And it's an intriguing work to see close up with such variety of style and paint application.
She moved to Cornwall with her husband and was a leading light of the Newlyn School. She depicted women at work in her paintings - especially during WW2 and she was commissioned to record the Nuremburg Trial in 1946, depicting the Nazi criminals in the dock. She never stopped working, right up until her death.
Rob Jones, Romor Designs
Patricia is a force of nature! She has a strong belief in what she does, supporting artists and makers in setting up and running their businesses. Her advice and support has been a critical factor in the success of my business and she specifically saved my bacon last year when she ran her 'How to teach online' classes in 2020 when lockdown had effectively closed my business.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortzez worked her way up from a poor background with grassroots issues. Daughter of an immigrant in a mainly white male environment, she isn't afraid to speak truth to power.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is a British artist and writer acclaimed for her enigmatic portraits of fictitious people - both familiar and mysterious. The colour she uses in her work is wonderful.
We visited her house in Mexico City. What struck me was her passion. Her indomitable spirit; channelling her suffering through her art and outlook, giving expression to raw experience. She confronted life full on. But I saw that, by rendering it in full colour, she embraced it too.
What do I take from that? I suppose that in artistic terms, once you find a medium in which you feel you can express creativity, no matter how raw or untutored your skill's level, grab the opportunity. Don't compromise and don't get distracted by comparing yourself with others in your field, and keep focused on your passion.
Educated at Black Mountain College by Joseph Albers and Buckminster Fuller, Ruth Asawa developed a style of woven metal biomorphic forms that were both fragile and etherial, as well as commanding and monumental. Despite being born in America to Japanese parents, Asawa was none the less interned in a camp during World War II. Strangely, she has credited this difficult experience with the making of her as an artist.
I remember a photo spread of a fountain commission she completed in San Francisco in the 1970s. My mother was so impressed by the piece, we eventually made a point of visiting it in person. The large work resonated with my mother, and brought Asawa's creations to my attention.
Crouch End Candles
My Great Great Great Grandfather was a door keeper at Eton School in the early 20th Century and died suddenly leaving his wife to bring up a family of 4 girls. She started to take in the washing and mending and established a wash-house serving the Eton School boys and surrounding gentry. My Great Great Aunt Nell was one of her daughters and took on the business after her beau died in the Boer War.
She never married, but expanded the business into one of the biggest Wash houses in the area. She was a strong woman in a world where most businesses were run by men. Every Friday my Great Aunt Nell would pay her staff, drop the takings at the bank and then make her way to the Grapes Hotel in Slough, walk through the 'men only' door to the tap room, with its sawdust covered floor and order herself a large whisky. She would drink it with her head held high - "respected as one of the men". Her reputation was tough but fair, and she always had bags of penny sweets in her pockets for the local children.
I think this quote of hers in The Scotsman of 28 Nov 2020 sums it up “I never saw obstacles as barriers that stopped you, I saw them as things that you had to find a way over or under or round because I’ve never let anyone stop me. I’m one of those people that if you tell me I can’t do something, I will go out of my way to prove you wrong and that’s been the story of my life.”
She is well known for her involvement in tennis, not just training Andy and Jamie, but she has done so much more for the grass roots of the game, through to the LTA. She also does a lot to highlight the back stories of what women in sport have to do to be successful. She also picked Oti and Bill to win Strictly.
Catherine was one of my tutors on my BA Hons degree in 3 Dimensional Design. She was the first person to emphasise that glass could be a sculptural material. I was very grateful when she took me on as an apprentice in her London studio where I worked there for 8 years learning production glass blowing, cold working and the business of running a glass studio.
For all the time I have known Catherine she has been incredibly dedicated to working with glass to the highest standards technically while pushing the boundaries with her own, distinctive style.
Anni Albers is a name that looms large in the weaving world. And while I love her woven pieces, it is her sketchbook work that I find particularly interesting. She was so playful with her design work and continuously found new ways to make marks and incorporate new materials into her work.
Weaving and textiles have traditionally been viewed as women's work and therefore not as worthy of attention. To see the craft elevated to an art form at the Tate retrospective in 2018 felt like the beginning of a long-denied recognition.
I’ve chosen Kate Fletcher because she was the first person who really made me think properly and deeply about the issue of sustainability. Her pioneering book was particularly important to me as at the time I discovered it I was teaching a fashion/textiles degree course and leading the critical thinking module. We spent a lot of time debating sustainability in the industry and Kate’s approach was the first I’d seen that tackled all aspects of the concept of sustainability, from processes, environmental impact, labour, fibres and chemicals to economy and ideology. It challenged and energised me and my students and that urge to question how and why I do things the way I do has remained with me ever since.
Now we are all much more used to thinking this way but she changed my work ethic and informs my approach to this day. She’s an actual proper hero.
Also an honourable mention this year for my grandma Belle for teaching me about grit and determination!
I come from an artistic background on my father's side. My great Aunt was artist and writer Nina Hamnett who was known as the Queen of Bloomsbury. My grandfather was an artist, my uncle is an arts publisher and my cousin an art dealer and publisher representing artists including Grayson Perry and Damian Hirst.
A love of art is definitely in my genes but I've stayed on the sidelines as more of a cheerleader. After dabbling a bit after I left school, I only really picked up a paintbrush again last year after being inspired to do so by Philippa Perry on the C4 Art Club show she shares with her husband Grayson. Her positive approach to life and great empathy have inspired me to feel braver about just giving painting another go and even sharing what I've created over the last year. I've been reminded just how good it is for the soul and it has helped put all the worries of the pandemic to one side for periods of time. I'm a bit haphazard when it comes to art & craft and when Philippa said the other night on the show "Oh dear, I've just sewn my skin into my embroidery" I realised we are definitely kindred spirits!