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Women in the arts: an interview with designer Frances Wadsworth Jones

by Maja Bayyoud on

Frances Wadsworth Jones is the latest addition to the Motley Crew, and her first collection launch is just around the corner (watch this space in late April). It’s a subversive take on the concept of classically feminine jewellery and materials- but we won’t give away too much just yet. We sat down with Frances to discuss her experiences as a woman in the jewellery industry, which is rife with gender disparities that many don’t think about. 
It’s perceived as one of few female-dominated sectors where parity isn’t an issue, when the reality is far from it. A 2017 research exercise, which used the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter as a case study, found that the sector continues to adhere to outdated gender norms that both openly and subliminally disadvantage women in the industry. It’s rarely talked about or considered a real problem, which is why there’s few resources on it. So we sat down with Frances to find out more for ourselves. 
People think jewellery is female-dominated, but that’s not the case in reality. How do you navigate the male dominated spaces that are prevalent in the industry?
I think what people don’t realise about the UK jewellery industry is that it is very
gendered in terms of roles. Women are more likely to go the Art School/design route whereas men are more likely to be encouraged to go into trade and specialist apprenticeships. What this can lead to in reality is a certain kind of ‘old school’ male dominated space that women need to engage with in order to get things made or finished.
For a young woman that can be tough. I wasn’t used to struggling to be taken
seriously and I resented having to consciously navigate situations. I realised that I
often had to ask people to do things like I was asking for a favour rather than asking them to do their job. To do this skilled dance that I wasn’t very good at - of don’t be too smart, but don’t be too dumb either and don’t react to being called love on a daily basis. Of course it wasn’t always like this, I worked with many wonderful tradesman, but the experience was not singular.
I think that women are often made to feel like their worth is in their youth, but no one really talks about how powerful getting older can be. Now, I know what I know and I don’t let people tell me otherwise. It’s pretty liberating. I am also at the stage in my career where I only have to work with people that I respect and who respect me back.
Do you find that a little, or a lot, has changed throughout your career? Has there been progress?
I think it is changing. You do see more women in trade workshops, which can only be good for the industry and for everyone. I think it's about trying to create a balance of genders in each aspect of the industry, and for that we need to address our expectations of little girls and boys.
What’s the best part of your work?
Having something in my hands at the end of the day that only existed in my head at the beginning of the day.
What’s the worst part of your work?
Having to fight the assumption that because I love what I do, I shouldn’t need to get paid for it. You know, the standard creatives predicament.
There’s a risk that because some progress has been achieved for women in creative spaces, many will think the problem doesn’t need attention anymore. How do you think we can keep it on the agenda?
To keep talking about our experiences so that society is continually forced to
acknowledge and confront its inbuilt biases. For instance, I find the whole idea of
women’s day a little patronising (like a pat on the head). It’s wonderful that it gives us a platform to have these kinds of conversations and to celebrate the achievements of women, but I feel like we should also be having them and celebrating for the rest of the year.
What tune do you listen to when you need to hype yourself up for a big meeting or work moment?
No joke, ‘Girlfriend Is Better’ by Talking Heads always puts me in a focused place.
Your first Motley collection is out soon, and everyone at the office can’t wait. Without giving too much away, what’s one of your favourite aspects of it?
It plays with what we expect from prim and proper pearls. There is a healthy amount of rebellion in it.
Tagged with: Women of Motley

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