Equality and equity are never easy goals
Women have had a long and varied history in ceramics since as early as ancient Egypt. However, they were only seen doing auxiliary jobs such as being the makers or printers, or else they were set apart from those roles altogether. As far back as 1745, many of the major European factories were run by men with women either relegated to an unimportant role or excluded completely. This trend persisted into the 19th and 20th centuries with women's contributions to ceramics manufacturing and design largely unrecognized and minimized. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, this disparity was one of many factors discouraging women from participating in the labor force; in fact, the majority of women had been used as a "reserve army" of labor in the 19th century.



The New Female era

The history of ceramics has long been male-dominated, especially with the introduction of the potter's wheel; traditionally, women took a backseat role in the production and acted as patrons and subjects for representation through their craftsmanship—the symbols of fertility and protection. To date, ceramic work was often seen as a hobby of wealthy women, with male potters wielding more influence. This gender disparity had a tangible impact on the appreciation and value given to ceramic pieces.


The role and reputation of ceramics have changed many times over the centuries and have taken a turn. One of the most notable shifts in the history of ceramics has been the rise of female ceramists who have created their own unique styles and techniques which have been widely embraced and celebrated. This newfound acceptance of female makers has helped create a more inclusive space for all potters and ceramicists, regardless of gender. The biggest contributor to this shift in gender roles within the ceramics field is the work and success of Clarice Cliff, an English potter known for her Art Deco designs in the early 20th century.


Cliff is widely credited with helping shift the perception of female potters from secondary participants to primary creators in their own right. Her bold and expressionistic works made waves in the world of contemporary art, inspiring generations of female potters who were eager to follow in her footsteps. In addition to cliff's groundbreaking contributions to the field, there have also been many other influential female ceramicists who have made significant advancements. Artists such as Susan Halls and Liza Lou have made innovations in technique and form that have inspired radical new directions in clay work.

The changes we are seeing in the ceramics field today are cause for celebration; no longer is it simply a male-dominated field but rather an inclusive community of makers, both male, and female, who are all united by a shared passion for appreciating and creating beautiful works of clay art. 





April 11, 2023