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There’s no better time than International Women’s Day to celebrate women who inspire and create. The W Project, a platform for women in the creative industries, returns for its second year on March 8, sporting the theme of “Words of Wisdom.” Jotta share a coffee with founders, Teo Connor and Loren Platt to find out more.
Teo and Loren come into Dalston cafe Mouse & De Lotz, laughing, chatty best mates; they have squeezed the meeting in between their day jobs; Teo runs her own graphic design studio called No Days Off, and Loren runs the ‘90s club night, Work It. Around that, they bring together an annual celebration of creative women, The W Project.
The W Project was formed in 2011 when Teo approached Loren, who had been curating "girl-related exhibitions", with the suggestion that they organise something to honour the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, which they felt not many people in their circles were aware of. “My sister knew about it because she was living in China and they celebrate it there, women get the day off." Teo exclaimed, "They give cards, like Mother's Day.”
Both women work in graphic design, “a very male-dominated industry.” Loren says. “I've been to so many private views where it's just guys with beers and beards!” Teo laughs, “They were my peers, I love them, but we thought it would be great to go to an event full of creative women.”
“We were disheartened at the media's portrayal of successful, powerful women,”
So they set out to form an all-inclusive exhibition and event series, which has now grown into a platform and a community of talented creative women. Pre-existing women-focused creative projects were uninspiring and “a bit naff - a bit pink! We've avoided those clichés.”
The design of their identity, created by Teo, is clean, minimal and strong, no pink. “We're approaching people who we really respect and admire their work, so we wanted it to look and feel professional, something that was worthy of these peoples work.”
For their inaugural exhibition they invited 35 women from across the creative fields – including writing, photography, product design, fashion and set design – to each create a response to the statement ‘A Women's Work Is…', and launched the results at Dalston’s Russian Club Gallery.
The ensuing works included witty offerings like a life-sized kaleidoscopic beauty bar by set designers Jiggery Pokery, a typographic piece called “I Can Open It Myself – I'm a Bloody Feminist” by Josephine Chime, while Alex Holder immaculately recreated covers of Mills & Boon novels starring herself and her boyfriend.
The W Project site has become a community and a platform. “We want the new site to be a resource for people who are looking for interesting female designers." They feature profile of each woman and ask them to answer a set of questions about their role models and their work. "It makes where they are seem attainable for a younger generation.”
Reaching out to this younger generation is an important part of their project. Teo and Loren organise workshops for young girls and boys. "We'll get one of our contributors to host a workshop about what they do with a creative exercise that brings the children into their practice." This year's workshop is on Friday March 9th with a local Hoxton school, St. Monica's, who Anna Lomax will be working with on a 3-D type workshop.
At the other end of the spectrum, their dinners are vibrant symposiums for discussion. “We invite people to come and share their story. It’s a nice place to start dialogue with like-minded creatives and for women to share their experiences. It helps us to keep growing and meet new people. To discover an affinity with people from different industries and form collaborations.”
All this is self-funded, so like many independent creatives the duo are resourceful: "We call in favours, make things ourselves. Also, people believe in The W Project, and are happy to give us stuff, like a load of coloured paper." Michael Marriot, who recently impressed with his exhibition design for the Design Museum’s Design of the Year 2012, has created the shelving for this week’s show.
The theme for this week’s exhibition is 'Words of Wisdom' and will see a roster of impressive female contributors telling us their words of wisdom using a postcard canvas. This year they've opened it up to a wider field: there's a dancer, a model, writers, fashion designers. "We want to get everyone in the room thinking about what it is to be a female in the creative industry today."
"It's not just for women, it's not a certain age group" – Teo and Loren provide a platform to showcase great female talent and then invite everyone to come down and enjoy and celebrate it.
"International Women's Day is something we’ll always do, we want to own it, I guess – make it an annual thing and pop up in different guises, whether it's a dinner, an exhibit or book. We'll be doing something every year, forever!"
Check out last year's exhibition here: http://www.thewproject.co.uk/go