Zoë Thomas
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‘Artistic’ businesses and ‘medieval’ workshops
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This chapter provides the first account of the network of Arts and Crafts women who established independent ‘artistic’ businesses where they designed, made, and sold work. Firstly, the chapter unveils that central to the making of ‘authentic’ artistic masculinities during this era was the idea of the ‘medieval’ workshop. The range of workshops and businesses women established, and the breadth of interest, is delineated in the second part. The most important negotiation which permitted the establishment of such businesses concerned the creation of a respectable identity in the face of competing demands, and this topic is addressed in the final section. Women had tripartite existences: as well as continually legitimising their positions as business owners and art workers, they had to maintain positions as middle-class women. Throughout the chapter engrained narratives which position male cultural production as the nexus around which interest in the Arts and Crafts, design, urban modernity, medievalism, and England’s artistic reputation coalesced, are challenged. These businesses became critical sites where ideas about gender, art, expertise, and commerce were reworked, enabling a network of women to play an influential part in disseminating the ethos of the Arts and Crafts across new local, national, and international spheres of influence.

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