Courtesy BWMC; design by Jillian Erhardt, background by Audrey Van de Castle
Courtesy BWMC; design by Jillian Erhardt, background by Audrey Van de Castle

A new exhibition opening this Friday will explore the power and creativity of dozens of female-identifying artists and makers from around the region. It also gives guests a chance to learn how female artists and makers use their skills to create, particularly in male-dominated environments.

The Baltimore Women’s Maker Collective is a unique collaborative group harnessing the talents of feminist artists and craft makers from around the city. The group has spent their inaugural year preparing to host the upcoming show “XXChange,” a multimedia exhibition opening on Nov. 4 at Area 405 in Greenmount West. It will feature work from 36 self-identifying women who were selected by four jurors. All of the featured artists are from around the region and work in nontraditional fields.

Hannah Wides is a co-organizer of the Maker Collective and is also the manual operations manager at the recently opened maker space OpenWorks just down the street. Wides is a woodworker, one of relatively few women in her profession. One of her co-organizers of the collective is a metalworker with a similarly traditional working environment.

“We both come from very male-dominated fields and don’t see a lot of exposure for women doing this kind of stuff,” she explained. “[The exhibition] is kind of a way to bring people out of the woodwork and give them a platform to show their work.”

Allison Fomich, Copper Pressed Jewelry Collection

Allison Fomich, Copper Pressed Jewelry Collection

In addition to its focus on gender roles, Wides said the diverse exhibition offers a cross-section of art and craft, two designations that she says can sometimes seem very separate. “Art” can include lighter forms like painting and sculpture, while “craft” commonly signifies work made by hand from wood, metal, stones and other materials. Those designations are by no means definite, but do they separate the forms when it comes to exhibitions. “XXChange” aims to bridge that divide, Wides said.

During the monthlong show, the Women’s Collective will also be hosting low-cost workshops on subject like blacksmithing, how to use power tools (both on Nov. 11) candlemaking and soldering (both on Nov. 19). The idea, Wides said, is to break down an impression that some of these crafts are reserved for men.

Furthermore, for those makers who are already busy working, the series can be a networking event, Wides said. “I was really hoping that by all of these women coming together, they can see who else is out there,” she said. She noted that self-identifying men can benefit from seeing women lead the workshops and viewing their work in the exhibition.

“XXChange” will also have a symposium called “Flipping the Narrative” on Nov. 12. It will explore the role of women and gender identity in art, craft and design.

Stewart Watson, a visual artist herself who runs Area 405, said the exhibition has been 10 months in the making. She worked with the Women’s Collective after they came to her with the idea for the show. She is now designing the exhibition with the jurors, who made their picks for the artists in late summer.

Watson said her venue is well-suited for an event with a specific focus like this. “One of the things we are good at is having different types of events and consistently being able to introduce new people to the space,” she said.

Click here to see the list of featured artists, times and dates for workshops and other information.

Area 405 is located at 405 E. Oliver StreetThe opening reception for “XXChange” begins at 6 p.m. on Friday.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...