Seating Assignment: Women in Contemporary Chairmaking and Craft Education

Sawtooth School for Visual Art and Salem College, both in Winston–Salem, NC, are proud to present Seating Assignment: Women in Contemporary Chairmaking and Craft Education, an exhibition featuring 15 contemporary women artists who specialize in furniture making and view education as a core component of their practice. The exhibition, on display at Sawtooth’s Eleanor and Egbert Davis Gallery, will open with a reception on Saturday, March 23, 2024, from 5-7 pm and remain on view through Saturday, May 11, 2024.

Seating Assignment is a joint effort, bringing together two landmark Carolina institutions focused on community education and enrichment. Sawtooth has been a hub for arts education in the Piedmont Triad for almost 80 years, offering classes for all ages across many subjects. Salem College is now in its 252nd year as an institution of higher learning for women, the oldest in the southern United States, and is ranked among the best liberal arts colleges in the nation.

The inspiration for this exhibition came from another partnership: Salem’s Chair Library, a collaborative effort between the Sutton Initiative for Design Education (S.I.D.E.) and Salem College, is a unique resource not found at any other college or university in the country. The SIDE Chair Library is a growing archive of almost 50 chairs still in production and considered historically significant in the design field. Salem students, scholars, design professionals, and community members can not only visit the library to study these chairs; they are encouraged to interact with them—sit in them, turn them upside down, measure them, and ponder their design, construction, and materials.

Salem College’s women art and design students are the primary users of The SIDE Chair Library; however, their gender is not equitably represented by the designers featured. Initially conceived as a presentation for students from furniture maker, craft advocate, and Sawtooth’s 2023 Gondring Resident in Woodworking Rebecca Juliette-Duex, Seating Assignment has evolved into a first-of-its-kind survey exhibition highlighting contemporary female furniture makers and providing students and community members a practical opportunity to see themselves reflected in the field of contemporary craft.

“We’re proud to host Seating Assignment and offer visitors the chance to learn more about innovative and influential craftspeople working today,” said Lauren Davis, Executive Director of Sawtooth School for Visual Art. “Our school was founded at the onset of World War II by an inventive group of women with strong ties to industry. They recognized the profound importance of arts education, and their early efforts paved the way for this exhibition—one that celebrates the significant, but under-recognized, contributions of women in the field of design.”

Seating Assignment features Katie Bister, Christina Boy, Annie Evelyn, Sophie Glenn, Aspen Golann, Elsa Hoffman, Joyce Lin, Wendy Maruyama, Laura Mays, Stacy Motte + Eleanor Rose, Sabiha Mujtaba, Ellie Richards, Janine Wang, and Kimberly Winkle. While many chairs will come from personal and private collections, Bister and Hoffman will be crafting brand-new pieces for the exhibition.

“These artists, designers, and makers are reimagining chairs to fit their own bodies,” said exhibition curator Rebecca Juliette-Duex, “reconfiguring classic shapes to communicate their own experience in a field where they have been historically excluded. The chairs, collected together in a critical mass under one roof, are a tangible presence that speaks not only to the work of the individual, but also the collective whole of women involved in furniture design and manufacturing.”

Seating Assignment: Women in Contemporary Chairmaking and Craft Education Exhibition is curated by Rebecca Juliette-Duex and organized with Rebecca Silberman, Sawtooth’s Director of Operations; Josie Vogel, Sawtooth’s Director of Wood Programs; and Dr. Rosa Otero, Associate Professor of Design at Salem College and curator of the SIDE Chair Library.

Salem College students are a driving force for organizing the exhibition, and there are plans for collaboration between students, artists, and objects through programming and curriculum developed with representatives from both institutions. Public programming will also be announced at a later date.

All parties involved believe that by elevating the work of innovative women artists of the moment, the show can spark the passion, confidence, and creativity of aspiring artists and designers in the region and beyond.

For more information about Sawtooth, contact 336-723-7395 or visit