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10 Female Designers Shaping the Future of Design

March marks Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8th, making it the ideal time to share female designers and artists that are breaking molds and shaping the future of the design world. To celebrate, we’re collaborating with the Female Design Council (FDC), an organization founded in 2016 by kinder MODERN founder Lora Appleton, dedicated to supporting female and female-identified persons in the design industry, including over 200 design professionals in the New York City area, as well as a growing community of digital members from around the world. As with most industries, the design world has long been male-dominated but in recent years we’ve started to see the tide (finally!) changing, and it’s a welcome sight. Today, we’re taking a look at 10 of those female designers and artists that are changing the game.

1. Arati Rao \\\ Founder + Designer of Tantuvi
After graduating from Fashion Institute of Technology (BFA in Fashion Design) and Edinburgh College of Art (MA in Fashion), and working as a designer, Arati Rao founded New York-based Tantuvi, a rug and textile design studio launched in 2010 after spending much of that year traveling and researching artisans throughout India. Tantuvi (which means “weaver” in Sanskrit) collaborates with 7th generation dhurrie weavers in North India for their flat weave rugs and Ikat weavers in South India for their textiles, combining fresh, modern takes on traditional patterns and weaves with centuries old techniques, all while working to help provide income for women.

Fragment Rugs \\\ Tantuvi

Circle Rugs \\\ Tantuvi

Photo: Alex Schaefer

2. Kate Casey \\\ Woodworker + Designer of Peg Woodworking
Peg Woodworking landed on our radar in 2015 while on display at BKLYN Designs, and the Brooklyn-based company has had our attention ever since. Kate Casey launched the all-female run operation in 2014 after graduating from Massachusetts College of Art and Design (BFA) and the Yale Norfolk School of Art and moving to Brooklyn in 2009. Years of working as a sculptor led Casey to a form a passion for well-designed objects and a desire to hone her woodworking and design skills, which led to completing an intensive program at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. Today, the brand’s catalog of work merges her love of woodworking with other mediums, like weaving, showing her versatility as an artist and designer.

Euclid Shelf \\\ Peg Woodworking

Satet Bench \\\ Peg Woodworking

Photo: Sydney Brown

3. Mary Little
Born in Northern Ireland, artist Mary Little now calls Los Angeles home after landing in the United States in 2001 to start a teaching position at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Little studied furniture design at London’s Royal College of Art and worked in that field before pivoting towards sculptural work with unbleached artist canvas as the medium of choice. The minimalist material becomes a place where her emotions and memories of childhood are expressed through light and shadow, movement and tranquility, to form unexpected sculptural tapestries.

Whitechurch, 2019. 73” x 80” x 7”, unbleached canvas \\\ Mary Little

Islandmagee triptych, 2018. 40” x 110”, unbleached canvas \\\ Mary Little

4. Molly Fitzpatrick \\\ Founder + Lead Designer of DittoHouse
If you’re familiar with Design Milk, chances are you’ve seen the work of one of our favorite brands, DittoHouse. The textile brand was founded in 2015 by Cleveland-based textile designer Molly Fitzpatrick whose work was, and still is, in high demand in a variety of markets, including home furnishings, major airlines, and baby accessories. Her signature aesthetic is highlighted by graphic patterns and bold color palettes that will leave you smitten with their ability to overhaul and enhance any space. Plus, her commitment to the environment, humanity, and social justice is pretty remarkable. \\\ Shop the DittoHouse collection here!

Step Throw and Block Party Throw \\\ DittoHouse

Lala Throw and Hopeful Pillow Cover \\\ DittoHouse

5. Rosie Li \\\ Founder + Designer of Rosie Li Studio
For Chinese-born American designer Rosie Li, a love of drawing and sculpture led to the Rhode Island School of Design where she graduated with a BFA in Furniture Design in 2011. Fresh out of school, Li partnered with lighting brand Roll & Hill to launch the Op Art-inspired mirror sconce, Stella, which was named after painter Frank Stella. That collaboration set the foundation for her thriving, Brooklyn-based lighting design studio, which specializes in sculptural, geometric lighting inspired by nature.

Custom Bubbly Table Lamp in Rainbow \\\ Rosie Li

INEZ Collection \\\ Rosie Li

6. Maureen Wynne \\\ Founder of Wynne Ware
Native Californian Maureen Wynne is the founder of Wynne Ware, an online shop featuring works that are designer-made and one-of-a-kind. The Los Angeles-based Wynne followed in her parents’ footsteps collecting finds, from art to jukeboxes, that fueled her love of design and craftsmanship. An art history degree from UC Berkeley and career in marketing at Google further honed her artist’s perspective, helping to launch and sustain a company offering a curated mix of works from emerging designers and found vintage wares.

Wavy Vase \\\ Wynne Ware

Blue Bowls \\\ Wynne Ware

Photo: Sophie Mathewson

7. Arielle Assouline-Lichten \\\ Founder of Slash Objects
Perhaps you’re familiar with the Slash Objects brand, but maybe not so familiar with the designer behind it. Arielle Assouline-Lichten earned a Masters of Architecture from Harvard University before going on to work with renowned design firms Bjarke Ingels Ground (BIG), Kengo Kuma, and Snøhetta. The  architect and designer launched product brand Slash Objects as an offshoot of her Brooklyn-based design firm, Slash Projects, which she founded in 2013. Her architecture background and fascination with materials drives her work, much of which integrates an industrial material made of post consumer recycled rubber. The unexpected pairing of rubber with brass, marble, and concrete leads to fresh takes on design objects and furniture. \\\ Shop the Slash Objects collection here!

COEXIST Daybed \\\ Slash Objects

Rubber and Brass Baskets \\\ Slash Objects

Photo: Allison Michael Orenstein

8. Liz Collins
Liz Collins is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work teeters between art and design, ranging in scale from small stitched drawings to large-scale installations, and a variety of mediums, including woven textiles, paintings, video, furniture, architectural, and more. Collins’ multidimensional work combines a mix of historical movements – think Op and Pop Art, Arte Povera, and Memphis – and her own queer sensibility, coming through via vibrant color palettes, bold patterns, and energetic textures. With a long list of solo and group exhibitions, and artist residencies already to speak of, the RISD graduate (BFA and MFA) and multi-year Queer|Art Mentor will be presenting new projects this year at The Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts, and Rossana Orlandi in Milan Italy.

Royal Embrace, 2019 \\\ Liz Collins

Rapture, 2020 \\\ Liz Collins

9. Sara Berks \\\ Founder + Creative Director of MINNA
Textile designer Sara Berks studied graphic design at The School of Visual Arts before launching her contemporary home goods brand in 2013. MINNA, a queer woman-owned and mostly queer or woman-operated business, is made up of a group of seven artists and creators in Hudson, New York, where their brick-and-mortar shop and studio are now located after having launched in Brooklyn. Inspired by Feminist art and the Bauhaus, the textiles company works closely with master artisans in Central and South America, helping to preserve age-old craft techniques while creating necessary jobs in the regions. \\\ Shop the MINNA collection here!

Various pillows and textiles \\\ MINNA

Various rugs \\\ MINNA

10. Michele Quan \\\ Artist of MQuan Studio
Once you’ve seen the work of Michele Quan, artist behind Brooklyn-based MQuan Studio, you’ll never forget the designs featuring bold motifs that give nod to symbols of Eastern iconography. Quan’s ceramic pieces range from wall hangings, hanging bells, candles, incense burners, birdhouses, planters, tabletop, and objects, each made and painted by hand with her instantly recognizable graphics – constellations, rainbow stripes, and black & white shapes – as they become three-dimensional canvases for her “love of drawing, painting, text, and color.” \\\ Shop the MQuan Studio collection here!

MQuan Studio Sconce for Allied Maker \\\ Photo: Allied Maker

MQuan Collection for Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim \\\ Photo: Allison Chipak, courtesy of The Guggenheim Store

Photo: Jenny Siegwart

Bonus: Jaime Derringer \\\ Founder + Executive Editor of Design Milk
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Design Milk’s very own founder, Jaime Derringer, who founded this ever-growing, design-loving adventure 13 – 1/2 years ago! Without her, we wouldn’t be here!

From Lora Appleton, Founder of Female Design Council and kinder MODERN:

Design Milk and Jaime Derringer have been an amazing support to Female Design Council from the beginning. Their commitment to highlighting incredible works by women and women-identifying creators provides both aspiring and established designers a way forward in the challenging landscape of design.

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If you’d like to join the Female Design Council, you can check out all of their available memberships here. They have a new digital membership that’s a great option for those not in New York, but would like to receive the online benefits that the FDC offers!

If you want to support some female designers, visit the Design Milk Shop here to see a collection of their available design-driven goods!

Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.