The See Red Women’s Workshop was a radical art collective formed in the 1970s. We loved the aesthetic of their radical designs, and wanted to know more about the ethos behind the project. The contributed these images and words to our Feminist Issue.
See Red Women’s Workshop was founded by three ex-art students in 1973. We met through an ad placed in Red Rag – a radical feminist magazine – asking for women interested in forming a group to look at and combat the negative images of women in advertising and the media. See Red grew out of that meeting and a collective was formed producing silk screened posters for the women’s liberation movement, as well as for community groups and others on request.
Working collectively was central to the ethos of See Red, as was sharing skills and knowledge. Members belonged to women’s consciousness raising groups and were active in various radical and alternative organisations. In the early days the posters were mainly produced about our personal experiences as women, about the oppression of housework, childcare and the negative images of women. An idea for a poster would be discussed, a member would work on a design, bring it back for comment, someone else might make changes and so on until the collective were satisfied with the end result; no one individual took the credit. This was a concept many in the art world found hard to accept: “Who holds the pencil? Someone must hold the pencil!” Quality was important and many hours would be spent on ensuring that only posters that were well printed and produced left the workshop.
Our first premises were a squat in Camden Town but after a brick was thrown through the window, See Red moved to South London and eventually to premises off the Walworth Rd, which we shared with Women In Print. The premises were derelict and all the renovations were carried out by the collective or by women in the building trades. The workshop was attacked on several occasions by the National Front – from stickers to smashed doors, ink poured over the machinery, phone lines cut and the mail pissed over.
The collective on average consisted of about 6 women at any one time, but in all over 35 women passed through the workshop. Some came to produce posters around issues that were important to them, some were on apprenticeship schemes for a few months and some just wanted to join the Collective. Until we received grants, first from Southwark Council and then the GLC in 1983, funding for the workshop came through the sale of the posters, printing for community and other groups and from donations. We all had part time jobs as well, and some had child care commitments. Equipment, inks, paper etc were acquired from firms closing down or through donations.
The workshop changed in 1983 to focussing on service printing and although the original posters for the women’s movement continued to be printed, no new designs were produced. See Red members have recently met up again due to increased interest in our work, and we are working on the See Red Women’s Workshop website, with archivists, women’s groups and galleries, as well as on other plans for the future.