‘California’s Designing Women’ book signing Saturday at Heath Ceramics

Ellamarie Woolley's enamel-on-copper wall plaque "Twice Over" graces the cover of "California's Designing Women 1896-1986."
(Museum of California Design )

“Why just women?” Pat Kirkham asks in the foreword to the new book “California’s Designing Women 1896-1986.”

“The point is that we should not have to separate women designers out for special attention in the first place, were there not such a long history of women being marginalized,” the design historian writes.

Like the exhibition of the same name that ran at the Autry National Center in 2012, “California’s Designing Women 1896-1986" recognizes 46 female designers, spanning the Arts and Crafts and postmodern eras, who made significant contributions to American commercial design and fine craft.

The book’s author and editor, Bill Stern, executive director of the Museum of California Design, said the new book is more than just an exhibition catalog.


“Some of these women have never been recognized at all,” Stern said. “In researching other shows that I’ve curated, I really became aware that remarkably few women were featured, especially those who worked with their husbands or other designers. What this book does is show these women as clear designers of one aspect of the collaborative work.”

As Craig Nakano observed in 2012, what stands out in this survey is not the work of better-known designers such as Edith Heath, Ray Eames and Greta Magnusson Grossman, but the surprises: surfboard designs by Cher Pendarvis, acrylic jewelry by Judith Hendler, weavings and tiles by Dorothy Liebes and textiles and furniture by Gere Kavanaugh.

On Saturday, designers Marilyn Austin, Renee Firestone, April Greiman, Judith Hendler, Gere Kavanaugh and Cher Pendarvis will be on hand with Stern to sign copies of the book at Heath Ceramics from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. “This is really a unique opportunity to meet these people,” Stern said.

The book ($48) is available through the Museum of California Design or at the book signing at Heath Ceramics, 7525 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles.


Stern and some of the designers will also be at the Palm Springs Modernism Show and Sale on Friday, February 14 to sign books from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, February 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m.


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