The Women of City & Guilds of London Art School

City & Guilds of London Art School was founded in 1854. This specialized art college, in the middle of England’s capital city, offers a wide range of courses. Currently, it’s the only school in Britain that offers undergrad and postgrad degrees in historic carving. Today, we’ll introduce you to a few of their talented ornamental woodcarvers and architectural stone carvers.

The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt
City & Guilds is located in London’s Kennington district along the river Thames. A row of Georgian buildings and a large warehouse have been converted into classrooms and learning facilities.

“The school is a small independent Art school in South London. It is the only place in the UK which teaches carving to a degree level. The school is very unique – we are taught in a very traditional way – something that is very rare in the contemporary art world. The course emphasizes that to become a skilled carver there are many supporting disciplines to be mastered: Drawing, Clay Modeling, and Art Histories classes are a must. We also learn the Art of Lettering – drawing out letter forms ready to carve is a whole world in itself. The classes at the school are very small, making the whole school a really tight knit community.” -Student and Stone Carver Miriam Johnson

The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt
Woodcarver Silje Loa

Over the past 3 years, Silje Loa has been studying woodcarving at City & Guilds. When she graduates, Silje will have a degree in ornamental woodcarving and gilding.

Her journey toward woodcarving has been a pilgrimage of her own making. To outsiders, some of her steps may seem random, but each change in course laid a foundation to her current career. Her understanding has deepened and her eye has matured.

  • It all started after high school, when Silje set sail on a tall ship. Everyday was a lesson in the maintenance of wood along with other practical and invaluable skills.
  • She then went on to study Prehistoric Archaeology. Her classes revolved around crafts, skills, and history.
  • Those studies led her pursue a degree in the conservation of pictorial art at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.
  • Once she earned her degree, she realized that she wanted to learn a craft and create great works of her own, leading her to City & Guilds of London.

“All of my experience outside of carving seem relevant and inspiring to me in my work… I love working in wood. There is such a huge variation of softness, grain, use and look in different types of wood and thereby a lot to be learned and explored. I learn better practically than academically, and the physicality of carving appealed to me. I love getting consumed by a project and feeling like I’m in a state of flow.” -Woodcarver Silje Loa

Although Silje is still in school at City & Guilds, that isn’t slowing her down. She’s won several sought after commissions. She was chosen to design and carve a grotesque (similar to a gargoyle) that will soon be fixed to St. George Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The piece Silje is working on in these photographs also has a great backstory:

“I won a commission to design and carve the coat of arms for last year’s Prime Warden for the Fishmongers Company in London. The commission was particularly exciting because the prime warden was Princess Anne, the first female Prime Warden the company has ever had. The coat of arms is now at display at the Fishmongers Hall.” -Woodcarver Silje Loa

The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in CarharttSilje’s advice to anyone considering trying their hand at the wooden arts:

“If you want to become a carver, get carving. Looking at carvings at museums and in historical buildings is amazing inspiration and can even give you an understanding of how they were made, but really just find a piece of wood, a chisel and begin.” -Woodcarver Silje Loa

The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt
Silje’s process: the clay model, a process shot of the wood carving, the finished carving before the painting and gilding, and the finished coat of arms
The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt
Stone Carver Miriam Johnson

Miriam Johnson began her career as a stonemason five years ago. Through the apprenticeship program with the Prince’s Foundation, she was able to travel across the UK working on historic buildings. To continue her training, Miriam enrolled at Bath College. There she learned masonry skills in the classroom and in the real world in a stone masonry company. That experience made her realize she wanted to specialize within the industry on the more artistic and creative side, carving. Bringing her to City & Guilds. In June, Miriam will graduate with a Historic Carving Diploma in Architectural Stone Carving.

In these photographs, Miriam is working on a beautiful piece inspired by her grandfather’s work depicting a centaur fighting a dragon.

“My Grandfather was not a stone carver, as far as I know this was the only thing he ever carved. He would tell us how he’d carved it for my grandmother (75 years ago) with nothing but a sharpened screwdriver.

As a child, I had heard this story so many times that it was a normal thing to me, nothing special. I didn’t think twice about it. Looking back now, the fact that my grandfather was not a sculptor – this carving is really impressive. On top of this, it is very likely that he carved this piece during the Second World War, whilst he was fighting against the Nazi’s in the French resistance.

Looking at it made me realize to myself how this piece and my grandfather must have subconsciously greatly influenced my career choice.” -Stone Carver Miriam Johnson

After Miriam’s grandfather returned home from war, he furthered his architectural work by training as a historian. He specialized in the medieval construction of cathedrals, and even wrote several books on the subject.

“Stone masonry in this day and age is a rare trade. It cannot be a coincidence that a grandchild of this man became one. Sadly, by the time I was in the trade, my
 grandfather had dementia and I do not think he ever really realized my occupation.” -Stone Carver Miriam Johnson

To honor her grandfather, Miriam decided to carve her own version of a centaur fighting a dragon. She made a few changes to his original design to make it her own. Miriam’s version is twice as big, chiseled out of black stone (to contrast the white), circular in shape (to symbolize a familial continuity), with a female centaur.

Miriam had always interpreted her grandfather’s version as a representation of himself, fighting the good fight. It was only fitting that her adaptation should represent herself, a woman, also fighting the good fight.

“I believe that children, both boys and girls, should have strong female role models, which is what I hope I am creating in my work.” -Stone Carver Miriam Johnson

“Creating something so permanent in the world is such a satisfying thing to do, and to have the chance, as I often do, to work on historic buildings is such an honour. Things that I have made with my hands will live on long past me. To be part of a trade that is so old, using methods that have not changed that much in hundreds of years is something that is wonderful. I also feel really lucky to have a job that could take me anywhere in the world, there is so much to explore!

It isn’t all rosy though. I can often work in pretty harsh environments, using an angle grinder all day, having to wear masks, goggles, gloves etc. Often I work outside, I’ve worked in snow, and sleet, and rain. Working in awkward places high up on scaffolding, lifting heavy loads, and working long hours.” -Stone Carver Miriam JohnsonThe Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt

The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt
Woodcarver Zeinab Harding

Growing up in London, Zeinab was exposed to woodcarving before she ever knew it was a skill she could learn. Beautiful ornate buildings with intricate decoration are common in such a historic city.

Zeinab is currently studying Historical Woodcarving and Gilding. Her interest in wood followed her study of textile design.

Through her studies, she felt the need for greater sustainability. In an effort to combat consumerism, Zeinab researched mediums that had longer lifespans than textiles. She learned that woodcarvings can last twice as long as you or me. Eventually that led her to City and Guilds, happily in her own hometown.

That doesn’t mean she’s stayed put. Zeinab has traveled all over, using crafts as her universal form of communication. She’s taught weaving and block printing to small villages in Samoa and Indonesia. She’s facilitated art workshops in the Amazon. And she spent a summer in Rome, studying floral symbolism in Augustan art.

That time in Italy inspired the piece she’s working on in these photos. Zeinab carved this beautiful panel of lime wood in the style of the Ara Pacis, a Roman altar from 13 BC.

Zeinab hopes to raise awareness of woodcarving to support the continuation of the craft. She plans to show her carvings in contemporary spaces in an effort to revive the traditional skill as an art form and an important tool in conservation.

“Learning a traditional skill is a continual learning process. The more mistakes you make the more you will learn!” -Woodcarver Zeinab Harding

The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt
a detailed look at Zeinab’s finished carving

The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in CarharttThe Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt

Stone Carver Sue Aperghis

For 30 years Sue worked as a graphic designer, creating packaging and branding.

“In my career when I first started, I tried to hide the fact I was dyslexic but I came to realize (and I would suggest it to others) that you should embrace the things that you find most challenging, and work hard and smart to get round your difficulties. Maybe try a different angle on how to learn. The most successful things I’ve done in art is when I confront my Demons the most.” -Stone Carver Sue Aperghis

Despite her struggle with dyslexia, typography has always been one of Sue’s main interests. That led her to Letter Cutting in stone, a skill she’s learned over the last 3 years at City and Guilds. She’ll graduate this June.

The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in CarharttThe Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt

In these photos, Sue is working on a sculpture of a soldier, inspired by the works of Charles Sergeant Jagger on the Royal Artillery Memorial in Hyde Park Corner. For two months, she molded a clay model to use for measurements once she started cutting into stone. The carving took about 6 months, and it was well worth the time and effort.

“I’m fascinated in the human form and obstruction of the figure and drapery to tell a story.” -Stone Carver Sue Aperghis

What a beautiful story of triumph! Confronting her dyslexia and pursuing her passion for typography led Sue to a whole new career. Now she’s picking up the mantel, continuing the traditional craft of stone carvers, with her own insights and vision.

The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt
a detailed look at Sue’s finished soldier sculpture and a piece inspired by her battle with dyslexia

The Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in CarharttThe Women of City and Guilds of London Art School / Crafted in Carhartt

Click here to find out more about City & Guilds of London Art School.

Seattle Potter Megan Sarraf

Meet ceramic artist, Megan Sarraf. Years ago, through scheduling mishaps, she ended up in a ceramics class. After getting her hands dirty on the wheel, Megan was hooked. Following an internship at Saratoga Clay Arts Center in New York, Megan sold all of her belongings, got in the car, and made her way to the Pacific Northwest.

“My only thoughts were; If I land somewhere between San Francisco and the Canadian border I would be alright. AND… If I run out of money before I find a place to live, I can just go back. Right?… It became the most romantic cross country adventure. I camped across the States for 4 weeks. Traveling the eastern coast south to South Carolina, with stops along the way. Then west to Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico. The scenic route north to Colorado, then Utah, Arizona and over to LA. I drove up the PCH for a ways, finally making it to Seattle. I had never been here before but as soon as I saw the skyline I just knew. Three days later, I had a job and a room in a house. And of course called my mom to let her know I was going to stay and in fact was not living out of my car anymore. Now I’ve been here a month-ish shy of 2 years. This past year has been the most exciting. I will be finally finishing my AA and applying to BFA programs. I was welcomed as a resident artist at Blue Cone Studios for 6 months and am now a resident artist at the Pugmill Society on the Equinox Studio’s campus. Also doing this crazy life thing while lucky and in love with my partner who is so crazy supportive it blows my mind some days.” -Megan of @meganashleyart

“Practice and practice and patience and practice and trying to keep one foot grounded in reality. Also, play. Play all the time. Not everything has to be a finished product. Most things won’t be.” -Sarraf

Megan Sarraf / Crafted in CarharttMegan Sarraf / Crafted in CarharttMegan Sarraf / Crafted in CarharttMegan Sarraf / Crafted in Carhartt

“I hope the feeling of joy that I have when I’m making the work translates into as much love and enjoyment for the person that ends up using the piece.” -Sarraf

“I’m really into bowls lately. I’ve been making some prototypes for large nesting mixing bowls. Quite the challenge but has definitely rewarded me with some interesting forms that I plan on continuing to pursue and refine.” -Sarraf of @meganashleyart

Blue Wolf Studios in Tahoe

Amanda Dabel is co-owner of Blue Wold Studios in Kings Beach, California. This sweet little shop of locally crafted wares also has a backroom that serves as a fully functioning ceramic studio. It’s located right on the edge of Lake Tahoe. Stop in for goods handmade by Amanda and over 40 other artists in the area.

Blue Wolf Studios / Crafted in Carhartt

“The best part of owning a business is you get back what you put in, meeting local talented artists, and sense of accomplishment. The hardest part is never actually leaving. There’s always two million things to do.” -Amanda Dabel

Blue Wolf Studios / Crafted in Carhartt
“I fell in love with the ability to mold clay into anything you can think of. It’s so versatile.” -Amanda Dabel

Meet Belinda Quene. She also works at Blue Wolf Studios. Belinda has been in ceramics for 10 years. She was immediately drawn to how grounded she felt while making.

“It is so relaxing to throw on the wheel…Getting immersed into a project and losing track of time.” -Belinda Quene

After two years of serving their community, Blue Wolf Studios recently received the honor of 2017 Best New Business by North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.

“There will be a lot of long late stressful nights, push through, it’s worth it.” – Co-Owner Amanda Dabel

Blue Wolf Studios / Crafted in CarharttBlue Wolf Studios / Crafted in CarharttBlue Wolf Studios / Crafted in Carhartt

Art Shack Brooklyn

The Artshack in Brooklyn is a women-owned-and-operated ceramics studio. It was founded in 2008 by McKendree Key and Dany Rose. We got to spend the day with a few of the artists who teach and make there including Laura Protzel, Alayna Wiley, Zena Pesta, and Ash Donnelly.

“Artshack is a community-based not-for-profit ceramics center. We use our creative skills to helps kids hone their own ideas. We then collaborate with our students to fabricate molds, and create casts of their work to sell in our shop. 100% of the profits from those casted replicas sold goes towards raising money for scholarships for kids to take art classes. We believe that all kids deserve access to quality arts education and strive to make that readily available to young artists in Brooklyn.” –Ash Donnelley of @artshackbrooklyn

The Artshack Brooklyn / Crafted in CarharttThe Artshack Brooklyn / Crafted in Carhartt

Alayna Wiley is a ceramicist, an art educator, and a craft curator. When she’s not working at The Art Shack, she’s a studio assistant at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her education is impressive and extensive. She’s studied at Oberlin College, Germantown Academy, and Harvard University to name only a few. Visit her website to take a closer look at her work.

The Artshack Brooklyn / Crafted in Carhartt

“When I was a teenager, my wildest dream was to move to New York City to become a practicing ceramics artist and a fighter for social justice. I could only dream of running a nonprofit community ceramics art space in my neighborhood, I had been told by so many people that such a job didn’t exist. My advice to young women who want to make a difference in others’ lives or want to be artists, is to always push yourself to keep making things. Never allow yourself an excuse, we as women are never too weak to do or be anything we desire. Be confident in what you believe and what you want, and always consider the ways you can use your creative practice to make a difference in someone else’s life.” –@ashdonnellyceramic of The Art Shack in Brooklyn 

The Artshack Brooklyn / Crafted in Carhartt

“ArtShack has a really unique atmosphere. There is a strong community here of adults and children making art. Adults are inspired by the kids and vice versa. It was through this community that I found my own interest in clay. It sort of just fell into my lap, I am so glad it did. 

I have been at ArtShack for about a year. I am currently the Director of the Kids Program. I design the curriculum and teach the weekday kids courses… 

I am a 31 year old kid, so kids truly are my people. The best part of my job is getting closer with these young artists and learning from them. Kids have incredibly insightful perspectives on the world around them, that they bring to their ceramic creations. I feel so lucky to spend my days with a wonderful community of artists of all ages especially in these turbulent times.” –Laura Protzel of @artshackbrooklyn 

The Artshack Brooklyn / Crafted in Carhartt

“I’ve been working in Ceramics for 15 years! I had a very thorough education in ceramics at my undergrad in Cleveland, Ohio at the Cleveland Institute of Art under William Brouillard and Judith Salomon. So thorough, that the Pratt Institute hired me straight out of undergrad to run their Ceramics Department. At Pratt i taught undergraduate and graduate level courses, it was a great place to continue to pursue and share the alchemy of clay and glazes through chemistry and experimentation. While at Pratt I took time to travel to Jingdezhen China and participate in a Ceramic residency at the Pottery Workshop. This place is the incredibly wild porcelain capital of the world; 2.8 million people working in ceramics. The magical dirt of clay has also taken me to Australia where a great concentration of potters live!” -Zena Verda Pesta of @orangepopsiclesandle

The Artshack Brooklyn / Crafted in CarharttThe Artshack Brooklyn / Crafted in Carhartt

The Artshack offers classes to children and adults. If you’re interested in learning more about hand building, wheel throwing, glazing, plaster mold making or slipcasting—head on over to @artshackbrooklyn for more info.

Visit to sign up for kid classes & visit to sign up for adult classes. 

From Aqua-Woman to Ceramic Artist

Monica Wilson / Crafted in Carhartt


The path to your passion is different for every person. I asked ceramic artist, Monica Wilson, what sparked her interest in the field.

“I have always been interested in making things, or thinking up things to make. I asked my mom to make me an aqua-woman suit when I was small, she wasn’t sure where to start. She put me in pottery classes as a kid and gave me a small home studio. Later I ended up in fashion school, then art school where I worked with various materials, welding, casting cement and plaster but found clay to have the most immediate response to touch, and I love that. I also love the ceramic art community – great cooks, honest people. To run a clay studio you have to know how to do everything from mixing glazes to repairing and firing kilns, these people are problem solvers and can make just about anything with their hands.” –M. Wilson

It’s not easy to see the end result when you’re in the middle of discovering your voice. All you can do is plug away until you’ve found your match. And often, the steps that lead to your calling give a beautiful depth to your next venture.


Building a Studio

For metal artist, Kate Silvio, the best part of her job is the idea that someone would want to wake up everyday and look at something that she’s created. What a motivation! That drive and hustle have to live somewhere. After the birth of her second daughter, Kate is setting up a home studio. She’ll now be able to pop in and out, keep her creative thought process rolling, and tackle the rest of the day with greater ease.

As Kate is designing her creative work space, she’s “found it crucial to figure out how you are most productive and happy. There is no ‘a shop is supposed to look this way’…shops look however you want them to look.” Metal working is a particularly expensive art form to pull off in a home studio. Keeping that in mind, she’ll slowly build her stock of tools and equipment. The key is determining which items are indispensable and higher up on the ‘to buy’ list.

Metal Worker Kate Silvio / Crafted in Carhartt

Women in the Workshop / Crafted in Carhartt

Metal Worker Kate Silvio / Crafted in Carhartt


Q & A with Metal Worker Kate Silvio

Michigan metal worker, Kate Silvio, has appeared on the blog many times over the past few years. She’s a talented, strong, capable artist with a great outlook on life. It’s my hope to pass on a bit of her wisdom with you.

Q: What advice do you have for women looking to get into metal work?

A: Advice that I have to women who are looking to get into metal work is the same to that I would give to men looking to getting into metal. Every interaction with another artist/maker/welder is an opportunity to learn. Be prepared to spend a lot time in the studio and be open to critique and instruction from mentors as well as peers. Also, have heroes… you need to know what’s going on and what has gone on in the art world to be able to operate in it.

Advice I would give directly to women is to take as many precautions as you can to physically protect your body from any possible long-term side effects of welding and fabrication. As uncomfortable as some respirators, goggles, face shields, earmuffs etc. can be, it is extremely important that your first priority is personal safety. Unfortunately, there is very little, if any, research on long-term effects on breathing welding fumes and dust on women and you don’t want to be that statistic.

Q: What common misconceptions do people have about metal work?

A: The only common misconception that I can think of is that people assume that women aren’t interested in metalwork or can’t do what men can do in a shop. I taught students how to weld for 12 years and I often found that women picked up the skill quicker because they had a much more sensitive touch and were more conscious of technique. Not to say that I didn’t know a lot of great male welders!

Q: What is the best part of what you do?
A: The best part of what I do is the idea that someone would want to wake up everyday and look at something that I’ve created…

Q: What inspires you?

A: I draw a lot of inspiration from my girls… the freedom that my four year old has to create is astounding. She isn’t bound by material, technique, skill, or insecurities… she just makes. It’s good for me to remember to forget everything.

Want to see more? Take a look at Kate’s work here.

Metal Worker Kate Silvio / Crafted in Carhartt


Inspiration Into Art

Ceramic Artist, Monica Wilson, employs a technique I’ve never seen before called piercing. It’s beautiful and organic. Before mixing the clay, Monica adds in fibers to strengthen the material. She then rolls out very thin sheets, sets them atop a piece of foam, and pierces through to the clay. This creates an airiness to each fired piece. Monica was inspired by Moroccan pierced-tin lanterns during her travels in the area to study art and culture through pottery.

Monica Wilson / Crafted in Carhartt

Monica Wilson / Crafted in Carhartt

Monica Wilson / Crafted in Carhartt

Monica Wilson / Crafted in Carhartt

Monica Wilson / Crafted in Carhartt

Monica Wilson / Crafted in Carhartt

Monica Wilson / Crafted in Carhartt

See more of Monica’s work here.





for the artists

Artist studios are so often such places of inspiration. Each spot can be just as individual as the work produced in it. The organization (or lack there of), the scattered pieces of cast aside beginnings of masterpieces, and the mess that results after hard work all add to the charm.

Share a photo of your studio with us at, and you could see it on the blog.

Carhartt Tool Bag

Carhartt Tool Bag

Michigan artist, Monica Wilson, is pictured above.



The Brewster Denim Jacket

The Brewster / Crafted in Carhartt

The Brewster / Crafted in CarharttThe Brewster / Crafted in CarharttThe Brewster Denim Jacket:

  • Button front
  • Adjustable cuffs
  • Triple-stitched main seams
  • Drop-tail hem adds coverage
  • 9-ounce, 99% cotton/1% spandex denim
  • Two chest pockets and two zipper-secured lower-front pockets

Detroit artist Kate Silvio pictured above. Read more about her and her remarkable metalwork here.