Image: Detail of Sophie Ryder, sculptor, 2016 © Anne-Katrin Purkiss

Renowned sculptor Sophie Ryder started working as an artist from a very young age. During her childhood, it never occurred to her just how male-dominated her field was – or that as a female, success would come at a higher price.

"It was only when I started taking part in very important national and international sculpture exhibitions that I realised that 99% of the work there was made by men."

Throughout Sophie's career, people have often imagined that her partner produced her sculptures after Sophie came up with the design, assuming that she couldn't possibly be strong enough to create them herself. "There were times when, yes, I did need someone stronger in my studio, and men do biologically have that advantage. But that was never going to stop me."

"Sometimes – it didn't work. A sculpture would collapse on top of me, burying me in hundreds of bucketsful of semi-dried plaster! But little by little, I taught myself how to weld, how to construct, so this wouldn’t happen anymore. And eventually, I made it work for me."

Sophie Ryder in the Studio © Andreas von Einsiedel

Further complications became apparent when Sophie became a mother. Running a business, organising a studio and producing enough work to keep everything financially afloat is a huge task, as it is. Add bringing up two children, looking after the family home and taking care of the dogs to the mix, and you’ve got a very full plate. "I always thought: male artists just don't have to deal with all this."

"The world is definitely a different place now," Sophie adds, "and women really are starting to make their mark in male-dominated careers, especially within the arts."

Reflecting on her career, Sophie admits that "there have been occasions where I have felt like the female intruder in a world dominated by men, but it never put me off. It only made me more determined to continue – and to succeed. No – I don't have the luxury of working through the night in my studio, focusing on nothing but my creations, as many male artists do – I have other responsibilities. But I am a woman and I make it work."

Sophie Ryder will reveal more about her career as a sculptor in an informal discussion with our Director, Marilyn Scott, by exploring her experience as a female artist at a special fundraising talk in celebration of International Women’s Day on Fri 6 March 2020, 7.00pm.