Our story

We don't own a beautiful bookshop but if we did, it would probably look something like the one on our homepage; flowers tumbling down from the upstairs windows, an old bike propped up outside and stacks and stacks of lovely books inside.

 

Except... our bookshop would be a little different from most. All the books inside our shop would be about artists. Actually, they'd all be about about female artists.

 

Why? Because even in the best bookshops, you'll only find a handful of books about female artists (they have been written out of the art history books for centuries).  So to try to balance the bookshelves, we started Eiderdown Books.

 

Here you'll only find books by and about women artists.

What's with the name?

Glad you asked! (It's a lovely story).

 

The Eider duck is a beautiful wild sea bird which inhabits parts of northern Europe. It's a protected species on the Farne Islands (since St. Cuthbert decreed their protection there in 676 AD) and it's the county emblem of Northumberland, England.

 

But what's really interesting about these birds is that in Victorian times it became popular to start taking the feathers - which the female ducks pluck from their own breasts to line their nests - and to stuff these little downy bits of fluffiness into a quilt, to then be stuffed into a Victorian bedroom.

 

History tells us our sisters suffered a similar fate.

 

It's our ambition to release these feathers from their quilts and uncover all those female artists who have been hidden in plain sight. Hence, Eiderdown Books!

And the people behind the books?

Harriet Olsen founded the publishing house in 2018 (the centenary year of women's partial suffrage in Britain) after more than a decade in museum book publishing, with her partner (now husband) Tim. They have two children who are incredulous that neither Harriet nor Tim's names appear on the books themselves.

 

On the covers of our books are the names of writers, curators, art historians and cultural commentators who are some of the most knowledgeable women working in art history in Britain today; they really know their stuff.

 

The books are all designed by leading female book designers, and we've used fonts designed by women too (more about that here). 

 

So we're all women (apart from Tim, and Orlando who did magical things to make this website work).

What is the Modern Women Artists series?

The Modern Women Artists series is an exciting and growing list of hardback, pocket-sized books about some brilliant women artists who we think more people should know about.

 

Each little book offers readers a concise introduction to an artist and their work. They can be read on their own, or as part of the whole series (the books are numbered on their spines, but can be read in any order).

 

All the books are illustrated with lots of high quality, full-colour, full-page reproductions of the artist's work (from public art galleries and private collections) alongside a new, intelligent, well-researched essay written by a bright, female voice and expert on the artist. 

It's worth pointing out that these little books aren't the definitive book on the artist's life or a catalogue raisonné (and they don't pretend to be). But in some cases, they are the only book about about the artist and a stepping stone towards getting more books about women artists onto the bookshelves.

For those who haven't heard of the artist before, they offer a toe-in-the-water introduction to their work.

 

For those who do already know the artist's work, the Modern Women Artists series offers a compendium of new writing about a group of brilliant female artists who were all working in the first half of the twentieth century, and whose work may have otherwise been overshadowed, overlooked or forgotten.

Can I visit the shop?

Ah. Unfortunately not. Not because we wouldn't welcome you with open arms. But (*whispers*) because it doesn't really exist (yet!)

 

You can order your books directly from our website here or you can go into your local bookshop and order them there (here's a handy list of shops where you can already find our books). Together let's start filling up our shelves with books about brilliant female artists!

Finally, if you are a bookshop who would like some more books about female artists on your shelves, please do get in touch with our distributor here and drop us a line to let us know so we can add you to our list of shops we love!

1. Our bookshop illustration was designed by the wonderful Eliza Fricker.
2. In 2012, the American artist Judy Chicago suggested only 2.7% of art books printed were about women.