Power Tools

Building Tutorials for Every Woman

These fun, approachable and concise videos give instructions on basic DIY tasks like changing a lightbulb, smashing a window, painting a wall and using a drill.

What we want to communicate above all else is that women can ‘have a go’ we don’t have to be professionals to put up a curtain rail and if we make a mess of it there is always Polyfilla. We want women to find themselves in these films, unpolished, working it out as they go along, sharing concerns or hesitations as part of a learning process that encourages others. – Rachel and Cis, Idle Women Caretakers

You can watch all the videos on YouTube and Vimeo:

A young girl watches as a woman, her mother, drills into a brick wall. Both are laughing and having fun.

Background

In 2016, Idle Women were awarded the Arts Council Ambition For Excellence award with partners Heart of Glass & Anu Productions. This lead to the launch of the major art project Helen – a three-year programme of events and activities – of which Power Tools is the concluding work.

Through working with local women as well as within a women’s refuge, Idle Women realised a need for a dedicated women’s space in St Helens, a place to ‘tear the house apart’.

Together, we deconstructed a town centre building and reimagined ourselves and all the possibilities. All work, from demolition through to bricklaying, electrics, and plumbing was to be done by professional tradeswomen alongside local women learning these new skills through workshops and demonstrations. 

Power Tools emerged as an online legacy of this liberating three-year programme of arts and construction activities; all the videos were shot at the Idle Women Institute at Haydock Street in St Helens, UK.

Nao Lightbulb

Make You Own

Want to share your skills to encourage and empower women around the world?

Power Tools is an ongoing series of DIY videos made by and for women. The initial 14 Power Tools videos were made by a film crew consisting of professionals and enthusiastic amateurs. Equally, the presenters featured are a mixture of tradeswomen and those mucking in and having a go for the first time in their lives.

You don’t need to be an DIY expert nor a professional film-maker to join in. Below are some of the assets and advice you could use to make your own Power Tools DIY video and help other women to do a job that you have learned to do.

Once you’ve made your video, publish it to your chosen online video platform and use the hashtags #PowerTools and #ForEveryWoman there and on social media to link up your contribution with others like it.

Graphics

The identity for Power Tools was designed by Sara Nesteruk. You will find all the assets you need to use this design for the credits and opening animation.

Music

The soundtrack for the Power Tools videos was made by the Manchester’s Women Asylum Seekers Together choir (WAST).

Below is a link to the intro and outro music as well as the excerpt used to accent certain sections of the films and the sound effect used to bring each ingredient into the flat-lay sequences.

This music is only licensed for use in Power Tools videos, please do not use it for any other purpose.

Art Direction

We shot Power Tools in the corner of a room, this enabled us to have as even light as possible (with no natural light source to either side casting shadows) and also gives a bit of depth to the framing of the presenter and their tools.

We used paint we had kicking about anyway to paint a yellow half moon on the wall behind the presenter. If you’d like to do the same, just draw a semi circle rotated at roughly a 135° angle (by eye is fine!) and paint it directly onto your wall.

Kit

You don’t need expensive camera and sound recording equipment to make a video. Most tasks could be shot using the camera on your mobile phone. There are plenty of women-lead tutorials on YouTube on how best to do this.

Unlike most of the images of this project which were shot by professional photographer, Jessie Leong, the one below was taken by Rachel Anderson on her phone and it looks great.

Costume

When designing the identity for Power Tools, Sara Nesteruk worked with the RGB colour model. This is the system used by screens – like TV screens and computers – to display colour using red, green and blue light. Sara’s inspiration was the light of the moon and the use of the moon as a symbol of womanhood.

Riffing off Sara’s ideas, we offered each of the presenters a plain red, green or blue t-shirt, this is something you can replicate in your own video.

Our embroidered moon badges were from Ella Daniel-Lowe’s LunaLotusUK Etsy shop and our aprons were from eBay. Perhaps you could bring the symbol of the moon into your video in another way?

Helen

In tribute to the town this project took place in – St Helens, Merseyside, UK – and to underscore the collaborative nature of participatory art practice, Power Tools presenters should introduce themselves to their audience as ‘Helen’ rather than by using their own name.

The name Helen is said to derive from the Greek for ‘moon’ so is doubly relevant to this project.

A woman and a young girl (the woman's daughter) both dressed identically in green t-shirts and heavy-duty navy blue aprons stand close together laughing. Behind them is a shelf that they have just put up.

Selected Press

Women in St Helens and at Humraaz started to come forward with things they wanted to learn like how to ride a bike, how to change a light bulb, how to lay a laminate floor, how to hang a chandelier. As we were working these things out, we would discuss the barriers we face. Older women said that they didn’t get a chance to learn practical skills in school, other than cooking and sewing, and were elated to get to grips with a drill. There were discussions about how these jobs were for men but also the reality that being dependent on those men can lock women into cycles of violence. – Cis interviewed by Emma Yates-Badley, Northern Soul

As the women working on the project learned these skills, they recorded the videos to pass on that knowledge. A valuable resource for anyone taking up DIY to pass the time in lockdown. – Augusta Pownall, The Observer, 20 Jun 2020

Microsite

From July 2019 until December 2020, there was a dedicated website for this project available at everywomanpower.tools. You can view the archive version of this site at archive.org

Credits

The Power Tools video series was produced by Idle Women, LUCA, and Charmian Griffin.

It was developed with women local to St Helens, campaigners, activists as well as women in trade. Every woman involved is listed below.