We’re celebrating the makers we meet in books and movies; the women whose passions move beyond the realm of quirky hobby to a place where we can truly get to know the character through her creations.

Like art itself, the protagonists centered here don’t always come to us from a place of comfort, and each of the makers has her own reasons and motivations for devoting energy to her artistry. For some, being a woman and a maker means permission to be loud and to take up space; to shout out the ideas and values that may otherwise be stifled. For others, it can be a quieter pursuit, whispering the truths they cannot otherwise admit even to themselves. 

From painters of fine art to vintners of fine wine, the makers in these books and movies use their craft not only to express their creativity, but to help create the life and the world they want to live in. 

Little Fires Everywhere 

Celeste Ng transports readers to the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights in this 2017 bestseller, where multi-media artist Mia Warren has just moved with her daughter. Things seem perfect in their new neighborhood, but like the enigmatic pieces that Mia creates, the calm streets contradict the chaos that threatens to erupt behind closed doors.

Big Eyes

Amy Adams plays Margaret Keane in this 2014 biopic about the iconic mid-century artist whose husband took credit for her work for years. Keane began painting after a botched operation nearly destroyed her hearing as a child, continuing to render her signature big-eyed subject matter into adulthood. Her notoriety however, came as much through her pop-art paintings as it did through the court case against her fraudster husband for recognition as the maker behind the work.

Eight Hundred Grapes 

For Georgia Ford, making wine isn’t just her family’s business, it’s an art form. And in Laura Dave’s 2015 novel, when Georgia returns to the vineyard after her engagement comes to an unceremonious end, she finds solace once again in becoming an artist. Her family is ready to support her but things are not like they used to be. Georgia must learn to believe in the process—after all, being a family is just like making wine—part alchemy and part open-minded trust.

Reality Bites

Every gen-x woman knows how to describe irony, thanks to Winona Ryder’s star turn as recent college grad and burgeoning filmmaker, Lelaina Pierce in the Ben Stiller-directed cult classic from 1994. Lelaina is determined to become a documentarian, looking to portray the truth and struggle of growing up through her camera’s lens. But like so many artists, Lainey realizes that commercialism and capitalism (in the form of a charismatic television executive) threatens to misconstrue her art’s true intention even as it promises to deliver fame and financial success. 

All the Breaking Waves

In this magic-tinged work of contemporary fiction by Kerry Lonsdale, Molly Brennan is a mother, an art history professor and a maker of jewelry that features the glass and stones she finds on the seashore. But after a frightening experience brings up painful memories of the past, Molly returns to the town she grew up in, hoping the peace she and her daughter seek will find them there. But just as she once believed her beloved sea glass jewels were the remains of a mermaid’s tears, Molly will have to accept a truth she does not want to believe in order to heal.

What are your favorite books and movies about creative women? Please share in the comments.

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