For the majority of my final year of studies at ECA, my aim was to explore how I could use visual language as a tool to educate, empower and eradicate stigma, with a particular focus on changing our cultural perceptions of menstruation in the UK.
This project received the Creative Edinburgh Student Award in November 2020.
This is my most recent piece- an animated version of my illustration inspired by the archetypal figure of Iustitia (or LADY JUSTICE). I adapted her design to represent the injustice of the tampon tax and the general stigma that surrounds menstruation. (Designed in Procreate, animated using Procreate and After Effects, 2020)
Menstruation continues to be perceived by many as a taboo subject. In our personal lives, many of us feel inclined to use euphemism in order to merely discuss it. As a country who has previously been unable to advertise menstrual products on screen without using a blue liquid instead of the tissue more than half of us naturally have expelled every month, who have found the blood rushing to our cheeks as well into our underwear when simply walking to the loo with a pad in hand, and continues to tax these products as luxuries when they are, in fact, absolute necessities that many cannot gamble to go without, I believe my work is crucial in creating positive change to our archaic attitudes to periods. As many menstruators will know, periods are already messy, frustrating and a literal pain in the bum (well, lower back), but all of these added social and political pressures certainly don’t help!
I truly think that design is the best way to tackle a topic that has been left unspoken for so long, a cultural perspective that has made people feel so undignified, and a social boundary that MUST be crossed to help people feel more comfortable and empowered in their bodies. I hope to continue this work to reach more communities of people as it is an intersectional, global issue. I have seen how the visual, outspoken and humorous nature of my work has allowed these conversations to begin and has changed perspectives for the better! In return, I have seen this work shape and improve my tactical design skills, my creative thinking, and my illustrative style.
Whilst my year started with the development of a graphic novel which linked menstruation to the fictional condition of lycanthropy (see this work here), I found myself invested in making posters, zines and editorial posts more grounded in reality with a focus on promoting real change. I hope you enjoy the work below and use it as a tool to confront and consider any negative or uncomfortable thoughts you may have about this topic and why you may have these in the first place.
Pattern celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019 (May 28th). This was the design that
re-ignited my passion for menstrual activism! (Procreate, 2019)
Details of my 'LADY JUSTICE' risograph print
(available in my Etsy store!)
'JUST SAY PERIOD' (2019)
I made a one-sheet, two-colour risograph zine entitled 'Just Say Period'. This zine playfully visualises some of the euphemisms we use for menstruation. Whilst well meaning, these linguistics are ultimately harmful and add to stigmas surrounding a natural process, suggesting they should not be spoken of as they are embarrassing, taboo, private. We rely on silly phrases to make menstruation acceptable when really we should just be discussing them as they are, unapologetically! I made a repeat pattern for the reverse of the zine that doubles up as a poster. This zine is currently available in my Etsy store.
I have done a few editorial pieces addressing the tampon tax in different parts of the world. The first addresses the scrap in Germany for The Student Newspaper. (Procreate, 2019)
Below is a speculative editorial piece celebrating the scrap of the tax in the UK that aims to begin in 2021. (Procreate, 2020 using True Grit Digital Texture Brushes)
'PADS 4 LADS'
Lots of my work has been informed by current and previous campaigns by excellent organisations. This comic was inspired by Hey Girls #Pads4Dads campaign, which aims to help men feel more confident in providing menstrual care and opening up comfortable conversations for their growing children. My comic extends this further, aiming to improve a wider spectrum of men’s education and empathy surrounding the needs of the menstruators in their lives. I also felt it was important to start including trans men and non-binary identities into the conversation as sometimes they bleed too!
Other work I took upon myself to use my voice and my online platform to investigate how my peers and followers feel about a range of menstrual issues. (Procreate, 2020)
This piece celebrates the passing of the Free Provisions Bill in Scotland, which happened recently this year! I really wanted to make a piece that celebrated the bill and Scotland itself hand in hand, so what better than an empowered piper adorned in free products that she wears proudly as her uniform, piping the news loud for all to hear? Try and see how many period products you can spot in this piece! (Procreate, 2020)
I was commissioned by UK based charity Bloody Good Period to create a graphic for their new campaign The Walk of *NO* Shame, aiming to encourage people to treat their periods with pride and not hide their period products when heading to the bathroom.
Actively illustrating a topic that has been so unfairly hidden for so long has been very rewarding to me and my practice. I have been able to see the positive effects my work has had on individuals both online and in my personal circles, but selfishly I can also see the effects it has had on my own perception of self! I loved being able to unashamedly talk about my body and the emotional turbulence that accompanies ‘that time of the month’ with my friends in the studio, I love being forwarded interesting articles and work surrounding periods by my family that will potentially inspire new work, and I love seeing, before my very eyes, a perfectly natural function beginning to be met with empathy and clarity rather than uncomfortable silence, awkwardness or disgust.
To see more about how I have addressed menstruation and a range of other body issues young people face in a fictional fantasy/horror setting, please see my in-progress graphic novel!
I hope to continue developing this kind of work as it is a subject I am passionate about. I would love to work alongside educators to make sure young people feel more at ease in their bodies in both fictional and non-fictional spaces to support these areas.
The above are my illustrations for Menstrual Health Day 2020, addressing personal perceptions of periods but also the solidarity that exist between people who bleed!
The most recent piece I made about menstruation was this GIF of two menstrual cups cheers-ing, using a blend of Procreate and After Effects. Again, this piece was created to depict solidarity between people who menstruate and encourage open and honest conversations with our peers about periods. There is no longer a need to leave this topic unspoken!