Tuesday, 29 May 2012

It’s Not Vulgar, It’s Vulva!

A few months ago, I blogged about the work of Jamie McCartney, who created a library of vaginas. The four hundred plaster casts of vulvas, all of them unique, are arranged into ten large panels and is currently on show in London alongside a preview of his new work which is photography based. 

Skin Deep, McCartneys debut solo show, marks the very first time the sculpture has been shown in an art gallery and in its full, nine metre span. The age range of the women is from 18 to 76. Included are mothers and daughters, identical twins, transgendered men and women as well as a woman pre and post natal and another one, rather provocatively, pre and post labiaplasty. The exhibition is a great chance for women and men to engage with art work which is an honest portrayal of how much our bodies vary from every individual. It is a chance perhaps to reassure some women that their own bodies are as 'normal' as every one else. Whilst it works as an art piece, compiled with volunteer vaginas of all shapes and sizes, it is a piece of work that also works on a body confidence level. People can relate to the human form and take away a very personal response, depending on how they view their own body.

As mentioned before, there is also Physical Photography, the latest offering from Jamie McCartney. This digital work has been constructed using a computer scanner taking images of the body, which has physical contact with the device.

As a fan of the human body, I think that these images are a highly interesting representation of the body, with images taking hours to construct. The use of dark background offsets and emphasizes the pale skin tones and brings out the features of the body like joints and nipples.
The whole Skin Deep exhibition, from plaster to photography, focuses on notions of beauty and society's obsession with the physical self and is worth a visit to open your eyes to a new and exciting portrayal of the human form.

The exhibition runs until this Saturday, 2ndJune 2012 at the Hay Hill Gallery, London, open 10.30am6pm. Admission is free. Get going there!


May Contain Vaginas  Previous Blog Post about McCartney

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sufferage Reading.

Whilst searching for some more information on the Suffragette movement, I came across a very interesting read, The Act of Militancy: Violence and the Suffragettes, 1904-14. Although a long read,worth a look.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Women Behind the Camera

 Cannes Film Festival is currently ongoing it's 64th year, having opened with Wes Anderson's latest creation Moonrise Kingdom. However the initial buzz at the festival wasn't about the eagerly anticipated movies that are coming to our cinemas in the coming months, it was about the lack of certain films that are being shown. Of the 22 films competing for the Palme d'Or, none of them have been directed by a woman.

An uproar commenced with French feminists and filmmakers making their voice heard by having a letter published in french newspaper Le Monde, which was backed by a french actor and two female directors. Last year, Cannes showed four films which were directed by women, including Julia Leighs Sleeping Beauty and Lynne Ramsey's We Need To Talk About Kevin. Is this years Cannes sexist? Kent-born Andrea Arnold, director of Fish Tank and Wurthering Heights, does not believe there is a problem.

"I would absolutely hate it if my film was selected because I was a woman...I would only want my film to be selected for the right reasons and not out of charity because I'm female.'

I think that the problem lies in the fact that the industry simply has more male directors, with only so many female directors worth talking about. The films shown at the Cannes is a representation of films from around the world that stand out. It is merely chance that the selection for 64th year there is no representation of female directing. General delegate Thierry Frémaux agrees that there is an issue of the lack of female directors, not just at the festival but in general. It has been suggested that the festival should bring in a quota system to allow more woman a chance of representation. I think rather than force them to choice a selected amount of female directed films, there should be a dedicated category to celebrate the women behind the camera.

Where Are Women in Film? Trudie Styler and Lucy Walker discuss at Guardian
Cannes Film Festival  Website

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Live Music and Fashion Show

Keep the 27th June free if you are anywhere near Birmingham for an evening of live music and fashion show featuring these lovely talented ladies:

Sam Budgen, fashion designer and upcycler of vintage clothes

Andrea Bonnell, fashion designer, specializing with corsetry techniques.

The night will feature lots of music including Abie's Miracle Tonic, Little Sister, The Brave Sons of Elijah Perry and Mellow Peaches- a lovely collective of music. I have been invited along to have my own stall at the event, so come along, say hello and check out what I will have going on!

Live Music and Fashion Show at The Ort, Birmingham

I Still Like The Word Stripper

Another Interview from the BBC's Five Minutes With, following an interesting talk with feminist Caitlin Moran. This week, American burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese discussing burlesque/stripping, touring and being seen as an 'anti-feminist.'

I am a massive fan of burlesque after watching a show earlier this year; Boom Bang Burlesque

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Baby Weight

In November 2011, Indian actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan gave birth to a baby girl and made an honest statement that she was in no hurry to loose the baby weight. Six months since the birth, fans in India are complaining that the actress has a 'duty' to her fans to return to her pre-pregnancy weight.

Aishwarya captured in recent months by paparazzi.

Various online sites have compiled galleries and videos comparing her pre-baby figure to her current body state, even including elephant sound effects over the top. This peer pressure from fans shows that there are select people who believe that there is an ideal look that must be obtained by the actress. People have compared her slow progression with her weight with the way that Victoria Beckham managed to slim down so quick, suggesting that she needs to do the same. The problem with this of course, is that Victoria Beckham, and anyone else they wish to compare Aishwarya to, is a different body. All our bodies work differently, and with Victoria, she has always suffered with body issues since her teens and has been very slim for many years. The comparison to the slim fashion designer is unfair and invalid.

The situation opens up a lot of debate. From a podcast that I heard by Stuff Mom Never Told You, I remember learning that women should take the same amount of time to loose the weight as it took to put on, i.e. nine months. Women who force themselves to slim down in a matter of months, even weeks are forcing their body to change at an extreme rate, and would have to keep up a tight regime to keep the weight and figure at bay.The media, women's magazines especially, stalk women during their pregnancies and keep a close eye on their progress post-birth. From actresses, presenters to footballers wives, women's figures are criticized, pointing out any sign of excess stomach, stretch marks or other body blemishes. Women, and even men, should not have to be pressured to change their bodies after the body has been through a stressful and straining time. To alter the body so quickly and dramatically after birth will take energy which, in my opinion, should be concentrated on loving and looking after the new born.

Aishwarya, Miss World 1994, has the right attitude as she defended herself by saying that she wants to be able to 'enjoy motherhood'. And so she should. There are pressures for all celebrities to keep up their appearances in public, especially those who have gone through a pregnancy. The least anybody needs, especially during a very personal life changing experience,are outside pressures to please others. Aishwarya is a mother with her priorities on her newborn child and should be slowly adjusting her body at her own pace. I am sure her looks will not fade anytime soon and expect to see her dazzle the red carpet in the near future.

Aishwarya three months pregnant and looking beautiful.


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Penis Leggings

As a follow up to my Down With Leggings post, Jezebel.com posted this short but amusing rant on the ridiculous piece on patterned leggings.
Link Wearing These Penis Leggings Will Make You Look Like A Dick from Jezebel.com

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Body Secrets

 From Postsecret.com, two secrets that have been sent in and relate to body image.


Friday, 11 May 2012

Patch Update - May

Updated photos from the patch project! If you saw a blog a few weeks ago, I found some inspiration for the project from the exhibition Quilt History 1700-2010.

These patches are from a quilt made in early 1800's and are backed with paper to help patch each part together. The processed is still used today for hand quilting, however what makes this old quilt unique is the use of everyday papers from around the house- bills and children's notes.

 I have taken this inspiration, and used it in the patch project so that people can add their stories and thoughts to their patches. I have gone through my collection of patches and started to construct then into hand quilted patches. This means the quilt at the end of this journey will be hand sewn, rather than machine quilting which is a lot quicker. I the aim is to get people to help sew the patches together during workshops, over a cup of tea, so we can take time to read patches and chat about the patches.

The Patch Project will also be looking to run workshops based on body image in the up coming weeks in Southampton and Birmingham. More will be blogged/tweeted when things are confirmed so do stay tuned.

Aside from the patches, I am receiving any stories about the loves,hates and/or experiences of your bodies. Tell others, and email me any stories or questions to Jbabey2001@hotmail.com

The Brief, which is available to download from http://jenniferbabey.co.uk/

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


A few weeks ago, I popped back to my university city of Winchester to visit a photography exhibition, Exposures. From Bjork, Mick Jagger, Orson Wells to The Beatles, Jane Bown has captured many celebrities and familiar faces. The Winchester Discovery Centre may only have a small exhibition space, but that doesn't stop the images from making an impact. From smiles to stares, the black and white photos capture a moment that evoke you from their intimacy with the subject.

Very stunning exhibition and worth a visit to Winchester if you can by 20th May.

George Brassai- Photographer

 Dennis Hopper
 Orson Wells
 Woody Allen

My personal favourite image from the exhibition was of Brassai, of whom I was not familiar with until some internet investigation afterwards. The natural pose, mid-emotion alongside the hint of glasses poking out of his top pocket just makes me adore this image. After researching some of Brassai's work, I felt compelled to share that too, as his photography stands out as much as Bown's does. Below is one image of many landscapes by Brassai, although he spent time photographing the more wild nightlife of Paris from prostitutes, transvestites and pimps.

Pont Neuf, Paris.

4 x 6 Exchange

A couple of months ago, Art House Coop set up a series of projects which people could submit thier creative responses. I have taken part in their annual Sketchbook Project in 2011 [See blogs] and I love how they bring so many creatives together to share their ideas and talents. Below are a few pages from my Sketchbook, created at the end of 2010.

 Work in progress
 Creative pages
Stitch detail.

Some of the projects that have set up in the last few months have included The Map Project, The Things Found Series, The Jar Project and The Note Swap(which I also participated). The Sketchbook Project, alongside most of their project, is about sharing the talent that participate, as the sketchbooks that are submitted get catalogued into their library of moleskins and tour the USA over a few months, and the 2012 submissions will be making their way to London in October.

Today I received my goodies from the '4 x 6 Exchange' which you have to submit one piece of flat artwork which is four by six inches in size. I had totally forgotten about the submission and was delighted to see the familiar self-stamped addressed envelope awaiting for me when I got in this evening. The design is hand drawn in pencil, and is put together with a couple of different coloured papers too.
The scan of this illustration does not show off the texture and detail of the piece as it does in person, and just makes it look like a flatter piece than what it actually is. Unfortunately, the art work I received did not include a clear name of who made it, only a signature which I have been trying to make out, with little success so far. The artwork is going to go in a frame I bought in March from a charity shop and shall stand alongside my other pieces of art and inspiration. I believe the attraction and admiration for these projects that they set up is the way that they unite creatives from across the globe to share their thoughts, creativity and passion. Complete strangers sharing a thought or artistic moment.
Below was my submission for the exchange. I can only hope that the recipient isn't too easily offended, and adores this spontaneous make as much as I do.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

5Minutes with Moran

Caitlin Moran is interviewed by Matthew Stadien from the BBC for five minutes and discusses feminism, twitter, being home schooled and the lack of tights. Watch the interview here.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Down With Leggings

'It's time to stop this madness. Leggings are not pants, and bras are not purses, and if we keep going at this rate, soon no one will know how to wear clothing properly anymore.'

An article on Jezebel.com has reported of a school in Canada that has banned the wearing of leggings as they are not appropriate trousers. HURRAH! Although it is just one school that has recognised this, it might just be the beginning of the downfall of the camel-toe champion. 

I am no fashion guru, however I gave up wearing leggings not long after the trend began due to the unflattering sight that they caused. It was also the way that other females were wearing leggings that sent waves of hatred through me. Whilst I was at university two/three years ago, I saw many girls walking past my studio wearing leggings with a short t-shirt leaving their derriere exposed in just leggings. Leggings have the great skill to expose every cranny of your buttock, from your crack and cheek size to the detail on your choice of underwear for that day. By wearing leggings with a top that cuts short above your buttocks, you are inviting people to stare at your ass, unless you go for a denim or leather legging. 

Selection of leggings from Topshop and Asos

The legging fashion has been slowly getting worse in my eyes, with geometric patterns all the rage, but what I don't understand what the fascination is? From what I see, it is all vile and men bloody hate the things too.They hate leggings as much as they hate Uggs, dungarees, harem pants and jump suits [according to this man]. You should be free to what you wear, but leggings should be banned if they are going to be available in strange patterns and if they are going to be worn with your ass enhanced and drawing attention.

In the Jezebel article that mentions the banning of leggings in a school, it also mentions the strange item of the JoeyBra. Some (questionable) genius has invented a bra with a side pocket for when ladies do not want to be carrying around their purse and phone on a night out. I can see the benefits of the bra, however, when your phone rings, there would be an awkward moment of a vibrating noisy breast before one would have to delve into to fetch the ringing device. It reminds me of a pair of boxers which I once saw which had a convenient pouch to store a condom - genius! But whilst these inventions might be a useful solution for a select few people, I can't help but agree with Erin Gloria Ryan;

'Do you hear your armpit ringing? I believe that Taste is calling, and it wants you to go home immediately and sit in your room for awhile and think about what you've done.
If the gods of shit to buy wanted women to have clothing that was actually convenient...they'd figure out how to make leggings that didn't seek to nestle snugly into your pubic cracks and labia in a way that gets them banned from Canadian schools.'


Hairy Maclary

'A Scene From My Life
Small child: Why do you have hair under your arms?
Me: Because when girls and boys grow up into women and men they grow hair under their arms
Small child: My Mum doesn’t have hair under her arms.
Me: She shaves it off.
Small child: She doesn’t
Me: She does. Ask her.
Small child: Mum, do you?
Mother of small child: Yes
Small child: Why?

Exactly, small child. Exactly.'
Through Twitter and Guardian, I came across an article on Vagenda Mag written by Emer O'Toole, where one woman defied society by not shaving for 18months. The article explores the reactions of people, including the above situation with a small child, as well people talking about her on the tube. 

'The official reason for this is that I’m still learning stuff about having body hair, and the unofficial reason is that, to my own sincere surprise, I actually really like it.'

We all know of the 1999 premiere of Notting Hill when Julia Roberts exposed her hairy underarms, with a great backlash from the media. However, what is wrong with being natural, and letting your arm, leg and public hair grow out? Today's society has grown to accept, even believe that women should be as hairless as possible, aside from on top of the head.
'I stopped shaving because there’s way too much pressure on people to conform to stupid arbitrary gendered bullshit.'
To go swimming requires preparation for women, I have had discussions with female friends about going swimming and having to sort out leg and public hair situations in advance. Woman are very conscious of a stray hair being spotted whilst swimming, but why should we really become so paranoid when for the majority of the time, you are submerged under water and busy swimming? No one in the swimming pool is on public-hair watch to catch that stray hair out or to stroke your leg to determine if you are too hairy to swim.
In February/March I was swimming twice a week at a pool near my workplace, and after the second week of prepping my legs the day before, I gave up my routine. There came a point where it had been a week since I last swam, or indeed since I had shaved, and I had just stopped caring about what anyone would think of my grown out hairs. I strolled through the changing rooms and down to the pool, sliding in with my fur lined legs on full show. Of course, the legs are hidden almost instantly and unless someone swims past me like an affectionate dolphin, no one would ever have noticed my fuzzy legs.

Emer O'Toole appeared on This Morning alongside a beauty saloon owner who always shaves her body, as it makes her feel more feminine. A very interesting discussion with two women who are both body confident in different hair states.
Watch here.

Another noteworthy article I discovered when looking into the hair-taboo, was an article written by the BBC in 2007 about Shazia Mirz, a carefree "hairy woman". The article points out that in 2007 'The female population of the UK is now estimated to spend £280m a year removing body hair.' Five years on from this article, I am sure that would have grown significantly, even with the odd celebrity hairy armpit endorsement.
"Body hair on a man is seen as rugged but on a woman it is viewed as sweaty and smelly," says Ms Toerien [Merran Toerien, researcher of gender and body hair]. "Women who have body hair are viewed as not taking care of themselves."
 And what Merran says is true. If women do not shave, they are considered lazy, unhygienic and disgusting. And yet men have no pressures to have the same smooth skin that women are reinforced by society and media to have. Actually, that is a mild lie. The 'Back, Sac, Crack' wax, amongst other procedures, has made it more accessible and acceptable for men rid their body of hair. Whether it is for vanity or not, lets put down our razors, wax, epilators,creams, tweezers etc and enjoy being a bit hairy for a while.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Hidden Histories, Untold Stories

Two years ago, the V&A museum in London held an exhibition called Quilts 1700-2010, curated by Sue Prichard. I was in my final year at WSA when I attended the exhibition, which has been a big influence on my current work as well as the work I was producing at the time. In the last few weeks I finally decided to purchase the book that was published alongside the exhibition which gives more depth into the items that were on display, as well as a bit more history to the practice. 

The exhibition contained contemporary works from Tracey Emin, Caren Garfen and Grayson Perry, alongside more historical pieces which tell stories from farmlands and out at seas. It was important for me to buy the book so I could refer back to some of the key quilts which have stayed with me for over two years.

Alongside Caren Garfens tumble-dryer fluff lined quilt, I was heavily inspired by quilts dated from the 1800's which were still in average condition with deterioration of the fabric allowing you to see the layers underneath. Below the fabric surface of a 1829 coverlet lies paper templates, used to keep fabric stiff and easier to sew patches together, not to mention making the coverlet warmer to sleep under. However, with the tacking stitches still in place and the backing on show, this quilt was never finished.
The detail of the paper reveals that this quilt was made during the 1790's and up until the 1810's, with use of papers such as 'ledger books, Children's copy books, advertisements, newspapers and receipts.' You can read details of children's notes with 'lists of numbers, grammatical sentences, historical fact' as well as personal papers of letters and bills. This reuse of paper taken from around the home shows a use of initiative and how scarce paper was in the home that they has to reuse important documents to help make the quilt.

The importance of the quilt to my current work is the use of paper in the production of the quilt. The paper is used to strengthen the production. In modern quilting, the paper and its tacking stitches would be removed once the patches are all sewn together, so that the wadding and backing to be put in place and the quilt complete. In the case of this 200 year old quilt, the paper speaks as loud as the patch itself, revealing mild details of the people involved with the production. The front of the quilt identifies who the quilt was for, John and Elizabeth Chapman, but the paper templates show the hard work and the small insight into the quilters life.

 Details of the back of the uncompleted quilt from 1829. You can see the tacking stitches of the fabric to paper, and the patches sewn together. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing the details from how this quilt was being constructed piece by piece, and even being able to see and determine small parts of the history of the quilter.

The ability to read the paper on the back has inspired me and my current live project- The Patch Project - with the final outcome and the presentation. More details to come soon so wait around for a few pictures and updates.

Images and quotes taken from Quilts 1700-2010, edited by Sue Prichard, 2010.

Quilts 1700-2010  Guardian Review
The Patch Project at JenniferBabey.co.uk