So, I have come to the end of my masters degree in Graphic Design. I have also been pregnant and had a baby since I updated this blog. This is relevant, as it shaped the last, major project of my course.
This project began life rather organically. All the work undertaken during the course of this Masters degree has had several things in common. The themes throughout have been based in the domestic environment, encouraging the audience to feel comfortable either in surroundings familiar to them, or reclaiming space that is not theirs. And…most crucially, most of my work has involved craft and making.
My work has always had a light hearted and fun element, with a focus on inclusivity.
The actual ‘cause’ that this project eventually championed was not something that was initially on my radar when I the course began.
Circumstances dictated that change of focus. My fine art background ensured that the end result was arrived at albeit by circuitous means.
My favourite ‘piece’ from previous projects was a pair of silicone breasts. These were made simply because they would look and feel nice to hold. As an extension of the module, which involved manufacturing giant eyes for people to have in their homes, to encourage feelings of safety, the boobs were also there to engender comfort and security (but I was also aware they would be sexual and fun in a Benny Hill kind of way).
I liked how the silicone and wooden breasts I made, took on a much more benign and tactile existence when removed from the more realistic and photographic image of breasts. They became something which could be seen in public, rather than being pornographic and hidden from young eyes.
Children love breasts: they brought them sustenance and comfort as babies.
Another major factor was the fact that I enjoyed making the breasts, both in process and design. Choosing the shapes and colours was very satisfying.
Deciding the context in which to carry this forward was another natural decision. In July 2012, I found out I was pregnant and began to see my own breasts in an entirely different context.
My boobs became a tool of the trade and a way of making my child thrive; the most natural thing in the world without which the human race would not exist.
As it dawned on me that my body was no longer my own to do with as I wished, attention turned to my relationship with my breasts and the job they were about to embark upon.
After speaking to friends and family I realised that breastfeeding has been a dwindling activity in the western world over the past thirty odd years.
The current child bearing generation appears to not see breastfeeding as an essential requirement of motherhood. The proliferation of formula feeding and the saturation of marketing (although illegal to advertise breast milk substitutes) have encouraged mothers to enjoy the benefits of formula feeding, rather than the benefits of breast feeding for their child. Whereas an infant two hundred years ago may have died without breast milk, nowadays a mother can quite easily feed using formula and a bottle.
This issue is strangely under represented on the national set of ‘awareness’ campaigns. Sheffield council has provided a year on year decrease in funding for National Breastfeeding Awareness Week with 2013 receiving no funding whatsoever.
The reasons why women choose not to breastfeed are many and complex. Many women have decided not to breastfeed before the birth of their babies, and a great deal stop after the first week or two due to problems faced.
There is a huge amount of mother’s guilt associated with breast feeding and feeling of inadequacy plus fears of failure to continue. Anecdotally, many mothers I have spoken to, regret giving up. The major reason cited was being unable to find the support to continue through problems.
As a middle class thirty something, statistically I was much more likely to initiate breastfeeding, and also feel comfortable finding and asking for advice. The social demographic most unlikely to initiate breastfeeding is the white working class women aged between 16 and 24. Is this the group that I should choose to focus on?
After interviewing specialist midwives and public health workers it became apparent that many women of this social group saw their breasts as sexual objects and did not feel that they owned their breasts. Rather, they needed to be preserved for the male gaze. Many of these women were not breastfed themselves and their peers predominately bottle-feed.
One of the midwives interviewed stated that teenagers could be persuaded to change their views on things whilst their minds are malleable to new suggestions. Is it possible to change their minds and make breast feeding seem natural and normal? Is it the whole family who needs educating rather than just the mother?
Anecdotally, many women not planning to breastfeed are able to change their minds on the subject during this first encounter.
From personal experience as a pregnant woman, every single antenatal appointment involves the subject of breastfeeding. All pregnant women are made aware of the benefits to the child of breastfeeding.
The most high profile campaign in the last 10 years has been the Hub’s ‘Be a Star’ campaign. This took young mothers and gave them makeovers and had photo shoots with them breastfeeding. This appealed to the girls craving celebrity culture. Although striking and at first look, successful, initiation rates dropped when the campaign finished.
Other countries use slightly more graphic imagery to address this problem. There is still a fear of showing the breasts in marketing campaigns that involve breastfeeding. I also visually researched one hundred breastfeeding logos to see common themes, colours and representations of the female form.
I have decided to use Sheffield as an area of study on both breastfeeding initiation rates and methods used to encourage breastfeeding. UNICEF, the world authority on breastfeeding, has granted Sheffield ‘Baby Friendly’ status. This has been achieved by providing training to all health care professionals involved in maternity care. Sheffield has a massive range of support for breastfeeding mothers…if you know where to look.
Sheffield is a leader when it comes to breastfeeding support in the UK, and can be used as an exemplar of successful rates of continuation of breastfeeding in the north of England. Sheffield has a 78% initiation rate for breastfeeding mothers. Although this drops dramatically after six weeks, this is a national problem rather than a local one.
When in the Jessop’s Wing of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, after the birth of my son Billy Bob, I was approached by every midwife on duty, anciliairy staff and visiting peer support workers offering help with breastfeeding. In the delivery suite, all women are encouraged to breastfeed, even if it is only whilst in hospital so the child benefits from colostrum, the first incredibly nutritious milk.
With all of this knowledge of breast feeding initiation along with knowing the reasons why women choose not to breastfeed at all, what is it that I think I can achieve with my work, and who exactly am I appealing to?
Obviously as a graphic designer you work on briefs outside your own awareness/ comfort zone. Your job is to communicate and include audiences with whom you do not share a common language.
The audience for my work are those who do not initiate breastfeeding to begin with. Perhaps they are the ones most in need. If we could change their minds, even momentarily, we could make sure more babies have colostrum if nothing else.
I am aware of the health benefits of breastfeeding both to my baby and myself. I come from a stable domestic set up, I was breastfed and I want to breastfeed. But I still need help.
I have identified three areas to focus on:
- Normalising breastfeeding
- Helping mothers find support
- Helping mothers find safe and comfortable places to breastfeed.
After playing about with the moustaches fo a bit, and encouraging you to do the same, it became obvious the moustaches needed a structure to make them more fun to play with. Hence Tash TV. Now, obviously here are many examples of tellies, but you at home only need one.
Simply place the moustaches onto the tv screen (plus your home made eyes) and wait for them to line up with someone’s face.
easy. think of a point scoring system. Maybe the winner gets a sweet, or cup of tea made for them by an opposing player. You decide.
Err, well, i have been a bit rubbish about putting stuff up online. I plan to remedy this in the next week, updating on what I have done for the past nine months, then adding to it as I go along, and progress to the end of my Masters.
Watch this space, if there’s anyone out there!
This is something I wrote last year, whilst making my report of the work I have done this year for my Masters in Graphic Design. It’s not a definitive thing, but will give you a glimpse into my mind…
Surely we all want the space around us to nurture us and make us feel welcome and at peace.
Comfortability in our surroundings is hard as we are constantly bombarded by signs of financial troubles, inequality and consumerist greed.
Life can seem hard at times, simply because we are not ‘at home’ in our environment. ‘At home’, in my mind, is a feeling of warmth, acceptance and also, to an extent, armour against the bad things in the world. Do we need to be constantly reminded of this?
It seems like since 9/11, we have been encouraged to enjoy life a little less. The ‘war on terror’ involved us being put in a state of terror. What is so wrong with laughter and frivolity? We need to learn to laugh again. I know that may sound somewhat Marie Antoinette like.
‘Every little helps’ with removing that feeling that we have no control over our lives. Just as the Tescos marketing department have told us. Price reductions are nice, but it’s only money.
By having a DIY kit, could we feel more control over our own destiny? As a concept, DIY can be empowering. Save money and possibly learn something? Orwell described us a “nation of shopkeepers”. Does this inbuilt resolve mean we all want to be in control? With small businesses struggling in the face of the multi- national giants, more of us now are in less control of our working lives. We are encouraged to see our employers as benevolent empires, enlightening our lives and lives of their customers. Most people would probably agree they work to live, not the other way round. (my Grandad sees it in much simpler terms, as those who live to eat, and those eat to live. He is definitely in the former category). Why should we show allegiance to our employer? My brother works for a major energy supplier, and changed to their (more expensive) utilities package out of loyalty.
Is our freedom being eroded by global issues? We are being paid less in real terms (if we still have a job), being subject to searches and our public services have we been cut hard. How can we complain or make our voices heard without being counted as the ‘great unwashed’?
Naomi Wolf’s concise and logical call to arms with regards the Occupy movement very eloquently points out that the 99% should stand together, without huge rhetoric, but with organisation as a movement against our civil liberties being curtailed and the erosion of what we, as a society have created. I personally don’t feel comfortable with mass demonstrations, after an embarrassing event at a student fees demo in London proved. Can things be done on a more local level as we have seen with the occupy movement; but without the seriousness and tents? Can small, personal interventions have as much of an impact as the Sheffield occupy franchise? After reading reactions on Sheffield forum to the protest, it does not appear to have a positive response. It seems they are tarred with the same brush as anti-establishment agitators. This is more than a case of apathy. We have been indoctrinated to leave politics to the ‘big boys’.
The concept of self expression in a democracy has been eroded in the public mind.
As a child, I attended several NUT marches through Leeds with my mother. I enjoyed wearing the badges and designing placards. But the chanting and camaraderie made me feel uncomfortable. I think it was the feeling of being forced into a group rhetoric, having to feel passion on demand ( a similar feeling to the student march). Emotions or passions that are demanded of me are not greeted with aplomb. This even goes for being asked to dance. I’ll dance when I feel like it OKAY? Even of it happens to be ten seconds later.
All this is why being able to find my own way of subversion is appealing. Given the space and time to do it my way.
DIY gives you that ability. The ability to choose how and when to take action. Kits take away a certain creative boundary; they start you off. As my friend Harry says, “getting out of the door is the hardest part”. This is said in context of running, but this can be true with ideas too.
If the designer is the ‘ideas factory’, can that take away a stumbling block to beginning, whilst leaving a wide set of possibilities for the user? Just like Donna Wilson’s ‘make your own monster kits’, can you encourage people to act in dissent? Blue Peter has been a driving force in getting the viewing public who don’t consider themselves creative into making something to a loose script. Can this inbuilt crafting ability we all possess to a certain extent be translated into articulating our innate aggressor?
Design by numbers could have a positive impact in helping us feel at home with acts, not of civil disobedience, but of ‘disagreement with established norms’.
Could the humble moustache create a new movement, through light hearted humour?
Anyone who has even been bored with a brio and a newspaper has encounter the urge to colour in a tooth black, or a draw a silly set of glasses or moustache on the front page. The question is, can this be converted to real, 3D moustaches being placed on large scale media domains in the public realm i.e. billboards and advertising signage?
Jon Stewart’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ in America showed that it is possible to get the population engaged, simply by appealing to their creativity. The placards were intelligent and witty, the opposite of the language used by U.S. media outlets and the Tea Party movement.
As well as being unique for being made by individuals, can they not also be made site specifically? There would be no meaning to putting a black handlebar moustache on David Cameron, there would be no logical reason, but does that make it more fun? But scale and to an extent, colour must be taken into account.
I am strongly against the use of iconography related to European dictators. This doesn’t bring any kind of intelligence or humour, it simply offends. Those who compare our political leaders to fascism are idiots. There is no parallel. Humour is at it’s most basic when used in those terms.
Can I stop people making Hitler moustaches? Of course not, but is that not part and parcel of creating something that the control is given to the user?
Moustaches are an out of date phenomena. Even the goatee has had it’s day. There is something comedically retro, along with pipe smoking and nylon bedsheets.
Movember has capitalised on the humour inherent in the nostalgia of the moustache. It is also a masculine construct. (Without poly-cystic ovaries, a woman could not conceive of growing such a thing.)
The UK is awash with moustaches at this time of year (Halloween/ bonfire night/ Movember). They make people laugh. They transform someone’s face into another context. That context can depend on the style. For this year’s Movember, the most popular appears to be the handlebar, unlike the traditional English design. This helps the wearers to feel more comfortable, as it is clearly grown for the silliness.
Movember has its roots in comedic value as a way to make people give money for charity. In the same way Comic Relief has been such an enormous success, ‘something funny for money’. Even the Race for Life campaign illustrates women dressing up as fairies as being intrinsic to the whole event.
I want to raise awareness of silliness in society at large. I want to get people to act silly whilst fighting for their way of life, not just for a cancer charity.
What message would people get by placing moustaches on billboards? Is it anti-capitalist graffiti, idiotic, funny, clever, churlish?
There is no guilt attached to putting a handle bar moustache on Cameron et al. This does not need to concentrate on politics.
We walk past tens of billboards, advertising and signs on the way to work. We have plenty of material to subvert in our own time and on our own terms.
There is someone in my area of Sheffield who has stuck ‘stop eating’ stickers on the stop signs which now read ‘stop eating animals’. It makes me smile every time.
By placing a moustache on Keira Knightly advertising Chanel, what are we making a statement about? Is it about the credibility of the star, an attack against the company. Is it about making the dull stuff we ignore everyday a bit more fun and democratic?
Does it have to be a grand statement about how seriously we take this kind of stuff? This is inoffensive and fun. No one is humiliated or made to feel bad.
Custard pies have been used to primarily humiliate the recipient. They are very effective at creating media coverage. But is humiliation a reasonable or civilised tool for punishment? Questions of fairness are always raised. Moustaches are more a gentle piss take.
Small acts of rebellion attract, by placing moustaches, eyes, beards and blackened teeth can make someone feel a connect to the physical and human environment.
Crikey, that was pretty wordy, well done! x
Sent in by Kerry Worley, decorating her work space. happy joy!
Mr Teapot, sent in by Mrs Lucy Scarborough.
The Lapish family have been having fun. Thank you Auntie Janet, Uncle Mike, Orin and Sally.
These delightful puns have been created by Darren Nixon and Nicola Dale. Photoshop eh?