Category Archives: Stage 1 Sketchbook work

Part 2 Screen printing – Sketchbook work and printing techniques

After working with photography and feeling that it wasn’t going where I wanted it too, I decided to look at what fabrics were used and also if symbols were used in telling the story of the wearer. I have in the past bought african beads from The African Fabric Shop, and have seen the vast array of fabrics being imported into the U.K by this company. I enquired if they could tell me how their fabrics were printed and, kindly they sent me many samples and emails explaining processes.

bark dyed fabric

bark dyed fabric

shwe shwe fabric from South Africa

shwe shwe fabric from South Africa


kente woven cloth (Ghana) and wax printed fabrics using kola nut dye. kolanut is deemed as being sacred and is used in ceremonies

kente woven cloth (Ghana) and wax printed fabrics using kola nut dye. kolanut is deemed as being sacred and is used in ceremonies

Whilst looking at symbols used in African fabric printing I came across a variety of resources and i chose some symbols that told of strength, femininity, bravery, fragility etc. that i associated with the women and children who had undergone F.G.M. I explored using them as designs for borders on fabric and also centre panels.






Whilst I could see easily how I could produce innumerable patterns and designs, I just couldn’t see that this work told the story in a way that I wanted it to be. It all looked quite twee. I was still curious about printing using blood, but what image or design would I use? I looked at outlines of countries in Africa where record of incidences of F.G.M were recorded in detail and began to form some ideas. I wanted to show something of the innocence that is taken at the hands of F.G.M and thought initially of something that symbolised innocence to me that was familiar. I chose a christening gown. I collaged what I envisaged it could look like.




I decided it was really time to see what printing with blood would involve. I had purchased dried blood from a butchers on-line as it was the only source I could find to buy blood. I made a screen using screen printing fabric and stuck to it a stencil made of sticky plastic This I used to make prints on a variety of fabric to see how it reacted.





Often I find I find I am unsure that the path I am following as the right one, and I have taken to simply doing a basic mind map in order to get me back on track or to help me focus on what I feel is important at that time to move forward. I had worked on many ideas and was feeling I was wandering and not actually committing to any one idea. The above paper was what I decided to tuned to after printing with the blood. I wanted to know that I was using the blood in the correct context and not just using it because it was to me an unusual medium.  I found that yes, it was unusual but to me it was the best suited medium to use, not to sensationalise in any way but I could see that if I was to develop this idea further I would take it to the extent of working with women who had endured F.G.M and, using their blood I would want to print the area where they were living when their cutting had taken place. I was aware that all my designs were of African countries and I wanted to get away from the stereotypical idea that this is the only place F.G.M took place. There is documented information now of the numbers of girls that are cut in this country. I spoke to someone from the Orchid Project based in London, and also Ashiana based in Sheffield to find out a little about what was happening in the U.K and especially my home city of Sheffield.

I had felt pulled back to the brief outlined in Exploring ideas of developing patterns to be printed, so I worked by hand drawing designs using countries in Africa and then I worked using Photoshop to produce some designs using cities in England where high growth in reported cases of F.G.M .


Hand drawn patterns below.






Photoshop designs below.

border design

border design




Whilst I find it easy to create patterns using repeats etc. I was thinking that twee patterns didn’t actually hold the weight I wanted to offer the subject. I then began to this that it was actually where the patterns were placed that would add gravitas to the design. I thought again of the christening gown and even an alter cloth, to express the ceremonial aspect of the cutting. I returned again to the idea of the christening gown as it resonated with me as part of my own culture intertwined with the culture of where F.G.M is seen as a right of passage. I thought this would speak of girls who are now brought up in the duality of British culture and that of their parents and grand-parents county of origin.

I also thought of adding stitching to the piece which I explored in the sample below.



I am now I feel ready to complete this section of work by actually printing my final sample. I have decided to use the simplest method of printing and, I am going to use a stencil of the cities in England to create a border onto a Victorian christening gown I have, using blood.



Part 2 Screen printing, Stage 1 04.04.2015

The first part of this section asks you to spend time looking for inspiration using the title  ‘Man-made environment’. I had started an architecture theme book back in ACA and not developed it due to working on my portrait theme book.  I find it easy to pick out aspects of an image to create a design, so it hasn’t taken me long to produce a series of designs using a variety of repeats. To be honest I wasn’t feeling stretched by the work and was struggling to feel any stimulation by what I had produced. I had the option of fulfilling the brief by following the obvious or, by rethinking the whole concept of what was a man-made environment. I decided on the latter.

I spent time brainstorming what I could consider as a man-made landscape. into my mind came the sentence; ‘man forcing change on nature’. This led me to then think about how we change the landscape of our own bodies through tattoos, piercing, and plastic surgery. On-line there were many images of people who had taken each to the extremes both as fashion and as a product of their body dis-morphia for me to draw on, yet, still I didn’t feel a compulsion to explore this. Then I came across an article about female genital mutilation. Suddenly I felt the need to see where I could take this, or where this would take me? I had recognised I was now driven to research this.

I read about what was involved, the types of mutilation carried out, the circumstances and the history of the practice. There are, fortunately many charities and organisations who are working to help girls and women who have survived this practice and also to offer help to those at danger of this practice taking place.  The images on the internet are graphic and nauseating as are the details about what takes place. I searched for artists who had taken this subject to produce works. I came across many but one, one a man called Jamie McCartney who had made ‘The great wall of vagina’s’ which captured my imagination. He had taken plaster casts of 400 women’s vulvas, which he then placed them together in a landscape. His motivation was to show women how different yet beautiful our vulvas are. Vaginoplasty is apparently one of the growth areas of plastic surgery, due to the notion that women now wish to change how their vulvas look. To prettify them. I don’t understand this personally but I don’t mean that to be a judgement of those women, simply a recognition of the ignorance I have that every woman is more or less the same. I have seen only one other womans vulva, apart from my daughters when changing nappies. It was a school friend who when we were changing for a swimming lesson, asked if she could see me ‘down below’ as she was worried about how she looked. We were around 10 years old. I was only reminded of this whilst researching this work. I saw she was slightly different to me, the inner labia (Labia minora) were prominent but I was left a little puzzled why she was worried but didn’t want to pry. Whilst reading about vaginoplasty I realised what her worry was.

McCartneys Great wall of vagina HERE

How I could translate this information into a screen print I am just beginning to look at. I know that if I am to push myself and discover who I can be as an artist, I need to go with something that isn’t an obvious option.

Apart from my reaction of horror with regards to the practice of FGM, I am also curious as to the root of my feelings and reactions and why I would want to find a way of working with this type of material? I can see that since the part 1 project where I began to look at the identity of my ancestors and the imprint their lives may have had on my own. I am curious  about the wider notion of what is our identity? Is it something we are blindly ignorant to with the only references being a like and dislike of people, situations or ‘things’? I can see in many ways how my ancestors lives impacted on my parents and in turn my life, either by nature or nurture. having a very difficult relationship with my mother due to her wanting me to look and behave a certain way, and subsequently feeling rejection and admonishment for not conforming to her will, has made me question for many years who I truly am. I am certain of my identity now and aware that within my self there are aspects of my own self which are dominant depending on my role at the time. I am a Daughter, Mother, Grand-Mother, wife, artist and a woman. I am also aware of the child that lives and breathes inside me, who is shy, uncertain, yet bold and enquiring. What must it be to have the very aspect of your woman hood ripped and cut from you, often by the women you look to for comfort and approval? To have shame poured on you for having sexual organs that can facilitate enjoyment and ecstasy? I cannot comprehend the fear the children and young women must endure.

I was able through learning about my great Grandmother, to empathise and imagine how her life must have been and what thoughts she may have had. So far whilst learning about FGM, I am finding that I am unable open up and to lean in to the lives of these women in the same way. Again I feel the exploration of this subject using art may enable me to further understand my own reactions and attractions to this subject.

Initial studies from my sketchbook looking at architecture.











I have particularly enjoyed using my photography in this way and would like to revisit the images to develop work in the future.