Trip to the dreaded shops…

Today I visited Mothercare and Smyths toy store. I thought with it being half term and Christmas round the corner, now would be a good time (or crazy time) to go.

The first thing I notice as I walk into the Mothercare store is the sign on the wall; Clothes for Girls. This season’s colours (and pink of course!). There is the usual array of pink and blue and frills and super heroes when somewhere to the side of the clothes section I am met by the My K range. These clothes are not the kind I expected at all. They are obviously mostly unisex and refreshingly black, white, and grey. They are punchy with illustrative designs and gender neutral slogans. I must admit that there were plenty of other clothes that were not so fixed on the usual gender colours but these were so strikingly different. I came away from the store interested in them and would look into the brand when I went home later.

Even bottles are gendered now…

Smyths left me as disgruntled as I expected but with a couple of glimmers of hope. Most toys came with a pink version, just to make sure the girls would be interested in it. Like the pink magic set, or the pink digger, or the pink glitzy sparkly science sets labelled ‘brain activators’. The thing to be celebrated here is the fact the pink versions actually cost the same as the other; that will change later in life, grab that while you can! Just as I finished taking a picture of the Neon Science set, a man picks it up and says to one of his children that one of the others would “really like this as she is into science and that. Neon Science! And it has all the girly stuff too. Neon nails and that”. And that… There were a few silver linings were there were a boy and a girl on the box of items that would of usually been seen as gender specific. Hurrah for Bosch who possibly had the most gender neutral packaging that I had come across in Smyths.

I was also troubled by the disproportionate representation of white children to children of colour. This resonated across both shops, including dolls of colour and children pictured on the front of boxes. Over the ground floor in one of the stores, I counted three.

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Tutorial, Direction and Option Choice.

Today was possibly the most important day to date since my MA course got under way. The morning began with presentations on all of the option choices and the choice could not be made lightly as these projects are well known to cement your ideas as a practitioner or propel you into new territory and completely change your direction and intention. I read through the information and opted the night before for the Health and Wellbeing option hoping to focus on and raise awareness of mental health issues in young men and suicide rates, however, the direction for the unit was already set. This year it was to focus on Dementia and memory loss; still interesting, but my choice was now open.Object and Context stirred my interest as I would like to of tested people’s reactions by putting objects deemed feminine or masculine into different contexts and surroundings. Sci-Art sounded fantastic. It was described as an option that aimed to blur the boundaries of disciplines, work collaboratively and interdisciplinary with exciting exhibitions showcasing exciting and innovative work. They revealed an image of a huge poster of a poem that was made and hung on the side of a building. The chemicals it was made up of reacted with the emissions of the cars that drove past and helped to clean the air of pollution. Life Research Group proposed excellent opportunities to really make work that means something and helps the world. This was also hugely collaborative and international.

I chose Contested Territories as it grabbed me instantly and is wholly relevant to my practice and what I am passionate about. The option gives lectures on the female body as a contested territory and the violence of war, sex and gender. It also discusses borders and migrants, and the psychoanalysis of trauma and place. The lecture was powerful and struck a chord. Not only in relation to gender issues but also migration and borders with the war in Syria and the devastating vote for brexit. The need for everyone to empathise with the human suffering is pivotal during these times.

 

At my tutorial I spoke of how I have decided to continue my research into gender equality, and the differences between, despite being worried about being typecast. I intend to start by looking into the effects of gender stereotyping and expectations have on little ones be it via family, environment and objects, and visual language within the confines of society. We relayed different conversations we had heard to children and the difference in the language used to talk to each sex. I was given some reading pointers and plan to make a visual diary to back up my thoughts, experiences and reading. It was discussed how it is essential for my work to be accessible and how this will not be an easy task. I risk treading on close relationships and need to keep ethics in mind, for all that, it is also important work. I am eager to begin to unpack this contention and additionally the journey. I do not know how this work will manifest; what context? What medium?

 

Ideas Worth Fighting For- DesignMcr16

A friend and I visited the exhibition Ideas Worth Fighting For at the People’s Museum Manchester being held as part of DesignMcr16. It covered political and pivotal events of the last 200 years describing events where like minded folk came together and protested for the good of the people, be it voting systems, workers rights and protection, equality, women’s rights, and peace.

It was uncomfortably amusing how relevant these issues were today. Although, as we hear when speaking of gender equality, times have changed; we have not advanced so far where we could not  take the banners and posters from the walls of the museum and they would look out of place on the streets today.

 

There’s a Good Girl- Gender Stereotyping in the First Three Years.

For the first module we are to research and write our design intention. I am currently thinking of researching deeper into gender,stereotyping, and societies expectations and how gender specific items or behaviors are imprinted on children early on. I am slightly worried about being typecast but this area is what I am passionate about.

Here I am going to talk about the book There’s A Good Girl. Gender stereotyping in the first three years of life: A Diary.

(Grabruker, M. 1988. There’s A Good Girl. Gender Stereotyping in the first three years of life: A Diary. London: The Women’s Press Ltd.

Grabruker writes in an honest and accessible way, exactly how you would expect a diary to be written and begins by telling how she being born in Germany during the second wave of feminism. She was consciously aware of gender equality and determined to not have her daughter be brought up believing she should act in a certain way, follow suit and have limited dreams and expectations. She documents near daily experiences of occurrences in society that have an effect on how her daughter sees differences between the sexes and the conversations with other mothers, grandparents, and friends that imply there are simply natural differences between girls and boys that nothing can be done about; not realising that the differences are down to how they see them and how they react to and expect them. She, in fact, is shocked at times when her own gender specific expectations are exposed. She notes how it is only through looking back on her diary does she become aware of some of the things she has done. Or not done.

There are so many post-it notes and turned page corners throughout the short book showing just how little I believe things have progressed over the last 28 years. She speaks of how her friends who have boys accept their outbursts of aggression towards other children and how the girls need to stand up for themselves if they are to do so later in life. They speak and behave differently to the boys and also to her child Annelli when they believe she is also a boy. ‘So Schorschi’s clumsiness or physical awkwardness at moments of excitement is interpreted as being real masculine behavior… No one corrects Schorschi, enlightens or admonishes him… It is what is expected of his sex then there is no need to alter it at all.’ (pg.35-36) In another entry Grabruker tells of Annelli lifting her dress and how this instinctively made her react. Once she has time to evaluate her actions she describes how ‘Exhibitionism in girls makes adults panic. Exhibitionism in boys when they pee is regarded as an achievement, sometimes encouraged, and generally felt to be quite normal’ (pg. 57). I have thought to myself about certain incidences that have occurred when I have been present and the offence taken by the men to these little boys wanting to play or wear something deemed as feminine is as if the man’s own masculinity is being judged. Grabruker recalls her husband talking in relation to his daughter, ‘He’s convinced he wouldn’t want to touch and hold a little boy so much. It would be embarrassing with a boy. he says; he cannot imagine so much physical contact with another man, however small that man is.’ (pg 48). I recall a relative speaking of a three year old boy who had been bought a boy for his hair and this was expected to determine his sexual preference. The diary suggests that it is expected for a girl to behave as a girl in some situations and in others she has to behave like a boy; whereas it is always negative for a boy to display any signs of feminine traits. (pg 66). Many incidences noted in the book may portray that a large part of the problem is preserving the idea of masculinity and not actually helping to enlighten women and girls that they can be and do whatever they choose.

After coming to this conclusion regarding preserving masculinity, I plan to look into this area further as well as the impact of media and advertising, and the environment. Annelli is reported to of responded to visual associations while in public and also to relationships between the sexes in the street. She communicates her findings via sizes by drawing male figures larger than the female although in reality they are the same height.

I would like both men and women to read this book as I am curious as to how much of it would never occur or goes unnoticed as even now only some are tuned to this degree. I spoke to my partner about it. Strangely, I would prefer that he read himself than me relay the account as I found myself feeling pathetic, whiney even, although I know that almost identical views, expectations and incidences happen today. It was an unexpected and thought-provoking feeling seeing as he is very supportive of equality. He said he didn’t think things like this happened and then he went to sleep. It wasn’t dismissive, it was as if he had nothing to offer as he has never had to look at things in this way before.

Design Manchester. Helen Storey talk.

Today I attended an inspirational talk with the designer/activist/provocateur Helen Storey. She spoke a lot about how injustice and inequality fuels her creativity as she strives to make a difference to the world via her practice.

At first when I read that Storey addresses social issues with her work, I could not imagine how when I had looked for images of her work and I saw fashion. Once she began to elaborate on her quests, it all became clear. It was enlightening to see how someone from another discipline would address these issues in a completely different way to myself.

I took a lot of noted that I would like to leave here. They may not make much sense to anyone else but I would like to look back on these and remember the talk.

 

Use accessability as your weapon and be cameleon; don’t be attached to one title to define what you are. (designer/activist/provocateur)

Trust your intuition and make yourself uncomfortable. Never aim safe with your work.

Her innercurrency defines her work, not her gender. She has experienced her gender from both sides; it has worked against her and also allowed her to get away with something.

 

DESPAIR- your imagination needs a rest. Sometimes you can’t work through your creative block by ploughing through it. Sometimes you need to take a step back and rest. It will come if you ride it out and listen.

Your best projects ask questions back to you.

Think how to break markting on your product/cause.

FIGHTING INEQUALITY. Think of the unborn. Work until the word has lost it’s power. Realise that your job may not be done in our lifetime.

 

You are more powerful than you know. What fuels you? What pushes you out of your comfort zone to the zone of risk? Your best work will meet you there.

Find what compells you to act. If it doesn’t make you angry then it wo’t work. You need to let the injustice have its way with you and then you have to use it. You need to be angry to a certain extent. Something needs to disgust you for you to want to make a change.

Find what you are truly about and your work will follow. Your freedom is just outside that thing that you think you can’t do. Step into that space. Be dangerous and put yourself in dangers way.

She receives her funding from people who feel similar to her about the world.

Witnessed the people in refugees suffer from extreme boredom and then use this to gain other skills and create change. For example refugees made bikes from materials at the camp and it was a first for women to have transport.

 

She doesn’t focus on aesthics, more from the change itself and the aestheics come naturally.

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Knock Knock- Halloween Zine

I came across a call out for emerging Northern artists via the Art In Liverpool website asking them to submit images, poetry, short stories or any other interpretation of the season of Halloween.

I responded by illustrating the Irish Folk Tale by Lady Wilde; The Fairies Revenge.

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Here is the full text;

THE fairies have a great objection to the fairy raths, where they meet at night, being built upon by mortal man. A farmer called Johnstone, having plenty of money, bought some land, and chose a beautiful green spot to build a house on, the very spot the fairies loved best.

The neighbours warned him that it was a fairy rath; but he laughed and never minded (for he was from the north), and looked at such things as mere old-wives’ tales. So he built the house and made it beautiful to live in; and no people in the country were so well off as the Johnstones so that the people said the farmer must have found a pot of gold in the fairy rath.

But the fairies were all the time plotting how they could punish the farmer for taking away their dancing ground, and for cutting down the hawthorn bush where they held their revels when the moon was full. And one day when the cows were milking, a little old woman in a blue cloak came to Mrs. Johnstone and asked her for a porringer of milk.

“Go away,” said the mistress of the house, “you shall have no milk from me. I’ll have no tramps coming about my place.” And she told the farm servants to chase her away.

Some time after, the best and finest of the cows sickened and gave no milk, and lost her horns and teeth and finally died.

Then one day as Mrs. Johnstone was sitting spinning flax in the parlour, the same little woman in the blue cloak suddenly stood before her.

“Your maids are baking cakes in the kitchen,” she said; “give me some off the griddle to carry away with me.”

“Go out of this,” cried the farmers wife, angrily; “you are a wicked old wretch, and have poisoned my best cow.” And she bade the farm servants drive her off with sticks.

Now the Johnstones had one only child; a beautiful bright boy, as strong as a young colt, and as full of life and merriment. But soon after this he began to grow queer and strange, and was disturbed in his sleep; for he said the fairies came round him at night and pinched and beat. him, and some sat on his chest and he could neither breathe nor move. And they told him they would never leave him in peace unless he promised to give them a supper every night of a griddle cake and a porringer of milk. So to soothe the child the mother had these things laid every night on a table beside his bed, and in the morning they were gone.

But still the child pined away, and his eyes got a strange, wild look, as if he saw nothing near or around him, only something far, far away that troubled his spirit. And when they asked him what ailed him, he said the fairies carried him away to the hills every night, where he danced and danced with them till the morning, when they brought him back and laid him again in his bed.

At last the farmer and his wife were at their wits’ end from grief and despair, for the child was pining away before their eyes, and they could do nothing for him to help him. One night he cried out in great agony–

“Mother! mother! send for the priest to take away the fairies, for they are killing me; they are here on my chest, crushing me to death,” and his eyes were wild with terror.

Now the farmer and his wife believed in no fairies, and in no priest, but to soothe the child they did as he asked and sent for the priest, who prayed over him and sprinkled him with holy water.

The poor little fellow seemed calmer as the priest prayed, and he said the fairies were leaving him and going away, and then he sank into a quiet sleep. But when he woke in the morning he told his parents that he had a beautiful dream and was walking in a lovely garden with the angels; and he knew it was heaven, and that he would be there before night, for the angels told him they would come for him.

Then they watched by the sick child all through the night, for they saw the fever was still on him, but hoped a change would come before morning; for he now slept quite calmly with a smile on his lips.

But just as the clock struck midnight. he awoke and sat up, and when his mother put her arms round him weeping, he whispered to her–

“The angels are here, mother,” and then he sank back, and so died.

Now after this calamity the farmer never held up his head. He ceased to mind his farm, and the crops went to ruin and the cattle died, and finally before a year and a day were over he was laid in the grave by the side of his little son; and the land passed into other hands, and as no one would live in the house it was pulled down. No one, either, would plant on the rath; so the grass grew again all over it, green amid beautiful, and the fairies danced there once more in the moonlight as they used to do in the old time, free and happy; and thus the evil spell was broken for evermore.

But the people would have nothing to do with the childless mother, so she went away back to her own people, a brokenhearted, miserable woman–a warning to all who would arouse the vengeance of the fairies by interfering with their ancient rights and possessions and privileges.

MA Summer Project

Before embarking on my MA journey at Manchester School of Art, we were asked to produce two A3 images. One was of our work up to date and one was to give an idea of what we wanted to get from the MA.

 

Bearing in mind the advice from my interview, I created my first piece considering type and design within my image. It was advised that I begin to do this to make me more friendly to clients, if you like and also more in control of how my work will look in print. (Also allowing me to keep more of the budget). I also need to learn my way around Adobe Indesign and research into typography… so I began with this basic magazine layout to show the group some of my work to date and the different contexts of my work.

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My second piece shows me ready to start my journey and explore new worlds of design that I have not considered so far. From my MA, I would like to experiment aesthetically, learn Indesign and Final Cut Pro, gain knowledge into prefoessional practice and research more in depth into gender bias and stereotypes alongside producing illustrations for editorial contexts, music covers and books.

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