Grace Carden-Horton Menstruality

  • Tauira / Student
    Grace Carden-Horton
  • Kaiako / Lecturer
    Sonya Withers

‘Menstruality’ was the result of a response to the textile print brief, ‘Tautoko + Tuakiri’. We were asked to identify, respond and imagine aspects of decolonization, through the intersections of Tautoko(support) with relation to our Tuakiri(identity). Asking ourselves, how can print and repeat-based textile design empower advocacy and agency?

‘Menstruality’ encourages discussion and education around menstruation in a more creative, inclusive and autonomous approach. This collection explores both individual self-reflection and collective engagement, encouraging a future that destigmatizes, reframes current learning systems on menstruation and normalizing discussions that half the population experience, period.

This collection investigates a textile designers’ perspective alongside other females, tracking menstrual cycles through daily self-reflective drawing. ‘Menstruality’ encourages exploration of the individual experience through collective engagement and discussion, expression through autonomous creativity and unique lived experiences. Tracking menstrual cycles through mixed media and paper reflects individual agency, inviting them to create their own data. Then iteratively developed through hand painted processes using gouache, colour strategies, and mark-making to arrive at a refined composition of imagery and motifs. These were tested and developed through textile repeat systems such as half drop whilst maintaining their original composition. I used digital printing onto interior furnishing fabric and experimented with printing onto large scale bathroom tiles to demonstrate how the collection could operate for product or space.

These designs are imagined to be situated within future bathrooms- transferable across public, educational, commercial, and residential spaces. Using the drawings from individuals that occupy the space, embeds their agency of the design process and outcome. Each print is adaptable to multiple uses, creates the potential to transform various environments and be inclusive of a diverse audience.

Consultation with ‘Shift’ Coordinator at WCC and collective engagement with participants on this project prompted speculation of a future design system that reflected the methodology used for ‘Menstruality’:
• Workshop activation with young women approaching puberty that encourages discussion, learning and awareness of self in a work or educational space.
• Use of self-reflective drawing journals to express individual experiences of their cycle whilst safely allowing open and closed moments of visual connection and collective reflection.
• Creative data production would be embedded with access to learning resources on cycle knowledge to provoke a deeper understanding of our hormones and their fluctuation throughout the month.
• Use of self-reflective drawing isn’t limited to specific contexts of users, could also be utilized by ethnic communities as well.
• Iterative process and collective engagement would determine how its visual output would operate: community, school or public bathrooms presented as safe and approachable spaces for women.

These engagements would provide space to feel empowered to learn and navigate a topic that is often misunderstood from secrecy, discomfort and shame in workplaces and schools. Transferral of advocacy from designer to the people who use the space, highlights both individual and collective expressions of menstruation. Their customised design is crucial within a vibrant collection, intended to help redesign a bathroom centred around the individuals who use them.