Period Pants_ Taboo Zine

So my latest course brief has taken me to a topic closer to home. Not necessarily more ‘comfortable’ but I’m pretty experienced when it comes to periods. Lets say  having had them for 24 years, in total – I make it about 270 periods I’ve had. On average 5 days long – about 1350 menstruating days. So no pressure then…
Brief: Create a zine/booklet thats discusses a taboo topic of your choice. The zine booklet must contain a minimum of 8 pages and must suit and reflect the topic chose. 
The topic of menstruation and periods is still taboo.
For many years periods have been seen as being a negative event, a curse. Although we now have better science and understanding along with education and the internet now to put us right, period blood itself is still considered poisonous to humans, animals and plants in certain cultures around the world and there are many unbroken myths impacting women every month. For example, in Nepal women are banished to a small Chaupadi shed away from the house as it is seen as disrespectful to enter. In India, if a woman is on her period she is told to avoid cooking, as she will pollute the food.
Aside from the more extreme beliefs, in the UK there is still a barrier to women talking openly both between themselves and with men about periods. Finding a tampon is often a secret mission around the office. Why do women feel uncomfortable telling people ‘I’m on my period’? Luckily the irrational beliefs of the 19th century that menstruating women would mean butter wouldn’t churn, ham wouldn’t cure and wine would turn to water have long since been dispelled, but there is an element of it lives on.
In the current day advertising has a lot to answer for telling us to be discrete, keep it secret and whisper. Even the ambiguous floral swirly packaging is centred around keeping it all hush-hush.  Why do we need a special sanitary pad shaped tin to keep towels in – nicely hidden away? Why is it embarrassing if a tampon falls on the floor when you’re pulling your purse out of your overladen handbag?
Recent media campaigns have highlighted the issues with free bleeding demonstrations, as well as social media campaigns around Menstrual Hygiene Day, hashtags #menstruationmatters #periodpositive and regularly posted instagram photos of #periodblood which are trying to raise worldwide awareness.
Thankfully in the UK women relatively nowadays unchallenged in their bleeding, but the worldwide issues remain. This zine helps to educate as well as normalise periods. It emphasises its a perfectly natural process that affects all women different ways as well as adding real life experience. Getting both sexes talking periods is the first step to breaking down taboos. Education challenges ignorance and promotes a willingness to learn more.

thoughts illustration


On with the show

So we’re back. The summer is finally over and the latest adventure into graphic design has plunged into motion graphics, videos, after effects, media encoder, .mov .mp4, render queues, hairy pears, printmaking and poppies. I’m glad to have some direction again, even if it is quite dauntingly new.

As an exercise we had to research and summarise a video/ article about Stefan Sagmeister. Among a bit more background research I watched ‘Don’t take Creativity for Granted’ an 11 minute film which takes a tour through a range of Sagmeisters work based in New York and Indonesia design studios, which was published in 2012. To develop critical writing we’ve been asked to summarise it in no more than 100 words.



(video link)

Stefan Sagmeister. Don’t take Creativity for Granted. (2012)

This takes us on a quick tour through a variety of Sagmeisters design projects originating from a personal diary reflection noting ’over time I get used to everything and start taking it for granted’ prompting Sagmeister to do things he’d never done before in NY. Video clips expose inventive, brave, dangerous, elaborate and most importantly provocative typographical based work which show Sagmeister pushing the boundaries, challenging himself but equally our perceptions of design and designers. He talks us through complex typographic experiments in spiders webs and altogether more relaxed typography using melons, grain and bananas emerging from the Indonesia studio.  (100 words)


The word limit of 100 words was pretty hard going – with difficulty I just got in there, but there was a lot more I wanted to say.

My first summary based on  jotted notes while watching the video was easier and shorter (17 words)-







risk taking




self important

pushing boundaries




I’m off to read more about Mr Sagmeister. I think there is a lot to learn from him, as well as the blatant design skills and incredible typographical creativity  he serves to remind us to not stop believing in ourselves and have the courage to try something new, stand out and swim against the tide. Take risks.  Explore.  Be a bit more self centred, be destructive, provocative,  be dangerous. Don’t take things for granted.




Summer Seaside Fun

I’ve been pushing on with pattern design work I just didn’t get around to.

One of my favourite undeveloped ideas was the concept of the reality of seaside life – inspired in part by where I am lucky enough to live now – New Brighton – for a long time a forgotten and dilapidated typical seaside resort in Merseyside; the harsh realities of very real photographs were famously documented by Martin Parr in 1985 with his book ‘The Last Resort’ (Magnum Books). 31 years has seen a lot of change – although a few of the buildings featured remain, the area over the last 10 years has seen great redevelopment and transformation and has taken on a completely new and progressive atmosphere.

Everyday I am inspired by the place and in part I’m sure this is related to knowing both the triumph of once being a national top holiday destination but also the fight it has put up to reinvent itself after much neglect.

Out of this rose the idea of ‘Seagulls and Sandwiches’. The idea that when you’re sitting enjoying the seaside air a seagull will come along with its beady eyes and snatch your anticipated dinner.

I started with a linocut print. Ive then digitally coloured and edited to get a repeat pattern and then chose elements of this with the same colour palette to form a more cohesive collection.


I experimented with colours – I wanted to avoid the typical seaside and nautical colours – the stereotypical nautical blue and white and beach sandy yellow with a light blue sky. I settled on brighter more vibrant yellow and blue and just love the way the 2 work together.


A little refinement of colours and taking beady eyes and sandwich details out I made covers for 3 notebooks and a tea towel with packaging sleeve.

s and s teatowel packaging5


I’m glad I got round to doing this. I am hoping to run with this and produce some tea towels and notebooks for sale through my etsy shop soon.  as well as develop the range to include more patterns. Next up: fish and chips.

Pat on the back time …

Last week I gave the presentation for the end of the Responsive Professional Practice Own Brief : Surface Pattern Design. It was a great chance to look back and see what I had produced and break it down into the visible steps of the design cycle, even if it was a bit retrospectively in places. Bringing it all together was satisfying – being able to wrap up a lot of work. Ive struggled with the digital side pattern development, so if felt like a mini achievement.

final presentation pdf

I suppose a lot of the design cycle including evaluating and redesign is instinct – if it doesn’t work ‘try and try again’. The more difficult bit is probably seeing it doesn’t work. But I now have a great step by step reference for if I get stuck in a rut – and I can cycle back to the beginning.

I feel like I have learnt a lot in terms of digital skills as well as the surface pattern design, trends, products and applications. Comparing the first patterns I designed with the later ones I found it much quicker, the repeat matches better and I’ve got a better understanding of what is possible with digital editing. I also later in the work produced patterns entirely using illustrator, by using brushes, with textures, and colour palettes.

I really hope to be able to design several new patterns over the summer break, with a bit more of a ‘collection’ in mind of complimenting designs, colours and scales –  and would also really love to do some work experience in this area.

I’ve now got a database of contacts, designers, inspiration, mood boards, printers, merchandise companies, trade fairs, local and national events, and a few retailers, as well contacts through social media on pinterest, instagram and Facebook (@hairypearpress) which will help me keep up to date as well as give me an idea of potential design opportunities locally.



Lets make

Pattern Brief: bearing in mind the time to complete the brief  I’ve decided to focus on 1 product per pattern range. I have split the designs up by the design process;

honesty – ink drawing = screenprinted fabric,

I scanned in a hand-drawn sketch and edited in Ai to produce a repeat pattern square swatch that seemed to work well for fabric. I kept this a single colour to keep the design and printing simple, but also felt the design was strong enough and multiple colours might detract from the simplicity and fluidity of the hand drawn image. I then produced a screen and printed some fabric (link).


cupcake collages = giftwrap, 

Thanks to spoon flower. From acrylic paint I cutout and collaged illustrations, around a teatime theme. I selected 2 cupcake illustrations as the strongest and generated a random repeat pattern using a square swatch technique in illustrator, editing the colours to work together slightly. I uploaded this to spoon flower and they produced the digitally printed roll of gift wrap. I used this to wrap boxes and took and edited some product shots using a dSLR and Photoshop.


waves – linoprint = paper print – I have applied this to a book covers and endpapers.

I’m a big fan of linoprint and really wanted to see about linoprinting onto fabric but also using the lino as a start for digital editing and pattern design.

I quickly found out the at linoprinting directly onto fabric was tricky and time-consuming although nice to have instant results and the effect achieved is completely unique. The larger the block the less prints needed to cover the same area but the larger the block the more likely it is the ink prints unevenly. I made two linoblocks based on a seaside/ nautical theme to echo the shape of waves and printed directly on a dark blue fabric with light blue fabric ink.

However, I’m keen to develop digital editing skills so I scanned in the linoprints and edited them in photoshop. I could then take them into illustrator to develop patterns of various combinations and tiling layouts. I kept colours nautical (blue and white) and printed onto A3 paper. I used the paper while researching bookbinding to produce 2 books using the pattern – as a front and back cover and inside as end pages. One book was a perfect bind and the other was a simple sewn binding.


Ive loved every minute of this brief. Its given me a great understanding of the complexities of surface pattern design, but also helped me to know more about this side of graphic design. Its been really helpful to make new contacts, push myself to try new techniques (screen printing and bookbinding), as well as the editing and production side using photoshop and illustrator – using tutorials from ‘Digital Fashion Print with Photoshop and Illustrator’ by Kevin Tallon (2011, Batsford: London) . Ive also found it really useful to learn about generating product shots and had to think about camera, camera setting, lighting, any additional props and post processing in photoshop.




Patterns : use them or lose them

Continuing with the pattern design brief I’ve now started to look to applying the best pattern designs to products (design refinement and exploration of media and aesthetic options).

I’ve researched a range of designers, focussing on how the patterns are used. What products translate well to mainstream commercial pattern use – possibilities are wide ranging from textiles, clothing, kitchen products (tea towels, oven gloves, aprons), to plates mugs, duvet covers, pillowcases, cushion covers, and even right down to smaller merchandise such as greeting cards, notebooks, keyrings, pencil cases, pencils, mobile phone cases and  even cosmetics (packaging) and temporary tattoos.

Ive found inspiration through visiting Spring Fair retail show (Birmingham NEC) and brands/ designers such as,,,  and looking to the more well established mainstream designers (Cath Kinston, Orla Kiely) and their range of products in the high street stores (John lewis). Victoria Eggs has a great range of patterns which are nicely applied to a range of popular products.

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Spoonflower (‎) has been a great resource for pattern research, but also they can produce small fabric swatches, larger fabric rolls, giftwrap and wallpaper.  Ifound it really useful to upload jpeg swatches to ‘My studio‘ and keep a swatch library for the designs completed during this brief (@hairypearpress).

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 22.57.56

Since I’ve explored designs using a range of techniques and media like Acrylic cut out collages, ink drawings, watercolour and linoprint, its been great to be able to experiment and then refine ideas. I’ve found it challenging with processing through Adobe illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, particularly in getting the swatch and the pattern to repeat correctly.

I’d really love to see my designs applied to a range of products, but looking at the examples above most limit themselves to a few main items. e.g. Victoria Eggs breaks it up into Kitchen, Homeware, Gifts, Bags and Cards and Wrap. Some ranges have more products than others – probably the better sellers.




A Brief update: Product Shots

Surface Pattern Brief: An Update

Over the last week Ive produced a repeat lino block pattern using a small block printed multiple times (not the quickest, most efficient production method) as well as the screen printed textiles previously. I’ve realised that hand printing textiles needs the largest block/ repeat swatch possible to make it most efficient.

Ive now started to think about displaying and presenting patterns, fabric items, and being appropriate to their commercial applications and online presence. I was very grateful to learn a few photographic tips today for products shots and how to go about basic post processing within Photoshop.

I learnt about lighting for shots, SLR settings, white balance, hue and saturation, RAW image acquisition, and that desaturating the background helps the object stand out more. Up to now I have been using my iPhone, which although pretty convenient and good resolution doesn’t allow the same processing and anyway, I thought it was useful to develop new skills to be able to present my products at their best in future.


However, I also realised that my trusty digital SLR is ancient – now at least 10 years old – but now won’t even talk to a mac. They don’t get on. I can sympathise.



Why didn’t I know about this before?

Continuing pattern development I’ve been following tutorials for creating pattern swatches using Adobe Illustrator as a grid repeat – matching the edges exactly for a seamless repeat. Technically finding it quite difficult to copy the exact swatch. Generating a random pattern takes more effort than the grids and bricks – for one it can’t be done by the computer programme – ensuring there is enough random rotation and placement of each object is tricky to get the aesthetic balance right – I just eyeball it.


A bit of a discovery last week – I was aware of Spoonflower as an online resource for new patterns and original designs through social media – instagram and facebook, but I hadn’t realised the design studio platform and ability to submit designs for review and manufacture.

Ive uploaded the few patterns I produced so far – Its a great online resource of patterns and designers offering both the chance to manufacture small quantities of your designs and also sell the designs directly, generating commission ($$$). It also offers a bit of feedback – designs made public are available for comments and eventually sales as an indicator of popularity.  What a find.


Patterns and Screens

For the latest addition to my ever busy life I decided to learn something new. As part of the latest brief I have been looking at surface pattern – the vast designs and endless applications have taken a little narrowing down, but I have experimented with processes to achieve images as a baseline for new pattern design. This proved harder than I thought.

Although I had an idea of the difficulties involved in first designing and then constructing, repeating and matching a swatch to a repeat pattern, what I hadn’t quite really been prepared for was my unending research (when do you stop!?) and for it to take the ‘wind out of my sails’ with a combination of awe turning to inadequacy and finding that a lot of subjects and ideas had already been produced and what looked like extensively exhausted.

But then – reality check- luckily, I’m a student. My job doesn’t (yet) depend on this and I’m not under any pressure to produce an entirely new range of patterns. I should turn it on its head and find inspiration from awe.

So, my next step took me to the Bluecoat Screen Printing studio in Liverpool. A great resource available to hire for local students, printers, artists and designers. Screens, check. Inks, check. Textile medium, check. Squeegee check. … I took my favourite and probably simplest pattern so far (‘Honesty’ brick repeat). Original design comes from an ink and pipette sketch I made, scanned in and made into a repeat, matching the edges to make sure it tiles well.


So. It was a very educational visit. I learned the problems of printing on acetate (with an unhappy computer). Which side is the ‘right’ side to print on (after first finding the ‘wrong’ side). How to edit Photoshop images into greyscale and bitmap to achieve the right quality for exposure. How to prepare a screen with emulsion (and how important it is to do this evenly and thinly). Which screens are used for textiles and why (45 -60T). The difference between yellow and white mesh and the effect on UV exposure time. How to do an exposure test. How to know if screen is under exposed and what to do (deep breath and start again). How to clean and degrease a screen and exactly how soaked you get using a pressure washer to do it.

So with the screen exposed again and washed-out I was able to mask off, mix ink and textile medium and print. I discovered multiple passes are needed depending on the absorbency of the fabric. I used a backboard behind the cloth, but still ran into problems with the fabric moving slightly between passes (argh).

Exact pattern matching was difficult. I now know this has to be reflected in my pattern which should ideally ‘absorb’ and slight mismatches. The ‘honesty’ did this quite well, and particularly since I was just using a single colour design.  Also with fabric you can’t print 2 patterns adjacent to each other straight away- one needs to be touch dry to avoid the screen smudging the just printed pattern. For this reason the repeat should be as large as possible and ideally the width of the fabric – since found out that in industry manufacturers use massive yardage screens.

So I left with a little bundle of printed tea-towels and fabric offcuts. It felt good to try something new. Admittedly the print quality was’t great but it was an experiment with a production method and perhaps the main lesson learnt was to think about how the pattern is going to be produced (i.e. printing method), what it is going to be printed onto, and how it is going to be used right at the beginning and you can make it a little easier.

I feel it a bit like back to the drawing board/mac, but overall my designs should be better as a result of what I discovered at the screen printing session. I’m still working on more digital patterns developed from collaged acrylic cutouts and want to explore linoblock handprinted designs.




Hoarding perfectionist…me?

Today someone called me a hoarding perfectionist. A bit of an odd observation, to be fair,  but it started me thinking about how we come across and how this can differ from who we actually are.

Lets deal with the Hoarder tag. I like to collect things, interesting items. In my mind this is different from hoarding. My definition of a hoarder would be collecting things that don’t serve a purpose. In my case (although I can see others may not appreciate the purpose) I keep ephemera and personal items of interest.

I collect memories – more specifically visual inspiration, stimuli, things that I’d like to see again, feel again, even smell again. Things with history, things in retirement with a previous working life and I enjoy bringing forgotten items and objects back into use, back to life. Re-purposing, re-using, re-cycling. Its all too easy to get swept away in the  ‘throw-it-away-and-buy-a-new-one society of today.

Now the perfectionist label. Well closer to the truth – its a spectrum and I like to do my best, but I’ve not problem not being perfect. I love randomness, making combinations, throwing things together and seeing what happens. I like messiness and experimenting, -The ‘what-if?’

I can quite happily accept mistakes, reflect on what happened and move on – I did my best and I can try again another time. In fact every artist and creative should know that sometimes the best work comes from the ‘happy accidents’.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams. 

We take very little time to reflect on ourselves, maybe for good reason – we may not like what we see, or maybe because its actually a difficult thing to do. Its similar to looking in the mirror – we assume what we see is what others see, but not true – in fact we see our reflection.

So after a spot of self reflection – I feel I have more than justified who I am. Not that we should have to – if I was a hoarding perfectionist well that would be just fine…

Hoarder; No. Collector; Yes…. Perfectionist; No. Too much wanting to please others; Maybe.