Illustrator Charlotte Wlicox has been developing a portfolio of work that places the female body at the centre of attention. Using her drawings to encourage conversations about mental health, homophobia and female body image, her latest collaboration with The Vagina Museum sees her championing the vulva and challenging the myths and marvels of our menstrual cycles. We wanted to hear a little more about the personal reasons behind Charlotte's work and how people have responded to her honesty and openness.
We've been loving your recent work created for The Vagina Museum! Could you tell us about this experience and how the relationship developed?
After I graduated from University, I knew I wanted to continue creating work that related to the subjects I felt passionate about but wasn’t sure where to start. I had heard about the Vagina Museum early on because of their crowdfunding campaign, then soon after graduating I came across an article about them again, so decided to email their lovely founder Florence, and it all took off from there! I first created the Vulva piece for them, which shows 16 different vulvas, and the reaction I received from it was completely unexpected.
I had so many young girls messaging me telling me that it helped with their confidence...Having educational places like the Vagina Museum is so important in today’s world.
The responses were both negative and positive at the same time. The best part was that I had so many young girls messaging me telling me that it helped with their confidence – I remember just sitting in my room with tears in my eyes! It was so touching to see how many people it had helped. But it also made me realise how art like this is really needed, and how having educational places like the Vagina Museum is so important in today’s world. I adore the team at the Vagina Museum they’re a bunch of really inspiring ladies and if you haven’t been, I highly recommend you do! I have learnt so much about myself working with them.
The naked female body is often hidden from sight or only depicted in a sexualised way. How aware are you of wanting to create new conversations about the female body and our genitalia through your illustrations?
Even when I wasn’t creating art about the female anatomy, learning about ourselves has always been something at the back of my mind that I’ve felt passionate about and wondered how I could communicate it to people. I found I wasn't confident enough to talk about it; I worried about the backlash and if people would look at me differently. But in the last 6 months I’ve felt that discussing these topics is seriously needed. It’s incredibly empowering talking about our anatomy, and so rewarding when people respond positively to it! As for the hate I receive, I’ve never let it get to me, it only drives me to create more!
Celebrating women for all their different shapes, sizes and ethnicities is something that shines through your work. Has this affected your own relationship with your body? And if yes, in what ways.
It makes me so happy to hear that, thank you! I never had a good relationship with my own body when I was younger. I was tall, very pale and lanky. I was always skinny shamed which really hurt and affected my mental health quite badly especially when I was a teen. There were even moments when I thought I wasn’t skinny enough, which was a dark time in my life. It makes me feel sad looking back at photos of myself because I feel like I had wasted so much time worrying about my appearance.
I love my stretchmarks; they mark an important milestone in my life...it breaks my heart to think that some young girls already feel bad about themselves because of what is shown in the media, and the lack of representation
I had a ‘body confidence awakening’ when I was 18, this was after I had noticed I had gained some weight. I had dark purple stretchmarks all over my boobs, inner thighs and bum, and I remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking “…Actually, you look okay” - which was HUGE for me as I had never thought positively about my body. I love my stretchmarks; they mark an important milestone in my life.
You have worked on projects that openly discuss menstrual cycles. How have people responded to these illustrations?
I’ve had lots of mixed reactions from discussing menstrual cycles, mostly positive which has been amazing, but of course there have been some negative which was expected. I’ve had some messages saying it’s “disgusting” to talk about it, and they don’t want to see it on their feed. Periods should not be a taboo subject but unfortunately, they are still considered to be. It needs to be discussed more. I think for older generations it’s quite a shameful thing to talk about and should be seen as a private matter.. but that’s not going to stop me from talking openly about it. I wish people had talked more about periods when I was younger as I wouldn’t have been shamefully smuggling my tampons/pads up my sleeve when I went to the toilet at school. Periods are normal and natural, and I hope in the future we see a huge change in how periods are viewed and taught.
Being educated about your anatomy is so important, it should be done from an early age as it stops any misconceptions that could potentially be harmful.
What barriers do you feel we face as women when wanting to discuss our anatomy and bodily functions openly?
Being made to feel ashamed because you openly talking about it. These topics are so normal and should be spoken about more often without embarrassment or fear. Being educated about your anatomy is so important, it should be done from an early age as it stops any misconceptions that could potentially be harmful. How is it shameful wanting to know how your body works? It doesn’t make sense.
Previous projects have seen you working closely with WOC in regards to mental health and racial discourse. What have you learnt from these collaborations?
It’s amazing to see projects like these busting the stigma around mental health and finding ways to create communities online and in person, to openly discuss the issues they face. I think something I love about what I do is the people I meet through collaborations. I’m so inspired by them and learn so much from hearing their stories. When you hear about the struggles women face and how they overcome them, it’s really eye-opening. These women are smashing it!
Art can be a wonderful tool to express oneself when struggling to find a verbal language. Have you ever found this true for yourself and if yes, could you give an example?
Absolutely! I wouldn’t say I’m a very confident public speaker, but I have a lot to say and a lot of opinions I would like to openly discuss, so my art has become my voice. I think when something in the news has made me angry, especially to do with human rights, the best way for me to express it has been through my art. Art unites people, it’s a universal way for us to communicate. I do hope that one day I am confident enough to talk publicly but for now I will continue to use my art.
When something in the news has made me angry, especially to do with human rights, the best way for me to express myself has been through my art. Art unites people, it’s a universal way for us to communicate.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I have a few exciting projects and collabs coming up soon, so I’m really looking forward to those! I want to connect with more people this year, and cover as many taboos as I can. I’ll be expanding my shop this year, and will work on some more art prints covering these topics. It’s going to be an exciting year!