Written by Stephanie Kleanthous
Illustrated by Jennifer Backman
Lydia Reeves is a Brighton-based artist whose most recent project has sparked a lot of interest and joy in her clients and followers: vulva casting. I interviewed her to find out how this began and what she has in store for the future.
After following Lydia Reeves’ Instagram account for quite some time, I saw on her story that she was inviting volunteers down to her studio to have their vulva casted. I promptly replied, booked in my slot and got a train down to Brighton from London.
We discussed a wide range of topics, including our own relationships with our vulvas. She was easy to open up to and the conversation flowed. Artists like Lydia, who share this type of work online, are helping women to feel more confident in their bodies and be exposed to the vulva variety outside of porn.
Q: What inspired you to start this project?
LR: From my early teens through to my mid-twenties, I had severe anxiety and insecurity surrounding my vulva to the point of looking into surgery. Eventually, I followed vulva positive Instagram pages and realised I wasn’t alone in my anxiety. Other women had the same stories and it inspired me to create something that would help women and younger girls to not feel how I felt.
Q: What is the intention behind it? What are you hoping to achieve?
LR: I ask every woman to write up a piece of text about their vulva because I want their individual journeys and stories to be shared. I’ll be holding an exhibition this summer with the pieces of text. Everyone’s stories are different, in one of those there’s bound to be a similar one to their own in some respect.
Q: How did you approach women to cast them before you gained a large Instagram following?
LR: Initially I asked five or six friends to cast, then myself, and then I put up an Instagram story where I got a few volunteers. I gained some through word of mouth. I put up a Facebook post to Brighton Girl which got an overwhelming response! Over one hundred and twenty girls in twenty-four hours. From there it solidified that I should be doing this.
Q: Do women tell you why they decided to come along?
LR: Before doing the cast I have a chat with them first. I always ask why they decided to come. Some people don’t open up on the day but 90% of people talk about their story and have an open dialogue with me. For so many it seems it’s the allowing themselves time to think about their vulva, allowing themselves to get emotional and forgive themselves. It’s a therapeutic process. Some say ‘I’ve never said any of this to anyone else before’, they’ve been carrying all of this weight for so long. Then I have others come like, ‘yeah, I fuckin’ love my vulva!’
Q: What is your most memorable experience doing this?
LR: One man came who was born with a vulva, had top surgery a few years ago. He was taking testosterone for six years. Battled his whole life but got to the point where he wasn’t going to have surgery and decided to keep his vulva. He accepts and loves it.
Follow Lydia Reeves on Instagram here and keep up with any updates on her upcoming exhibition in London (or just follow for the vulva variety and tampon key-chains). If you’d like to get yourself booked in and purchase a cast of your own vulva, breasts or bum, slide into her DMs! You can also find her website here.