My vulva and I – learning to love your body through body casting
Talk about smashing taboos and changing the conversation around our bodies, Brighton-based artist Lydia Reeves has made that her whole mission, and we are HERE. FOR. IT!
From battling a bad relationship with her body growing up, to becoming a full-time body casting artist, Lydia Reeves is quite literally re-shaping the way we view ourselves.
Lydia is a strong advocate all things body acceptance and vulva diversity. And her art of creating bespoke boob, bum and vulva casts empowers her models to do the same. A body casting session is a vulnerable yet wonderfully liberating experience in itself. However, Lydia’s models are then able to eternalise a piece of themselves in these casts, that they can take home and cherish, with a new sense of acceptance and celebration.
We were honoured to have the opportunity to chat to Lydia. Read on as we talk about the story behind her art, share taboo-smashing stories and celebrate all things body acceptance.
Head to our IG live with Lydia to watch the interview – you’re in for a truly lovely and inspiring listen.
An interview with body casting artist Lydia Reeves
I am aware that some people may well not know what body casting is, please can you explain it briefly?
Body casting is the art of making a replica of a body part. What I focus on mainly is boobs, bums, vulvas, and pregnant bellies. It involves pouring a goo-like consistency over the area you’re casting, which then sets and captures all the details of the skin. It’s then cast out in a different material and turned into a piece of art.
Using body casting to re-shape the way we view our bodies
Can you tell us a bit about your story and the story behind your work? When and how did you begin your body casting?
I started just over two and a half years ago. It all stemmed from my own terrible relationship with my body growing up – specifically my relationship with my vulva.
It all came down to a lack of education and conversation. I felt like there was never a space for me to celebrate my body. I was never encouraged to. Instead, I was immersed in a culture rife with magazine articles shaming cellulite, and where shame and embarrassment were almost encouraged.
I wanted to create a space for people with vulvas and boobs to celebrate themselves. We don’t get enough opportunity for that. We are so readily hateful on ourselves. So, I thought it would be so special to create a space where people could view themselves slightly differently, through a different set of eyes, where they become a piece of art. I wanted to help others to not go through what I went through.
I meet people with all different reasons for coming to a casting session. They don’t all have a backstory and a relationship with their body that they want to re-kindle. Some people come just to celebrate their body, and turn it into art, for the pure love of it!
What has been your mission with this and has it changed over the years?
My plan was always to encourage people to feel a lot more confident about their body. To help them to see themselves in a different way, and embrace themselves completely as they are. I wanted it not to be sexual in any way, for it to be all about the art, the appreciation, the celebration. I was unsure if people would ‘get it’. But they have completely embraced it and I am so thankful for that. I don’t think my mission has changed. In fact, if anything, it has grown.
The taboo surrounding vulvas and vaginas has definitely been challenged over the years, and we’ve done our share of taboo busting here at Mooncup. Have you noticed much of a change in the years you have been doing your casting work? And do you believe that your work is having a positive impact?
I am forever the optimist about the direction the industry is heading. There is still a taboo, we still have a long way to go – however, there is a huge shift happening. Even in the last two and a half years since I started, the conversation has grown. I have found more and more Instagram accounts, more companies like you wanting to collaborate and chat.
I get such amazing feedback which I’m just so grateful for. When I’m in need of a reminder of why I do what I do, I save the feedback as screenshots to a special folder on my phone to look back on.
I have had some people who initially aren’t sure about their cast, but who feed back after sitting with it for a while with a completely new appreciation for it. It’s so easy not to look at your vulva for instance, so it’s very easy to become detached. The more you expose yourself to yourself, the more you accept the way you are. The more you see a body part, rather than hiding it away, the more you are accepting of it.
Raising awareness of breast and gynae health
We are more and more conscious of the importance of raising awareness around breast and gynae health and getting to #knowyournormal. Would you say your work contributes to this? Do you do any partnerships, collaborations, or charity work around this?
I really hope that my work is contributing to this! I actually put on an exhibition in October 2021, which was raising money for Coppafeel. The exhibition was held in a huge room which I filled with 100 boob casts. I also made specific ones that showed how to check your boobs, along with information all about it. There was a raffle involved and it was all to raise money for Coppafeel.
I had some lovely volunteers come to get cast, who had been through breast cancer or had the BRCA gene, and they all shared their stories. It was incredible and emotional. So many people told me they went away feeling much more aware of the importance of checking their boobs more often.
The conversation around our bodies is changing
Like Mooncup, you are also based here in Brighton. We have found that being so close to the sea, and it playing such a huge part in our lives here, has really put the health of our beaches and seas at the core of everything we do. It was in fact a catalyst for our mission as a brand. Is there anything in particular about Brighton and life here that has been a source of inspiration or empowerment for you and your art?
The people for sure! This is one of the most open-minded cities I’ve been to, and part of the reason I moved here in the first place.
I did a post on a Brighton Facebook group when I was first looking for volunteers to be cast. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was quite honestly inundated with responses from people who were so up for it! So many people here are so open-minded. I don’t think my career would have taken off in a little sleepy town somewhere!
Have you got any artistic role models, or anyone that particularly inspires your work?
I didn’t foresee it right at the beginning, but I have met so many amazing people who have come to get cast with me, who are on a similar journey, and who are doing their own work to inspire others. Each of them inspire me in different ways.
I’ve never been in such a brilliant bubble of incredible beings who all have similar outlooks on education and life, and I feel inspired by them daily. For example: Ellie, Evie, Naomi and Jo – to name but a few!
A celebration of vulva diversity
You published a book! Tell us more!
When I first started doing vulva casting, I had it in my head that I wanted to do an exhibition. I realised though that an exhibition is very situational and only accessible to those who are around at the time. So, that’s how the idea for a book came about! I wanted it to be accessible – for kids to be able to grow up with it in their house, for it to be in school libraries. I had, and still have, big dream for it.
The book is called ‘My Vulva and I’, and features all 200 people that volunteered to be in my Vulva Diversity Project, and everyone of them wrote some copy about their relationship with their vulva.
All the stories are categorised into ‘topics’, so readers can head straight to the section that they are interested in, such as labiaplasty for example. There are 52 topics in total, which shows a real diversity of backgrounds, and how we all have a very unique experience and relationship with our vulvas.
Lydia’s Reeves’ exhibitions – past, present and future
Can you name your top career highlight?
This is a tricky one as I could name so many! I would say just the fact that I am able to do this as a full-time is a whole career highlight. But to be more specific, a mixture of everything that I have achieved since August 2021 – launching my book, and putting on two shows. These are all things I’ve been wanting to do since the start. SO much love and hard work went into them.
Can you share a bit about any upcoming plans or exhibitions?
I would LOVE to do something in Brighton, I can’t share any dates or more information for now, but watch this space…
If you are interested in reading more about Lydia’s work, getting in touch, or booking your very own casting session, then head to her Instagram: @Lydiareeves_artist. The link in bio includes links to sign up to Lydia’s waiting list and mailing list. You can also check out her lovely shop, where you can buy her fabulous book, ‘My vulva and I’, DIY vulva casting kits, gift vouchers, and other small but mighty treasures.
At Mooncup Ltd, we have been changing the conversation around our bodies and breaking the period taboo since 2002. Own your period with the Mooncup®. Find out more and get yours here.
Did you enjoy this article? Head to this page’s footer to sign up to our mailing list to be the first to hear about our blogs!
You might also be interested in:
Read more about ‘Love Your Vagina’ and more taboo-smashing Mooncup campaigns
What kind of person uses a Mooncup?
The colour of your period: what does it mean?
Love letter to my period
How to practice body positivity – top tips from Ruby Rare
What is the Mooncup was sold as something as sexy as Chanel lipstick?
More orgasms please!
Changing your delivery country will reset your basket