Teaching Children to Talk About Periods

Laura Gilbert is an Art teacher who uses her talents to educate and empower children through arts and crafts. We spoke to the Mama of two about launching her brand, A Lovely Little Art Room, experimenting with ‘new’ materials, such as tampons, and teaching the youth how to make reusable sanitary towels and fight #periodpoverty.

How did A Lovely Little Art Room got started and what it its mission?

I have always loved Art and when I was at secondary school I had the most inspiring teacher that encouraged me to go to Art school in London, I studied at Central Saint Martins. I have been teaching Art and Design in London schools for 8 years and have just started teaching A-level Art in Kent.

Whilst I was on maternity leave with my second girl I started writing a blog about how to do art and crafts at home with kids in a manageable way. Lots of my friends with kids were telling me they found it so stressful because of the MESS. I totally get this!!! So I started writing blogs to help parents get creative in a way that wasn’t stressful for the adults, and still super fun for the kids.

I have designed a collection of art boxes that arrive through the letterbox - everything you need is included in the box. The kids can watch a YouTube tutorial of me showing them how to make the projects as they make their own. We design projects that promote a sense of strength and self-belief through a child-led experience.

What role do you think art plays in people’s and children’s lives?

At A Lovely Little Art Room, we believe in raising innovative, creative thinkers through play. We believe children can be empowered through making art and we can give our children huge amounts of confidence to create artwork they are happy with, that makes them feel brilliant and proud of who they are. We wish for kids to use art in a positive way in their lives to create happy, spirited young people, with a solid sense that they can achieve what they want in life.

We aim to raise awareness about typically female stigmas, e.g. menstruation. We love that you are not afraid to talk about women’s health with children. What projects have you organised related to the subject?

I am so keen to be open with my girls as they grow up and for us to have an honest dialogue about menstruation and other sensitive issues. Since having my own kids I see my body in a whole new light. Something to be praised, nurtured and so proud of. Growing and birthing babies is magical and it all starts with menstruation, and having periods is all part of the magic! I want to celebrate the wonders of being a female and encourage my daughters to talk openly and never to feel that a subject should be shied away from. We have used tampons to create paintings with, which my eldest girl loved doing. We do lots of painting with other bathroom products such as cotton buds, toilet roll holders, tissues and old toothbrushes, so for me using tampons was no biggie! We created a series of tampon paintings that I shared online.

How do you respond to feedback, e.g. after you published a picture of the painted tampons?

Initially we had some negative feedback which didn’t bother me too much (I deleted the comments because I feel passionately that my page is not a debate forum but instead it is a positive page to empower women and uplift people and children through art making. The bad comments are not welcome!). But we also received some amazing feedback too!

" I want to celebrate the wonders of being a female and encourage my daughters to talk openly and never to feel that a subject should be shied away from. "

I have been following some fantastic campaigns such as @abloodygoodperiod and @heygirlsUK who are talking openly about the issues that some girls are faced with having to use tissue and paper during their time of the month. I filmed a series of IGTV videos that explain how to make your own re-usable sanitary towel from an old bathroom towel and a t-shirt. For lots of girls at school, it can be a difficult time. By providing young girls with the skills and resourcefulness to make their own towels in their teenage years maybe we can save them from missing lessons because they don't have the products they need.

We are trying to do our bit to help raise awareness of #periodpoverty also by donating 50 pence from each sale to @theredboxprojectfolkestone. I had an idea that if we could share this video in schools amongst teachers and students so that girls in need can make their own sanitary products (as opposed to scrunching up tissue) then we could really make an impact. As an Art teacher, I would definitely welcome any girl into my classroom, sit and show them how to sew one to take home. I love this idea because they are also learning a new skill. They can use recycled fabrics with colourful patterns and make trendy and fun designs to be proud of.

At Vagina-Nomics, we are passionate about the equality of women. Would you call yourself a feminist and what does the word mean to you?

Yes I am a proud feminist. Paving the way for our future girls to be successful, confident and proud of being female and everything that comes with it is very important to me. Being a feminist means striving for equality and our boys and husbands are as much a part of the conversation as us ladies are. For me it is about raising our children both boys and girls alike to be confident and believe in themselves equally.

What is your biggest achievement up to date?

My daughters, apologies for the cheese! I could never have imagined how tough having kids would be, such a rollercoaster of love, tears, tantrums, tiredness and crazy times! Having little humans is definitely the biggest deal in my life so far. I spent so many years thinking about myself and what job I wanted to do and where I wanted to live, and then these little people arrive and its all about them and everything changes beyond belief!

Do you have a sense of community around A Lovely Little Art Room?

Yes definitely. I have built my business from scratch on Instagram. It has been amazing to get to know other artists, crafters, teachers, mothers and so many other inspiring people. I find that the art and craft world is generally a very kind, sweet-natured place to be. So getting to know other people across the land in all parts of the world has been so lovely and people have been very supportive.

Where do you see yourselves and the Lovely Little Art Room in the near future?

I would like to continue teaching part-time because I love it. And also because I go a bit stir crazy being indoors, so for me, interacting and talking all day to other adults and students is good for my mental health. I hope to grow the brand to reach more kids in more households. I love seeing photos of kids so proud of their artwork and the projects I have designed. I would love to ship internationally and reach as many young people as I can! I would also like to create boxes for a variety of ages up to GCSE and A-Level as well as pre-school and primary school ages. I want to be the go-to company for art projects and ideas.

Who says that art and craft activities are just for kids? We encourage you to tune in to A Lovely Little Art Room’s IGTV, stock up on art supplies in her shop, and gather your (girl)friends to have a DIY session whilst also raising awareness about periods among yourselves. (We will be organising one soon!) By making our own sanitary towels or painting on tampons, we can all contribute to de-stigmatising traditionally female issues. Laura is helping to raise a new generation of girls and boys who are not afraid to be themselves and speak openly about their problems. So now, do you believe us when we say that talking about periods can be fun?