They make a living off the female form, evoking power and strength in exposing, highlighting the most vulnerable yet beautiful thing about us: our naked home. In doing so, both Liah Edwardes and Hilde Atalanta have created powerful communities of self-love and reconnection.
Liah, aka @DriftedLineDesign, sees each body as originally beautiful. No duplicates, no prints, feminist values are at the core of her art: positivity, support and defiance. She flicks through her notebook and recognises the people behind the faceless bodies instantly, because they’re so perfectly different. She stops turning pages and arrives at the body of a secret model, nameless. Her family, friends and co-workers will never know of her double-life as a muse for Liah, an alter-ego formed on trust and respect. It’ll sound like a cliche but she is simply a real artist: drawing the female body in its truest form, capturing the first few moments of its unveiling. That’s the best time, she says. Best before shapes are forgotten, distorted and moved. Bold black lines steer round every curve and crevice, all with the intentions and outcomes that spawn confidence in her subjects, when she hands them her work.
“I have a scatty personality and I’m impatient, so I draw with pen. I don’t like rubbing things out because if I don’t like what I do, I’ll just draw it again. If I fuck it up, I fuck it up.” Liah’s an Aries, but it’s not obvious when I meet her because she’s so delicately humble, quietly confident.
It all began at the Light Space Collective up in Sheffield, where Liah’s from and based. Flourishing in a tight network of fellow business women made her empowered. Most of what she produces is wholly selfless, it’s not intended to look edgy, it’s deeper than that. One project gathered together women with low esteem, to tear down their walls, off their clothes, and show them their own bodies through someone else’s eyes, and pen.
“It takes time when you come from nowhere” – two years in fact, but her triumphs are only growing. She’s recently now featured on BBC Three’s Too Fat For Love, a documentary featuring blogger and model Emma Tasmin Hill centered around exchanging the media’s warped view on what sexy and beautiful should look like.
Aside from drawing, Liah puts on events at The University of Sheffield and at hen parties, where she helps others through creative release. A huge success of hers is printing t-shirts and selling them, but that’s not personal enough. “It takes the fun out of it”, she says. To match her art, she prefers business face to face. No screens, to stay honestly intimate. And that’s why you’ll find her at local markets (if you’re ever in Sheffield you have to go to Peddler).
For the love of vulvas! The Vulva Gallery loves vulvas, it is vulvas. And it’s never enough. The master behind the ever growing Instagram page and Etsy shop, The Vulva Gallery is Hilde Atalanta. Three little words and one account: she says it has to be inclusive, educational and positive. Why? Because in the media, and sadly the world, representation is empty.
To Hilde, posting her vulva artwork is not about feminism. Her work as inhabited under a rainbow of diversity, the cloudless overarching theme with everything she creates – whether it’s running her latest all-inclusive project, You’re Welcome Club, or freelancing for magazines.
Working seven day weeks, Hilde’s passion is relentless. She’s confident. “I can handle everything myself right now” because, “It doesn’t really feel like work.”
The cause is vast and evidently so close to Hilde’s heart. For the non-artsy folk who consider drawings worthless in changing attitudes, or making a real difference, think again. Hilde took her illustrations to a high school to cultivate a better understanding of the shapes and sizes of genitalia in sex education lessons. Minus a lack of knowledge on the taboo topic of our genitalia, Hilde reckons the biggest common misconception about vulvas is how the longer inner labia parallels having a lot of sex. It’s the biggest, most harmful myth in her opinion, because it makes young people so insecure before they’ve even started having sex.
Care and enthusiasm radiate through my webcam when I ask her where it all began. A lecture on the rise in people turning to labiaplasty, designer vaginas, establishing the belief that their downstairs aren’t porn enough, un-perfect. Hilde turned that worrying rise into an apple-a-day vagina pic philosophy and before long, people began sending her photos. What’s been created is a deeply diverse collection with the stories alongside, a true gallery. A watercolour vagina for a friend is now a safe and magical online community, where all 170k followers can view interpretations of the endless kinds of anatomy across all genders.
Hilde commends the fresh sights of more and more feminist magazines or campaigns popping up. Whilst that’s great, current attitudes surrounding diversity and representation are poor, and it’s something both Hilde and Liah are fervently aware of. Can female artists eradicate the attitudes critiquing feminine nudity and objectification? Maybe not, for now at least – but, on whether their work is helping someone lacking in confidence anywhere in the world right now, they are. Art is never truly finished, and that reflects their unstoppable passion.
Words: Emily Baker