The Pleasure in Art
What does cross stitching genitals teach you about life? One Canadian artist has learned a lot in a short time.
My name is Michelle Gauthier, and I’m a 21-year-old artist from Toronto, Ontario. I currently live at home, attend university for fine arts, and I am becoming known as the “girl who sews vaginas/penises/fallopian tubes in public.” I used to use painting as my only form of self-expression, but now I have moved on into printmaking and cross stitching.
I started creating these NSFW cross stitches simply as an experiment. The idea was proposed to me by my boyfriend, when I first really started to show an interest in cross stitching. The idea was received well by the public, so I ended up taking the project much further than I had initially planned.
I was raised in a household with Catholic parents. They gave me “the talk” when I was in grade five, and we never spoke about sex again. I was taught to practice abstinence, and when I did eventually go on birth control, it was kind of a big deal. Body positivity and the importance of sexual happiness was never familiar to me. It was not until I started dating and becoming sexually active that I realized I didn’t really share my parent’s values. And so I began creating these cross stitched vaginas, penises, breasts, tampons and uteruses because they bring to the forefront something that wasn’t discussed by a lot of people — including my parents.
I want people to see that their genitalia are beautiful, unique, and that they should be proud of their bodies. I used to be ashamed of my vulva—afraid that it wasn’t “normal.” This is a common misconception among women. The media can provide an unrealistic image that makes women feel they have to look a certain way to be beautiful.
My personal philosophy around pleasure grows and changes every day. Sex allows you to bond your body with another person’s. Sex toys can be a fun way to spice up your sex life (and your masturbation rituals). Crops, handcuffs, and bondage are all things I think every person should try at least once in their lifetime! Personally, I don’t really watch porn. But that doesn’t mean that I have anything against it. I believe that there should be no boundaries to your pleasure (as long as the other person is consenting) and that every person should be able to express themselves and be happy sexually.
Since I’ve started making these stitches, I’ve had requests for a variety of vulva skin tones, a stitch of the entire female reproductive system, and other nude images. I think it’s fun and exciting how people have embraced my work and supported it. Of course, some have expressed negative opinions as well — especially when I stitch on the train to school, in class, or at home. My work has come off as disgusting, inappropriate, and downright strange to certain people. But I love what I do, so I’ll continue. By stitching in public, I get to start even more conversations about these themes, and hopefully help people (who were like me) to see that menstruation, the way their body looks, and sexuality aren’t shameful or gross.
Enjoy some art gasm in your home, check out Michelle’s creations here