During the 5-week class Affirming Artifacts, Julia Plevin designed Cycla, a necklace that tracks a woman's period through a 28-day cycle. The project asked students to "redesign the next thing they throw out," and the tampon became a vehicle for investigating society’s attitudes towards menstruation. Julia writes:
The tampon is an artifact often associated with embarrassment or shame. A woman might hide it up her sleeve when walking to the bathroom; a man might think the topic unapproachable.
A tampon brings convenience to a woman during her period, so that she doesn’t have to think about her cycle. But minimizing the period is not the way for women to feel empowered and have control over their own bodies.
Cycla is a celebration of a woman’s menstrual cycle and an effort to reclaim the period. To this day, society—and often the woman herself—misunderstands the menstrual cycle. In order to change how society views menstruation, it’s imperative that women become more comfortable with their bodies.
Each of the 28 beads on the necklace represents a day of a woman’s cycle. The beads are color-coded to demarcate the days of period and ovulation. By shifting the clasp around the necklace, a woman can track where she is in her cycle, and better understand the physical and mental changes she may experience throughout the month.
The notion of counting beads comes from mala prayer beads while the look of the design is a nod to rosaries. The design of the necklace is subtle, so that only the wearer herself knows its true meaning.
In another interpretation, the necklace is a laser-cut postcard wrapped in string and handed out on the street. The 28 “beads” are perforated, so that the wearer can pop each bead out and string her necklace.
The decision to make the necklace delicate and subtle came only after playing with louder, more overt design; In the end, Cycla has a decidedly inward focus. Through acknowledgement, understanding, and acceptance of her natural cycle, a woman and the people in her life can better understand menstruation.