Found & Female Interviews & Conversations Projects

A Conversation with Martinette of Hannah Pad

I found out about Hannah Pads after writing up a short article on reusable sanitary towels that were being produced by a small NGO in Tanzania. I was browsing around other makers of similar products and came up with the Hannah Pad website and Instagram feed.

I made contact with Martinette who founded Hannah Pad five years ago and asked if we could do an interview for the blog about her knowledge around menstruation.

Below is a conversation with Martinette and in-between are photographs of her brilliant, reusable, non-toxic and organic products:

You spoke a lot about your own experiences and those of others with endometriosis, hormonal issues, PCOS and fertility. How do you think menstruation plays into these things?

Our menstruation is our monthly health report card, and sadly one that we do not get taught to pay attention to. It has recently been classified as the fifth vital sign for females, and that is how important it is. When we educate ourselves about what is deemed as normal, in terms of flow, colour, and associated symptoms ( i.e. pain, bloatedness, cravings,  mood swings etc.), we can find the reasons why we are experiencing these symptoms. When we know WHY, we can do something about it, rather than just either accepting it as our lot as women, or by treating the symptom. There are fabulous women to follow on blogs and social media, who bring such amazing information and research to the table. I will mention a few names that have meant a lot to me: Lara Briden ( The Period repair Manual); Lisa Hendrickson-Jack ( The Fifth Vital Sign); Anna Cabecca ( The Hormone Fix); Lucy Pearce ( Moon Time) and our local mom and Daughter duo… Hormonal Harmony teaching women to practice FAM ( Fertility Awareness Method).

Menstruation can be a lonely walk for women: monthly pain, mood changes and other physical symptoms. What are your thoughts on menstrual wellbeing? How can we make it better?

By creating an awareness of what is deemed as normal, we also flag something as a problem when it does occur. And by more and more women seeking for answers, more and more women will start telling their friends and family members. We do not have to accept pain and heavy bleeding as our lot in life. There are ways to cure the causes.

What, in your experience dealing with menstruation through your business, have you learned about women’s experiences with menstruation?

We are all so different. Some bleed very lightly, some very heavily, some only for 3 days, some for 7 days. For some bleeding is a relief every month, for others, it’s yet another month where they did not conceive. I share their pain, I know that pain… I was there. That is what inspires me to keep on going, as we need more and more people to know that there are solutions when we find the real cause.

The above image shows the discreet packaging that Hannah Pads has available for convenient storage.

I was super interested in what you said about retrograde bleeding, can you tell me more?

I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2004. At that stage there was little information available online in terms of the causes of the condition, and apart from surgery, the treatment for it as well. One cause that has still not been proven was Retrograde Bleeding.

Retrograde menstruation:

In retrograde menstruation, menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity instead of out of the body. These endometrial cells stick to the pelvic walls and surfaces of pelvic organs, where they grow and continue to thicken and bleed over the course of each menstrual cycle. This is what convinced me not to use the menstrual cup when sleeping at night, even though this has not been a proven fact yet.

You spoke about enabling women, enabling your own daughters. What would you pass on to others as a means of support. I love how through generations support can be passed down.

Yes, that is my passion, to share what I have learned, sometimes the hard way. My daughters ( ages 13, 9 and 7) are involved in my business Hannahpad. They help fold pads, I of course pay them. But as we fold, we talk about female matters. I have put together a moon kit for my oldest daughter, to bless her when her first cycle starts, and welcome her into womanhood. She has read the book by Lucy Pearce “Reaching for the Moon” written for teens to understand the changes in their bodies and moods, and to work with their flow.

Vaginal steaming is an ancient practice which enables women to clean out every month, to ensure that you are properly clean after your cycle, as there often is blood that remains entrapped, and can cause chronic female problems. So yes, I want to learn this practice, and teach it to my daughters, and whoever else would like to learn. This is also a treatment modality that is used with great success for painful  and heavy periods, even for PCOS and endometriosis, and you can do this in the privacy of your home every month. Another aspect that I want to teach my daughters is FAM… Fertility Awareness Method. This does not only teach you when you are fertile (so as a contraceptive method, or a method to conceive), but it teaches you about your body, about what  YOUR normal is.

More about vaginal steaming / Yoni steaming here.

What have you learned about the tie between synthetic and natural menstruation products?

When I was diagnosed in 2004 with endometriosis, I started doing research into the causes. One that I found was  retrograde bleeding, and the other was the chemicals in the commercial disposable sanitary products on our markets worldwide. These include chlorine ( bleach), plasticizing chemicals like BPA and BPS, Phthalates, crude oil plastics, fragrances, odour neutralisers etc, I go into great depth into this on my website, see here.

According to a draft report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dioxin (Chlorine) is a serious public health threat that has no “safe” level of exposure!  The FDA’s official stance regarding trace amounts of dioxins is that there are no expected health risks associated with trace amounts of dioxins in tampons… Naturally Savvy notes that 10 years ago, House Representative Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation that would have required research into the potential health risks of any ingredient used in feminine hygiene products, including endometriosis, cervical, ovary and breast cancers. Unfortunately, the legislation did not pass, and it does not appear that any such research has been done.

You spoke about Toxic Shock Syndrome and how it is still actually affecting women. What have you heard?

Have you read the story of the model Lauren Wasser who lost both her legs due to TSS ( Toxic Shock Syndrome)? She now dedicates her life to educate and prevent this terrible disease. Read her story here.

According to Dr Mercola it’s important to remember that tampons can create a favourable environment for bacteria growth. Micro tears in the vaginal wall from tampons allow bacteria to enter and accumulate. One recognized risk from tampon use is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which may be caused by poisonous toxins from either Staphylococcus aureus (staph) or group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria. TSS can be a life-threatening condition, so it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms. Should any of the following symptoms arise while using tampons during your period, make sure you seek medical help:

  • Sudden high fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Redness of your eyes, mouth and/or throat
  • Rash on palms or soles of feet

Found & Female

Found Images:
Positives & Negatives of Women

Collecting beautiful, old, anonymous pictures of women is a bit like finding Easter eggs, for me that is. I collected this selection of negatives and glass-encased, hand-coloured “positives” from a thrift shop in Observatory and from the Milnerton Market in Cape Town in 2012-2013.

I only scanned the images in 2015 and haven’t had the right moment since then to carefully put the scans properly back together (the unusual formats of the pieces meant that they needed to be scanned from multiple angles to capture all the info which Ive now puzzled back together).

Wish I knew more about them.

Found & Female Projects Women I've Shot

Possibly The Birth of my Inspiration

I lived in Stuttgart for a period of months when I was 17. I was going to school there and living with a friend and her family who stayed in a picturesque village  out of town.
I had a cheap-as-hell 35mm film camera and shot a lot of film while on the trip.  There were three occasions however on which I took photos that have since inspired my work….


The images are haphazard; they were randomly and spontaneously captured and seem reminiscent of portholes into moments one can nostalgically never quite return to. They represent a sort of iconic state of femininity and abandon.

Maybe it has something to do with the dreaminess that is European light? Maybe it was the nondescript spaces? And maybe it was the naive innocence and carefree joy of those Summer days and the freedom that came with the times…I don’t know.


There was a small sort of wilderness directly behind the family home where some of these images were taken on a funny day between the four of us. I think we’d just gone for a walk and had ended up messing about doing gymnastics and sunbathing in the long grass and flowers.


A second occasion was an excavated dam on the border of France on a day trip around Easter and the third was out and about during a spontaneous afternoon of paddle-boating on a lake on day after school.


I suppose these images represent the moments that come between naivety and self-awareness, and in this I find beauty and inspiration.

Sadly, I posted some of the negatives to Germany years later and never got them back. Jojo, if you ever find them, please return them to me!

In first year photography, about 5 years later, I tried to re-create the atmosphere of these original images shot in 2000 as one of my personally motivated projects.

These new images, shot on Holga, have a certain energy but I felt like it was impossible to capture again the fleeting moments of those perfectly naive years before…


Found & Female

Vintage Nudey Playing Cards

Lynette Bester, a good friend and brilliant artist brought these old “Cartes Sexy” bridge & poker cards back from a trip to Barcelona a few years back. I think she bought them on an old market there but they originally come from France. Friends often contribute items to the collection of all things female I have…

Vintage Pinup Playing Cards 001

These kinds of playing cards go way back… I feel like we’ve all seen them and know this particular 50’s style seedy pinup. I really appreciate the way in which these womens bodies have been documented, or maybe its more an appreciation of how our understanding of aesthetics related to beauty in the womens body has evolved so drastically and therefore how special these images have become.

The angles in her hips would only too readily be photoshopped out nowadays.
The angles in her hips would only too readily be photoshopped out nowadays.

The folds, rolls, diverse breast shapes and sizes are refreshing, authentic and well, sweet. The poses, props and locations are super retro, often so bad that they’re great again. The re-coloured red lips, hard looking big hair and awkwardness are endearing and happily nostalgic.

Vintage Pinup Playing Cards 007

Vintage Pinup Playing Cards 005

And here are just a few more goodies from the playing pack…

Loving the hand re-drawn red-lace panties.
Loving the hand re-drawn red-lace panties.

Vintage Pinup Playing Cards 004