Biting Back the Stigma with Abigail from @bitemycheesecake
Abigail is the lovely and talented British artist behind the brand “Bite My Cheesecake” aimed at fighting the stigma surrounding sex and sexuality that is overwhelmingly prevalent in our society. The brand, which launched in 2016, then expanded in 2020, quickly amassed a great following for its whimsical designs and bold messages. This is the story about how it started and where it’s going. Oh, it might also give you cheesecake cravings!
Tell me a bit about yourself and your art. How did the idea of creating the brand “Bite My Cheesecake “ come about?
I’m Abigail, I’m an activist driven Artist, Illustrator & Graphic Designer with a focus on sex positivity. I explore and attempt to confront social taboos with bright and groovy visual responses to themes of self-empowerment, misogyny and sexual agency.
Growing up in the south east of England, my friends and I would hang out by the river in our town where I developed a strange and unhealthy obsession with cheesecake (ironically, I am lactose intolerant). This and a food fight at a party resulted in my nickname becoming “cheesecake”. From then on it didn’t make sense to brand my business any other way.
Whilst completing my BA in Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading. I discovered my love for vintage and sustainable fashion. In 2016, I launched “Kiss My Cheesecake” (formerly known as “Kiss My Vintage”), my online vintage clothing store as way to lighten my clothing collection.
Upon completing my degree, I made the decision that sitting in an office 9–5 wasn’t going to work for me so I became a cocktail bartender and freelanced Graphic Design on the side, this didn’t leave much time to be creative for myself or to create for the sake of creating.
Fast forward to 2020 and the pandemic, I had the opportunity to rediscover my creativity outside of work and have since been able to combine my obsession for slow fashion (and cheesecake) with art, hand painting my designs directly onto vintage & pre-loved pieces.
The hope is that my digital art and hand painted items will send a message that resonates with people, allowing them to own their own narratives and fuck the stigma.
What was the process of designing like? How long did it take?
The methods I approach my art with have changed drastically over the years, I have only started exploring digital drawing over the past year, whereas before I used to primarily work with watercolors and ink. My work has since adapted to block colors and bold lines both digitally and pen to paper.
One recurring theme throughout my work spanning from when I first began drawing to the present day is my use of image and type together. I love integrating words into my art almost as part of the image itself rather than a separate entity. I’ll either start with a phrase and see what imagery comes to mind or if I’m working with photography, the words I integrate into the image come later.
Prior to starting any project, I create mood boards and mind maps before sketching rough layouts and compositions by hand. From there I translate it into a digital piece.
Regarding my hand painted vintage leather bags, the process starts on paper, sketching out composition before thoroughly cleaning the leather and tracing on my design. From here I use acrylic paint pens to outline my design more clearly. I mix fabric medium into my acrylic and paint very thin layers until block color is achieved.
Each piece varies in the amount of time it will take to complete. The digital artwork I create for the podcast: ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ on average each piece takes approximately 2–3 hours. I do find that I will have to leave a piece half way through and come back to it another day in order to get some distance and see clearly what needs to be done. A painted bag however can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours depending on the size and level of detail warranted.
What are the issues you particularly wish to highlight?
There’s a large array of issues I wish to bring to light with my work, slut shaming, the stigma surrounding casual sex, STI’s, sexuality, to mention a few.
I’m currently fundraising for The Terrence Higgins Trust, one of UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charities. They support people living with HIV and aim to break the stigma surrounding HIV and sexual health in general. This is a shared passion of mine. I created a set of three prints inspired by Russel T Davies 5-part series ‘It’s a Sin’. This was the first British show to directly address the HIV epidemic of which the impact is still felt today. 100% of profits made from these limited-edition prints are donated to The Terrence Higgins Trust.
My most recent work has focused on addressing the stigma surrounding casual sex and slut shaming, especially for women. My ‘Fuck Your Friends prints and totes aim to highlight our social conditioning around romantic sex and relationships being the main goal. this doesn’t take into account the experience of aromatic people nor does it validate the experience of those engaging in non-traditional relationship structures. Sex and romance do not need to go hand in hand for a relationship to be valid or meaningful.
My new collection: Taking Back the Trope includes a series of hand painted vintage leather bags and aims to challenge an array of tropes placed upon women. the idea being that by wearing these items, we can attempt to reclaim them for our own and take the power away from the misogynists who place them upon us. “Slut” is one of the tropes explored in the collection and there’s a lot of controversy around whether to reclaim or taboo the term. I’ll be exploring this in a written piece that will be published by ‘Afternoon Delight Zine’.
A recent series I’ve created focuses on challenging the censorship of bodies and womens nipples, you can find these pieces (“Dance with me”, “Let’s Fuck” & “Just a Nipple”) on my Instagram page. I’m hoping to print these designs onto tees and totes in the new year.
How did the public respond to your brand? What is the item that received the most attention?
So far, the reception to my work has been mostly positive, apart from a few Instagram trolls, but that’s to be expected, especially when promoting nudity and sex positivity on a platform that famously shames and censors this.
My most popular work so far has been my “Fuck Your Friends” project. I’ve received an immense amount of positive feedback and purchases following my release of “Fuck your Friends” prints, t-shirts & tote bags. It’s especially nice to hear that customers are buying these as gifts for their platonic lovers.
What is something you wish people would talk more about, in terms of sex and sexuality?
Let’s get one thing straight, I wish talking more about sex or one’s sexuality wasn’t even a taboo subject anywhere at all. It breeds shame and miseducation. Sex is beautiful and fun and is vital to so many of our lives. We live in a world where mostly sex is seen as taboo yet we also place so much importance on sex, we contradict ourselves. Western cultural norms tell us it’s not “proper” to discuss one’s sex life yet also tells us that a healthy sex life is crucial for a successful romantic relationship. Neither of these needs to be true. This narrative doesn’t take into account asexual people, queer platonic relationships and the list goes on. There’s a whole abundance of relationship structures that are possible to explore. As a polyamorous queer woman, I feel this could be talked about a lot more.
As mentioned previously, I often produce illustrations for an incredible podcast “Let’s Talk about Sex, Jamie”. The candid conversations being had throughout each episode, I hope can pave the way for people feeling more comfortable talking about sex, for cis het men to talk about sex with one another in a context that isn’t misogynistic or bragging but open and honest conversations that educate one another.
How do you hope to further develop your brand?
I have BIG plans for “Bite My Cheesecake”, but I think for now I’ll keep them to myself (cheeky).
What are your main sources of inspiration?
I have kept a diary for as long as I can remember, a mixture between angry rants, passionate sex stories and day to day thoughts are documented throughout these journals.
My main sources of inspiration are from my journal writing, I carry around a teeny tiny notebook around with me to note down any phrases, words or imagery that inspire me. Mostly I work quite sporadically, some days creativity doesn’t come to me whatsoever and another day I may wake up with an idea in mind fully formed. Most of the time, the idea I start with evolves so much throughout the process that something entirely different and sometimes more poignant emerges.
How has this project helped you express both your creativity and your sexuality?
Starting Bite My Cheesecake has done wonders! As my confidence in my art and my abilities has grown, my confidence to embrace my sexuality has too. Since the start of the pandemic and being self-employed I have a successful ‘Only Fans’ page as well as my sex positive art brand. Both of these endeavors combined have really changed the way I talk to myself regarding sex and how I express myself creatively. Some shots taken for ‘Only fans’, I end up using to inspire my work for Bite My Cheesecake and vice versa. I am so grateful for the journey I’ve been on with my two business babies and how they’ve helped inform a new self-perspective.
Stay connected with Abigail’s work by
following her on Instagram