Check me out over on Ever The Crafter! The lovely Jessica has interviewed a number of crafters who have chronic illness. She talks to them about their pain, their craft, adaptations etc. She’s also looking for more people to interview if you’re interested.
I like projects. I like having a focus and working with limits such as theme or colour can be helpful at getting the creativity flowing. I’ve got a few projects in mind for this year…
Trees: a year long study
This is essentially what it says. I want to spend the year using art, photography and other mediums to explore the topic of trees. A key reason for choosing trees is that they are common. I can lean out my window and see one. When I move, I am sure I will be able to see a tree. When I’m out and about, I will see trees. I don’t have to go out my way to get inspiration and to take photographs etc. Given my physical limitations, this was really important. If I went for something more specific such as… bridges… I’d not be able to do as much ‘in the field’ work. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of your own long term project – if it’s accessible, it’s harder to make excuses. I knew I was going with trees from the start but other possibilities that I might pick up in the future include streetlamps, doors, windows, letter boxes…
At the moment, this project consists of a sketchbook which is being filled with pages, each focusing on different parts of the theme eg colour, texture, uses for trees, types of trees, the little bits of a tree which make up the whole. Once a theme or an idea starts to form from that I will then work towards a piece of art/photography/other that captures that. In an ideal world, I’d like to make one piece per season to reflect the changes throughout the year but at this stage I can’t say because I don’t know what my direction will be (although I am quite interested in the use of trees in language and mythology…). And I love that the centre of the tree trunk is called heartwood. Do you have any interesting tree facts?!
On a day without internet (eek), I passed the time by making a journal. It has eight pages (at present, I may add more) and is made from cardboard from amazon packaging. The theme of the journal will be blue. I’ve wanted to do this for a while – complete a journal using one colour set. So I’ve got my book, I’ve started collecting and keeping an eye out for blue things for the pages and when it feels like the right time, I’ll get it out start putting it together. This is partly an exercise in restraint. I feel like everything is so instant that you don’t get the satisfaction and excitement of waiting very much. So I’m waiting.
Probably as a result of being stuck in the house for a week, I have a longing to reconnect with nature. And I was thinking that creating mandalas from natural material would be a deeper way to do this. It would bring me more peace and focus and connection than just standing and admiring. It would make me look at things differently, and that is what I love about creating; looking at things differently.
and I want to get back into writing… but this is on the back burner for now. If/when I give up work, I may look for a writing class to replace that social interaction, routine and focus.
Do you have any projects for the year ahead?
Firstly, if I can do it, so can you.
Secondly, art journaling is amazing!
Art journaling really helps my mental health but I’ve had to really adapt my art journaling techniques and expectations as my hands are in a lot of pain and i struggle with fine motor skills. It’s been, and continues to be, a journey of trial and error, discovery and adaptations. Because of those limitations, my journaling has become more precious, more thoughtful and a slower process (in a good way). I have ended up adding a lot of depth to my pages because I can only do a little bit of a page at a time and this also provides space for reflection between layers. I definitely feel that some of my better pages have arisen because of my limitations. In fact my latest journal charts my journey from “argh I can’t hold a pen” to “oh wait, if I do this very slowly, with lots of breaks, using layers and the right techniques I can still do this”. It’s been, and continues to be, a lot of trial and error. What I can do one day is not the same as another day.
I think learning to work with my limitations, not against them, has made art journaling a worthwhile experience for me in itself although it is so much more than that. I do feel if I can do it then so can almost everyone, no excuses!
Technique wise, I do a bit of collaging, use photos I’ve taken, splash paint around, use found objects, stencils, inks etc. I can’t hold most pens anymore so words come from print outs, magazines, stickers etc. Again, working within that limitation makes it easier in some ways – having the world as your oyster, or the alphabet as your seahorse (or whatever is appropriate there) can be overwhelming to the point of freezing you. I try to journal something that comes out of the day which means I’m more tuned in to what’s going on round me. For example when I am out I might be looking for found objects such as feathers or if a particular quote resonates, I’ll pay more attention and make a note of it. It’s paying attention in a deeper way – if I wasn’t journaling, I’d miss the feather, I’d hear the quote and think yeah that sounds great but then it’d slip away from me.
What I can do varies from day to day. Some days I just place cues; feathers, petals, a word ripped of a leaflet. These hold the place for me so i can return at another time when I am able to take the cue and roll with it. It might be a few days, it might be a few weeks but those cues fester in the back of my mind until I have time, have spoons or have a feeling about what the first or next step is. I say feeling, I don’t generally have an image of what I’m wanting, it is much more something I feel my way through. I will look through my stash and see what speaks to me. I will move things around on the page. Or just get stuck in adding colour and seeing what happens.
- Ink and ink pads (but not stamps, I can’t seem to use them without lots of pain so I use ink pads with stencils instead)
- Chalk or soft pastels – these are so gentle and a great way of getting a bit of colour for not much effort
- Chunky handled brushes
- Glue tape – I find this easier than a glue stick because it requires less pressure and it sticks much better. I find it better than pva because that involves holding a paint brush.
- Paper – a variety of colours, craft paper, wall paper, wrapping paper, junk mail, any kind of paper will do! If you like paper, check out flow magazine
- Other bits and pieces – tiny bits of ribbon, buttons, fabric, words ripped out of things…
Anyway, I’ll stop there because I could talk, or write, for hours about it. If anyone has any questions or comments, please add them. I’d love to know what other people are up to, especially other people who have difficulties with their hands as well.