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?
When I saw Mind asking “Has crafting boosted your mental health?” on twitter, my reaction was well yes, of course, what a stupid question! But of course it isn’t a silly question at all. We live in a society where so many people believe they aren’t creative and because of that would never think to turn towards craft as a hobby or way of coping with life. As far as I can tell, a huge part of this belief comes from art lessons in school which focus heavily on techniques and reproducing things in life like quality. For me, this isn’t my version of creativity. For me, creativity is about expression.
Crafting has been a part of my life for a long time in various different forms. As a side note, I have a chronic pain condition which is deteriorating and means I am not able to do all of the craft that I used to be able to.
Knitting has provided a therapeutic repetitive task which has helped to calm me and has given me an almost mindfulness experience. When anxious, it has helped to slow things down for me. When depressed, it’s helped me feel like I am achieving something – I am doing something useful.
I’ve scrapbooked photos, for example it might be from a trip you’ve taken or of a child growing up. As well as the distraction and immersion of the activity, it can also help you to recall good memories.
I’ve done card making, candle making, cross stitch, sewing little decorations out of felt, you name it, I’ve probably had a go. The one thing they all have in common for me is a sense of satisfaction, feeling productive and also acting as a distraction when needed. All of which is really important for maintaining or boosting my mental health.
At the moment, the big one for me is art journaling.
Art journaling for me has been a huge part of supporting my mental health. I was standing on a beach a few years ago, feeling the weight of depression grasping at my ankles. Having been there before I felt desperate not to let it happen again. It was then that I thought keeping a visual diary or journal might be a way of doing something productive and creative most days but without lots of pressure to complete a huge project. I got myself an A5 notebook, nothing too big or too pretty, nothing that’d overwhelm me. Most days I would do something in it, whether it was as basic as sticking in a postcard from somewhere I’d been that day or writing in a quote that I’d come across. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself – it could be as basic as it wanted, provided I did something on a regular basis. Soon I’d finished that notebook and I’d realised how important it was to me.
Being able to do one small thing helps me feel like I have achieved something. And it keeps my creative muscles flexible. I’ve also found that I go through the day with a deeper attention – part of me is looking for things to include in my journal.
In the last six or seven months, my art journaling has changed in response to my worsening chronic pain and I’m using different techniques and equipment but the essence is the same; do something small and do it most days.
Mind’s tweet was to do with their Christmas Crafternoon:
Crafternoon means getting together with friends, family or colleagues and holding an afternoon of festive crafting to have fun and raise money for Mind.
Make someone’s Christmas and help us make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone.
[Edited to add: creating and creativeness have even helped me to open up my own little shop which is currently raising money for a local charity]