Monday, 27 July 2015

Tenacity Potion


As #secretsofselfpreservation continues, the "mantras" the bottles contain are becoming more realistic, even bleak. I think this reflects the situation I find myself in currently; not where I'd like to be at this point in my life, but not capable of doing a whole lot about it, at least not for now. That's why this week's potion reads "You can't control everything, but  you can choose to get up in the morning." A slightly gloomy edition of #secretsofselfpreservation, but a grimly determined one nonetheless.

It is accompanied by the sticker I wore for this weekend's Roving Diagnostic Unit with Daily Life Ltd at Shuffle Festival, which I will write about in full shortly.

The potion is named "Tenacity Potion", because I feel that, now, this is what is required.



 Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Stigma Smashing Potion

Earlier this week I was talking to some people I think of as fairly broad minded. I mentioned a mental health issue because it was relevant to the conversation, and something remarkable happened; there was a sharp intake of breath. It shocked me. Safely ensconced in the bubble of my network of likeminded (in oh so many more ways than one!) people, I forgot the "us and them" mentality of the man or woman on the street; the dichotomy of "we are well, happy and safe - they are mentally ill and dangerous" which fab mental health awareness campaign Only Us wants to dismantle.

There is also something of a hierarchy of mental illness, with depression and anxiety the "acceptable" bottom (the common cold of mental illness, I like to call them) and hearing voices and unusual thoughts and beliefs at the "unacceptable, dangerous" top.

As someone who has rather run the gauntlet of mental health and come out both stronger and more cynical about society's opinions on the matter, I stitched the phrase "Being your authentic self is a revolutionary act" for this week's #secretsofselfpreservation potion. But it's not just about blowing my own trumpet; I really believe that anyone being their authentic self is revolutionary. How often in our day to day lives, when asked how we are by a colleague or acquaintance, respond "Fine, thanks", when we are anything but? Or indeed, when we are brimming over with joy.

It's almost as if emotion itself is to be policed, and if it tips too far over into negative or positive, it too is "unacceptable".

I had a conversation with a friend the other week in which we both agreed that learning to accept the fact that we were emotional people was probably a good thing. Better to be emotional and irrational than a scary robot!

This fear of emotion is of course also sexist; the centuries-old binary of man/woman = rational/emotional. This leads to internalised misogyny which I know I myself am guilty of.

I was afforded a professional opportunity to be my authentic self last week, and I was a little shocked when good came from it. But thinking about it, people warm to people who are palpably human; who have perceived "flaws" and are honest about who they are.

To accompany the stitched words, inside the potion bottle I added cut up phrases from the "Wellness and Recovery Plan" I was given by a mental health practitioner when recovering from a period of serious illness. This plan was never mentioned again, and reading it back, the idea that a bubble bath can stop you sliding into paranoia and psychosis is slightly laughable. But the intentions are good, and so I picked a few phrases which seemed pertinent to include; "Ambitions and dreams", "When things are breaking down", and "What I am like when I am well".

The potion is entitled "Stigma Smashing Potion", which is just what I intend to do.







Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Making for Change

Craftspace, a crafts development organisation based in Birmingham, has long encouraged social change, from mental health stigma busting through craft to a jewellery making group project intended to give female refugees and migrants sustainable futures. In their latest initiative, Craftspace are bringing social change front and centre. Making for Change will be a social action training programme for 14 - 25 year olds, having their say on the issues that matter to them through craft.

The project kicked off last Saturday with an Inspiration Day at the very swish, gorgeously designed Impact Hub, one of a worldwide series of cutting-edge community spaces for "compassionate,  creative and committed individuals".

I was invited as one of three artists who each gave a drop in workshop and a talk for young people on the day. I chose to focus on my project Apothéké, or #secretsofselfpreservation as it is known on social media. 



Apothéké is a travelling “medicine cabinet” which travelled to the Inspiration Day, which starts conversations about better mental health in a very simple way. I ask participants to stitch one phrase about a way they’ve taken good care of themselves that week, or perhaps a way they could’ve taken better care of themselves, for future reference, on to a ribbon, and keep it in a little bottle to take away with them as a reminder to practice better self care. I call them self care potions, and this year I am stitching one every week. Mine have a little memento of that week in them, too, which you could add later, if you want. But if you’re not a stitcher, you can still get involved; you can tweet, or Instagram, or Facebook, or blog about one simple way you take good care of yourself, and share it via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation.



Craft is good for you. It has been proven to trigger the relaxation response, where your breathing and heart rate become more regular and leisurely, and you get into a meditative state. This is something craftivist Gemma Latham, talking and crafting at the Inspiration Day, knows all about. Whilst the young people hole punched messages with fonts based on cross stitch patterns, Gemma measured their heart rates and fed these into a computer in a way I don't fully understand; coding witchcraft, I think. As their heart rates became steady and consistent (through crafting?) the word "craft" appeared on screen.


 Craft is a good way of meeting likeminded, in more ways than one, people – people reach out to craft, and to the communities it makes, when they are going through life changing, and sometimes difficult, experiences. You will find true friends that way. It is a challenge, it keeps your brain ticking over, puzzling out the best way to make, and it fosters self esteem and pride in your abilities and achievements.

Something I like to do when friends are having a rough time is put together a care package for them, with little gifts I’ve picked up which remind me of them and something I’ve made for them, thinking of them while I stitch it, which will put a smile on their face and, ultimately, let them know I care. Similarly, I’ve found that others in the craft community have really reached out to me when I’ve been down, and let me know that me and my work are appreciated even when I can’t appreciate it myself. 

Craft brings people together – the word textile comes from the Latin “texere”, meaning to weave or bind; thread really does bring people together, and the world wide web, an international interwoven network of “threads”, makes it easier to reach out, and be reached – to create new crafting communities.

All these reasons for crafting, which essentially boil down to craft being good for you and craft being good for others, really sum up for me why effecting social change through craft matters. Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective, who gave a fantastic talk and workshop at the Inspiration Day, defines craftivism as "gentle activism". A quote she used in her talk was Gandhi's "Be the change you want to see in the world"; you have to start with acts of kindness and small changes for yourself before you can make change for others. If you can couple craft being good for you with craft being good for others, I reckon you're on to a winner.


Monday, 13 July 2015

The Personal is Political Potion


As you can tell from these photographs, the garden has been utterly scorched recently. The past couple of days, however, have brought some very welcome rain. This hasn't aided my mood, though; the gloom has impacted on me whilst, like the grass, I'm feeling a little burnt out.

On a happier note, on Saturday I was invited to give a drop in workshop and talk on craftivism/making for change with Craftspace in Birmingham. And so the publicity materials diaristic element of this week's potion, and its title, "The Personal Is Political Potion" came from this event. Soon I will blog all about the day as well.


The words I stitched for the potion address those feelings of gloom, or, more appropriately, dread; they say, simply "It's almost never as bad as you think". I think I will be referring to this potion often; believing these words is something I struggle with daily. Only by starting with small acts of kindness towards myself, such as thoughts like these, can I make change for others.




Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Get Your Nails Did Potion

This week's potion pays homage to Missy Elliott and her seminal track Work It. "If you a fly gal get your nails done, get a pedicure, get your hair did". Currently I can't afford to get my nails done, but I did get my hair did the other day, and between that and cleaning and tidying my bedroom from top to bottom I feel like a whole new woman. 

Due to my work rota I'm finding myself with a lot of extra time on my hands at the moment, and I tend towards thinking that when I'm not working I must be being productive, i.e. making. In the midst of doing this the other day I decided to paint my nails, and took five minutes doing something nice for myself; the entire point of #secretsofselfpreservation. It doesn't take a lot of time or effort to practice a simple act of self care, and so this week's potion reads "Self care takes a second and you don't need to 'earn it'." It is accompanied by a tiny pot of ruby slipper nail polish.







Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag ‪#‎secretsofselfpreservation‬, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Antidote to Comfort Consumerism Potion

A bit of a departure for this week's #secretsofselfpreservation, and on a slightly lighter note; this week's potion reads "Don't shop whilst sad". 

After attempting to bounce back last week, the reality of my bad news hit me a bit this week. Inadvisedly, I tried to cheer myself up by buying a new dress mid-week, only to realise it wasn't to my taste at all once I got home. 

Like comfort eating, which I am equally guilty of, comfort shopping is probably a bad idea. Better to go for a walk, make a cup of tea, have a bath; all the things I usually do as self care.







Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag ‪#‎secretsofselfpreservation‬, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Move On Up Potion

This week brought some bad news. But if there's one thing I've learned, it's to bounce back from disappointments. 

So this week's #secretsofselfpreservation potion reads "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again"; which is exactly what I've done, although I haven't had to start from the very beginning, just to think a bit more creatively. 

On the plus side (hopefully), this week I have also been applying for this year's William Morris Gallery artist's residency. Thus, to accompany the text in the potion is a snippet of possibly Morris's most famous print, "Strawberry Thief".













In the words of Fred and Ginger: