Crafting, Drawing, Knitting, Thoughts, Work In Progress

My Maker’s Year

Penguin in Progress

Knitting

In thinking about what to prioritise creatively for the year ahead, I’ve been particularly inspired by Kate of A Playful Day . Her project for 2016, The Maker’s Year, first caught my attention on instagram. Her goals include time to reflect on all aspects of daily making, and what I connected with especially was her phrase, “in a way the nourishes, not weighs down.”

This really strikes a chord with what I’ve really been grappling with personally for the last year or so. I chose my particular direction in life because I delight in making things, and yet so often I feel pressures and burdens that make it anything but fun. Most often, those pressures and burdens are self-induced.

One example of this is the idea I’ve held that I need to ‘be professional’, since my book Lighter Than My Shadow was published. You have no idea how much this nonsense has held me back. Another aspect of Kate’s Maker’s Year, which you can read about on her blog, is that it’s “not about driving further divisions between the words making, crafting or art but instead allowing a simple act of creativity the room to grow without hangup or uncertainty.” For me, that means not about sidelining certain aspects of my creativity because I’m worried they don’t fit. I’m seeking a sustainable way forward that feels more whole and honest, for my work’s sake and especially for my mental health.

Recovery is...

What does this mean in practical terms? Well let’s take knitting. I have knitted since I was about seven years old, but I really took to it about two years ago. In the aftermath of Lighter Than My Shadow’s publication, I relocated from Bristol, left my therapist of eight years and was not in a good place mental health wise. Knitting became a powerful resource in those months, and has remained so, but something else has also happened: I have become obsessed. I knit every day, I think about it almost constantly. When I visit a new city, it’s to the yarn shop I gravitate first, before the comic shop. I can no longer deny what an important part of my creative life this craft is becoming. Until now, I’ve held back on blogging about it because I’ve worried that it doesn’t ‘fit’ with my identity as an illustrator. But is that creative identity even appropriate any more?

Things I made in 2015

The more I think about the Maker’s Year, the more I relish the opportunity to acknowledge and respect these other aspects of creativity. Last year I learned to sew garments, a craft I’m really excited to explore more. I made toys, something that I featured often in early issues of The Green Bean but have not revisited since. I also learned how to tat lace, and how to weave. And what about the daily, small acts of creativity that are so easily taken for granted? The food I prepare, the decoration and care of our home? Why shouldn’t my blog also honour these things?

So thanks, Kate, for the wonderful idea and inspiration. I’m excited to explore what 2016 #themakersyear brings, and to learn from what it brings for others too.

 

 

Thoughts

Balance

autumn woods

It’s a crisp and bright autumn morning. I have a steaming cup of ginger and lemon in my hand, and an ever-more-contented little dog curled up at my feet. I am wondering what to write.

I actually have a collection of half-written blog posts I could choose from: about the medieval dress I made, about what’s on my drawing table, or in my knitting bag, or in my brain. But like these creative projects, blog posts also sit unfinished a lot longer than they used to in these days of learning about balance.

blackberries

As always, the right blog to post is the honest one. Those are always more juicy to write and, I suspect, more satisfying to read. I am challenged at the moment to accept the limitations of a 24 hour day, during which I also want to eat, sleep, rest and look after my family. This is new. I have never, ever prioritised these things, anything, above work. I have always treated myself, my creativity, as a machine, cracking the whip to get things done without regard for sanity or health.

Now I am choosing to do things differently, but it’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t quite flow yet. The going does not feel smooth because this is territory I don’t know. I am used to finishing things. I am used to cycles of euphoric exertion followed by a crash and burn. I have spent the last eight years in an aggrandised version of that, from which I’m still emerging. Emerging with the question: can I do things differently?

What would it be like to have a working pattern that is sustainable? Is it possible? How do I explore and honour creativity as a gift, not an obligation? Can I use it in a way that nurtures rather than exploits my body, my mind and my family?

When people ask what I’m working on, these questions are my answer.

Painting, Thoughts, Typography

Recovery is…?

Last week it was Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and I was thinking about recovery and what a misunderstood process it can be. My own recovery began almost 14 years ago, at which point I thought it was only about weight restoration (ha!). At various points in the years since, I’ve considered my time in recovery to be over, and while in some ways that’s true, in other ways it really, really isn’t. So I got to thinking about how I’d define recovery now, 14 years into the process, and put some of my thoughts down on paper. It’s worth saying that this is a very personal piece of work which you may or may not find fits with your experience – and I’d be interested to hear thoughts on that. Heck, in another 14 years I’ll probably have a totally new perspective again and laugh at this. But for now, in this moment at least, this is what recovery means to me…

Recovery Is

 

Thoughts

In At The Deep End

In At The Deep End

It is many months since I last blogged, almost a year since I blogged with a frequency you could perhaps generously describe as regular. It’s not as though I have nothing to blog about: 2014 saw me travel to the USA and Bangladesh where I taught my first workshops with eating disorder units and in schools. I had my first article published in a magazine. I rediscovered my love of craft, advancing my knitting skills beyond my wildest dreams and took my first tentative steps in crochet. I published my favourite ever issue of The Green Bean.

But 2014 was also unkind to my mental health. I will try to write about that soon, but for the time being things seem better. I am surfacing after months underwater.

As I’ve returned to (art)work, I’ve felt overwhelmed and hopelessly behind. The more time passed since I last blogged, the greater the pressure on that first post. It wanted it to be spectacular, attention-grabbing, and make up for all the time that was lost. The expectation grew and I was never able to meet it so I wrote nothing, thinking perhaps I’d feel more up to it another time. Time passed. Writing that first post got harder still.

Until I remembered my work has always been about being honest. Instead of lumbering myself with expectations, trying to plan out weeks’ worth of exciting content and pretend no time has passed, it seems both logical and infinitely more achievable to begin right where I am. Excited, yes. I have lots of news to share and ideas in the cooking pot. But nervous too, and struggling still with the bit of me that always wants to do everything, everything, perfectly and right now. I am protesting by writing a blog post that shares how it is, rather than pretending it’s all how I want it to be.

And I intend to continue in this manner.