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Mental Health, Creativity, And My First Handmade Art Journal

August 22, 2019

Often I am asked where I find the time to make all of the things that I make.

It seems like a simple question, and superficially it is. In fact, the people asking probably don’t want or expect an answer, and knowing this makes me glad usually because trying to answer this coherently is just so complicated.

I’m going to try to scratch the surface though, and attempt to not be too long winded about it.

I started making things when I was very young. Making was the only way that I felt as if I had value in the world because I was good at it, and I got positive attention for the things that I created. Since I was good at making, I kept doing it. I kept drawing and learning and constantly seeking out new things to try my hand at in any capacity I could, and as a result of all this practice, I got better and better. The projects that I cooked up for myself got bigger and I made a million mistakes, but I was learning all of the time. The longer a project was, the more time I had to think about it, and to plot, and it distracted me from everything that made me upset, angry, scared, stressed and anxious.

I’ve never grown out of the plotting of new projects mindset to keep me focused away from the negative feelings about what may be going on in my life or the negative ways I may be feeling about myself. I’ve also never stopped being anxious and stressed, however now as an adult, there is often no logical reason for why I feel anxious and stressed to the sometimes debilitating degree that I do.

As a child, growing up alone in a house with a severely mentally ill parent and being constantly bullied outside the home, I developed an abnormal emotional baseline for life.  When my brain was making its hard wired connections for “normal every day survival mode” I was on high alert… and that’s basically how I’ve stayed. My brain tells me almost every minute of the day that something terrible is about to happen and I’m going to lose everything I have, and that everyone I love is in danger, and they’re going to go away, and that everyone in my life just barely tolerates me because they feel bad for me, and I have no talent, and I’m repulsive… (the list goes on and on and on)

Consciously I know that these terrible things that I am thinking all of the time aren’t true and they aren’t reasonable. All the same, I am perpetually braced for having my heart broken… or more dramatically, dying, and it’s heavy. It’s so so heavy and it’s fucking exhausting.

I have come a long way sorting out my past in my own mind and taking the time to really think about the person I’ve become because of the experiences I’ve had. Now at nearly 36 years of age I have a million coping strategies to deal with every facet of my anxiety in the many ways that it manifests, but the thing that soothes me and keeps me right more than anything is art, making and creating. Without this outlet I fall apart. It’s not just relaxing, it’s downright essential.

And bonus! I also end up with a lot of cool stuff to look back on and be proud of.

So yes, I do make a lot of stuff, but it does NOT happen overnight and it does not happen easily.

I am the wife of a brilliant, hard working man and a full time stay at home mother to two clever and mischievous children. Being a parent who is based in the home does make it easier to have access to my creative materials, however having two young humans who have a whole list of their own needs for me to tend to, and who also want to play with (destroy) my creative materials makes it nearly impossible to actually do what I want to do, when I want to do it. This leaves me in an understandably semi-perpetual state of frustration.

What I do to work around my adult/parental responsibilities is I keep myself occupied with a lot of long term, semi-complicated projects which I pick away at bit by bit over a long period of time. Once in a while several projects happen to get completed at the same time so it gives the illusion that I’ve been far more productive than I have been… and it actually feels REALLY great when that happens (for about 30 seconds)…. but it doesn’t usually mean that I’ve had loads of time to do it. In fact, typically  when I have a flurry of “productivity” it tends to mean that I’m absolutely drowning emotionally and making is how I’m keeping myself from having a complete meltdown.

so basically… if I don’t have something creative to focus on in the back of my mind at all times I can’t be the wife, or mother or person that I want to be. This is why I focus a great deal of energy on finding the time and making the time to make all of the things that I make. :)

And while we’re on the topic of making the things that I make … (less than expertly crafted segue)

This is my latest completed project, which took me over 3 weeks to finish.

My talented friend Bel really got into making junk journals within the last year. She makes some absolutely stunning books and sells them on Etsy, but they get scooped up very quickly! Anyway, she was my inspiration for attempting my own journal as I have been binding tiny books for many years, but never tried my hand at something larger.

At first it was a very beige, boring pile of paper as I dyed pages and experimented with tatting/crocheting aspects. Then after the first week of just trying to sort of match colors and textures it reminded me of the color palate in Pan’s Labyrinth, and my brain went down the rabbit hole of making it into a fan art book… I tried to talk myself out of it because I knew it would become a very consuming project but my logical self lost the argument and this is the result.

It was not easy, it made me crazy, it could be better… there are lots of things I would change or invest even more time in, but I really had to stop because for a first attempt… it’s more than adequate. In fact, I’m quite satisfied with it and I may make more books in the future.

Below I’ve included a complete (6 minute) flip through of the book which I uploaded to YouTube if anyone is interested in watching. I don’t talk about how I did any of it but I may do another with speaking in the future if it’s something people are actually interested in. I’m not convinced anyone even reads blogs anymore in favor of visual instant gratification… but that’s ok… I can do both. :)

From → Arty Crafty

  1. Your art journal is beautiful!

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