Life is too short to not live out our passions and share them with others – Jenna Hopkins, Colourful Pixie
This is the third and final blog in our series on mental health success stories. We continue to showcase six inspirational makers who have used their craft and artistic skills to manage and overcome mental health struggles.
In our previous blogs on the relationship between art and mental health, we uncovered stories of strength and beauty. This blog further highlights the benefits that art and creative outlet can have on the artisan community.
Vicky Tennick – Zappy Bath and Body
I started suffering from depression at the age of 14 and took a large overdose around the age of 22, and was in the hospital for three weeks. When I got out of hospital my step Dad said I needed a hobby and took me shopping.
We went to an art shop and I got everything I needed to start oil painting. It turns out I was a natural at this and have managed to sell a few paintings over the years.
I was once again taken to the hospital on my 25th birthday in an ambulance. I was an inpatient for three months where they told me I might be schizophrenic.
After giving birth to my daughter, they couldn’t diagnose me with postnatal depression because I had previously been psychotic. For the next 8 years, I was quite depressed and finally got diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. I carried on with my oil painting.
In 2001, I started planning my wedding with my fiance that was to take place in 2002. This got me into card making as I made all my wedding invitations myself. I made lots of cards and did some paintings. For Christmas one year my husband gave me a bath bomb making kit. I gave it a go and they were very good. He told me I should sell them. I practised making them for a few years and then decided to start selling them.
I have now made over 100 sales and progressed into some other cosmetics such as soap. I find crafts help me take my mind off things and can give me some pleasure. When you have a serious mental illness there is not much that brings you pleasure. I love making toiletries and would like to make a lot more of a variety of products.
Beckie Alley – Becky Creations
I’ve been a crafter for about four years now. It helps my mental health issues incredibly, and I’m now starting my own website to sell card bundles that I’ve made to help encourage others through their own challenges.
With uplifting sentiments and kind reminders, for example, “You are enough”, “One day at a time” and “Believe in yourself”, I believe this can make the difference to anyone and everyone’s day, especially when things are tough. It certainly did for me!
I’ve suffered from anxiety, depression and insecurities throughout most of my life, due to a number of combined issues, mostly abuse and bullying that has been carried with me into my adult life.
In 2015, my mum found lots of buttons in the back of an old box while having a clear-out, and she asked if I could do anything with them. Could I?
I had no idea! I gave it a go though. I found some super glue and some plain white cards from the same box and just played around. I was creating simple shapes and experimenting when I realised how calm my mind had become. The sense of achievement was such a boost, and I remember showing my mum and stepdad what I’d made and their faces lit up! What a feeling!
Since then, I’ve invested in quite a lot of craft products, spent hundreds of hours gaining inspiration from card makers and crafters from all over the world through YouTube, magazines and by attending craft fairs. The craft community is so friendly and welcoming, all I’ve had is additional encouragement!
During this Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve noticed so many struggling with their own mental health that it’s encouraged me to take action. Not only do I donate cards to local care homes, but I have joined a card swap group to send people happy mail, and have chosen to take the leap into selling my products. It’s hard going, and still very early days but I’m excited for the future and love waking up each morning inspired with new ideas, ready to share and uplift others.
Claire – Yorkshire Dales Crafts
I have always been a crafty person, and remember making peg dolls as young as five years old. My first venture was making clothes for my Sindy doll and making these for my local guide group to raise funds.
Then my biggest moment was when I asked my dad if I could have a bike, and to this day I cannot thank him enough for his comment – “Well if you need a bike, you will have to raise some money for it”. Determined to raise funds I made hedgehogs filled with lavender to sell to friends locally and made enough money for a bike. The rest is history!
However, back to the main story of how my crafts have helped me in my depression. I have always suffered from depression and anxiety and had two episodes of postnatal depression. I returned to crafting whilst bringing my two children up, which helped.
My most serious depression started about two years ago, where I was signed off work for a period of eight weeks. This was my darkest hour of depression, and thinking about it now brings a few tears to my eyes. I couldn’t leave the house, not even into the garden. But instead, I went into my craft room and got inside my ‘comfort bubble’.
Whilst crafting it gave me inner strength as I watched my creativity grow onto a new level. I still attended a few craft fairs to get me out, and as people didn’t know me I could hide behind the smile! The response I got from the people and customers made my depression fall into the background and slowly, in time, I began to recover and return to work.
This was fine, until last summer when the stress of my job as a School Business Manager and trying to keep up with craft fairs took its toll and had my second lot of depression. This time I made the decision to leave and hand in my notice and go full time to follow my dreams in January 2020, and turn my crafts into a full-time business.
I have had moments of sadness due to COVID-19, the lack of income from craft fairs and no support for the newly self-employed, spurred me to open a website. This has been such a lifesaver, I have had lots of orders and my business is slowly building.
Looking back to leaving my work (which I probably wouldn’t have done if I had known about COVID-19!), was my best life choice. I am so much happier, I can create every day, and my creative skills have grown.
If it hadn’t been for my crafts, I would have been in a much darker place for a longer time, it has been my lifesaver and I cannot thank my imagination enough!
I started my small Etsy shop four years after leaving university (September 2018) while working in a really negative workplace, I endured severe bullying and manipulation from the owners which was something that grew over time. I didn’t realise it was happening at the time, and it is only now when I look back I can see how bad it was and how it affected my mental health and day to day life.
Without realizing it, the owners inspired me to want to work for myself and create a happy positive space to work. They also taught me the core values of how I wanted to run my small business. The main thing was just being kind to people. I left that job in September 2019. I had no savings but being happy was more important. My little shop has really flourished since.
I love working from home with my dog Sulley and cat Boo who are the cutest little assistants! I adore drawing and using watercolours. I find creating happy, fun and colourful illustrations inspired by positivity and the intention of making people smile, gives me a sense of purpose. Being surrounded by all the happy things I make really helps my mental health on a day to day basis. I am the happiest and most content I have ever been and it’s all thanks to creating artwork.
Jenna Hopkins – Colourful Pixie
I know now that the people you let in your life can change your life drastically, but back then- I let someone in that only brought me down. I spent longer than anyone should in an abusive relationship, but I’d had enough – and it took going away physically to escape. And thank god I did!
This running-away from a bad relationship led me to my wonderful husband (and best friend) Miles, and with his love and inﬂuence- my life seemed to have been improving! We moved in together, and I passed my pharmacy exams. I was ﬁnally happy.
One year into our relationship I found out I was pregnant. With all the love I have for my daughter, having her was very diﬃcult for me, and right after she was born, I suﬀered from postnatal depression. This dark time in my life brought me back to art, as a way of healing, of focusing on colours and the beauty of the world, as a way of getting better! I felt as if creating a painting and that was connecting me with my humanity again.
Even though art helped me a lot, a young couple raising a child requires certain ﬁnances, especially a baby! With that in mind, I left art behind and returned to work. Three years later, my son was born and my beautiful family was certainly complete!
I never thought I’d be going back to art, but now, that my kids are both in primary school, my husband encouraged me to continue painting and creating in my spare time after work, and not only that- but to create a business from my passion!
I believe that if you truly want something, if you really have a dream in your heart- you can make it happen! And I hope this art business will take oﬀ – for me to do what I love full time, and for my children- to make them proud and inspire them to follow their own passions in life. Life is too short to not live out our passions and share them with others.
Jessica Sadler – Looking for Rainbows
I struggle with depression and anxiety. My first diagnosis was in 2018 when I was in a very bad place, I gradually improved and stopped taking my medication in June last year. However early this year I felt like I wasn’t coping and recognised a lot of the worrying feelings and behaviours returning. So I am now back on the citalopram and doing a lot better.
Since my first diagnosis, I have been looking at alternative ways to manage my symptoms and boost my mood. I went out of my comfort zone last year and I signed up for a short evening course at my local college called “an introduction to holistic therapies”. Here, I learned the basics of aromatherapy and I really enjoyed learning about all of the essential oils.
I find it soothing to make different blends of oils and my room smells incredible when I’m creating new blends. I’m currently studying for a diploma in essential oils and I’m finding it fascinating.
The mental health self-care box that I designed was really a labour of love for a friend of mine. We work in the same office and have a lot in common especially with our mental health issues. One lunchtime we went for a walk and had a long chat, she was feeling very low and there was nothing I could do to help. I wanted to get her a little something to cheer her up a little and when we got back to the office I started looking on the internet for the perfect gift.
I wasn’t wanting to get her flowers because then everyone would ask her who bought the flowers and why and she might not want to talk about it with everyone who passes her desk. She loves all things holistic too, so I was looking for a small gift that incorporated a few nice little things like an essential oil roller and a crystal and maybe a cute little card to remind her how loved she was every time she looked at it.
Could I find anything?
I decided to make her up a special little box filled with things to help her through bad days. Then I thought that if I was looking for a gift for someone having a bad time with their mental health then there must be plenty of other people also looking for the perfect gift so my “umbrella” box was released to the world on 11th May this year.
I was so nervous to share it with everyone but the responses I have had have been amazing! I’ve been in tears reading some of the lovely reviews and messages that I have had from customers!
It brings me so much joy when I am packaging up a gift for someone knowing that they are so loved and supported by the person who bought it for them.
Join Our Community
These are just a few stories about how art and craft can have a profound impact on mental health. At Artisarny Co., we prioritize the maker community and have grown a supportive network of artists, artisans and makers alike.
To find out more about how to join our community, you can contact us.
We’ve also launched our online shop which gives makers an opportunity to sell their creations under a fair and transparent sale structure. You can browse our online shop here.