The Yankee Candle Life Bomb

Sometimes Life thinks it is lighting a Yankee Candle… but really it is causing a major explosion. Oops! 

The gang on my Facebook page said they’d like to see more of my original illustrations on both UDC and Facebook. So here we go. 

This one is a bit symbolic of my life at the moment, things start okay or nice and then… boom. If there is anything that could go wrong it does. Hence the blog silence. BUT things are getting sorted slowly, which means when I’m up to writing a full blog post I’ll have lots to tell. 

Mouse stands next to a small pile of explosives. ‘Life’, a character which looks like a blue and purple ghost, is standing next to Mouse. Mouse says: “Okay Life, if we stay very very still we might be okay.” In the next image Life is holding a pink candle in a jar and a lit match.  “Yankee Candle?” Life asks. “No Life No!!!” Shouts mouse looking shocked. In the next image, after the inevitable explosion, blue and purple Life is lying on the floor looking forlorn. Mouse is standing looking at Life. Mouse says: “oh for crying out loud... let’s start again... “ Copyright Upside Down Chronicles

Thanks for reading 🐭x

Proud: Hearing Voices Exhibition

Last week I was over the moon to see the ‘Hearing Voices: Suffering, Inspiration and the Everyday’ effort myself. I have blogged before about how myself and a group of other young voice hearers created art to be displayed. In absolute honesty I was expecting hushed rooms and many glass cases; maybe with undertones of pity for us voice hearers. I was pleasantly surprised to find colour and sound and passion. Yes: it actually makes voices appear as just a part of life that some of us happen to experience. In the exhibition is tons of information and even areas where you can stand on a carpet to hear a simulation of what it is like to have voices in your head. My wonderful Learning Support Practitioner, K, managed to see the exhibition while in Durham on holiday. She said: “it makes hearing voices seem like just a part of being human”. This message is exactly what myself and the other young people had hoped to get across in our work. So what was the best bit? For me it must have been seeing the work of young people who struggle so greatly at times alongside original manuscripts of Virginia Woolf and Julian of Norwich who experienced the same. I felt pride to have my work next to creatives like Wolf and Beckett. Overwhelming pride for the project and all it encompasses for people who hear voices. Maybe, just maybe, alongside the horrific pain the experience can cause, there is a vibrance, passion and creative flare that we can share with the world or simply use to get by.

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Want to see it for yourself? The exhibition is open until the 26th of February 2017. You can find out more here.

Listen Up! Workshop #2- Pieces and Reflections

You might have seen my previous blog where I expressed my joy at going to a creative workshop especially for young voice hearers

I was absolutely over the moon to get an email saying that due to the high demand there would be one more workshop at Art Link Leeds. 

The amazing Mary Robson came prepared with canvases and mirrors to make one of the ideas from my book into a piece of art. I was (with safety precautions taken) given a mallet and some mirrors to smash. 

On the first canvas I wrote in between the glued on shards a Groucho Marx quote: “Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light”. I have always found this a really inspiring quote- no matter how damaged or cracked you get in this world, the light will still come through.

The second piece was more personal. My reflection (literally) on trauma, illness and affirmation.

“The pieces stay together because they have to. They don’t work together quite the same though. We are all still me, we just got splintered into other things too.” 

It was great to meet up with Rai, Mary and the two other participants again. Smashing mirrors was highly therapeutic; and I’ve decided it isn’t bad luck as it is for creative purposes! Next stop- the exhibition in Durham! 

A Therapist’s Socks of Mindful Colour

I can’t do mindfulness.
I just can’t.

Even the word makes my heart speed up a beat, which I’m pretty sure isn’t the idea. Therapist after therapist, nurse after nurse, have told me to practice mindfulness. Some of the more mindfully inclined therapists I have encountered made me wonder if it was actually healthy.

They would say things like:
“Don’t think about cooking tea tonight. Just think about your feet on the ground.”
“And how many doors were in the room?”
“Ask each individual muscle in your body to move for you as you are doing a task.”
“…Let the happy light rise and merge.”

I once asked a therapist, bald headed and shod conspicuously with walker’s socks and sandals, if he found that things take a very long time to do due to the slow-moving nature of his art. He chuckled and said that the world is too fast paced anyway. If mindfulness was an Olympic sport he would be on the awards podium, but to me it looked like more of a disability than a honed skill. The day to day functioning of my most ‘mindful’ therapists seemed hindered. Each one that I met seemed slower and slower on the uptake. Pauses in therapy became less reflective and more awkward. They would send me a badly typed email once a month with quotes by Ghandi. As someone who likes to be quick on the uptake, I didn’t see the ‘mindful’ way of life to be even remotely attractive. If mindfulness would make me into a slow moving technophobe with bad taste in footwear I certainly didn’t want it.

When I saw colouring books were coming in trend I was pretty pleased. I LOVED colouring when I was younger and the complex patterns of mandalas had kept me busy during my time at Heron unit. I ordered ‘The Mindfulness Colouring Book’ with my mental auto-block of anything to do with the M Word turned on. But then I fell in love with it. It was addictive filling in the lines with my thick and bright felt tips. When I am stressed colouring feels therapeutic, I just mindlessly fill in the lines. I don’t think about it but I also don’t think about anything else as I try to spread colour through the pattern. My mind doesn’t feel ‘full’, it’s emptier.

So I have got through a fair few colouring books. If you want to try it, my two favourites are The Mindfulness Colouring Book and The Art Therapy Colouring Book.

My view on mindfulness could be changing.

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Finding The Handless Toddler and His Creepy Cohort

Getting up early on a saturday isn’t usually my idea of fun, I like to laze about with catch up television and cups of tea until mid morning, but today I made an exception. I love taking pictures. I take them everywhere and of anything. I like to capture places, objects and people continuing to go about whatever they are doing. I don’t see the point in moving things around or making people pose in photographs because the picture then doesn’t depict the moment it was taken in. I would never necessarily attach the word ‘photography’ to this hobby of mine. I just bumble about and take photos as I go. ‘Photography’ is expensive lenses, knowing what macro is and being able to use dropbox. Certainly not me. But today I decided to take a chance on a student notice at college and take part in a photography project.

College took a minibus of five students, including myself, up to Ebbw Vale in Wales. This is somewhere that I had never even heard of before and had previously misread in the email as ‘Elbow Vail’. When we set off the sun was shining but as we crossed the Welsh border we found that snow was falling thick and fast. We gathered at a coffee shop where I met L from UCAN for the first time. She was a lovely lady, who very patiently explained to me what ‘Aperture’ is and how I can use it to my advantage in photographs. She also very kindly sorted out my camera which used to have a tendency of overexerting itself on the zoom button. The snow was still coming down when we left the cafe to start taking pictures.

The first place we went to was a small Owl Sanctuary at the top of a steep hill. There were two tiny wooden buildings- one with small animals in and the other with birds. Lai was very pleased to see the owl, but the pale coloured bird wasn’t so stricken with her and made a horribly loud screech. At first I was pretty nervous about taking photos. I knew that was the whole purpose of the trip but I wasn’t sure what everyone else was doing and didn’t want to seem like I was going overkill or, to another extreme, like I couldn’t be bothered. I soon settled in though, and continued my usual happy snapping of the things that I can sort of see and in the general direction of things I would like to. There was a slightly bizarre moment when the man working at the sanctuary mistook my polite ‘hello’ smile for an ‘I would like to hold an owl’ smile. I had unwittingly had the glove put on my hand and before my discomfort could be made known there was an owl walking on me. I was nervous and protested as politely as I could but he was now convinced I wanted to stroke the owl with my other hand also. Luckily at this point I was rescued by a member of staff who reiterated my point about not really wanting a large bird to sit on me and I was duly de-owled. The other building had degus, guinea pigs, smaller birds and a tortoise in. I preferred these to the owls because they all looked very sweet and I could imagine children visiting and spending ages watching them.

The owlA guinea pig behind bars

The weather turned into rain and icy winds. I was glad that I had brought my thick coat but I was still frozen. We all got back into the bus and went down to a small lake with a bridge. On a patch of waterlogged grass was a chilling set of stone statues. One of them was a huge boxing glove which in the rain cupped a small pool of water. The others were of babies and cherubs with terrifying pupil-less eyes and their skin mottled by the weather. These creepy statues reminded me of the children in Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. No one in the group knew the relevance of these statues, but I think that made them endearing in a way. It was almost as if they had placed themselves there because it was so hard to imagine the rationality behind someone picking them. I began to think up stories and meanings behind them, particularly about the sinister toddler who’s hands I imagined to have either rotted away in the welsh weather or to have always been congenitally absent. I imagined him fighting away a sleek abstract sculpture that had been originally chosen to compliment the lake, bending the metal and sending it sliding into the blackness below the water’s surface. Once the battle had been won I pictured the other statues slowly creeping into place to join the terrifying toddler; where they would remain as relics of an event that no one was aware of. I do love art that lets you think up such strange ideas.

Stone baby, which seems to have a hand coming out of its stomach. It is mottled colours of grey with pupil-less eyes.A stone Skull on a rockA stone boxing glove.A cherub with pulling a face with bloated cheeks

The handless child with a quiff and blank eyes

When we had become too cold to push down the shutters of our cameras we headed back to college. I had a lovely day despite the weather and I am so glad it was so far from the stoney faced camera clutching that I feared.

Wet branches

Lai with soaking fur

How to Make a Bubble Wrap Advent Calendar

So it is that time of the year again. Where the shops get crammed, the weather gets colder and if you hear Slade one more time things may get heated… It is also the time where we pay the most attention to the passing of time using advent calendars.

It crossed my mind the other day that there are no really interactive and tactile advent calendars. If there was such a thing it could benefit those with sensory impairments, those who don’t like/can’t have chocolate and small children who like things that ‘do’. Chocolate advent calendars are the most conventional, and there are also figurine or picture calendars which admittedly aren’t very exciting (especially to those who can’t see the pictures). By chance on the same day I was made in possession of a decent quantity of bubble wrap. Queue a creative frenzy… If you would like to make a tactile bubble wrap advent calendar read on!

  • The first thing you need to do is work out how many bubbles you can have per day. The bubble wrap I was used had large bubbles so there were six to each day.
  • Next cut away any excess bubble wrap so there are just enough bubbles for each of your 25 days- leaving one line of bubbles spare along each edge.
  • Then take your cardboard and cut it to the right size. (If you want a standing calendar you could make it in three moveable pieces and stick them together with tape).
  • After, stick onto the cardboard 25 numbered pieces of paper. These could be any colour you like but I chose neon post-it notes for high visibility and simplicity. Make sure the paper is the right size so that the correct number of bubbles fit when placed over the top. I used blue polkadot washi tape to stick them down, which gave the calendar a nice pattern.
  • Next is the trickiest part. Pop the extra line of bubbles along the edges so that they are just flat plastic. Fold them over the edges of the cardboard and stick them down to the back of the board. You should end up with a very clean looking, tight, layer of bubble wrap over the cardboard.
  • Finally decorate any spare space with christmas themed messages or images.

Every day just pop the bubbles!

Happy popping!

Scattered art supplies on the floor

Draw the numbers 1-25

The finished product is brightly coloured with the message merry christmas below.

Who Am I? Personality vs Persona.

This is a question that I have come across quite a bit recently on literary forums, psychology forums and (possibly less intellectually) twitter. Walking through Ferens Art Gallery in Hull I came across a piece of art which reminded me of this idea. The piece was by FiND3, a local day centre for autistic young people and young people with learning disabilities. Every young person, no matter what ability level, took part by painting with their fingerprints a picture which represents their lives outside of their disability. The message in this piece and the pieces around it was “yes I am different, but I am more than my disability”. The pictures were vast and varied- from trains to polka dots and it was truly a brilliant way to represent the individuality of each person who had taken part. Sometimes it is way too easy to characterise people and put them in boxes. With disabled people this is often found to be a problem and to show you have a personality aside from your disability is something you have to be assertive about. These young people broke out of their neatly labelled boxes and said “There’s more to me” and the fact that such wide varieties of likes and dislikes can be seen through their work proves that they are far more than just labels of disability.

Picture of Me pointing to a large picture which reads "Find Identity Respect". Noodle the guide dog sits below the giant canvas.

So what is personality, and what is a persona? Where does identity come into it? During my train journey home these questions began to bubble. Then this brain shattering question came up: ‘what am I?’. After some brief definitions courtesy of wikipedia:

  • persona (plural personae or personas), in the word’s everyday usage, is a social role or a character played by an actor.
  • Personality is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual.

I began to build some ideas.

Personality is something we can’t help. It is the fact that we aren’t civil when woken in the morning, the way we may be more inclined to get angry/sad/happy than others and it is the way that (most importantly) we treat others. Our personality is deeply ingrained into us and, though it can be moulded through time and training, it cannot be changed. A persona is the entire person that you wish to portray. It is the face and the attitude that you put on and show the world everyday. Though this persona may be truthful of your personality (which may have occasional flaws) most often it is different or varies from your personality’s traits. Unlike personality which is constant, your persona varies from situation to situation and can be determined by surroundings. An example of this might be that someone who has a ‘shy’ trait in their personality, may give themselves a loud and outgoing persona to use amongst friends however they may refer back to a more discreet persona when with their family.

We often create, adapt and discard personas without even thinking about it. Personas also don’t tend to vary too vastly, which is handy because it allows us to function when two social situations combine, like dinner out with your friends and family. Though personas are a creation of the mind and not the DNA like personality is, I don’t believe it should be classed as an act that is ‘put on’ or fakery. It is these personas that allow humans to be so versatile and to function with others so well. If this was left up to personality alone we would probably find it very difficult to function with anyone who didn’t share exactly the same traits as ourselves. Personas have their flaws though, and it is proven that the anonymity of the internet can bring out the worst in people. This is caused when they gain a more powerful persona online without thinking, which raises real life issues like bullying and fraud.

But what am I? And how do I know if I am seeing personalities or personas in people around me? Well, I am a sixteen year old human being who has a personality of various traits with degrees of good and bad, and I probably have a handful of personas to subconsciously use in various situations. Do I need to know more? No. My personality and personas combine to form me. I am represented by the things I do and the people I make an impact on in the world. Whether it is a smile as I cross the street or a life long friendship I am making an impact, and so is everyone else. I am an output of my environment, personality, personas, circumstances, finances and a million other improbable factors that have near impossibly come together to form one me. This is identity. My disability doesn’t dictate who I am, nor do the personas or niggling tendencies in my brain’s anatomical structures. This is why you shouldn’t care about whether you see a persona or a personality in others also, because you will find out so much more about them through a healthy and growing friendship rather than a psychological analysis. Oh and if you want to make new friends, there is nothing that kills future conversations more than asking to do a psychological analysis of someone…

What personas do you have? Do you think you are a personality, a persona or a mix of the two?