In January 2019, I decided to go along to the new Wellbeing Craft Class and also the Wellbeing Writers Group both held at the Mareel. I had previously been a regular at the Wellbeing Choir which I had really enjoyed and felt that it would be interesting just to try something new and see if it was for me!
During our dark winter Shetland nights, it is all too easy to sit in front of the fire, but I thought getting out of the house would be good for me. I felt somewhat anxious about my new adventure as I hadn’t done any Art or Crafts or any creative writing since school which was a really long time ago! Walking into a room of strangers isn’t always easy but in I went and saw friendly welcoming faces. I had always encouraged my children to do art at home and had loved exploring Art Galleries all my life but never in a million years did I ever think that I consider myself an Artist. I had a particular love for Religious Art and Stained Glass so did appreciate Art but from a distance and had also been a Trustee with Shetland Arts for three years, but I was starting on a whole new journey.
The classes were both fun and friendly. Jane Cockayne ran the craft class and was so full of enthusiasm you couldn’t help but get caught up in it all. I became a regular without any hesitation at all. We did all sorts of crafts – needle felting, lino printing, crotchet, painting, macrame and much more. Jane was always interested in what we wanted to try our hand at and we all learnt so much from her. In Genny Whyte’s writing group, we became a very supportive group really quickly and explored all sorts of writing exercises to help us feel confident about writing. She had so many ideas and was as enthusiastic about writing as Jane was about Art and Craft. We were soon sharing our poetry and prose in a safe and fun environment. Within a few months of writing, I felt confident enough to join a community based Writers group which was a bit step too, but I am still there and still loving it. Both Jane and Genny totally inspired me to express myself and although the classes both ran very separately, I soon found that my creativity at home brought them both together. It was all hugely positive for my mental health and wellbeing.
Attending these classes also gave me the confidence to start one-to-one Art Development Sessions at Gaada, a visual art workshop on Burra Isle. I discovered a love for printing – Screen printing, Intaglio printing and Risoprinting. Lockdown hit just a few months after I started at Gaada, but I continued with wellbeing classes and Gaada using Zoom. It was a success and really has got me through the whole awful Covid nightmare.
During lockdown, I painted and wrote daily and was encouraged to enter both my art into Exhibitions and also to share my writing. These two ways of expressing myself were moving forward comfortably side by side in my life. In 2019, I had performed some of my poetry and writing in the Shetland Arts’ Celebration of Shetland Writers Event. In 2020 I had a Short Story published by the Scottish Book Trust. Gaada exhibited my work on their website in Quarantzine and Wimmins Wark. They also encouraged and helped me start to enter Exhibitions. During 2020 I was approached by Jennifer Lauren, a Curator in Manchester and was signed up as a Artist for her studio. My Art was exhibited in Art Unlocked Unearthed at part of the Manchester International Festival in the early summer of 2020. In the Autumn I had some Screen prints exhibited at Intersect Chicago Art Fair and they subsequently appeared on Atsy. That was a proud moment. It was all very exciting and hard to process as it has all happened so fast.
During 2021 I have already entered work into three Exhibitions. The John Byrne Awards (this is my third entry) , the Royal Scottish Academy Annual exhibition – Open Art and thirdly, which is opening in the summer in Helsinki, Finland - Kaarisilta Birnnale Goes Green 2021. It feels great to have the confidence to do this. Over 2020 and this year I have participated in many online Art workshops and Artist talks. I am vey actively involved in many projects run on Shetland by Gaada and I am looking forward to a Solo Exhibition with Gaada in the summer.
Earlier this year I was commissioned by Shetland Arts to have my first Solo Art Exhibition at Perimeter, the contemporary outdoor exhibition space at the front of the Mareel. Doun the house has been a exciting Exhibition to work towards and combines my love for painting and writing. It has been just over two years since I first stepped into the wellbeing classes and I never thought that it would all result is a new career as a Artist and as a writer. I am indebted to many folk who have both supported and encouraged me and I certainly hold Jane and Genny high up on that list, along with Gaada and the Jennifer Lauren Gallery.
I couldn’t recommend wellbeing classes more. Even if you are just mildly curious go along when they are back up and running. You never know where they will take you, but for sure they will be fun and give you the opportunity to try something new, make new friends and will certainly improve your mental health and wellbeing. Something that everyone ought to have the opportunity to do so.