Creativity Combats Cancer

Music in my soul

As long as I can remember I have always been a “maker”. From a young age I was extremely lucky to have creativity in my life and loved doing art, music, photography, sketching and painting.

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Creativity in my hands

At the age of 6 I started to learn the piano. Very soon this became my passion in life, to the point that it was my voice. My way of creatively communicating my feelings and emotions, whilst reaching out to people. This really made me feel connected to others. This passion soon turned into a career as I trained to be a professional concert pianist. My life was heading in a very focused and passionate direction.

Like many musicians and artists I had to have a regular day job, in order to pay the bills. For me I was lucky enough that the day job was working in Edinburgh College of Art. This was brilliant as I was able to help support students and staff, in a fantastic creative environment and institution. The community was full of creative life. Everywhere you looked, from inside an office, to inside a studio. But music was still my true heart and soul.

Life Changing

However, in January 2008, aged 32, i was given one of the most challenging news, experiences and episodes of my life: I was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

At that time I had already lost a dear friend a few months earlier from a stroke. My mother was also undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Therefore, cancer was already in my daily life. This personal diagnose shook the very core of my passions, creativity, career, confidence and life. How could I tell my family, particularly since mum had only just started her own chemotherapy and other treatments. It was a harrowing few months as I came to terms with the news. I tried to support mum through her own journey as best as I could, whilst trying to find the inner strength to face the world myself.

One foot in front of the other

On 8 April 2008, after undergoing extensive surgery to remove the tumour and part of kidney, I woke up to find myself paralysed from the neck down. Arising from a stroke during the operation, caused by complications with the anaesthetic. This completely changed my world.

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Creativity changes mindset

Over the next few weeks my right hand side returned to normal but my left arm and left leg remained paralysed. After a long period of physiotherapy at a specialist residential rehab hospital in Edinburgh, I learned to adapt to my life again. Although, initially confined to a wheelchair, through amazing support from physiotherapists, I was able to start using crutches to get around, and support aids to use at home. However, it soon became apparent that I was not going to regain the full use, mobility or feelings in my left arm, fingers and leg. It was then that reality hit me.

My dreams of ever plRaying professionally again were crushed, that creative voice I had since the age of 6 was gone. I didn’t know how to creatively talk any more, it felt so isolating, like a child separated from their twin. I lived my whole life in symbiosis with the piano and music, “what would happen now”, I often thought, “can I cope”.

gift in disguise

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Creativity can surprise you

However, I am definitely someone who believes that there is a reason for everything. Sometimes that belief is challenged but more often than not, I believe events take place that force you to rethink, feel and act in ways that you may never have before. Finding an inner strength that you never new existed.

After learning how to adjust to my new life with paralysis I left the world of music completely and focused mostly on managerial positions, and coaching. I loved coaching dearly, as loved helping other people on their own journey of change, success and achievement, but I missed being personally artistic and having creativity in my hands.

creativity beckons

The decision to start making jewellery only came relatively recently. I started to suffer from more growths appearing in different parts of my body, creating further deterioration in pain and paralysis. Unfortunately, due to this, I could no longer continue working in my management job, and it was at this point I felt like I needed something for me. Something to take my mind off the pain and issues and something to connect with my love of art and crafts. I had to find a way of trying to keep the deteriorating paralysis at bay and to keep my mind positive. This started my drive to the next step in my artistic and healing journey.

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Creativity is my heart

My love of jewellery started with collecting beads, silver findings and wire, like a magpie, which made me feel like a child in a sweet shop, surrounded by lovely goodies to inspire the mind. I started to enjoy the complete organic, creative flow of making my own pieces. I also began to search for old pieces of jewellery to bring new life to, or if it was damaged, to save it and make it into something new. Firstly, it was purely just a hobby, now, it’s a way of life for me.

Rewarding

Creating something from nothing or breathing new life into jewellery that has been loved once upon a time, is the most rewarding and creatively spiritual process I have ever had.

I love creating something new. With the gentle hand, care and appreciative eye of an artist with an obsession for sparkle and shiny things. It allows me to express myself in a new way, giving me a new voice and the ability to communicate to the world again, without the piano, and without feeling restricted by disability.

Of course, there are a lot of aspects of jewellery making I find physically difficult. My ability to use my left hand is constantly deteriorating. However, where there is an emotional drive, will and passion, you will always strive to find workarounds. As I discovered, nothing can take my creativity away from me. In fact, it was creativity that helped me survive through the cancer and subsequent challenges.

My passions

What attracts me every day to jewellery is the diversity of materials and techniques that can be employed to create something that will speak to others.

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Viking Weave

My specialist areas are wire wrapping, wire crocheting, silver wire-work, Viking weave and Indian bead weaving. As well as soldering everything I can get my hands on. I love to incorporate semi precious gemstones, Swarovski elements, crystals, glass beads and pearls into my work.

One of my favourite techniques is Viking weave. It’s based on a very old wire work technique, also known as Trichinopoly Chain. It is believed to date back to 8th to 10th Centuries. When Anglo-Saxon, Celts and Norse used it for decorative purposes, such as bracelets, necklaces or trimming clothes. I produce a variety of different pieces of jewellery through this method. Using the traditional skills, and also by using different materials and wires.

Much of my creative process comes whilst sitting peacefully at home experimenting with materials or sitting in a café watching life go by. I escape into my head and an idea starts to form, time stops and then a new piece begins.

onwards and upwards

Creativity moves you forward

So, this is me, hopefully I have given you a little glimpse into the way I think, who I am, where I have come from. What next? Well, I will continue to make jewellery. Sending these little pieces of me out into the world and communicate my love of life, passion, energy and artistic view to others.

But I would love to have my own studio work space, adapted tools, exposure to new materials and continue to explore my new voice. If you would like to support me then please go to www.patreon.com/celticseajewels

Please take a look around my etsy shop – www.etsy.com/shop/celticseajewels and my Instagram.com/celticseajewels and I hope you enjoy the pieces therein as much as I have enjoyed the process of making them. New stock will be added weekly.

My story, like yours, is a work in progress…….