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THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF JOURNALING

By | Art, Lifestyle

Earlier this year, Art Mania ran some workshops on journaling. They were: journaling for creativity, journaling for organisation and journaling for welbeing. They were held at the Hunter Wetlands Centre and were a huge amount of fun. They also left us all with some incredibly useful skills and tools.

These workshops were also so popular, that we started a journaling club. We meet every second Saturday at the Wallsend studio and have continued to grow in numbers.

One of Sam’s journal spreads.

Why am I telling you about this now? Firstly because we have a creative journaling workshop running soon in August.

Secondly, because journaling offers a huge benefit to our mental health.

You don’t have to be super creative. It’s a journal just for you. A place, that if you chose, you can just dump all those silly, negative thoughts that are cluttering up your head and stopping you from getting anything done. It can be a place where you just play. This is one of my favourite things to do. I have a journal that is dedicated to play and nothing else. For me, it’s about just enjoying the process and not caring about the results. It’s a great way for me to be present. To stop worrying about what’s happened that day, or what might happen tomorrow.

Thinking about ourselves in a positive way.

You can also use it as a way to keep track of things. Money, dreams, steps walked or run, hours spent doing something nice for yourself. It can be anything. This is great if you feel calmer by feeling in control. This isn’t a way of controlling as such, but it is a way of tricking your mind to think it’s in control.

A collage of things that uplift you.

Journaling is a wonderful way to keep sane. Especially important in these times. So why not give it a try? All you need is a notebook. Or if you want a nice little starter pack, Art Mania has journal packs for sale. They are a brilliant way of getting started and can give you ideas too.

So if you’re feeling off balance by the world, or you aren’t getting that creative fix you need. Try journaling. Once you start, you won’t want to stop!

-Sam Olgilvie

A TASTE OF THE TERM TO COME

By | Art
One of the best things about a new term at Art Mania is getting to try something new. Not just for you, our students, but for the staff too. I’m so excited, I just couldn’t wait. I had to share this.
Starting on Tuesday, 13 July, we will be running Creative Tuesdays for all who want to try something new. Our wonderful mosaics teacher Dana, is busy making artist packs of different projects you can try. There are wind chimes, alcohol inks, mosaics with glass and more.
All you need to do is make your way to Art Mania on a Tuesday. Once there, make your choice of artist pack and start creating. All of the materials needed for your project will be in your pack. All the tools will be available at the studio. Best of all, you will have Art Mania’s dynamic duo, Dana and Jana, there to supervise and assist. What more can you wish for?
So add the date to your calendar and see you there. It’s going to be great! You can book here.

SKILLS I’VE LEARNED AT ART MANIA STUDIO

By | Art, Disability

In the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling with my inner critic,. Every time I’ve sat down here at my laptop and tried to put a post together, my inner critic has woken and started nagging at me, making me question everything I’ve tried to write. So this post is going to be a little different. Today I want to acknowledge the things I’ve learnt in the last eighteen months at Art Mania.

1. I have learnt that as a blind woman, I can paint.

I don’t need to see what’s going on upon the canvas. I don’t need to be able to see what I’m painting with my eyes. I can paint in my own unique way. By responding to music, painting the movement and sound. The emotions that the music brings up. I can also paint what my eyes, in my case my hands, observe. I learnt all of this by taking a chance on a suggestion from the woman who has been mentoring me this year, Ashlee. By trusting her and trying out the suggestions she gave me, I’ve discovered a skill I always thought was beyond me.

Sam standing in front of one of her paintings at an exhibition.

2. I’ve learnt to cut glass enabling me to create pieces for fusing.

I would never have thought I would be able to create pieces of art in glass. The first time I got to play with glass was in a one day workshop making wind chimes. I’ll be honest, I had no idea that part of the process would include me cutting and grinding all of the glass pieces I would need. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have booked my spot. By the time I realised what would be involved, it was two nights before the workshop and Fee was offering to provide the glass pre-cut. She never said I couldn’t do it, in fact, she encouraged me, wanted me to at least try to cut the pieces for myself. She was simply offering me an alternative if it proved too much for me.

Sam doing some glass work.

That’s when I had to prove to myself that I could do it. Even so, I didn’t expect to be regularly working with glass as I am now. That workshop was a turning point for me. I discovered skills I never thought I had, not just because of my blindness. It was more about the fragility of the glass and the viciousness of its bite if handled wrong. That day opened new ideas and possibilities in me. I started taking the weekly classes and felt like a clumsy idiot for most of my first six months. But Fee and Andrew and the other students around me encouraged me. Working with glass is now one of my favourite mediums to work with.

3. I’ve learnt how to paint with glass.

Again it was a wonderous day when Fee came back from a course in Melbourne and showed us all what could be done with glass powders. It’s like painting with butter icing and is as much about texture as colour. I love making textures of different types and thicknesses. Again, at first, I felt clumsy and like I had no chance of ever getting it right. And again, it was Fee who gently, but firmly pushed me to keep going and find the skills needed to create the pieces I am so proud of now.

4. I’ve learnt to how to use a grinder.

A couple of different grinders. And that was and is something I still get excited about, knowing I can do it.

5. I’ve learnt I can use a drill.

While doing a hebel carving workshop last year, I had to drill holes into the stone to be able to remove the excess. I still have the video a friend took of me drilling into my slab of stone. A very large piece of stone, because of course, I had to have the biggest piece. Again, as in all the other situations, Fee and Andrew never questioned my ability to achieve these goals. Rather, they gave me the support and assistance I need to complete the job.

Sam at a hebel carving workshop.

6. I’ve learnt that my hands can see as well as other people’s eyes.

It wasn’t until I made a sculpture of my last guide dog, that I learnt this. When people saw the sculpture, they knew it was Roscoe. I had expected them to be able to see it was a dog and even that it was a Labrador, but they saw Roscoe in the clay.

Jimmy with his Jimmy sculpture- made by Sam.

7. I’ve learnt to let go of the perfectionist who has stalked me all my life.

I’m not sure when or how, but I think it began when my mother told me, after I asked her about how I could possibly get it all right with my art. She told me that I should “embrace the imperfections”. This didn’t mean my work would be less. It just meant to I needed to work with what I have and embrace the uniqueness that I have and which is imprinted in all my work.

There are many other things I could write here, but I think I’ve proved my point. I would like to take this chance to say thank you to everyone wo makes up the Art Mania family. Thank you for all your support and help and encouragement and love. You have helped me find my creativity and myself.

Ashlee and Sam at one of Sam’s exhibitions.

I wanted to finish here by saying, if you have been following Art Mania on social media, but haven’t yet managed to make it as far as signing up and attending one of our classes. I hope this will help push you to take that chance. You won’t regret it and will discover a whole family you never knew you could be part of.

Motivation tips for Winter

By | Art, Lifestyle

As we enter winter, it has to be acknowledged that with the cold seeping in, our motivation seeps out.

I am the first to admit that I would much rather spend the winter months in my bed, with the heating on and several really good books.

I thought I’d investigate whether there is any advice about staying motivated in winter. Interestingly, all of the articles that came up were about fitness and staying true to your fitness routine. I have managed to come up with a few though that I think we can relate back to Art Mania and the practice of our art. So here they are and I hope they help.

Make it a goal to just make it to the studio.

I think, a lot of the time, when we aren’t feeling motivated, it’s more to do with the getting out of bed and getting ready. The effort it takes to get ourselves to the studio or wherever else we need to be. Once you’re there however, you are generally glad you made the effort. So why not make that the goal rather than the doing of the class.

Reward yourself.

If you need a little bit more of a push, try rewarding yourself in some way. Try a series of small rewards that can build up to a big reward. For example, if I go to 3 classes in a row, I can have that dress I really liked. And let’s face it, a chance to justify going shopping … well of course that’s going to motivate most of us to accept the challenge.

Make an agreement with a friend.

Agree to take it in turns to car pool to the studio. That way you have someone to share the hard part and someone else you have made a commitment to. I think we are far more likely to turn up to something, if we are going with another person. And it might just be a perfect way to take a friendly acquaintance into a friendship.

Go for a walk.

The last thing most of us want to do in winter, is have to be out in the cold longer than we have too. But it can’t be denied, the benefits of walking and producing those happy hormones. Why not try parking a little distance away from the studio and getting in a brisk walk before class. It clears out the cobwebs and could even give you some inspiration for your creations. You just never know what you might see.

Give these tips a try and I hope to see you all at the studio. If you get a chance, let me know how useful this has been!

Digital Accessibility Day

By | Disability, Lifestyle

This week on the 20th May, we celebrated Global Accessibility Day. A day to focus on the digital access world for people with disabilities.

It would be easy to assume that the digital world has made it easier to access resources, information etc for those with a disability. And in many ways it has been a big improvement. When Apple started building accessibility features into their products, it revolutionised the way various disability groups communicated with one another and the world. As a person with a vision impairment, for the first time I didn’t have to pay an extra $500 to make my phone talk and read the various screens and information.

Abstract digital image- a picture of a face with hands held together to make the shape of the face. Light is coming out from the face and a rainbow of colours striped across the image.

Similarly, until recently, to be able to use a pc, I had to pay several thousand dollars for a “text to speech” screen reader. In the last couple of years, a couple of guys who are blind themselves created a screen reading program and made it available to everyone. They only ask for a donation of however much you can afford. NVDA is the program and I love it.

Between my phone and my laptop, I have pretty good access to the digital world. The only major ongoing issue, is when material is put in electronic format as an image. Screen reading software reads text, hence the name text to speech.

If material has been uploaded as an image, my screen reader will see the page as blank.

Sam looking at the camera, wearing a black beret and dark coloured cardigan.

We have definitely come a long way. And all of this technology has made it possible for me to get work. It is because of the technology I have, that I can write these posts and other content for Art Mania. I even have software on my phone that will describe photos, scan and read hard copy printed material and help me identify products by reading the qr codes.

I still get frustrated at times. It can be exhausting having to convert materials. I do however, realise that I’m very lucky.

The digital world is making life easier and allowing me to participate even more in the everyday world.

International Women’s Day

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

Today is International Women’s day. The day to celebrate all women and our successes, achievements, our lives.

It seems very timely to me, that the opening of my first major art exhibition has fallen just before International women’s day. I know I wouldn’t have got where I am if it weren’t for the women in my life. My mother for teaching me that I can do anything I want, that my blindness is not an excuse to prevent me from achieving my goals. My best and oldest friend, Lauren, always there to lean on and to be given a good shove when I’m being negative.

Ashlee and Sam.

In the last couple of years, there has been Art Mania and the incredibly strong and talented women that have become my friends and support network. There is Bek, who makes it possible for you to read these posts, by doing the uploading and editing for me. Dana, who is always positive and a fellow dog lover. She was my first support worker at Art Mania and still helps me with many little things that I don’t know how to do. Or which I need a little help to achieve.

There is Ashlee, my friend, my support worker and my mentor.

Ash, you have given me so much confidence in myself as an artist. You have taught me so much about the artistic process as well as different kinds of art. And I know I still have more to learn from you.

Ashlee and Sam creating with resin.

There are so many incredible women working at, and taking classes at Art Mania. I won’t list you all, but you all, in different ways, have helped and supported and encouraged me. From advice on how to tackle a project. Telling me where I’ve got lost with work. And just giving me a safe place to blossom and create. I love you all and acknowledge you all as women to be proud of, lucky to know and spend time with.

Fee and Sam.

I can’t finish however, without first acknowledging one other incredible woman. And that is Fee. Mother and creater of Art Mania. My big sister and mentor. The one who praises when it’s deserved and needed. And who gives me a good push and talking to when I’m being negative and self destructive. I am a better, stronger woman thanks to you Fee. I’m in a better place mentally and I’ve found what my heart has always longed for.

Thank you too all of you at Art Mania. And here’s to all the strong, beautiful, intelligent women around the world. Happy International Women’s day.

How journaling made me organised

By | Art, Disability
When I was a child and couldn’t find my shoes or some other possession, mum would tell me that she would not always be around to find things for me. That as a person who is blind, it was even more important that I was organised and put my things away where they belong.

Every time I can’t find my shoes, my keys (the list could go on for several pages), I hear mum’s voice in my head reminding me of the importance of being organised. My brother, who lives with me will also tell you that I am constantly buying tools, storage etc to help me be more organised. I still lose track of my keys, my purse, my damn shoes. And then, my saviour arrived at Art Mania.

Well, Bek has in fact been with us for the last twelve months, or close to it. If you haven’t met her, Bek is responsible for all of the social media Art Mania puts out to keep you all informed. She also makes it possible for you to read these posts that I write. I write a blog post, email it to Bek and she does the proofing and uploading for me.

Last year, Bek came up with the brilliant idea to run a series of workshops on journaling. The first of these workshops was held on Saturday at the Hunter Wetlands. This first one, was called Journaling for Organisation.

I just knew, if there was going to be a workshop I had to do this year, it would be this one. And I was right. By following the simple structure and methods that Bek taught us, I have been able to put everything on paper and break things down. I came up with step by step strategies that leave me feeling less out of control. I felt like I could breathe again.

What’s even better is that this Saturday, the next journaling workshop takes place at the Wetlands. And a week later is the last of the three. This second workshop is journaling for creativity. I love the idea that I will be able to get all my ideas out of my head and on paper.

I don’t know about other creative people, but personally, sometimes my brain feels so full of ideas I don’t know how to untangle them.

And hey, you get to play with stationary of all kinds. So all you stationary lovers will be in heaven.

The third workshop is Journaling for well being. One of the downsides of being a creative, is that you can so wrapped up in your creations, the simple, day to day things can slip the mind and get buried in the other incidental tasks of day to day life. I know when I am creating, I don’t look after myself as well as I could, or should. I can forget to eat, miss medication. It should be such a natural, instinctual thing to do, to take care of yourself, but this isn’t always the case.

Does any of this resonate for you? If so you really should come join us for the next two Saturdays. You will have so much fun and learn some really handy stuff for dealing with life. That way you can stop worrying about the little things and have more time for the fun stuff, like creating.

 

-Sam Ogilvie

Fear and Empowerment

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

Ask any of my family or friends, and they will tell you that I have been petrified of snakes all my life. I’ve suffered with nightmares about snakes since I was around four.

A few months ago, Art Mania started a regular group art session at the Hunter Wetlands. I am a regular member of this group, and on learning that among the other wild-life, they have snakes, made me start to consider the possibility that I could overcome my fear, if I just touched a snake. A snake who is used to being man handled, and woman and child handled. The more I thought of the idea, the more I came to believe that it could help. All of these thoughts were just that, thoughts. An exercise in positive thought and creative possibilities. I don’t believe I actually intended to touch a snake. Rather, I did not at any stage believe that I would go through with the event if it ever occurred.

So given all of the above, imagine my own surprise when, around ten days before Christmas, I found myself touching a snake. I had to get pictures, because I knew nobody would believe me without them. This is what happened and how that encounter changed my life.

I’d arrived at the wetlands one morning and found a woman standing out the front of the entrance holding a snake. As I approached where she was standing, she asked if I would like to touch him. I’d always believed that if and when this moment arrived I would run screaming in the opposite direction. What I actually found myself doing was walking up to them and saying yes. His name is Kenny and he is a Children’s python. This does not mean he prefers to dine on children, but that the scientist who discovered his breed, was named Children. Kenny is eighteen months old and is a metre and a half long and around the circumference of a twenty cent coin.

I knew the belief that snakes are slimy is a myth, but I didn’t expect him to feel so soft. I stroked him with a couple of fingers at first and he allowed me to touch his head. My fear was gone, I was completely in the moment, totally focused on Kenny. His tongue on my skin was like butterfly wings. His skin like satin. Even to the point that on first contact, he felt cold like satin, but soon warmed to the heat of my skin. He moved across my hand and wrapped himself around my wrist a couple of times, just like a bracelet. At one point he was about my wrist with around thirty centimetres hanging upside-down and checking out Aimee. Aimee who stood calmly while Kenny investigated.

I could have stayed there with him forever. The touch of him was like falling into a deep pool of clear and calm water. My heart actually slowed, rather than increasing from fear. Even after he’d been taken away to impress other visitors, I could still feel him around my wrist, feel him gliding along my arm. The most amazing thing was that he broke something open in me. Some blockage I wasn’t even aware of, to my creativity. I knew I had to sculpt him and put that piece into my exhibition at the wetlands in March.

I’ve met him once since that first day. He was brought down to the room where we all create our art, so I could remind myself of what he looked and felt like. This time he slid across my arms, across my shoulders. At one point, his head and upper body was snuggled along my arm, where it formed a hollow against my ribs. He was snuggling, enjoying the warmth of my body.

Kenny the Childrens python lives behind the first viewing window, when you first walk into the entrance of the Wetlands. He’s not easy to find however, because he is nocturnal, but if you’re lucky, he’ll poke his little head out to check out who you are and to make sure he doesn’t miss anything.

Meeting Kenny has been one of the most magical experiences of my life.

I still wouldn’t want to encounter a snake out in the wild, but he has most definitely changed my attitude. Even more incredible, I’ve been told that any time I want to work on my sculpture, one of the snake handlers can bring him down for me. He apparently loves to pose for photos, so will be quite happy being immortalised in art.

I want to say thank you to everyone at the Wetlands Centre for their support. For making it possible for myself and other students to get to know and be up and close with the wildlife.

Being able to create in such a beautiful, positive environment is nourishing my soul and my creativity.

Having the chance to exhibit the resulting work, is something special and I feel honoured to be given this chance.

 

-Sam Ogilvie

Jumping into 2021

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

JUMPING INTO 2021

Welcome to 2021 and a brand new exciting year at Art Mania. Now that the year has started, it’s time to work out where each of us want to be by the end of the year. I know the tradition is to make new years resolutions, the majority of which are abandoned by mid February.

I am not a new years resolution girl. Instead, for all of my adult life, I’ve spent a portion of the last day of each year, writing goals for the coming year. I don’t always finish everything on the list, and I do make alterations and edits throughout the year. I have usually managed to complete at least half of the goals on my list by the end of the year.

This New Year’s, I did things slightly differently to my old ritual. Before I sat down to write my goals for 2021, I sat down and made a list of achievements for 2020 and things that meant a lot to me. The things I’m grateful for.

I thought I’d kick off this year’s series of posts by sharing a few things from each list with you and hope they inspire you all. So let’s get started.

What I’ve achieved and am grateful for:

1. My job at Art Mania and getting to share my journey with you all.

I don’t think any of us will remember 2020 as a great year. Covid has been a major blow from left field, but I think we should be proud that we have survived. I think we should all, as I do, be so incredibly grateful to Fee and the Art Mania team for keeping the studio open and offering a safe haven to create in and catch up with friends. I know that this had a huge impact on me and kept my mental health on the positive side.

Sam is dressed in a white top with pink embroidery. She is standing on the walkway to the Wetlands Centre. A slim, brown-scaled snake is twined around her wrist.

2. Art Mania’s teaming up with the Wetlands Centre.

This year Art Mania started running sessions for our NDIS clients and those who identify as having a disability. We had a room for two days a week for our little group and it was magical. Firstly seeing how some of our newer clients slowly come out of themselves and try different things.

We even got to meet some of the reptiles, a children’s python named Kenny, blue-tongue lizards named Russel and Nudge and a pygmy bearded water dragon. That’s right a baby version of our own Jimmy. And for me, personally, Kenny had the biggest impact upon me. I would never have believed you if you told me I would touch a snake, but I have and it’s been so empowering to overcome a fear.

3. Participating in my first ever exhibition.

Thanks to Castle Personnel’s social media person, Zoe, Art Mania had the chance to showcase the work of our students with disabilities for International Day of Disability. There were five of us and again it was an empowering moment. I knew I could create, but it still gave me that huge boost knowing that people were coming to see my work. I also sold my first piece of art. I don’t know who it was who brought my painting, but if you’re reading this, thank you so very much.

Sam, dressed in an orange top and navy jacket, standing in front of her painting at the exhibition. It is a large canvas, the background is a mix of green, yellow and blue, with large white circles over the top, with yellow and orange circles inside it.

These are my top three and I promise to expand on at least one of these in the next weeks (but you’ll have to keep reading posts to find out which it will be.). So on to the goals for this year.

My Top Three Goals for 2021

1. To become a mentor to other students with a disability who join the Art Mania team.

We have been working on setting up a program for NDIS clients that enables them to come and join the Art Mania family and create art. On top of this, for those who are interested, we are offering a business support program, so we can learn how to set ourselves up and sell our art. And part of all of this, is giving the more established students the chance to support the new ones. I’m so excited and could rave about this program for pages, but I will save that for a future post.

2. To participate in my second exhibition.

In two months, well probably more like six/seven weeks, I am having my work exhibited at the wetlands. This has been one of the great things about the sessions at the wetlands. I love nature and this is the perfect excuse to submerge myself in the natural world and be inspired by it and all the incredible creatures that live there.

3. My third goal is to get out into the world, particularly the natural world with my beautiful girl Aimee.

I know this will give me back the confidence I lost when I lost my boy Roscoe. I also know it will be more inspiration for my art. And I really hope you will all follow my journey and keep reading my posts.

This brings me to one last item I’m grateful for, and that’s all of you who read my posts. It really means a lot to me that you do, and I’m so grateful for all of your support. Please keep reading.

 

 

 

ART AS VOICE

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

I am naturally an introvert and have a tendency to be shy. At high school I was bullied by the other students and made to feel that it was dangerous to excel at anything or to speak up, especially not to speak up for myself. I was an easy target. We all know that teenagers will focus their intimidation and humiliation on those they perceive as different and/or weak.

As a teenager with a vision impairment, I was a perfect target.

At school, I developed ways to be small and silent and unnoticed. When it came to choosing electives, I made sure to stay out of the classes my primary tormenter took. The one class I took that didn’t follow these rules was art. Several of the girls who liked to make my life hell were in my art class.

In year eight, my art teacher didn’t even want me in her class. She believed that someone who was blind could not do art.

I spent most of the first half of the school year turning up for class and sitting, being ignored by the teacher, being made to feel invisible.

That teacher left and I stayed in the class with a new teacher. Mrs Kaminsky made sure I could participate in the class. She introduced me to oil pastels and showed me how to shade and blend and create pictures where others painted. She helped me hone and build on the sculpting skills I’d started developing in primary school. She gave me a way to have a voice. It was this class that kept me sane throughout school.

Mrs Kaminsky encouraged and nurtured my artistic voice by believing in me and encouraging me. 

Years later, coming back to art has given me back the voice I thought I’d lost forever.

When I can’t untangle my thoughts, I paint out the knots and snarls.

It is a physical thing, the movement of my hand, arm and body loosens the threads. The threads then have room and space to weave themselves into order.

When I paint out these tangles I feel my breath changes, my thoughts, that started the session as a pile of scattered and like leaves before a storm. These thoughts start to slow, to shift and eventually make sense again. I can paint out the problem and give me back my voice.

My paintings and sketches tell the stories I can’t get out in words. The stories that frighten me. That are too full of emotion that I’m afraid if I start speaking, they will explode and drown me.

I can be brave in my art, when I can’t be in the rest of my life. When I create, I am centred and present. Most importantly, I’ve got the strength and confidence to give voice to my experiences. The knowledge that my work is never going to be perfect, but will be uniquely mine, has quietened the perfectionist inside me. By taking away that fear of not being perfect, I can speak and share what’s inside me.

Art is my meditation and my voice.

-Sam Ogilvie