A stand with smaller models in a big, modern, space. Listen up project information is behind the stand.

Artwork at The Hearing Voices World Congress in Boston USA.

Last week, completely out of the blue, I found out that mine and the other Listen Up! participants’ artworks had travelled all the way to the Hearing Voices World Congress in Boston USA! The work was exhibited there to an audience of delegates from all over the world.

It is exactly a year since I created the mirror pieces that are very personal to me. It feels so strange that the work that means so much to me and my past has been to a country I only ever see on television. Pride doesn’t do the feeling justice, it’s more a sense of complete awe that it has made it all the way over there.

I received lots of lovely tweets and messages from delegates viewing my work which really put a smile on my face. Again thank you to the Hearing Voices DU team and @literarti who went out with the pieces.

SEE MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT HERE

More blogs from the project can be found here.

A stand with smaller models in a big, modern, space. Listen up project information is behind the stand. The work on easles in silhouette in front of a floor to ceiling window. There s a woman looking at the pieces also in silhouette.

Two of my pieces, the smashed mirrors, in a row of works on golden easels.

Christmas and New Year

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my lovely followers! It has been a hectic but mostly happy year for me. Here are some drawings inspired by the season that I’ve been working on. Next year my hope is to share on this blog more often. Please note that this site is now ‘imogen-creates.com‘. I changed it because over the last year I have branched out into other art forms hence why my old site name didn’t really fit anymore.

Anywho, I hope 2017 brings you good things.

Imogen xxx

A mouse wearing a piny is perched on a chair trying to put a star on top of the Christmas treeMice sit around tables at a Christmas cafe. There is a mouse waiter holding a tray. There is snow outside. babies at highchairs.A mouse family. Mum and dad looking proudly as small, chubby, child mouse holds a traditional christingle.A mouse nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, wise men and a Shepard.

Proud: Seeing The Hearing Voices Exhibition for the first time.

Last week I was over the moon to see the ‘Hearing Voices: Suffering, Inspiration and the Everyday’ exhibition for myself. I have blogged before about how myself and a group of other young voice hearers created art to be displayed for the groundbreaking exhibition. 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. The displays actually make voices appear to the public as just a part of life that some of us experience. Far from the freak show or pity parade I feared. In the exhibition is tons of information- even areas where you can stand on a carpet to hear a simulation of having 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 greats like Virginia Woolf and Julian of Norwich who experienced similar. I felt pride to have my work next to creatives like Wolf and Beckett. I have overwhelming pride for the project and all it encompasses for people who hear voices. Maybe, just maybe, alongside the horrific pain voices 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.

This post was originally shared on the Upside Down Chronicles.

“Young People Hearing Voices; Suffering, Inspiration and the Everyday.” – Weekend in Durham

After meeting twice to create artwork in Leeds it was time to meet the project participants from other parts of the north. We gathered in Durham to finish our pieces ready for exhibition. We met in Palace Green Library near Durham Cathedral, which is where our work will be exhibited in November. As with previous workshops the space that the facilitators created felt very safe and relaxed. We had all the art supplies you could dream of, and were also able to discuss how we wished our work to be displayed in the exhibition. Quickly a lot of us became close, and we all felt the palpable sense of having shared experiences with one another. The two days flew by.

Sculptures, posters, paintings, figurines and mixed media images were made as seen below. Now we just wait for November and the exhibition opening!


Thank you so much to the Wellcome Trust and Hearing the Voice for giving time and space to simply be.

The finished pieces and more will be on exhibition from the 5th of November at Palace Green Library, Durham University.

A Creative Workshop for Young People Who Hear Voices and See Visions

I have been on a mission to find other people, particularly young people, who see visions and hear voices like I do. It was while googling for voice hearing and the arts that I came across Hearing the Voice. It just happened that in browsing the site I found that they have been running workshops in order to create an art exhibition called “Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration, and the everyday” at Durham University. They are aiming to create two cases for the exhibition- one of young people’s experiences of voice hearing and vision seeing and another of what young people would like others to know about these experiences. All of this will be portrayed through the arts.

So to Leeds I went and (joyously dodging roadworks) I arrived at Artlink. The two co-ordinators were lovely ladies; Mary Robson (a creative facilitator) and Rai Waddington (who has experience of voice hearing and provides training on the subject). There were also two other young participants and, funnily enough, one had travelled all the way from my home city! The other two girls had also been to the workshop previous but were incredibly welcoming. The group started with a discussion on what hearing voices is like and the unhelpful things people have said to us as voice hearers in the past. The notes speak for themselves.

What really stuck out to me during this discussion was how little people understand us. How we are constantly having to explain ourselves or even defend ourselves. Whether it is an underestimation of our ability, a snide comment or an off hand ‘suggestion’- people’s responses can really hurt. To talk to strangers who experience the same as me was amazing and hearing someone else say that they know what it is like for reality to not make sense at all sometimes was extremely validating. To meet complete strangers yet share such personal experiences is a very powerful thing.

I believe arts can change everything for people with mental health problems and I believe it fiercely. This belief grew when I saw the things people had produced when given the materials. Mary provided everything under the sun you could possibly need in a creative flurry- wooden boxes to decorate, tiny blank faced cloth dolls, sharpies and stencils. We were also given a brown scrapbook each. Later Mary said: “These aren’t just books, they are time and space to create and simply be”. How true that is. The fact that this lovely book had been gifted to me by these lovely people, who know and understand that I’m this misfit person that the arts can soothe, was amazing. So for the next two hours we all worked on our books, drawing and writing poetry about our experiences.

The workshop was amazing. I could have stayed there forever and I cried several times at the pure ‘wow’ of it all. There was chance to talk to the lovely Rai 1:1 and her story is living testament to the fact that people who hear voices can still fly high. I’m likely going to meet with Mary again to turn one of the ideas in my book into a physical piece of art. Everyone in the group is planning to go and see our work at the final exhibition at Durham in September. I’m so glad that I found this project, purely by chance, in time to take part. I am however intensely aware that these opportunities are few and far between and for every person who found the workshops there are many more who did not.

We need more places like this. Places where you can be with people who understand you and who share a common interest in creating. The work we did as a group had an impact on us all and I think the session was a real game changer for me. I feel stronger than ever before that having access to the arts can help people with mental health problems. I am certainly going to find a way to fight for this for everyone who needs it.

Also Published: Upside Down Chronicles

Arty with Your Hands

I’ve never been an overly arty person. I enjoy art, but I’m not talented and I don’t do anything arty on a regular basis. Whether this defines ‘arty’ I’m not sure, but I did do GCSE art at one stage. I didn’t like it much even though I had an amazingly inclusive teacher who allowed me to explore the tactile element of art and encouraged my ‘unique perspective’ on the world. Though this was brilliant I found myself frustrated. I may not be arty but I am ambitious academically and there was something about my consistent C/D (which was stubbornly attached to my work no matter how long each piece had painstakingly taken me) that tainted the experience. It seemed no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t move up a grade to a stable pass. Once when sitting in Maths with my Teaching Assistant, waiting for the teacher to arrive, we had the discussion: “How can you grade art?”. I don’t think it is as clear cut as the stickler specifications and effort evaluations that it is made out to be in schools. How can art be evaluated fully without standing in the pupil’s brain as a tiny neurone and assessing the emotion, understanding and perspective they have on the said task? Like I said before, my teacher was amazing, but I can’t help but think that the gods of all things ‘exam’ didn’t quite have the capacity to mark my different perspective on the world. To cut a long story short, I got sick for a month or so and had to give up some subjects at school and fish drawing in art was quick to go.

I like tactile things. I can see some forms of visual art- big, bold and basic are the best bet for my peepers- but I just prefer the tactile or haptic medium. Touching art gives you a physical connection to it instead of the distance needed to admire a picture with your eyes. You can feel what the artist is aiming for and you can analyse things that you would miss if you were simply gazing. “What is the purpose of this very straight line?” or “Does this curve express deep rooted emotion?”, it gives art a whole new lease of life. I like the tactile world so much that I have a ‘bag of tricks’ filled with feely things and fiddle toys. I find that having something to fiddle with or feel has a calming affect which really helps me.

But it is only in the past few days that I have started exploring how I can make tactile art myself. I’m not a huge fan of glue and it’s sticky and slimy texture, so I was sceptical in how far I’d get. I started with the basics and did some clay work.

Picture of two pieces of brown clay. The first is rectangular with the imprint of the back of a leaf on it. Underneath in indented braille it says 'Peace'. The other piece of clay is flatter and wider with an indent of a flower and some flower buds on their stem.

This was pretty straight forward to do and I was very pleased with the results. I used flowers and leaves from the garden to roll into the clay and once I was satisfied it had been sufficiently compressed I peeled the plant away. It leaves a very clear outline on the surface of the clay and is easy to find and to trace with your fingers. I also brailled ‘Peace’ into the bottom of one of them with a skewer from the kitchen… because why not?

Today I decided that after yesterday’s success I wanted to try and get another sense involved in my arty awakening. I decided smells would be interesting to throw into the mix so I commandeered the herb rack. The kitchen being raided appears to be a common theme in my work. My first experiment was with a large pot of Paprika. I can’t ever remember tasting paprika, and being aware of it anyway, but the smell is fairly distinctive so it was a good choice.

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This was a lot of fun to do and I basically went mad on the paper. I didn’t use any tools or paintbrushes because I figured it would be better to use my hands to make something designed for ring fingers not retinas. I splodged some old water colours I had kicking about in my room to make some raised dots and added Paprika to Gesso to make an interesting beige. I thought about the smell and what colour I would link it to in my mind so I threw in some blue watercolours too. In an interesting mix of paprika and water I also seemed to create the outline of a person. I think the person is jumping a hurdle or obstacle, which gives it a nice link to my current state of post-GCSE-ness. Totally unintentional- but I’m proud of it all the same.

Picture of a page with different shades of yellow. Herbs are scattered in clumps like clouds around a raised butterfly.

I repeated this with yellow and a pot of ‘mixed herbs’. I’m not sure of the deep meaning of the yellow sky, herb clouds and watercolour butterfly yet but I’m sure I will think of something. These pictures are really tactile, still smell of herbs no matter how ambitious you are with the paint and they look pretty cool too.

When presented with tactile art people tend to be cagey with their hands, they either eye up the piece and make an instant verdict or just give a tentative swipe of their finger on the surface. There’s no need to be cautious though, because you wouldn’t control your eyes in this way if it was a poster you were being presented with. It’s fine to separate your senses for a while and just focus on each tool of your understanding one at a time. Because that is what senses are in a way, together they are a toolkit that you can use to understand anything and everything, but it is up to the individual themselves which tool in the box they prefer to use most.