Making Waves: Christiane’s journey to becoming a photographer, writer, poet, knitter and designer

Date Created: 7th Feb 2019

Knitting squares

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Aspiring multimedia artist and Artswork Creative Enterprise Programme participant Christiane shares how her creativity has helped keep her healthy on the inside this #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek2019…

Since I was old enough to understand what it was, I think I’ve always been interested in the arts world. I grew up with a dad who loves everything photography-related, and a mum who knitted me lots of baby clothes – she was a primary school teacher and she used to give me all the same creative activities to do that she would give her classes, and by all accounts I enjoyed them! There might even still be some of my drawings somewhere under the bed… It took me a bit longer to get into the things I love now, such as knitting and photography (funnily enough!), but I started discovering these things for myself when I was a child and then a young teenager – I had the grounding from my parents, and it was up to me to realise that I enjoyed them too. Now that I’m a young adult, I like to try as many different art forms as possible, while keeping up those I already love.

It’s a cliché to say that art has always been there, but it really has, and there’s something humbling about knowing it will always be there too. I love the feeling of taking inspiration from others, past and present, putting my own touch on something and then sending it back out into the world. For me it’s also a way of processing things that go on, whether externally or internally. I’ve had significant mental health problems since I was fourteen, causing me to have to leave school permanently. However, even when things have been at their most difficult I’ve always taken part in some form of creativity, either through writing, knitting or just scribbling on a bit of paper. The people around me realised that these things could bring me even a little bit of comfort, and so I was referred by CAMHS to a photography project for young people just like me. Attending the sessions was hard at first but I grew to love them, and within a year we had put on our own public exhibition, “Drawn Together By Hope”. I really enjoyed being able to share some of the photographs I’d taken and unlike in school or sometimes with friends, there was no judgement: we could express whatever we wanted through our photographs and we felt understood, not criticised. This renewed my interest in photography and I realised that I still loved the arts no matter what.

knitting in progress on a train journey

Through that photography project I found out about the Artswork Creative Enterprise Programme, which I signed up for quickly! Of course I was nervous, but I loved meeting like-minded people and always remember the first thing the group asked me when I arrived: “what’s your artform?” Barely anybody asks that apart from other artists, and it was such a joy to be able to be open about the things I love doing. Over the course of the 12 week programme I learnt about so many different forms of creativity that I hadn’t even known existed before, from both the participants and the artists running the sessions. Gaining my Silver Arts Award felt like a bonus, because I would have been happy just attending the programme and coming away with everything new that I did! For the first time I learnt about the arts in a practical way too, working on funding, budgeting, project planning and also taking responsibility for your own work. It felt tailored not only to who I am as a young person, but also as a young, aspiring professional. I know now that whatever I do in the future will be in the creative sector: my ideal job would be some sort of cross between a poet, photographer and knitwear designer! I’d like to think I’m well on the way to at least one of those… with some of the new skills that I learnt on the programme, I decided to bite the bullet and publish my first knitting pattern online. The two people who have bought it so far may well be my mother and aunt, but it’s two more people who wouldn’t otherwise have ever seen it!

I definitely think that all young people (and children, and adults, and senior citizens for that matter) should be involved in the arts somewhere. The more people take part, the more they will realise that there is more than one kind of artist, more than one way to be creative, and more than one kind of person who can enjoy the arts.  A careers adviser who visited my school once told me not to “waste my life taking pictures” because it “wouldn’t get me anywhere”. Taking pictures has done much more for me than eleven GCSEs would have done at this point, when I am 19 years old and trying to get back to normal life. I hope one day that I can have both, but for now I am more than happy with what I have: the knowledge that art has always been there for me, and always will be.

You can purchase Christiane’s knitting pattern ‘Broken Waves’ here

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For 15 – 25 yrs Mental Health and Wellbeing Work-based learning

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