Mental Health and Creativity #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone. For my letter M post in the #AtoZChallenge, I’d like to talk about mental health as it affects my creativity and vice versa. There’s a common stereotype, and it isn’t entirely untrue or so I’ve heard, that people with severe mental illness are also often particularly creative. At the same time, autistics are commonly thought of as especially unimaginative. Now I indeed don’t have the most vivid imagination, but I wouldn’t say I have aphantasia (the inability to form mental images) either. I wish I were more imaginative and able to create things in my mind’s eye than I am though.

Anyway, my mental health is interconnected to my creativity in that, when I am depressed, I cannot usually put the effort into doing anything creative. For years while in the mental hospital, I struggled to write even one blog post a week. Now that I’m more stable, I at least find myself able to write almost daily. Still, I notice that my crafting ebbs and flows with my mood.

I also experience a huge flow of ideas sometimes, but am not always able to put them into action. For example, I have been wanting to craft a polymer clay squirrel for weeks and did indeed mix the colors I wanted to use for it, but I haven’t actually gotten down to starting on the sculpture itself.

Due to my autistic obsessiveness, I can perseverate about a particular aspect of my craft for a while, then lose interest completely. Some autistics have special interests that last for years or even a lifetime. I don’t. In my case, I am really lucky that I still enjoy polymer clay pretty much everyday nine months after having started the hobby. I do tend to change which aspect of it I’m most interested in though. Right now, of course, it’s mixing colors.

My creativity impacts my mental health in a positive way, in that I find in it a means of distracting myself from my anxious or depressing thoughts. When I accomplish something in the area of my creativity, it is a true mood booster. Conversely, of course, when I experience frustration while crafting, it can have a negative effect on my mental health.

Poem: Take Shelter

It’s safe here,
guarded.
You can cuddle up.

It’s cozy here,
comfortable.
You can be secure.

Nightie-night.
Close your eyes.
You can rest now.

I hope you sleep well,
taking shelter
in the abyss.


This poem was inspired by one of the prompts in Reena’s Xploration Challenge #226. This week, Reena gives us a series of book title suggestions as inspirations for our post. I decided to use the first one as inspiration for this poem. I am also joining dVerse’s OLN, as well as Friday Writings #22. I didn’t quite understand the optional prompt for this week and the part about reusing words to craft a piece that’s of higher quality than the original, feels a bit, well, paradoxical to me. After all, I’m pretty sure I screwed up the original intent of that book title generator quite badly with this poem, but oh well.

Lessons I Learned While Working With Polymer Clay #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to the letter L post in my #AtoZChallenge on creative self-discovery and self-expression. Today, I want to talk about things I learned along the way during my creative process. I am going to limit myself to polymer clay this time, as there’s so much I’ve learned.

My very first polymer clay creation was done after a blog post I’d found, but the blogger wasn’t specifically focused on polymer clay or even crafting in general. Maybe because of that, her skill level was quite basic. This was good for me, as I could easily follow the steps to creating my first project. It was a flower that I’d rolled out using a wooden rolling pin, cut out using a cookie cutter and then stuck a blob of clay onto as its center. I stuck a thick crochet needle through it to make a hole. When it was baked, I colored around the edges of the center with a sharpie.

There are so many things I did wrong with that one. First, I used a wooden rolling pin. I quite quickly found out that wood absorbs some components of polymer clay and, for this reason, wooden tools shouldn’t be used. I should have used an acrylic roller. Or, better yet, a pasta machine. Honestly, even though I do still have an acrylic roller, I hardly ever use it for rolling out sheets of clay now.

Then, the blob of clay. My flower center was raised and I had no way of preventing that at the time. Now, I can roll out my clay on a thin setting on my pasta machine, then cut out the desired shape for the center and put it onto the flower and, if I want to, give it a roll with my acrylic roller. To be honest, I haven’t tested that process recently.

Then, the hole. I eventually decided to buy bead piercing pins to be able to pierce thinner holes into polymer clay pieces that needed holes. Getting the holes in without distortion was quite the learning curve and I still honestly cannot do it myself. I can instruct my staff, but they have to do the actual twisting of the bead piercing pin.

Finally, the sharpie. Sharpie ink reacts with polymer clay or so I’ve heard. My piece is fine so far (I still have it because it was my first creation), but I did eventually decide not to use sharpies on polymer clay anymore.

After this one project came many more failed projects from which I learned one or more lessons. For example, I at one point used cheap glitter glue to cover my baked polymer clay piece. Well, that wouldn’t stick. Instead, I now add glitter to the raw clay just before baking my piece. Please note that you cannot run polymer clay that you’ve added glitter or mica or anything to through your pasta machine. At best, it will create a mess and at worst, it will ruin your pasta machine.

Finally, of course, I’m currently learning about colors and color mixing. Just yesterday, I downloaded a book off Bookshare about color mixing specifically for polymer clay artists. I think I’ll love it!

Learning to Swim

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is “learning to swim”. There are no specific questions, but we are allowed to interpret the topic as we see fit. Here goes.

I got my first swimming lessons at the special school for the visually impaired I attended from first up to third grade. I, however, was very scared of the water and particularly of the deeper end. I vividly remember my teacher taking me to the deep end and my anxiously asking her if she could stand there. She was quite tall, but even so, she couldn’t. That scared me intensely.

According to my parents, my teachers were just overprotective, so my parents put me in swimming lessons at the pool close by their home. I didn’t need to start at the really shallow end, as I had had some swimming experience already, but could start at the 90cm deep second pool. Within a week, I was moved to the 110cm deep third pool, even though I think I protested.

It took me several more years before I earned my first swimming diploma. This first diploma at the time required students to be able to do breaststroke and backstroke, to swim one pool length with loose-fitting clothing, to tread water, etc., but it did not require students to swim underwater.

By the time I got my diploma, I had transferred to another school for the blind, where I had once again been put into the relatively shallow pool. I proudly showed my teachers my swimming diploma that I’d earned at home and was reluctantly transferred to the deep end.

From earning my first swimming diploma to my second, it took me only about eight months. The second diploma required students to swim 7m underwater. There was no way I could see whether I’d passed the 7m mark, so I had to guess. According to my parents, I swam about 11m.

After that, I had swimming lessons for the next three years that I was at various schools for the blind, but I never earned any more diplomas or certificates. The reason was, once again, the fact that my fear started to act up. After all, I wouldn’t swim under a mat. My parents, however, were okay with it this time. After all, my sister never moved beyond her second swimming diploma either.

I now can swim in a pool or lake. When my parents took me and my sister on vacation to Vlieland, I would also sometimes swim in the North Sea. I doubt I’d be able to save myself should I get underwater unintendedly though.

Keeping My Craft Supplies Organized #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone. For my letter K post in the #AtoZChallenge on creativity, I’m once again rather uninspired. This time, my various sources of inspiration didn’t offer any help either, so I had to be creative (no pun intended). Today, I am writing about keeping my supplies organized. I hope this is not going to get me stuck once I reach the letter O post, but oh well.

Back in the psych hospital, when I lived with my husband and in the early months in the care facility, I had all my supplies in a large, wheeled shopping bag. Then again, I only had soaping supplies at the time and I still had to go to the day center with my supplies if I wanted to do something crafty.

After a while, when COVID hit and the day center closed, I put my supplies in my kitchenette cupboard. I still have a few things in the shopping bag, I think, but I really need to clear it out.

About a year ago, staff were talking about wanting to get rid of a large storage case from the living room. I told them I may want to have it, so it got placed in my room. I can’t imagine what I’d do without it, as the thing is now packed full of all my craft supplies and other activity materials.

My craft storage

For my polymer clay specifically, I first had just a basket with a few packets of Fimo in it. Then, I bought a stash of Fimo on Facebook that came in a large tea organizer. I used that for a while for storing my polymer clay, but have now graduated to a large storage box with many compartments. I currently organize my polymer clay by color, but the box doesn’t have enough compartments to store each color in its own place. For this reason, I have, for example, the Fimo soft brilliant blue, pacific blue and peppermint in one conpartment. I did at one point still have one empty compartment, which I now use for the colors I’ve mixed myself.

My polymer clay storage box

I still have a lot of my polymer clay supplies in other places too. For example, the tea organizer now houses my cutters, at least, most of them.

In addition to the polymer clay box, I have several more boxes for jewelry-making supplies. I still have one largely-unused box, but already have a plan for it, as my day activities staff is going to order large quantities of my most-used polymer clay colors for me and those won’t fit in the other storage box compartments.

I guess I could easily say I hoard crafting supplies and, to be honest, I need to do some clearing out soon. Not of the polymer clay though, as I still use that. Thankfully, polymer clay also doesn’t really expire, so even if I were to get tired of it, there’s no reason I should be throwing it out.

Jewelry-Making #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone. Welcome to my letter J post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I want to share about one of my crafty hobbies once again, because I thought it’d be an interesting distraction from the more philosophical musings. Besides, I just didn’t have another topic for this letter, ha.

I made my first pieces of jewelry back in the psych hospital in like 2014 or 2015. Back then, I bought quite expensive beads, such as gemstone beads, even though I could only make basic necklaces and bracelets. That is, I did make one necklace with three different wires, but I needed a lot of help with it.

Then, after a while, I stopped making jewelry, because I just needed too much help with it and couldn’t really produce the quality I liked. I restarted about a year ago. This time, the first beads I bought, were simple acrylic beads that weren’t too expensive or precious. I did try to go for shapes I liked, such as butterflies. I also at one point bought a collection of 90 silver-colored, plastic charms for €5,95.

For my birthday last year, I got a surprise package of jewelry-making supplies from a store local to my parents. In this package were a lot of glass beads, which I loved. Thus came back my love of creating glass and actual metal jewelry.

Because most of my glass beads are irregularly shaped, I at first struggled to get each side of the necklace, with the charm or pendant in the middle, equally long. To solve this, I got myself a beading board to be able to count out the length of each side of the necklace. My best glass beaded necklace is one I created about two months ago using this board as a guide.

I also like to make my own beads and jewelry out of polymer clay. I created one pair of earrings back in the early days of my polymer clay journey, but glued the earring posts to the polymer clay using generic jewelry glue. Now some people do use E6000, but even that’s generally recommended against for polymer clay. The best way to attach polymer clay earrings to their posts is to cover the posts in an additional layer of polymer clay. If you want or need to use glue anyway, choose a brand of superglue gel, such as Gorilla or Loctite. I had my staff glue the below brooch to its pin using Gorilla superglue.

Identity: Who Am I As a Creative? #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter I post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I want to talk about my creative identity. Well, I’ve been talking about that for most of this challenge already, so this may get a little repetitive. I’m trying not to make it that way. So, who am I as a creative?

Of course, I could start by what I do. With respect to writing, I am a blogger who writes primarily about her personal experiences. In the crafting area, I am a polymer clay hobbyist. I make all sorts of things out of polymer clay, from all kinds of jewelry, such as beads, charms and earrings to sculptures. The only thing I do not make are miniatures, because I’m cluless about scale. However, the thing I love making most are sculptures, especially unicorns.

In addition to what I do, I could share the social roles that creating allows me to have. For example, being a blogger allows me to be part of the blogosphere. With respect to polymer clay, like I said before, I haven’t yet found such a community outside of Facebook.

Lastly, I could share about the higher pursuits I achieve by being a creative. For example, I make other people happy when I give them a handmade gift that I crafted myself. I also find meaning in the creative process itself, in that it provides me something to do on a daily basis that I can be proud of.

Since I dabble in many creative hobbies, not just blogging and polymer clay, I struggle to find a clear identity as a creative. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

I also haven’t yet found a style that is clearly mine in my polymer clay, with the exception of unicorn sculpting. As such, I often walk the fine line between copying work I find in online tutorials and being inspired by it. With respect to my unicorns, I think I can safely say they are mine, not a copy of something I found in a tutorial. In fact, even with the first one I created, though it was based on a tutorial, I purposefully changed some things to suit my own style.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (April 10, 2022)

Hi everyone! I’m joining #WeekendCoffeeShare today. I just had a soft drink and a glass of water, but if you’d like a cup of coffee or tea, I’m pretty sure my staff can make you one too. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that a fellow client passed away on Wednesday. He had had COVID back in February, like most of us, but he didn’t fully recover. This client had been hospitalized several times during December and January because of seizures, but these finally seemed to be well under control. Unfortunately, COVID was the last straw. He had been on a feeding pump ever since he’d had COVID, but because he became increasingly uncomfortable and unresponsive, the doctor and staff decided to discontinue his feedings on Monday. I last saw him alive Monday evening. He actually lifted up his body, smiled and squealed with delight upon hearing my voice. I made the conscious decision, having already been informed that he’d be dying soon, to keep this memory as my last memory of him while alive.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I finally managed to craft another butterfly with the silicone mold I’d gotten for Christmas last December. I badly wanted to create a butterfly to go with the fellow client’s coffin, but wasn’t sure whether I could use the mold. However, other tutorials seemed even more complicated, so I eventually decided to give it a try. I did the wings in Fimo Effect color blue ice quartz. The body is pacific blue and the antennae are black.

If we were having coffee, I would also tell you that I have finally given in to the polymer clay color mixing thing and bought a precision kitchen scale. That plus a collection of 60 Fimo soft color recipes. Of course, I haven’t tried Fimo professional yet, but if I have to believe my staff, the colors I’ve mixed so far turn out gorgeous despite not being done with the true primary colors.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about the nationwide cerebral palsy day I went to yesterday. Of course, because the ParaTransit taxi had arrived at 8AM and we didn’t have to pick up any other passengers along the way, I was in Apeldoorn, where the day would be held, by 9AM. Thankfully, I had called my mother-in-law when I entered the taxi and she’d made sure to be there on time too.

The day started with a live-streamed lecture by Erik Scherder, a neuroscientist from Amsterdam. The message was quite similar to the one he’d conveyed in 2018 when I’d attended the cerebral palsy day too: that exerting yourself physically is needed to stimulate your overall neurological wellbeing. In 2018, the lecture had mostly been geared towards (young) adults, while yesterday it was more focused on children and their parents.

I attended two workshops during the day. One was on aging with cerebral palsy, mostly geared towards those age 40+, so I was a little outside of the scope, but I could relate (sad as it may be) to some of the increasing discomfort that older adults with CP face. The other was a yoga class.

As regular readers of my blog might know, I am not 100% sure I even have cerebral palsy, in that my parents never told me and, by the time I was an adult, things got so overshadowed with other diagnoses it’s unclear. For this reason, I felt validated knowing that I appeared not to be the most mildly affected person, strange as this may seem. In fact, during the yoga class, we had to loosen up our muscles and my mother-in-law told me to loosen up. Someone else half-joked: “That’s about the hardest thing to tell a spastic.” That made me feel good.

How have you been?

Happiest When…: My Creativity-Related Happy List #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter H post in the #AtoZChallenge. Sorry for my being late to post. I am also a bit tired, because I had a rather intense day, so I may not elaborate as much as I normally would. For my letter H post, I once again looked to The Year of You for Creatives. One of the prompts asked us to complete the following sentence ten times: “I am happiest when I…” I decided to tweak it to: “I feel happiest when…” Of course, I am going to answer this with things related to my creativity. In my letter E post, I shared general things that give me joy about my creative work. Today, I am going to try to be more specific. I am going to try to list some things about my crafting as well as my writing. I am aiming for ten things, but if I can think of more, I won’t stop there.

1. I feel happiest when I am watching a YouTube video of a polymer clay tutorial that I think I’ll be able to follow. I have a few favorite YouTubers who provide good voiceover and/or easy-to-follow tutorials.

2. I feel happiest when I find I’m almost perfect at something after a lot of practice, such as doing the twisted mane of a unicorn.

3. I feel happiest when a difficult polymer clay project comes out of the oven better than expected.

4. I feel happiest when online window shopping for new supplies for my crafts, even if I don’t end up buying anything. I feel particularly happy when I find new shops. I recently discovered Etsy. Though I haven’t ordered physical products there because of shipping and possibly customs clearance costs, I did order some digital products there.

5. I feel happiest when I’ve decided on the perfect colors (whether they are based on a color mixing recipe or not) for a project.

6. I feel happiest when a color I’m mixing comes out of the pasta machine blending process exactly as it should.

7. I feel happiest when finally, after a lot of work, a polymer clay slab comes out of the pasta machine without air bubbles or other imperfections.

8. I feel happiest when I’ve been able to take a good photo mostly by myself rather than someone else basically snapping it for me.

9. I feel happiest when I get nice comments on Facebook when sharing my creative projects.

10. I feel happiest when I get a lot of nice comments on a blog post I’m also content about.

11. I feel happiest when showing my staff my new creations or ideas, be it my new folder of color mixing recipes, my latest polymer clay creation or a YouTube video I’d discovered and want to base a new project on.

12. I feel happiest when I can make someone else smile by giving them a handmade gift. Last Monday, I gave a fellow client at the day center a handmade necklace and matching bracelet. Granted, I’d created them a while ago and they weren’t my style, which is why I wanted to get rid of them, but she was over the moon about them.

What makes you feel happiest, creativity-related or otherwise?

Color Mixing Recipes!

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts this week asks us to write about something we collect or used to collect. Another asks us to write about something we’ve been working on this week. Yet another asks us to make one superficial wish. I am going to combine all of these and talk about color mixing recipes for polymer clay.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I am totally blind, but I did have a bit of useable vision growing up. As a result, I do still have a concept of color due to my memory of sight and also due to my synesthesia (in my case, ability to see Braille letters in color when I touch them).

As regular readers also know, my main creative hobby recently, besides blogging, is polymer clay. I love the fact that polymer clay comes in so many varieties of colors and that you can also color it with alcohol inks (which I’ve never used so far), soft pastels, acrylic paint, etc.

However, a few months ago, I discovered color mixing recipes. The vendor I impulsively bought a small collection of five recipes from, builds its recipes on four basic colors of Fimo soft: white, sunflower yellow, Indian red and brilliant blue. I immediately bought all four colors, but didn’t yet have a precision kitchen scale to be able to weigh out 0.25g, for example.

This past Sunday, I bought such a scale and also bought another collection, this time of 60 color recipes. Even though I can’t yet say I actually collect polymer clay color recipes, I would really like to.

That brings me to my superficial wish: an endless supply of free Fimo color recipes. There is an app that provides color recipes based on the colors in photos, but it’s available only on Android. Besides, one of my staff tried it yesterday and it constantly crashed. It also uses Fimo professional. Now I don’t mind that, since the advantage of Fimo professional is it actually comes in the true primary colors, such as true yellow, true magenta, etc. I would really love to be able to try to mix those colors too, as I’ve heard mixing actual true primaries creates more vivid colors than mixing fake primaries such as sunflower yellow and Indian red.

By the way, here is a blob of polymer clay in the first color I created using my new collection of color mixing recipes and my precision scale: moss green.

Of coursse, since I didn’t create anything with this color yet, it looks a bit weird, but I’ll be using it in a fall-inspired craft project I have in mind.

Since then, I’ve created two more colors, both for the fall-inspired project too: camel and burnt sienna. I have also been oohing and aahing at a ton of color recipes I would like to buy someday still. But they’re better if they don’t cost me money. So, if Mama Kat’s friendly genie would please pop by me and grant me that endless supply of free Fimo color mixing recipes, I could create all the colors I want.

Mama’s Losin’ It