Sunday, 14 January 2018

Button Up Your Memories: Dementia Friendly Books

For Christmas, I had 4 commissions for my Heartfelt Books , 2 of which touched me deeply, and have informed a new way of working. 

One client commissioned a Heartfelt book for the funeral of her niece. I found this very touching. I asked her questions and sent the poem back and for with her, until she was happy, using materials in her niece's favourite colours ... and then I was contacted by a young woman who asked if I could make a little book for her Grandmother, to help her with her memory, as her dementia meant that she was starting to become confused.

It just so happens that at the time, I was in R&D, creating a poetry book about the buttons in my late Mother in law's old tin and how each button had belonged to a different member of her family. I showed the book to the client and she asked me to make one for her. 

Only this time, I used buttons from her Grandma's tin and the poem story inside was about her family.

I am now working on a Collection of Heartfelt books to trial with the listeners and peer volunteer storytellers at Sound Memories Dementia Friendly Radio.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The gentle nuances of empathy

This week, I have been on a training course as a Creative Practitioner with the Arts Council of Wales. It was the first training course that I have been on since becoming deaf and living with 2 hearing aids, so I was a bit nervous about it. I needn't have been, it was a tremendous experience. The tutors were marvellous, the content was brilliant and the delivery was spot on. And now today, I find that I am reflecting and taking time to holistically process the experience.

It has made me realise that this new disability has given me a gift, the ability to very quickly sense the empathy levels of other human beings. As if I have been tuned into the nature of quintessence.

Quint Essentia is a latin word meaning 'fifth element' and according to Plato, the fifth element is related to health, to knowledge, the heavens, the essence of living things, that travels in great circles to create the cycles of life.

For sure, my 6th sense is awakened in terms of sensing the whole of a person in an instance, sensitive to their kindness, reassurance, understanding, acutely aware of when they are being accommodating or showing concern, their patience, tolerance of difference, the whole myriad of qualities that are the building blocks for empathy.

I found a depth of these qualities in people's auto- reactive body language, in the shine of their eyes, in their facial expression, even in a glance, a slight nod, tones of voice, speed of speech, physical positioning,  the sense of a human knowing.

And  by the same token, I found I was able to instantly to pick up when people were uncomfortable about my hearing loss, when they needed support in opening up to the qualities of empathy, that to my mind, make us beautiful human beings. 

And it has set me wondering, how do we impart the nature of empathy to those that do not express it? The most obvious answer  is that we teach empathy by embodying it, by being it. I am reflecting upon it most deeply because it is a great learning. Not only understanding the gentle nuances of empathy but how we pass these on.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Heartfelt Human Rights

The Declaration: 1948

Having started making a Collection of my Heartfelt Books to Celebrate 100 years of Votes for Women, I decided to experiment with the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Could I fit the entire Declaration into a tiny book?

The picture shown was my first sketch, if you like and I am very pleased to say that this morning, I managed to fold the smallest, longest concertina book I have ever made. I can't wait to show you it. If I get time tomorrow, I'll take a few shots. I have handwritten it and yes, I did manage to get the entire 30 sections into its little pages.

        Monica Ross: acts of memory at Platforma Festival
I have long admired the work of the late Monica Ross and her 'acts of memory' live performance art, whereby she learnt the entire Human Rights Act and performed it. It became an interactive piece with people learning and joining her in what cascaded into a mighty tour of 60 global dates. On the last night of the tour, Monica died of cancer.

Here is a link to the 'acts of memory' website where you can find advice as to how you might hold your own acts of memory event. I held an acts of memory session on International Women's Day at the University in Lampeter 2 years ago. It was very moving experience.

I love that my heartfelt books, though tiny, are able to convey such deeply important messages.

Special Thanks: to a friend who would prefer to remain anonymous. She wondered if I would be able to fit the Act into a tiny book and this led to me making a Heartfelt Book for Human Rights. And thanks to Márta Minier at The Atrium, Cardiff, who introduced me to the work of Monica Ross in one of her inspirational lessons when I was a student on the MA Drama.

100 Years of Deeds Not Words: Celebrating The Suffragettes

I have started Research for a new Collection of my Heartfelt Books entitled 'Deeds Not Words'. 

The tiny heartfelt books will contain the names of suffragettes, thanking them for their determination and strength in securing Votes for Women which feels very important in 2018, given that it is 100 years since the first voting. Then, on my website, I will write about each of the women listed in the tiny book.

I am making tiny little felt wallets for the books from the colours of the suffrage ribbons and sewing them with some 1940's stocking yarn that I found in my late Mother in Law's sewing box.

I am not sure what I will do with the finished books, it just feels important to make them and I am certain the Universe will sort out what happens to them next, though hopefully they will be ready for International Women's Day in March.

I would like to thank two friends  (who I think would prefer to remain anonymous) because it was the evening after a wonderful afternoon of chatting and laughter and sharing of ideas that I thought to create Deeds Not Words Heartfelt Books. And that's the wonderful thing about sharing and exploring with other creatives, you never what sparks might fly. 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2018 Transitional Beginnings

To be honest, I like to think of every day as a new beginning, whether it be the 1st January or any other day of the month, but this year feels different. New Year's really does have a transitional energy about it.

This New Year's Eve feels as if we are stepping through a door into a secret garden, where all is beautiful and filled with light. 2017 has been a trying time, particularly learning to live with hearing loss but I have also learnt some wonderful things about myself and the world I live in. Things that look set to make 2018 the most magical of years yet. 

Discovering deep gratitude and appreciation have been incredible gifts; grateful to awake in my lovely warm, little cottage with my beautiful man and my gorgeous dog. Appreciating the water in my taps and food in my cupboards, Grateful for the trees in the woods, the sea at the coast, the river ever flowing, grateful for friendships, for love. Grateful for my creativity and how I have let it steer me on this path. It is these lessons that I take through the opening door of 2018.

When I woke up deaf, it knocked me for six.  It may seem as if 'grateful' is an odd thing to be when things go wrong. To put it in simple terms, when you have 10 flowers and one dies, you understandably grieve for the loss of that flower but it makes one acutely aware of the 9 flowers that are left. 

For instance, yesterday, when I took Maisy for a walk with my hearing aids in, I could hear the birds singing. It was the most beautiful song that I have ever heard. I could feel my whole body smiling. A song I might never have heard, ever again. 

So, Happy New Year Year to you, I hope it brings you the kind of joy that gratitude has given me. That you are able to count all the wonderful blessings in your life. That you see the beauty in the small things that are actually huge. For me, having learnt how to count my blessings, I intend to keep counting.

Friday, 29 December 2017

As One Door Closes

Six months ago, I made the brave decision to confront my hyperacusis. Since suffering sudden hearing loss and tinnitus, the onset of hyperacusis made me almost house bound. Hyperacusis is a sound distortion caused in the dissonance between my tinnitus tones as they clash. Once triggered, even my own voice becomes distorted in my head. 

To avoid becoming isolated by the condition, we converted an old shop in the village into my studio and during that 6 months, I learnt how to manage my hyperacusis rather than hide from it. 

I'm so glad I took this step. Last term, I went back into schools as an adviser for the Young Promoters Project, Night Out, The Arts Council of Wales and found that with my new hearing aids and some sign language, I was flying high in class, once again. I could feel my old mojo coming back.

And now I have been offered a contract for the coming term with the Creative Lead Schools Project, The Arts Council of Wales, working with a small group of children who have special needs. There will be myself, a film maker and a theatre maker working collaboratively to devise a piece with the children which will be performed & filmed at a local theatre. 

With this new found confidence and return to self, I made another brave decision and that is, to let the shop go and re-base my studio at home.

For now, I have re-camped in the spare bedrooms and look forward to moving into my woman shed by the Spring, it's a bit chilly out there just now. 

One of the most important aspects in coming to terms with deafness has been a pair of magnificent hearing aids from the wonderful, NHS. My hearing aids have literally given me my life back. Massive thank you to Aneurin Bevan, the Minister for Health that introduced the NHS and to the Welsh Labour Party that he was part of, for backing him. We are so very blessed in the UK to have a National Health Service. 

The other equally important thing has been to open up and allow transitional energies to flow through me, trusting my heart to make the right choices. I hope my journey inspires you to do the same.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Live Your Gift

If there is something you love to do, something that eases your troubled mind, that brings peace to your heart and yet sets your soul alight, then grab hold of it, give all of yourself to it. Jump right into your desires for these are your gifts, given to you by that which gives light to all. 

Trust yourself, rather than question why you desire to do something.  Does the daisy doubt that she should turn her golden face to the sun?

For me, it is the writing of short stories and poems set with an intention to help others feel better, to inspire folk to look at the world in new ways and then, to make beautiful books that are kept forever as a reminder of how much we are loved. 

What is it for you? What is the gift that you have so lovingly been blessed with?

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