Mental Health Awareness - the power of art to start conversations

October 2017, Wanaka, New Zealand.

Wow, what an emotional week it has been for Mental Health Awareness Week 2017! I am back in the midst of a painting binge (which is my way to keep my mental health and emotions in check). Around us there is a huge amount going on and there has been a lot of discussions about mental health within our friend and family circles and it has bought up this thing…

Two years ago we met this lovely German man who was on a driving trip around New Zealand. He came and spent a few days with us here in Wanaka a week after we met him and then we lent him a car for the rest of his trip up north. Whilst in Wanaka he spent time in my studio and ended up leaving a coat of his with me to commission an artwork, his old work coat that he used to do repairs on his friends vintage car. However, 6 months ago I was in touch with our mutual friend and she told us that he had taken his life. We were totally shocked, as we only knew him as a super lovely upbeat man, and we had been planning on visiting him in Germany as he was excited about showing us around Art Basel.

A while ago I was discussing this with a friend and she wisely suggested that maybe it was meant for me to create a message with sometime.... and it seems that time has come.

These last few weeks have been intense with one dear friends daughter needing to spend time in the psych ward and a friend of our kids sibling taking her life. It's been a really dramatic time and it has stirred up a lot of emotion in me. All these ‘kids’ (18-23yr olds) are dealing with things well, supporting their friends and they seem to be much better at talking about their emotions than past generations. I have huge admiration for our friends daughter (who is extremely dear to us) as she is sharing her experiences very openly and is really able to feel the love and support coming back to her (she is now back home and will hopefully be coming in for some studio time with me soon, I can ask her if I can add a link to her blog)

Back in my studio…I pulled out Wolfram’s coat and it still had his note to me attached. It took me several attempts to hang it on the wall to start thinking about an artwork, as I just kept tearing up too much. After a few days I was able sit with the coat, get my sketch pad out and to let things flow… and I came up with an idea.

"The threads that bind..." as it gets started

I seem to have known too many people that have taken their lives. However, I sit on the periphery of pain as it has thankfully never been a bestie or family member, but close friends of friends and sons and daughters of friends, or kids from school; so I have experienced a lot of ache, but not the total-unable-to-heal-ache that affects those that lose someone so close.

So anyway, my idea for an artwork grew into “The threads that bind…” and I’m creating it as a community artwork. Using the coat from Wolfram and in the front I have 13 sunflowers representing the 13 people I have known to take their own lives.

I will paint it to a certain stage and then I’d like to invite people to my studio to add flowers or a note to it, and then take it out into the community for others to do so. It is an old work coat so has lots of pockets and I have fashioned it in away that there are plenty of other ‘pockets’ for flowers to grow from.

Work in progress...The coat sleeves are upturned to create another spot to place flowers, as well as other nest like things that i have added and below the flowers are being painted to be added by others

I am open to ideas about how we can take it out to the community or even wider….we currently have one idea brewing but I’d love to hear any ideas or feedback.

Please do get in touch and let’s get conversations happening…. leave a comment below as to what you do to keep your mental health in balance xx

Peace, love and paint splattered clothing,


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