In this series of blog posts, we'll be sharing stories from members of our community, who are finding new ways to stay active and look after their wellbeing in these difficult times. Lynne talks about her arts and crafts, which she finds help her to cope with her diagnosis and the added stress of lockdown.

What sort of things do you make?

I make cards using various techniques. More recently though, I do silk painting of scarves. My mum does sewing. Knowing that she’s got a focus helps me, particularly when she’s so isolated. She’ll phone me up each day to say what she’s made that day. It’s good to have a purpose. I am also a keen gardener, so I raise plants for a charity plant sale at the end of May. I had already bought the seedlings, so I have been spending a lot of time focusing on that at the moment. For me, it doesn’t matter what I’m making. I just like the idea that someone else gets enjoyment out of my product, just as I found enjoyment in the process of making it.

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What is your favourite kind of craft and why?

I love the silk painting because of the colours and how sensual and tactile it is. It really engages your senses. There is something really joyful about the way the paint moves across the silk and flows. I also enjoy the tension that exists between controlling things, and just letting things happen. Creating happy accidents. For me, it is a form of art therapy that translates well to psychological coping, by just being present, and going with it.

It feels good to be productive, and to have a focus. To engage with the colours and my senses. The anticipation when you’re ironing out a scarf you have no idea what it’s going to look like. It will always turn out different, and it’s exciting to see.

           

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How long have you been crafting for? What inspired you to start?

I started crafting for myself about ten years ago, after my initial ovarian cancer diagnosis. It was my Mum who introduced me into making cards, because I was having problems with task completion. Making a card was a small task that I was able to manage, whilst struggling with fatigue and having to spend a lot of time at home, and I found this helpful.

I took up silk painting of scarves more recently, as a result of trying to come out of a second diagnosis. It was a difficult time for me and I lost my confidence completely. Coming off morphine, my perception of things was skewed and I felt anxious. I knew I needed to try and rebuild my confidence, and get myself out and about again, so I took a silk painting class with the Workers Educational Association. I found I rather liked it, and have been doing it ever since. Learning a new skill and trying something different gave me something to focus on. It eased me back into feeling like I could socialise, and helped my confidence grow.

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Has crafting been helping you since lockdown began?

The silk scarf painting classes I usually attend have all stopped due to the lockdown, so at the moment I’ve been focusing more on gardening and planting for my upcoming plant sale. But I think putting together a hanging basket is similar to when you’re putting together the colours for a scarf. You’re still visualizing it and what it will look like, and anticipating the enjoyment that somebody else will get from it. As I said, part of the reason I like crafting is the thought that someone will enjoy and get pleasure out of what I’ve made.

I think lockdown, in some ways, has brought up similar sorts of feelings as you go through with an ovarian cancer diagnosis. They both have uncertain futures, and you are limited as to what you can actually do, and with whom. You are grieving for some of the losses of your freedoms, and faced with new anxieties.

Doing arts and crafts is therapy for me, but it is also about doing something for somebody else. I think this is important, as it takes me out of myself. In lockdown it’s easy to internalise and feel disconnected, so creating things works to counteract that.

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Do you have any advice for others at this time?

Be kind to yourself. Notice and enjoy the small things. For example, at the moment the cherry blossom is out. The Japanese have a festival dedicated to the cherry blossom every year, where they just enjoy and celebrate it. So that’s what I try to do. Enjoy and notice things, in the moment. In some ways, the best revenge on cancer is to live well. Don’t think too far into the past, or too far ahead to the future. Just try to enjoy the now. I suppose it’s a practice of mindfulness.

Try not to worry about what you can’t change. Be hedonistic. Engage all your senses. Grounding yourself with your senses makes things more concrete. So take pleasure from that.

Worry less, do more. Or rather, 'be' more. You don’t have to do anything. You can just sit and be, and listen to the bird song.

The most precious thing you can have is time. Take the time to enjoy what’s around you. In some way cancer can give you a gift in that you've got to slow down and re-evaluate what’s important.

Engage with people.

Be selfish. Look after yourself. Do the things you enjoy. I’ve recently found a Batik pot on ebay, so I will be exploring working and trying different techniques with that. Now is the best time to develop a new hobby. Or to get out those projects that you’ve left half finished, or always intended to do but never found time.

Enjoy the process. I think it’s the Japanese who have a practice of folding their scarves very carefully, and thinking beautiful thoughts as you’re making them. It’s almost a meditation. This is what I tried to do with the scarves I’ve done for the Ovacome shop; to think of hope and joy whilst I painted them. I like to think that my conscious thoughts of hope and joy during the process permeate the items themselves, and that others get a sense of that when they wear them.

For me, arts and crafts are therapy. It’s a way of coping. The house is a bit of a mess, but nobody dies thinking “I wish I had done more hoovering”. I think it is better to focus on quality of life, and spend time doing things that you actually enjoy.

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Lynne’s scarves are available for purchase on the Ovacome Online Shop, as are some of the items sewn by her Mum. Their crafts are donated voluntarily, and are created as and when they are both able.