Hi, I’m Allie welcome to my blog page.

Why art is important to me and has become such a big part of my life.

A few years ago due to a variety of reasons, my mental health deteriorated very quickly. I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was struggling to cope with daily life. I learnt ways of coping including using art.

I then went in hospital to have an operation and something went wrong, I ended up with nerve damage to my dominant arm. I couldn’t use it at all and was in constant pain, I also lost all my coping mechanisms I had built up to help with my mental health. I’ve never felt lower and every day was a battle with self harming and suicidal thoughts.

The injury was called a Brachial Plexus – the sort of injury a motorcyclist would see after a high speed collision. It affected the use of my arm and hand for a long, while meaning I lost the use of it altogether, along with debilitating levels of pain. Slowly bit by bit I taught myself to dress, bathe, eat, cook and write and most recently get back to my art and drawing, although my hand is still extremely painful all the time.

I saw a notice when I was visiting my mental health team for this art place called Open Arts. It functions for people that have or have had issues with their mental health.

I contacted them and started attending studio sessions, it’s an amazing place. I didn’t know what I could do at first as my hand hurt all the time and my fingers work when they want to. Jo the lady running it said ‘we will find you something you can do don’t worry.’ She suggested trying collage, the rest as they say is history.

Open Arts has been like a family to me along the way, encouraging me, congratulating me, cajoling me. They have given me so much confidence and belief in myself as an artist; I didn’t have any to start with. Their role is so important, if I hadn’t experienced problems with my mental health I don’t think I would understand why these things are so vital, the arts need to be made available for every person experiencing mental health issues.

I use mine as a way to distract, to cope with flashbacks, to have something positive to focus on when I don’t see the point in being here, or when I feel worthless.

So why torn paper pieces? Well, you could say it’s literal, because it’s tearing paper pieces, which it is, there is also a deeper meaning for me. My life feels like it has been ripped into a million little pieces through repeated trauma and through the help of my therapists / counsellors / supporters and friends I’m trying to put those little broken pieces back together in a way that makes sense, gives me the whole picture.

My art for me is very meditative, I’ll sit at my desk for hours, no sound other than my lucky cat ticking, the traffic passing my window and occasionally my two cuddle monster cats waking up for food and a tumble and I’ll just be in the picture, what piece fits where, what colour, what shape. I look up and 5 hours have passed and I wonder why I’m thirsty and hungry!

At the moment I’m working on a set of three beach hut studies from photos I have taken, the first is on here already, two huts in summer. The second I’m midway through, it’s a sunset scene and the third was taken when we had snow on them a while back now.

The beach is a precious place for me, ever since I was a child it has been my safe place, my constant. No matter what’s going on in my life, what horrors might have been happening or what I might have been struggling to deal with, on that beach I know that water will do what it’s supposed to, come in and go out when it’s supposed to – no shocks, no surprises just infinite calm. It is a place throughout my life that I have been able to trust when I have not been able to trust those people closest to me, it has calmed me and stilled me when I’ve thought I can’t go on.

I hope you enjoy my website and the new pieces as they land.

  1. The Beach huts

I’ve finished the set of beach huts I was working on, my first small body of work as an artist! I have hundreds of pictures of the beach, in particular the beach huts, When I was younger I always dreamed of owning one when I was older. The thought of being down there on a cold day, the sea churning, sitting in my little piece of heaven, warm, with a throw tucked over me, hot chocolate in hand, book by my side and the beautiful noise and colours on the other side of the glass.

Life being life means I’ll probably never be able to own one now, but I so enjoy being there still, something about them mesmerises me. I take a coffee and sit on a bench, or in my car even on a cold day and soak up the weather. It is to feel alive down there on the beach, one with nature in her glory.

This is the first time I’ve worked from photos and I wanted them to be like the photo but not exact. I used different colours in places coupled with my need to put sparkle in everything! I used embossed gold paper and gold/ bronze leaf. For the snow I wanted it to glint in the way snow does so it has a layer of glitter glue over the snow covered areas.

When I was doing the sand I wanted texture and the only thing to hand was table salt, so I put on a layer of glue and spread the salt then gave it 24 hours to dry. I then realised it was now brilliant white on my sunset scene! So I had to sit and painstakingly paint the grains of salt! Someone did point out it would have been much easier to use sand. Yep, it really would have, I live and learn as I go along. It’s a fun process!

My next challenge for myself is to collage a human face and see if I can retain the features, watch this space……

2. Juxtaposition

This has easily been the most complex piece I’ve tried so far. It is from a photo I took while walking during the summer. It’s one of my favourite views in Southend, the pier with Adventure Island in front of it.
I call the piece the Juxtaposition and that’s what it always feels like to me. This cacophony of colour, sound and smells in front of this peaceful stretch of water with the iconic Pier that has been there so long jutting out into the sea. I have always loved the Pier since I was little and I would go on there and watch all the fisherman, or go bowling as I got older. As for Adventure Island, for me it will always be Peter Pans Playground in my head as that’s what it was when I was growing up! The boating lake on one side with the waxworks and the Golden Hind and the much smaller amusements on the other side, wow how it’s changed and grown since I was a girl!

Each item on this took at least a day each, i.e. the Roller Coaster, Big Wheel, Axis, Crooked House and the surrounding buildings. What took longest was the trees, in places they have 5-6 layers of collage to make them look a little more like trees and less like mine craft.

A change from the original was the posters on the fence, they had wristband posters up and a COVID safe poster. I took the ‘be kind’ poster idea off the COVID poster. The NHS poster wasn’t there, but there were lots around on my walk that day, mid pandemic, so it seemed right one made it into the finished piece.
The bus right at the front looks out of proportion, however it was the smaller scale open top bus that Ensign have parked there to advertise their open top bus services, the actual size bus wasn’t there at the time.

3. Happy Girl my first time doing a portrait in collage.

I wanted to try a portrait as a collage, I wasn’t sure if I could make a person look, well like a person and not just any person but like the person in the photo. I chose as my first subject someone very close to my heart. I am happy to say the picture does look like her photo (I didn’t want to put her photo online though) , it took a lot of work around the lines on the face to make it look natural and real rather than just a flat surface. It’s also very hard to colour match young skin from magazines! I turned to a soft pink acrylic wash in the end to soften the edges a bit. I also realised that the laughter lines were quite a lot darker than her skin, in places almost black in the shadow. Her tongue glistened, I used a rose bottle to try and capture this slightly and give some glisten to the portrait.

4. I’m learning to print and loving every moment!

As much as I love collage I wanted to learn something new so signed up to the local adult college to a couple of courses, one to learn printing techniques and one to learn more about textiles in art. I have absolutely loved every moment despite both courses being hampered by covid, I’m so glad I did them.

In my textiles course my tutor encouraged me to take a big photocopy of my collage, juxtaposition, and then find tiles in that to make a new textiles piece. I collaged my own material from lots of others, then painted it with water colours, then using embroidery and braids etc. I made a new collage piece, this time in textiles.

In the other class it’s been printing techniques from mono printing to lino printing, screen printing to collagraph printing.

All in all a very busy and exciting few months.

5. Hidden Illness, The Body. A combination of techniques.

I started doing a free motion class at my local college and the idea was to have your own project to work on. I had been toying with the idea of attempting a large textile piece for a while and I thought while I had a tutor there for support; this might be the ideal time. I decided I wanted to visualise hidden illness somehow, I had been going through a rough patch with various things and no one really knew because it’s not noticeable as such, in fact several people had said to me, ‘you are looking well’. As nice a comment as that should be, when you are really struggling just to get through the day it’s very difficult to hear. I thought how can I use my art to show what I can’t talk about, to let people see what’s really happening.

I decided to do a large scale textile piece based on my body, I literally laid on the floor and got a friend to draw around me on brown paper and a pattern was made.

On this pattern I showed half of the body with the skin stripped back to show what was going on inside, the other half showed how things affected me on the outside that may be unspoken such as self harm for instance. I made a real effort not to hold back and be completely honest, even when it was uncomfortable to confront such as showing my fat, it’s there, it needed to be shown.

My tutor was very good with that and helped me look at it at cell level where it was actually very pretty. I used a lot of different techniques on the piece, painting the fabric, appliqué, printing, lino cutting, free motion stitching, embellishment and more, it is great to combine these techniques onto one piece.

I wasn’t really prepared for the reaction it prompted in other people, I realised by looking at my piece they were more able to talk about their own feelings and also people who didn’t experience any hidden illness were able to ask questions and see things differently.

It has been on exhibition in Leigh Community Centre and there have been requests to use it for display in several other places and as an aid for therapy training. I have just entered in for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2022 ( Jan2022 ) so you never know, watch this space!

6. Trauma book – Lost in the Land of the eye monster and the wicked witch.

I have been working on a textile book to help me process a particular part of my childhood. I was severely abused as a child and this book processes what it was like as a four to eight year old to be surrounded by adults that should have cared for her but instead hurt her. I wrote the story a few years back while I was having therapy to help me process things. Making the book was a cathartic process to look at it again as an adult. It was important to me that others who may feel shame through child abuse see this book. The shame lays with the adults, not the child.

Please be aware the text and pictures could be triggering, so please only look if ok to. There are helplines on my contact page.

The Story

When I was born the eye monster already lived in my house, he was everywhere, he would climb into one of the adults bodies and they would be taken over by him. The only way you could ever tell was the adults eyes would change, the monster could hide his whole self but not his eyes. I was the only one who could see him. He would take over my Mum a lot, I was very frightened of the monster, lots of rules and very hard to get right. No noise, no looking at her, no spilling stuff, no talking, no laughing, no playing, no leaving stuff, even the nasty stuff. If I got it wrong the monster would get really angry, it would bellow with my Mums voice warning me to get it right. My sister would hold my hand and help me try to get everything right, she was my hero, sometimes even her powers didnt work against the monster though. One time I scraped my spoon on my bowl and then without thinking glanced at the monster…it yelled and flew its arms around, coming towards me. If my youngest brother had been naughty as well the monster would make him hurt me, his punishment was having to hurt me and mine was being hurt. I saw the monster take over my Mum lots of times, it chased my sister, it put my other brothers hand across the hot cooker, it was always telling Dad how bad my youngest brother was and Dad would beat him with a belt. Mum wasnt the only adult it took over though. Sometimes it would take over Dad, it would creep into our bedroom, the first time I looked up, too late, the eyes, it was the monster. It would go over to my sister and she would sob quietly, the monster would hurt her with Dads body. The monster came in as my youngest brother and really hurt me, said it loved me but hurt me.

It knew I could see the eyes and after a while told the adult it was in to punish me for looking at them, after that I wasnt allowed to make direct eye contact with anyone and whoever the monster was in would hit me across the face if I did. It never went in my sister and she did her best to protect me. One day I came in from school and my sister told me Mum had left, then my sister left. I felt so lonely and bad.

Dad was sitting on the sofa one night when I got in from school with the woman from next door saying I had to be nice to her and she would be living with us and we would be moving, just the three of us. I looked at her and I could see the monster had moved into her eyes, but it was even scarier than it had been, its eyes drew me in and I knew I would be captured by them and it would hurt me a lot. I realised after a while that she wasnt the monster, she was the witch who controlled the monster and let it out when she was angry or cross so it could hurt people for her. Every time she hurt me she explained that she didnt want to, she was just trying to help me get rid of the bad bits.

My Dad used to work away, when he wasnt there the wicked witch ruled the house and all who were in it. Being ruled by the wicked witch was very scary, it felt like I couldnt breathe all the time, waiting for her to strike. All the rules and the punishment for breaking them. I would cry to myself trying to work out which one I would get into more trouble for getting wrong and trying to work out what was missing to get them right. I knew I would be punished, I knew she would kill me, she told me I deserved it as I was bad and she was just trying to make me better. I was always in trouble at the dinner table, I had to sit with my hands on my head until she clapped once. I could then take my hands down and pick up my knife and fork. When she clapped for the second time I could start eating, as soon as she clapped for a third time I had to stop and put my knife and fork down until she clapped again. Sometimes I would get through the whole meal and not be allowed to eat, I would then have to scrape it in the bin. The only time I didnt have the dinner table punishment was if I was being really punished.

If I was really bad like late in from school I would get a weekend punishment. She would be waiting for me at the front door and would tell me to stand on the towel in the punishment corner, which was a corner of the living room near where she sat. Once I was on the towel I had to face the corner, feet together, hands on my head and then not move….for nothing!…..not to eat, drink, go to the toilet, sleep or anything. this would start on a Sunday evening and end on a Sunday afternoon. She would sometimes stand just behind me waiting for me to move. I used to get so frightened when the lights went off and she left me in the dark room overnight with no lights and no sounds. When she was hurting me I couldnt stay there anymore, it hurt more than I could take, so I learnt how to leave my body and go and sit in the picture. Not long after I started living with her I had my sixth birthday, she told me she had a special present for me, I was very excited, maybe I had been good and today she would be nice. I soon found out there would never be anything nice with her. She woke me up at midnight, we went into the alley that run between the house and the sheds, it was November and very cold out, the ground was wet. I kneeled on the cold floor and the stones from the path hurt my knees. She told me to put my hands on my head, she then beat me across the back six times, she whispered Happy Birthday in my ear and told me she would be back at 9am and every hour until midnight to celebrate the brats birthday in the way she deserved. As she walked away she whispered, who loves you now then brat, I knew the answer… one. At midnight she told me to thank her for my present one last time.

We would have social services visit every now and then , she would bath me and feed me and give me clean clothes. When she bathed me she would hold my head under until I felt like I would explode, then she would pull me out gasping and say thats what you will get if you say anything. I always though that was silly, why would I say anything, if I did it would just get worse and Im not sure I could take worse. The lady who came would say how lucky I was that I had someone caring for me with my Mum gone and how I should be thankful. When Dad came home there were no weekend punishments and at the table I was not to use the claps. She couldnt punish me like she normally did so she would send the monster in disguised as Dad. He would hurt me in the same way my brother had but it hurt a whole lot more. I wasnt allowed to make a sound, when he had finished he would lay on my bed holding me. I hated it and wanted him to leave me alone. I knew I would never be safe again. The witch was always worse when Dad first went away, she would say did you enjoy having your father you little brat, being his whore? I wasnt supposed to answer. She told me I would never be safe, she was right. She was also really bad if I went to visit Mums, I found those days hard, why did Mum leave me, then want to see me, then leave me all over again? with the witch? Why couldnt she see how scared and unhappy I was? What was it I did wrong. One time one of my brothers came with me, he was the witches pet, I didnt trust trust him. I told Mum I was unhappy but not why, on the way home he phoned the witch and told her what I had said. When I got home she had thrown all of my stuff onto the street and told me I didnt live there anymore. I was really upset, as bad as it was, it was home. My brother took me back to Mums, she phoned the witch and there was lots of shouting – no one wanted me. Mum said I was staying with her, I didnt really care, its not like she loved me.

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