Make, breathe and smile…

Written by Jenny Hopps –

Crafting has changed my life. This may sound like a bold claim, but crafting consistently eases my anxious mind and puts a smile on my, often very tired, face. I make pottery, and working with clay and its earthy texture has had an incredibly positive impact on my daily life.

So what is it about crafting? Maybe it’s the distraction from the norm, or the sense of creativity. Maybe it’s concentrating on something that focuses the mind. Whatever it is, craft has the power to sooth and relieve anxiety in the most effective way.

I am a Mum to 3 kids (1, 5 & 7) and have struggled over the past 2 years with anxiety and feelings of sadness. 

Cancer can do that to you, it can take away your sense of control, and of course it can make you feel very, very sad. But it wasn’t my cancer; it was the cancer attacking the body of my 3-year-old daughter. 

The white blood cells in her skull had started to malfunction, eating away at her tiny bones. We embarked upon a year of heavy meds. I say we, because as any parent of a sick child knows – it feels as though you take the meds too. Chemotherapy and steroids caused her little body to swell as her resilience was tested to its limits. 

I was also 20 weeks pregnant when we got her diagnosis at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and I wondered just how on earth we could welcome a new baby into our lives now. 

I don’t know how, but we did get through that year somehow. The challenges of a new baby, chemotherapy, lengthy hospital stays and virtually no sleep, were a concoction that inevitably took their toll on my mental health.

A wonderful nurse at my daughter’s local hospital referred us for some sessions with a specialist cancer therapist, and she helped our little family unit to unpick a variety of messy tangled emotions.

My husband and I started gradually finding our feet again, emerging out of the state of trauma. Day by day things seemed a little brighter and our daughter was recovering well. We were incredibly lucky to have a support network around us of family and friends; something I know not all families in our situation have the fortune to rely upon.

It was around this time that I stumbled upon my craft, which very swiftly turned into a second form of therapy for me. One morning I randomly happened to pick up some craft clay that had been gifted to my girls at Christmas. I made a few bits and pieces with the clay, and it made me smile. The naivety of it, and the feel of the clay between my fingers was so joyful. I decided to buy some inexpensive proper mud clay, and this is when it clicked for me. The earthy organic nature of the material in my hands was just so calming. Every day I tried to sit and make something while the baby napped, no judgement, just to make something. 

I began to delve more deeply into the craft of pottery, and after watching hours of YouTube videos when the kids were in bed, I decided to take a leap and purchase a bargain battered old 1980s pottery wheel on eBay. I quickly fell in love with it and decided to do a short intensive course at Turning Earth Studios in East London. This course gave me the confidence to take my hobby to the next level. 

Thankfully my daughter is nearly one year clear since the end of her treatment, and we hope for the best going forward. I still suffer with bouts of anxiety and the constant question of – will everything be ok in the future? My craft gives me a focus, it calms my mind, makes me smile and assists me in navigating the web of complex emotions relating to our experiences these past couple of years. I grab blocks of time to myself when the baby naps and the kids are at school, or when my husband is at home. I nip out to the shed (my studio) and create.

I get that crafting might not be for everybody, but if you are curious then just give something a try. There are so many wonderful crafts out there, and so many day courses or free lessons online; you don’t necessarily need to spend much money. You can often pick bits up for free on the web, or inexpensively second hand. Be it knitting, woodwork, clay or good old colouring in, it is good to focus the mind and get the brain working on something positive. Just dip your toe in and give something a go. I did and it’s been one of the most positive decisions I have made.

To purchase a piece of Jenny’s beautiful pottery, please visit her website where her collections are now available for sale

To be in with a chance of winning the stunning Nesting Bowls featured in this post in Satin Aqua & Satin Cloud glazes, please check out our competition featured in the Calm Mamas Club Instagram page.

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