On my journey of reclaiming well-being creativity played a major roll. One of the women who unknwoingly held their light on that path is Gaelle Jollly, whose reflecions on how creativity helped her redefine purpose is next in the series of mental health talks
The relation between creative expression and well-being has often been a subject of scientific research, and among them is the study by Dingle, Williams, Jettern and Welch in 2017. which demonstrates when people are involved in arts-oriented activities, they see a boost in positive emotions and a reduction in negative emotions, leading to greater overall happiness. And that particular research only considered choir singing and creative writing, so you can imagine how the results would be even more convincing had other types of creative activities been included. Furthermore, creativity feeds positivity, which in turn, feeds creativity, so the relationship flourishes for the benefit of the individual, which is kinda what I have going on ever since I choose to take my creativity as an intentional, daily practice.
And make no mistake, creativity is within our nature, a seed planet by the Creator inside each of us. It is up to us to nurture it and grow through that effort.
When I first came across Gaelle`s story, at the beginning of my creative journey, I was flooded with emotions, in awe of how she manages to translate her grief into pure beauty. My love of calligraphy drew me to her art over on her Ig page @inkysquare, where her refined storytelling, both narrative and visual, as a reflection of her tender personality, remains an inspiration in my creative expression. She is a calligrapher and bookbinder based in Oxford, where she creates and tells stories with paper, ink and photography. She also makes beautiful custom stationery and calligraphy pieces to help others cherish and share their own stories.
Treat yourself to some quiet time and enjoy these nurturing and uplifting reflections she was kind enough to share with us.
˝ I set out to uncover my unfolding story ˝
˝ I wasn’t new to creativity when my husband died. In fact, calligraphy, bookbinding and photography had been a lifeline during his illness, and I was holding onto them for the future too, for something to bring meaning to my life once he was gone.
But, fresh into widowhood, creating took an entirely new meaning. After weeks at his bedside, camping in his hospice room, I dusted off my camera, took out the ink bottle, and set out to uncover my unfolding story. Gently, I started documenting, exploring how I felt. There was the day, not long after the funeral, when I baked a tart for one, and took a photo of my own hand, my wedding ring still on, as I pulled out a chair to sit at the table. There was the paper boat covered in calligraphy, sitting amongst fallen leaves, as I contemplated my first autumn on my own. Or the self-portrait, holding a back-to-back notebook, labelled ‘memories’ and ‘stories’, and the feeling of being suspended in a fragile present, unable to face either way. There were objects too: the book I made of photographs and written memories from his last birthday, or the framed, pressed clematis flower that I’d picked in the garden when I moved back home from the hospice.
Capturing these fleeting feelings, and making them into something tangible, helped me make sense of my own grief. There is magic to the creative process – it uncovers more as we create, and the time and care that we give our emotions, our memories, or simply a moment in our day, can reveal the beauty of our own story.
I also chose to share most of what I created along the way. I did it for myself, but as well as support I was given something unexpected: others found comfort in what I shared, recognized themselves and their own experiences, and told me I was helping them. As I embarked on a new life on my own, I found that I had, in fact, more people walking alongside me than ever before.
(I was helped in my first steps back into creativity by Laura Pashby’s storytelling e-course. The course no longer runs, but Laura’s book, ‘Little Stories of Your Life’, is out this month. ) ˝
Gaelle Jolly is a calligrapher and bookbinder based in Oxford. She creates and tells stories with paper, ink and photography, which she shares on her Instagram page @inkysquare. She also makes custom stationery and calligraphy pieces to help others cherish and share their own stories, available for purchase through her website and Etsy shop.