Tag Archives: creativity

“Some people don’t think autistic people can be creative” Callum, the performance poet

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Callum Brazzo is a 24 year old autistic performance poet and social entrepreneur from Lincolnshire. Performing his poetry at live events and on YouTube, he is getting a strong following.

As part of 30 Under 30, Callum talks about using poetry as an outlet and his new social venture, Spergy, which he has just set up.

My love for poetry was organic. It evolved out of my personal struggle. It was an escape for me because I was being bullied at the time. I was bullied for various things including my shyness, my lack of eye contact and my ticks. As they were physical ticks, people used to make fun of me because of those. I tended to push people away.

I became very depressed, I was on antidepressants and was juggled between psychologists. My emotions were very raw and I needed a platform to release that anger. My poetry was a way for me to communicate all of that in a positive way.

Giving something back

Poetry was and still is a positive outlet for me. I think everyone should try and find their own positive outlet.

‘Spergy’ is my social venture. It’s an arts based platform for people on or interested in the autistic spectrum.

It’s expressive, fun and free. I wanted to go give back to the community and offer an arts based outlet to them. Like I had whilst growing up. My personal journey has become a collective journey. That’s my way of giving back. 

There was no defined starting point, it just happened. We’ve really had to operate on a shoestring but I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. It was so organic and it’s continuing in that fashion. The website is being built by the community. For example, there are certain groups already like poetry and food but people can add their own if they want. They can post whatever they like, it could be a painting or some photography.

Callum, a young disabled man, speaks into a microphone whilst wearing a tshirt that says Spergy

It’s in its infancy at the moment but I’d like to make it compatible with EyeGaze technology and make it possible for people to use the site in different ways.

I want people to make what they want to make and to feel appreciated and valued for their work. I’d really like people to benefit in meaningful ways.

Some people don’t think autistic people can be creative. They think we have a rigid mindset. ‘Spergy’ and I can help to dispel that myth.

Callum is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. This is where we will be releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Catch up on all the stories so far on our 30 under 30 page.

Visit the Spergy website to find out more about Callum’s social venture. You can also like Spergy on Facebook and follow Spergy on Twitter.

“Do something you love. Disabled or not, it’s good for the soul!”

Jenny Brownlees is a freelance fashion journalist and stylist. She has ME, and went through a lot of tough times to get where she is now. One thing she found helped her was to follow her creative heart. Here she talks about her experiences.  Jenny on holiday - standing on a balcony with the blue sea behind her

I was 16 when I became unwell. Enjoying life and school, becoming unwell in my teenage years hit me hard. I was very creative both in and outside of school. Happiest in art and textiles classes when doodling, making a mess, sewing, designing, I was obsessed with ‘making’ in all its forms. I loved every aspect of fashion and art. It meant so much to me, and was a huge part of my personal identity.

In the years that followed me falling unwell, I dealt with an ‘invisible illness’, many misdiagnosis’, followed by an 18 month wait for the right diagnosis that was filled with anxiety, panic attacks and depression, as well as feeling so poorly that I can’t even begin to put it into words.

I found I was suffering with ME, and quite severely too. I could list all my symptoms, but I would need the entire content of this blog to do it, so I won’t! After such a long struggle for the right diagnosis came six years of suffering, where I was bedbound for months on end, then housebound for years that seemed to both last a lifetime and pass in minutes. I felt utterly terrible, both physically and mentally.

I, like most had a plan, a path I thought my life would follow; do well in my GCSEs, do well in my AS and A Levels, go to university then get a good job. Easy, right? This didn’t happen as planned, and to say I was devastated would be an understatement. I now write for a living but words fail me when I try to convey my feelings about those years to others.

There is a piece of advice I will always remember from this time, trying to get through a school day I’d forced myself to go into (which as usual had ended up with me having to being taken home.) A lady who was a carer for disabled people, seeing my distress told me “Everyone has their own path. There’s not one right way. You will get to where you want to be, you just might take a different route, and that’s ok.” At the time I found it very hard to believe, now looking back, nearly 10 years later, it sticks with me. Hindsight is a funny thing.

The thing I love most about art, as well as its broad spectrum, is that creativity has no bounds, it can’t be measured. If you make something, in any capacity, you’re an artist.

What you’re creating doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. A love for card making could mean once a week flicking through a craft magazine and thinking about something you may try and make one day, or not! Still, you are engaging in something you love and I think that is a must for everyone, disabled or not. It’s good for the soul!

Photo of a model wearing pressed flower brooches on her coatBeing creative gave me something to get up for. Flicking through a fashion magazine kept me in touch with a world I loved.

My health, I didn’t have. But time, I did. Time I couldn’t use exactly as I wanted, but if I was adaptable and tried to manage my expectations (I’ve always been a perfectionist and hard on myself) I could feel proud of my days ‘work’. Even if it’d been a single scribble on a pen pad. Due to feeling constantly exhausted, I would say things took me double the time but that would be generous, more like five times as long. I read a quote recently that summed this up perfectly: “So what if it takes you ten years, ten years will pass anyway whether you do it or not, so start now.”

I’m not saying it’s easy. The skills I learnt were built upon slowly, over six plus years, and I’m still learning now, but it gave me something other than my own plight to think about! Of course there were days, months even when I did nothing but lie in bed, but as soon as I did have a slither of energy, I tried to put it to good use. Even if you can do a tiny thing each day, a creative hobby, or whatever you love, it can really can give you a sense of purpose and worth.

I began thinking about what I could do with my time. I had always wanted to try photography, I was actually booked onto a course to do it in my free time outside of school, but had to cancel this when I got unwell. Photography was something I could do literally from my bed, I would photograph objects in my room at first! And this wasn’t with an expensive camera, just a standard point and shoot I’d had for years. I didn’t do it every day, but it progressed. I would take photos out of the window and eventually in the garden. Whenever I felt well enough I’d read online about DSLR cameras, and (over years) learnt to understand and operate one long before I bought my ‘real’ camera.

People always comment now, when I go for jobs or discuss my illness, that it doesn’t matter that I didn’t go to university, or do this and that I had planned, they can see I kept up what I could and that shows my enthusiasm. We are so lucky in this day and age, learning doesn’t mean having to go to a course or even go to the library to search and gather information, which takes time and energy I didn’t have.

The internet (once I built up my tolerance to working on the computer) was a huge saviour in my illness, information is so easily accessible. You can learn by simply asking Google! Youtube is an amazing learning tool, you can learn just about anything on there, and replay the video 300 times if you need to, stop and start and take it at your own pace. The same for free online tutorials. I played around with Photoshop for years, nothing formal, just trial and error, and now it’s such a great skill I use all the time. The same with my photography. The irony is if my ‘plan’ had have come true and I never got unwell, as I wished so many times, I may not have learnt something I now love!

I tried to keep up a few ‘hobbies’ so if it wasn’t a photography day, it may be a writing day. I wrote about how I was feeling, read online forums, The Fashion Spot, was a favourite. I didn’t even contribute by commenting, I just read the forums comments and felt involved, listening to others opinions was my way of keeping engaged with the goings on at magazines etc.

After many years, and many ups and downs, I began to feel better and my energy levels improved. I did some free writing work online for blogs and a few small magazines, volunteering to do this meant no scary deadlines if I wasn’t feeling well, but most of all I enjoyed it. Writing about fashion didn’t seem like work for me, even if it took me a long time to write one article. I kept up my photography and added my skills to my CV.

Pink t-shirt hanging up with lots of coloured beads suck to the frontCraft turned into career for me, I now write a weekly DIY column for an online magazine, where I make an item, then photograph it. I also write fashion and lifestyle articles for a number of different magazines. I know this is rare and I am so lucky to be at a place where I can do this, but it didn’t happen overnight. I think it shows though, anything is possible, disability or not.

I would say to people reading this that everyone is good at something. Everyone. Try things, don’t let yourself tell you you can’t; yes there’s a million reasons you shouldn’t do something, but listen to the one that says you should. Find your heart’s desire, and incorporate it into your life in some way.

I would suggest watching TED talks, they are so inspirational! Zach Anner on Youtube will make you laugh – ‘Milestones’ is a favourite video! Read Dr Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, he will make you feel like you can do anything. Surround yourself with positivity. Don’t give up.

Feeling inspired to get creative? If you would like to see what I’m crafting next, writing about or creating, and a lot of pictures of my dog, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram as @jennybrownlees.

“I see more because I see less” – partially sighted photographer Ian Treherne

Ian Treherne is an Essex based photographer, who has Usher Syndrome type II. He was a 2012 nominee for the London Fringe Festival Photographer of the year award.

This is an extract of an interview in #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine Issue 3, written by Daisy Ware-Jarrett and Genea Bailey.

Black and white portrait of the photographer Ian Treherne

Q: Most photographers rely on their vision and visual aesthetics in their work. We’ve read up on Usher Syndrome but for anyone who doesn’t know what it is, could you briefly explain what it is and how it affects you?

A: There are different types of Usher, I have Usher type II, which means I was born partially deaf, then later on in life I found out I had limited vision. My eyesight is basically what they call tunnel vision, I have a small window in front of me that I can see out of. I can’t see below, above and to the sides. It affects me on a daily basis, more so at night time as I rely on everything being lit up. Some days I don’t think about it, sometimes I do. Everyday is hard work, but somehow being stubborn and ambitious means that I seem to just get on with it really.

Q: In relation to your tunnel vision, we found a quote from one of your past interviews saying that your vision is similar to constantly looking through a view finder?

A: Yes that’s correct, though my eyesight is just a little bit smaller than the view finder. I guess I think I see more because I see less if that makes sense. I don’t know any different really.

Q: I (Daisy) found out when I was 10 that I was born with cataracts in both eyes and my eyesight would deteriorate over the years. I also discovered it could lead to operations and in the worst case I could slowly become blind. From this point on I became more creative in all aspects of life, and as I began to take photos, it had a profound effect on the way I made images. They became very visually pleasing and more creative. I almost overcompensate for my fear of losing sight through my images.

Do you feel having Usher type II has subconsciously had the same effect on your work?

Black and white portrait photo of a woman with short shiny fair hair, and a black t-shirt, looking seriousA: Sorry to hear that Daisy. I’m like you, that I have an imaginary clock on my shoulders ticking away. I’ve been told my eyesight may stay the same or it may deteriorate over time. It’s something I don’t think about, but unconsciously I have fire in my creative roots that’s making me do as much as possible while I still have the sight I have. I think myself ‘lucky’, as I’ve met people who have lost their eyesight and are younger than me and are also creative. I see their frustration and it makes me sad, so I guess I’m doing as much as possible.

I’ve only been able to talk about it within the last year, before then I kept it inside, struggled and pretended I was ‘normal’ like everyone else. Last year I did an interview with the BBC and it was my way of ‘coming out’, as many people I’ve known for years didn’t even know I had the condition. It was something I wasn’t able to talk about.

Q: That sounds like a really hard time. Since you’ve ‘come out’ do you feel like it’s helped your confidence?

A: It hasn’t changed my confidence as such, but it was a huge relief to be able to talk freely about it, as I’ve always seen it as being a weakness. I still find it difficult, but I’m able to talk about my condition without feeling bad, which I can assure you was a giant step for me! I couldn’t even be in a room with someone who had the same condition as I found it difficult to face. I’m not very good at being labelled disabled, it’s not a word I feel fits in with me.

Q: Your openness about your experience is really inspiring and by talking about your struggles you are helping other people.

So one obvious question, is why photography?

A: Well I know it’s helped me overcome some of my issues with talking about it, which is huge for me! I think the recipe of stubbornness, ambition, passion, drive for the creative world of photography and bad eyesight, only makes me more determined than ever to be known as a photographer. Knowing there’s nothing I can do about my eyesight, is to make the best of what you’ve got.

Black and white portrait photo of a topless woman with her back to the camera, looking over her shoulder directly into the cameraWhy photography – well I LOVE being creative, whether it’s doing art, playing guitar, or films, making it is what makes me tick. I was never going to be a scientist, I just don’t have that kind of mind, but with being creative I just come alive, I live and breathe it. When I was 15 I used to look at fashion magazines, I remember I was bowled over. Digital cameras weren’t invented at this time, so I carried on with my art work. While digital was making it’s way into the world, I decided I would have a go learning. I sat and learned the ins and outs of the camera. I combined my artistic skills with my camera and the new world of photography opened up. I think because it’s portable, instant and flexible it was the medium that fitted with me.

Q: One of the reasons we found out about your work was due to Photosense, a project we ran as part of #Phonar. It explores the relationship between photography and all five senses, and how they interact with each other. How important do you think the senses are in relation to photography?

A: For me it’s pretty important. For example, I photographed a building once that 99.9% people wouldn’t have noticed. I think with photography it enables me to step out the ‘box’ and look into it with my camera, I literally switch off from the mundane hustle of life and look and see everything as an artistic picture. Most people are so wrapped up with the rat race that they often don’t see the beauty around them. To me it’s obvious, others it takes time or they never really get to see it. I guess photography allows me to show what I am thinking and seeing, I like to share that with people.

Q: And is it this ‘stepping out of the box’ technique that allows you to incorporate all your senses?

A: I don’t analyse how or why I do it. It’s all about ‘the feeling’ which is instinct, you don’t question it, you just do it because you know it’s right. Music can affect your photography in some ways, I always have music on when doing a studio shoot. With my style of photography it’s about elegance, sensitivity, emotion and atmosphere.

Q: It’s really nice that you can see the beauty in such minimalistic things. With my photography (Daisy again) I try to avoid using black and white and enjoy the chaotic kitsch photography of practitioners such as David LaChapelle because I am compensating for having cataracts. So it’s great to see a completely opposite preference.

A: In photography there is no right or wrong, it’s all about preference isn’t it. It would be boring if we all liked the same things.

To see the full interview, head to #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine

Does your impairment or condition influence or inspire your artwork? We’d love to hear about your experiences and see any images you have to share! 

“Crocheting on the tube has pushed me out of my comfort zone”

Elisabeth Ward works in content marketing, and has an upper limb congenital amputation. Despite some challenging roadblocks, Lis likes to be creative and keeps a blog of her successes, difficulties, and more

I couldn’t find my craft

I’ve lived with my disability for 25 years. I’ve grown up facing challenges, finding my way around things so that I’m not excluded. I’ve always been a creative person. I enjoy drawing but art classes where I had to actually make or build something were just depressing, fiddly and frustrating. Everything I made looked like a child’s creation!

This stopped me making crafts for ten years – why put myself through that disappointment and frustration, because I lacked a second hand?

A knitting obsession was born

However, jealousy, stubbornness and determination threw this reluctance to the wind when I saw a friend become a knitter. One minute she had a ball of yarn and the next it was a cutePhoto showing one foreshortened arm holding a knitting needle and pink yarn strawberry hat. I wanted to be able to do that. I wanted to be able to start with materials, and end up with something that I could proudly say I made.

But I watched her knit and I couldn’t see a way around it. Two hands seemed to be essential. I looked at some YouTube videos, even checked out one-handed knitting videos (there weren’t many), and decided to just get some needles and yarn – I’d work out a system as I go. I found that holding a knitting needle under my arm and wrapping the yarn around my amputee arm was sufficient enough to allow me to knit with my left. From that point I was addicted. I felt confident and good, in my mind I had just achieved the impossible and it felt amazing.

Therapeutic benefits

Aside from the sense of achievement and excitement, I found knitting incredibly relaxing and therapeutic. I often worry about stuff I can’t control, from work stress to disability stress to general life stress, I feel like I’m juggling so many balls and with no right hand to catch them, I have to scramble around to keep them up in the air flying in all directions. Well, that’s how it feels anyway.

However, the repColourful wool knitted into s scarfetitive motion of knitting is one of the most relaxing things I have discovered – the familiar movement is comforting and calming in a way that is hard to describe. I’ve had days where unwinding from a hard day has seemed  impossible until I’ve picked up my knitting needles. I think that’s why it is so addictive – having your hands, or hand, busy, can help stress, anxiety, even sadness and anger leave your body. It’s almost magical.

Then came crochet

Once I mastered knitting, I had the bug and wanted to try crochet. This seemed simpler, one-handed even, as most of the yarn work was left-handed. It was trickier than I anticipated and very fiddly – I had to buy ergonomic hooks so that I could hold the hook between my amputee hand and my leg.

A selection of crochet squares in different coloursCrochet required perseverance and eventually I grasped the mechanics with my hook wedged between hand and leg. I sometimes find myself doing things a harder way because I haven’t taken a step back, looked around and thought ‘what can I use to make this easier?’. I’m usually too focused trying to do things as though I have two hands. But sometimes you just need a bit of help, even if it’s from an inanimate object. So I realised after about a week of practising that the ‘strap’ I use to hold my knife while eating would work well to hold my crochet hook.

I was able to speed up dramatically and it almost felt as though I had two hands.  My second craft addiction was born and I now live in a house overflowing with yarn!

It’s given me newfound confidence

I crochet on the tube as it’s easy to stop and start on the go, so I make a granny square during my commute. This takes every ounce of self-confidence I have. I don’t like people staring at my hand. I know it’s human nature but it makes me feel less human, like my hand defines me in their eyes, and I’m seen only as disabled.

A crochet circle with colourful patterns on itWhen I crochet, it’s different. People still look and stare, but now they see that despite missing a hand, I am capable of creating something beautiful, that I am many things and not defined by disability. It may just be in my head, but I feel that those watching me crochet one-handed see more than just a disabled girl. I also figure that the more people see it the less they will be shocked by it, helping to break the taboo.

Before, I would hide so that I wouldn’t be judged on my hand rather than my personality, I would hide so others wouldn’t feel uncomfortable or alter their behaviour. But crocheting on the tube has pushed me outside my comfort zone, helped me to not hide my hand when I leave the house.

Sense of achievement

Creating crafts has boosted my confidence, reduced my stress, helped me to find a peace within myself and has given me a pride and sense of achievement that I’ve never really had before. It’s helped me truly believe that I’m not defined by disability, I am defined by me, by my individuality, by my determination, by my weaknesses – I am a whole, not made up of just one but many parts.

My life has transformed and I hope to help other disabled people find their therapy in learning to knit or crochet, sharing my methods so they can find theirs – are you up for the challenge?

Do you have any creative hobbies that you find therapeutic? Elizabeth is on our online community now and would love to hear from you. You can also talk to her on Twitter @ElisabethWard04

“Oliver sees details the rest of us miss” – a young photographer’s story

Oliver is a young nature photographer who happens to have Down’s syndrome. Here, Oliver and his mum tell us what photography means to him.  

Q&A with Oliver

Scope: When did you first start taking photos?

Oliver: I was little – I was about 10 years old.

Scope: What is it about nature that you find so interesting?

Oliver: I like wildlife, I like birds and I like the landscape and taking pictures of the trees. I like water and I like going for walks out into ‘the wild’ and the countryside.

Close up photo of an eagleScope: Do you have a favourite animal?

Oliver: I like birds of prey and I really like long tailed tits.

Scope: How did you feel when you sold your first photograph?

Oliver: We had an exhibition and lots of people came to see my pictures. I gave a speech and we sold lots of pictures and with the money I bought a Chinese takeaway for us on the Sunday night when we finished, and bought a holiday in a cottage in Wales in the middle of nowhere! I’m very proud when I have an exhibition.

Scope: If you weren’t taking photos in your spare time, what do you think you’d be doing?

Oliver: I play football and snooker, and I don’t do so much skateboarding so much anymore. I read my books and my magazines and I like to watch TV. I still do bird-watching and walking in the countryside even if I don’t take pictures with my camera.green forest and woodland

Scope: What would you say to other young disabled people who don’t have much confidence?

Oliver: Just do it. Just go out there and do what you want!

Scope: How have your followers on Facebook and the publicity around your photos made you feel?

Oliver: It’s good. I like it. My fans say ‘that’s amazing!’ about my pictures and write messages to me. Yeah it’s good. I like it when we get more places to put on the map!

Wendy, Oliver’s mum

Oliver was born with Down’s syndrome, and severe cardiac issues requiring open heart surgery at three months old. During his early years he was also diagnosed with severe hypotonia (poor muscle tone) and verbal dyspraxia. I was told he wouldn’t be able to take part in sporting activities, and that his speech would probably never reach a point where he could be understood by an unfamiliar lA baby photograph of Oliver with blonde hairistener. However with belief, determination and input from myself and Oliver’s big sister Anna (who was eight when he was born)  by the time he was eight years old he was skateboarding as well as playing football, basketball and snooker, and at 10 years old was asking perfectly clearly for a Subaru Imprezza with a spoiler on the back and a Bugatti Veyron for his birthday!

Oliver is testament to the fact that anyone can achieve and prove negative predictions to be wrong, when they are surrounded by optimism, belief, determination and encouragement. My partner Mike has been best mate and stepfather all rolled into one for Oliver – they both love wildlife, the countryside, and bird-watching. Mike came into Oliver’s life when Oliver was nine. When Oliver was about 10 or 11 he started to want to take photos “like Mike”.

A close-up of some green ivy leavesMike’s targeted tuition and guidance has helped Oliver to use the world of photography as both a tool for him to record what he sees in the way he sees it, and as something which brings Oliver a great sense of pride and self-esteem. He takes pictures of everything and anything which ‘catches’ his eye and will spend as much time and effort on a torn and ragged leaf or some broken sticks as he will on a beautiful bloom. He loves the light catching anything and particularly water. He will spend ages capturing splashes at the bottom of a waterfall or in a rocky river. Birds are probably his greatest love and his knowledge and ability to identify any bird at a glance and even from a distance is astounding. Oliver takes pictures of things other people walk past because he notices the detail the rest of us miss. He sees beauty where we do not, and to a certain extent his having Down’s syndrome ‘releases’ him from the ‘rules’ and expectations of what is perceived to be worthy of a picture, which the rest of us adhere to without even realising. Oliver makes weeds look brilliant!

He is a truly inspirational young man who loves life and loves what he does, and seeks to be a ‘professional’ earning a proper income from his talent. His achievements are changing and improving the expectations A robin standing on some grassof others, championing disability, and helping to banish outdated and negative stereotypes associated with Down’s syndrome. We receive so many heart-warming messages from parents of disabled children explaining the huge difference Oliver has made to their lives by restoring hopes, dreams and aspirations for their children. He illustrates just how important it is that we value and enjoy diversity in society, and spreads the news that ‘difference’ can be something to be truly celebrated.

Oliver was recently featured in a lovely film piece on the One Show, and on BBC news worldwide. He’s currently crowdfunding for his first coffee table book to be published – so get in quick and bag yourself a copy of the first edition. 

You can visit Oliver’s website to see and purchase his photographs as prints or greetings cards. You can also like Oliver’s Facebook page and get up to date news from his sightings in your newsfeed. Feeling inspired?