A Wife. A Carer. A Printmaker.
I have had an artist book idea bubbling inside my head, and heart, for a while now. It will be a letterpress and linoprint story about the new life I started 3 years ago … when I met the man of my dreams. My world was turned upside-down, inside-out and sideways … for all the right reasons and reasons I wasn’t expecting. In this new life I am a Wife. A Carer. And a Printmaker. The changes in my life have been profound. I wrote a little while ago that printmaking is my therapy, my art therapy. This artist book will be one expression of the crazy world of PTSD and loving and caring for the most wonderful man in my life, and for myself.
This week is, or rather was, National Carers Week 2017, 15-21 October. I never fully appreciated how invaluable Carers are to our families, friends and society. Now I am a Carer. And I am proud of this role in my life. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the people who take on this role, whether by choice, circumstance or any other reason. As a society we need to support each other, and this is one way of doing that.
National Carers Week is about recognising and celebrating the outstanding contribution Australia’s 2.7 million unpaid carers make to our nation.
I love being married. For so many different reasons. When my husband is well, we live the normal ups and downs of married life, and through all of that I know he has my back, and me his. He is a tremendous support to me and my arts practice. He encourages me, and strangely enough is an excellent advisor. In turn I love and support him. I do the best I can, but I do struggle at times. Being a Carer and a Wife is a difficult dual-path to travel. I like to think of myself as Wife first, Carer second, but sometimes those roles feel at odds with each other. Being a Carer for anyone changes so many aspects of your life…
Honestly, I’m not sure that I ‘love’ being a Carer, but it is a role I am proud to take on, for him. I love my husband. I love ‘us’. And he needs my support.
People become Carers for so many different reasons. Life happens, surprises happen, and love happens. I think love is an essential ingredient motivating any Carer. By that I don’t mean specifically romantic love … rather love of people, of life, and of helping create a life for someone as fulfilled as their own within the possibilities of their circumstances.
My husband is a contemporary war veteran with PTSD. He served ten years in the Australian Army, ten years with the Australian Federal Police. He didn’t ask for this affliction (PTSD). It happened. He served his country with pride and is now fully and medically retired. He fights his own demons every day. Some I fight with him, other I fight against, but many I can only watch as his internal battle rages. As a Carer and a Wife I have learned many lessons for my own survival in this silent battle; and there are still many more to learn.
For me, in this space, a big question is … who takes care of the Carer? Who holds them tight to reassure them that they are loved and valued; and make sure that their needs are met? Who picks up the pieces when their world crashes down around the Carer? It inevitably does, and that’s ok, we’re human. Carers need that same love and care and respect as the ones they care for.
First and foremost, I think Carers need to find a way to nurture themselves. Easier said that done, I know. But teach yourself those skills and you can help yourself through the lonely times when your caring duties are all consuming and it almost feels like it will never end. I have love and support around me with family and friends. and my husband, but I have also learned the value of self care and identifying, understanding and catering to my own self-care needs.
A very wise friend gave me invaluable advice early on in my relationship with my husband … “don’t forget to take care of your self”. She had been a Carer, and I had finally learned to listen to the words shared from people who have walked a similar path before me. I am forever grateful to her for sharing that sentiment, that life experience and knowledge, with me.
I love printmaking.
I love making art.
I am a Printmaker.
Printmaking is my respite.
My own therapy.
My self care and soul care.
My “me time”.
Printmaking and creating art is how I take care of Me.
For me, printmaking is about process, and it is in the process that I get lost within myself. It’s meditative. Time in my studio is like stepping into a safe world I have created for myself and giving myself a great big reassuring hug. Sometimes I just sit there, taking in the smells, textures and creative chaos; other times I create. And it is in this creation that I find real respite.
Creating hand-printed, hand made art prints is pure joy for me. I love to work with paper. Working and creating with my hands. I love the look and feel of ink on my fingers. Staining my skin and carrying it with me for a few days while it wears away. Working with my hands to trace images, transfer them to my printing blocks; hand carving shapes then mixing inks to create my printing colour palette. Bliss. Printmaking bliss.
The main subjects for my printmaking work are taken from moments experienced in the natural environment – birds, landscapes, glimpses into the beautiful world that surrounds me every day. Reflecting on these moments while working in process gives me the time to be still. To breathe.
The past few weeks presented some new challenges for us, but time in my studio gave me, gives me, the space I needed to process what was going on, what I am fearful of, reflect, or just escape. I leave the studio feeling like I gave Myself something and I can work through the rest of the day.
And back to “PTSD… A love Story”
My artist book is very much a work in progress. Much of it is still inside me waiting to take form, but it will combine letterpress printed words with illustrated expression carved into lino and printed on to paper. It may be a while before I post about it again. It is, and will be, deeply personal; but it will be something I hope to be proud to share.
I create art, first and foremost, for myself. I also create art with the hope that someone else connects with my creativity.
I am a Wife. A Carer. A Printmaker. I am forever grateful that I have my printmaking. I am also forever grateful for my Husband and for what I have learned about myself in this journey that we share.
Other Artist Books
I have created a few artist books. I love artist books. For me they are a sculptural form of art and printmaking. They are created to be touched, read and caressed. Below are two books I created a few years ago. The book I am currently working on will be totally different in content, imagery and construction; but it will still present an open and honest account of an important moment in my life…