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Thank you so much to everyone who has emailed, commented and got in touch about the shape of words so far. it's considerably later in the year than I anticipated finishing this project, but who knew how weird this covid-centric year would be! the fantastic Chris lloyd has managed to create a film that nicely sums up the shape of words, despite having to work under covid restrictions and with really limited opportunity to film anything! You can see it by clicking here


A bangle made of lots of differently coloured small felt balls
'Pobol' bangle: sterling silver & wool

The pieces can currently be seen in Oriel Bevan Jones Gallery. the project has definitely shaped how I work; just looking at my bench today and seeing the variety of materials can attest to the difference. My upcoming work features mixed media, including antique objects, more sensory aspects and i have realised all of them are deeply connected to the history and/or places in south wales. learning welsh (I'm still at the very basic level, and have decided to award myself the slow learner gold star) has definitely made me look deeper at my own welsh roots and given me a new found love for the country.

Cheerful bearded Welsh Man holding a horse, pulling a cart  filled with 6 men
My Great-grandfather; Llewelyn Morgan Jones with his sons (no room for the daughters!)

I'm looking forward to continuing taking inspiration from my home town and my favourite places & things. today i've been working on a simple ring based on lady bute's bed in william burges' beautiful castle coch, which has been part of the background scenery for me since i was born.

'Lady Bute' ring in progress

i was always desperate to try out lady bute's bed; it's based on a medieval design by Viollet-le-Duc, and features rock crystal balls, good for clarity of thought and intuition! The ring will have a spinning platform, as a nod to sensory play too. it's been a real joy to fall in love with making all over again.

Lady Bute's colourfel bed with 8 rock crystal balls adorning it
Lady Bute's Bed in Castell Coch (image by Hector Garcia)

I'm excited moving on from this, and grateful for what i've learned along the way. I'm very much looking forward to sharing the exhibition with the autistic community later this year and finding out more about how neurodivergence helps shape our creativity.


thanks for coming along for the ride!


Lydia's signature




Finally the Shape of Words gets its first physical exhibition. Yesterday we drove down to Carmarthen to deliver the work to the Oriel Bevan Jones Gallery in readiness for opening next Thursday, on April 15th. Due to Covid restrictions, the gallery will be open Thursday to Saturdays initially. As another artist had an exhibition booked in from May (my exhibition was originally scheduled from 26th Jan-31st March), the gallery are kindly keeping my work on site, where it will move into the main window until later in the year, when I'll be bringing it to the Autism Hub in Caerphilly.

5 brass egg-like pendants with glow in the dark centres hung on red silk cords
Brass 'Gwybod' pendants on silk

I've also completed filming with Chris Lloyd, and will post when the short film Chris has made on the project is finished. Chris is a fascinating human and made a process that I was highly anxious about a total joy, I'm very much looking forward to sharing it with you.


Lydia's studio seat
Contemplating spot in the studio






The tail end of this project is naturally reflective. I can categorically state I'm not the same person coming out as I was going in. I'll be able to reopen my studio to customers this coming week and seeing people in person will be a delight. Creatively, I've rediscovered the child-like joy of making and my upcoming work is more experimental and exciting than any I've done in many years. My bench is currently home to taxidermied beetles, watch glasses, antique tins and some incredible natural stones that will all have a place in jewellery I'm working on. A little more difficult to talk about is the tremendously personal changes that have happened. I debated not mentioning this, but given that this whole project was only feasible due to Covid, and it is absolutely related to Covid, I felt it important.

Trigger warning; the rest of this concerns mental health problems and talk of suicidal thoughts.


Like many people, lockdowns took their toll on me. We're a neuro diverse family, and being under each other's feet constantly as well as increasing anxieties made things tough. Worries from everything from how would we pay the rent to how our kids were coping with isolation and exam changes started stacking up. I've been fortunate enough to have robust mental health all my life, but during Winter, I knew my anxiety and depressive states were worsening. Referrals to the local Mental Health team were fruitless, everything was closed due to Covid. I had completed a 6 week self-referral course with the wonderful MIND charity, but knew it was weeks before a subsequent course started. No face to face support was available, so they suggested I consider a mild antidepressant until it was. I had decided to take the following week off work for my eldest's 16th and my birthday the following day, so figured that was a good time to trial it, figuring it might make me snoozy initially. [Insert hollow laugh here.]


Pills
The drugs do work. Some of them.

Unfortunately I had an adverse reaction to the medication. I had read it could increase anxiety initially, so perservered in taking it, which resulted in me being fully awake and unable to eat for a week. During that time, I couldn't stand any sensory input, no music, tv, reading, conversation, anything. Birthdays came and went with me unable to talk or interact with my family. A few days in and daily phonecalls were happening with the GP surgery. I became terrified to take any medication. Every minute seemed to be lasting hours, and I was in an absolutely hellish place mentally, my anxieties cycling rapidly with no respite from distraction or sleep. Finally after a week, I walked downstairs and calmly told my husband I wanted to take all the medication we had in the house and for it to just be over. He finally got me to agree (with the help of a very patient triage nurse on the phone) to go to A&E to see the mental health team. It took two beta blockers and a valium for me to be in a state to get in the car. If you're having a break with reality (which this most definitely was), I do not recommend waiting for hours in A&E during a pandemic. I'd been dropped into a new, dystopian sci-fi circle of hell. What I found interesting, retrospectively, is that I always thought suicidal thoughts must be an active process. A wanting to actively end your life. What I know now is that it (for me) was a dreadful, flat lacking. I didn't have a desire to die, I just wanted it all to stop by any means. It wasn't because I didn't appreciate or love my beautiful family, what I do and everything I enjoy. I just wanted the horrific treadmill of my thoughts to stop.


To cut a long story short, the mental health nurses were wonderful. They emailed my GP, who called me not long after we got home. I was then basically sedated for 2 weeks. Sleeping pills, beta blockers, benzos. I slept. Beautiful, magical, under-rated sleep. I am now talking to MIND again once a week, and on a waiting list for group therapy via the NHS. MIND has been incredible and transformative (and yes, I'll be looking to raise them some money soon). I'm also on a new medication that has helped hugely. I know some people dislike pharmaceutical intervention, but it can literally be a life-saver whilst you learn to navigate your way back to being yourself. It's also surprising how much hard work it's taking/taken to change how I deal (or don't deal) with things, but I've found it like giving up smoking. It's all to the greater good.

So now recovery is well underway, I'm obviosuly still 'me', although currently a slightly more fragile version. I'm definitely a gentler version. I'm definitely improving at not taking on board things that don't matter, or trying to maintain control over things I can't. My creativity has come back in floods, and is helping me enormously. I'm tremendously fortunate to have my husband and kids. They were (and are) absolutely amazing during the whole time. I absolutely wouldn't be here without them, and they're magic. I owe one a birthday.


It's bonkers that this all happened just after I put up the online exhibition of the Shape Of Words, and yesterday, driving down to the gallery, my husband said how amazing it was that I was able to be well enough that the project could be completed. I realise I'm very lucky to have come out the other side. I could have not mentioned this whole period, given that it existed in the quiet between the online gallery being completed, and the project's culmination. I hope that in choosing to talk about it, someone else may take a tiny bit of comfort knowing they're not the only one to experience something similar.


I'll be making one final post in relation to The Shape of Words, once the doors have opened on a post-lockdown gallery, and the short film is up. I'm looking forward. :)


Lydia's signature





Tomorrow (25.01.21) the Shape of Words gallery will launch on niziblian.com

Finally you will be able to see the beautiful images taken by Aga Hosking and the accompanying texts. If I've got all my website trickery correct, pages should be translatable f to and from Welsh. The physical exhibition (and accompanying short film) at Oriel Bevan Jones Gallery were initially scheduled to launch tomorrow, but will now be taking place later in the year, as will other exhibitions. However, the 'when' is now entirely down to lockdown restrictions.


There will still be updates to this blog, as some of the progression work still remains unseen (you're going to love my brass gwybods!) and I will keep you informed of any solid dates once I have them. In the meantime, I hope you love the gallery when it's up tomorrow and please do leave me feedback. Without seeing responses in person, it would mean the world to me to get your thoughts on the collection.


All my thanks,

Lydia

3 of the Yn Barod rings with differing finishes.
Yn Barod trio of rings; sterling silver & patina