30th May is creativity day, many of us including myself like to create.
Do you? Some of us, again I fortunately count myself among these get to do it for a living.
Partially at least at my job here at Printed by Us, the social enterprise attached to our parent charity The Archer Project. I am very fortunate to be in long term recovery from addiction and mental illness. I've had a lot of help from our organisation and others, I have put in the work too I suppose, but it has been creativity and the sharing of my poetry that has helped me grow and recover most of all.
Art has a capacity to bridge so many gaps between us all no matter our class or economic background to a person we have all been moved by the consumption of a particular art.
Maybe you like to paint or draw, make models, sing, or play an instrument. It doesn't really matter. It's the doing of it that's important. If someone had told me seven years ago as I sat in a prison cell suffering from psychosis, heavily addicted to drugs, that one day I would be an artist and use that exact experience of trauma and incarceration as fuel for my work.
I would have simply laughed and walked away shaking my head and counting myself lucky that although I was hearing voices I still wasn't as insane as that person.
Fast forward to today and I have accomplished so many things in such a short space of time since my recovery and release. From multiple BBC appearances, public speaking, podcasts, running my own creative writing workshops, blogging for the police and appearing as a guest lecturer at the University of Sheffield to name but a few.
Creativity has not just changed my own life I'm fully certain it may have saved it.
Addicts like I get bored very easily, always looking for bigger and better ,more exciting projects, more dopamine, just more everything really. This yearning for something more, hardwired by ourselves and our patterns of behaviour into our DNA. I have never lasted long myself in conventional roles, the military was my longest career but that is my point it was exciting and every day was different.
Printed by Us not a conventional job, and wholly staffed by unconventional people like us. Heck, even our managers are unconventional, but they would have to be to work here I suppose.
No day is the same here and we generate all our incomes from the products that we create by hand ourselves in this lovely city.
All of our staff come from different backgrounds but all share common histories with illness, addiction and trauma. We all need work but we all also needed something a little, well, more.
Screen Printing is an amazingly therapeutic process, we all love it.
We love getting it right, we love the sheer in-the zone mindfulness that it brings, which to folks like us who struggle to be present is just like cool water to a person dying of thirst.
The dopamine hit at the end of a long day printing, aching arms and shoulders but wow.
Our creations are there, dozens of them, hundreds sometimes! Drying slowly on their racks, signing comes next, our names prominently displayed beside the prints designers adding to our sense of achievement, of fulfilment, and of being seen for something more than the sum of our worst parts.
Creativity can change lives. It changed mine, it created an entire social enterprise and generated dozens of jobs and fulfilling lives for some of our communities least employable folk.
Creativity has created an entire business model with an ethos of allowing people to work to the best of each of their individual abilities. We celebrate and are grateful for this each day and on the 30th of May we hope you will celebrate it with us for at least one day.
- Chris (@wordsfromtheshed)