“I graduated from the school of jewellery in Birmingham in 1996 and have been running my own business since then apart from the 2 years I spent working in gemstone dealers in Hatton Garden whilst studying gemmology at the Gemmological Association and Gem Testing Laboratory of Great Britain. I have supplied shops, attended fairs and exhibited in galleries all over the UK but during the last 15 years I decided to sell from my studio in Crowborough and online through my website. The last 5 years I have been running jewellery making workshops in my studio for people to come and make their own jewellery. The workshops have been successful as I feel people are very interested in having experiences now especially as a way to celebrate special occasions.
Coronavirus came and I never would have predicted what would come next.
As lockdown began in March 2020 all my workshops came to an end. I was not able to get any financial support and it was basically a time to refocus and keep busy on some kind of creativity.
I decided to start a project for my daughter and her friends making daily art tasks as my daughter Rosie has a sickness phobia. I believe art to be a great form of therapy so I thought a daily art task would keep her mind away from the worries of catching covid as well as giving her something to talk about with her friends on her phone group (a positive chat rather than perpetuating the fear of catching the virus). The series of daily tasks involved drawing, watercolour paintings and sketching things inspired from nature and capturing spring at the time. As Rosie’s school work increased the daily art tasks naturally came to an end but I decided to carry on as I found that it was an enormous benefit to my own mental health too. I decided to capture the events happening at this huge point in time in a very gentle way.
I have suffered from depression for many years and was diagnosed with a rare form of brain tumour in 2017 (not fatal but still with quality of life limiting aspects). My depression still lurks in the shadows but I am much more able to recognise it when it comes and I know what practices I need to do to keep it at bay. The hours and hours of painting during lockdown was very therapeutic and it naturally evolved into a book. I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in years and I am not a trained illustrator or author but it just felt like something I had to do and I really enjoyed doing it. The words just evolved as the paintings evolved each day.
It was very important to me that my book not only captured this momentous time in history but that it also contained an underlying wisdom for mental health and wellbeing so that it could also have some beneficial aspect to it as well. I decided to not only write the story in a very child friendly way so that our children can read it to their children and say that they went though this time but I also wanted it to be a book that parents could read to their children and hopefully parents could draw upon some of the wisdom too. I have had some wonderful comments and I have truly been blessed to have received such lovely feedback from grandparents and the older generation who have said that it helped them during the time of the pandemic. I really did not expect that.
I designed a series of Blackbirds wellbeing worksheets for primary school age children to download for free which are also available on my website. These also are based on elements from the book such as mindfulness, kindness, gratitude etc. I am also very blessed to have had friends of friends who translated the book into other languages in exchange for my jewellery. I wanted the book to be available to everyone all over the world as this pandemic has affected every single person on the planet in some way or other.
I decided right from the start that I would self publish my book using kindle direct publishing. This was mainly for financial reasons as there are no up front costs and print on demand seemed the most sensible thing to do as I may only sell a few books. I also would not have enjoyed the stressful search for publishers and the many rejections. I have always liked to be in control of all aspects of my work and writing and illustrating a book was no different. It turns out that print on demand was completely the right thing to do as it was so easy to update a couple of times when a couple of typos needed to be changed. It would not have been good to have boxes of published books where ‘scientits’ not ‘scientists’ worked hard finding the vaccine!
Since the book was published I used the illustrations and wisdom within the book as inspiration for jewellery collections. It is very important to me for my work to have meaning. I also designed and had made hand carved wood blocks from India. I have developed both these into gift sets also under the headings of the collections such as ‘Patience’ ‘Acceptance’ ‘Precious’, ‘Perseverance’ ‘Strength and Courage’ etc.
I use the blocks also for a charity project I use the blocks to print designs onto bags and pencil cases and then make them into embroidery kits (people hand embroider over the lines of the designs). The kits which can be used as a form of mindfulness I give to anyone who I come across who is suffering mentally, or give some to support groups, hospice patients and families who are part of Taylor Made Dreams. Taylor Made Dreams is a local charity in my town that supports families with children who have life limiting illnesses.
The concept of mindfulness through embroidery originally came from my own experience of using embroidery as a form of mindfulness and distraction from my own worries after my neuro surgery in 2017 and the 6 weeks of radio therapy I had every day. This was a challenging time but my embroidery helped me so much so I’m hoping it can help other people in the same way.
Everybody has their own version and perspective on 2020/21 and I have learned a lot from it but I think the biggest thing I have learned is to not have so many rigid plans to my life and to sometimes let go and just go with the flow and see where it takes you.
I wish you peace in your mind and love in your heart.”
When The Birds Sang Louder – available at Amazon now – https://amzn.to/3vHuDNr
The information that is on the back of the book:
The year of 2020 and 2021 will be remembered as a time of sadness, reflection, great loss and challenging times. It will also be remembered for its acts of kindness, community spirit and a return to the simple joy of getting back to nature. Delightfully illustrated, When the Birds Sang Louder cleverly captures this chapter in history in a child friendly way that will be enjoyed for generations to come. One day the virus will be history, but one blackbird’s wisdom is simply and beautifully eternal.
“When the Birds Sang Louder is a touching and gentle reflection of a time that changed the lives of every human on Earth. Wendy lovingly weaves thought-provoking philosophical concepts throughout this tale of harsh reality in an accessible and inspiring way, teaching us that there is indeed much to be learnt from the natural world around us. Captured and carved in illuminating illustrations and stunning script, this book will humble the hearts and move the minds of readers of any age.”
– Emma Mitchell, primary school teacher