When I met Kate for the first time at her Open Studios event two years ago, I never would have guessed about the internal mental health struggles she’d been through.
She seemed so happy and confident. But I guess that’s the message that we should all take away – you never can tell what’s going on in someone else’s life.
Kate’s designs are exquisite and creating them is a hugely therapeutic process for her. She explains here how making and designing is helping her to overcome a recent episode of OCD…
How would you describe your jewellery?
I would describe my jewellery as precious yet understated, organic in form and very wearable!
Tell us about your mental health struggles
I first experienced what I can only think of as a bout of depression when I was just 12 or 13 years old, and it literally happened overnight, seemingly out of nowhere. I became withdrawn and felt like I was in a bit of a bubble.
Fast forward to 2019 and I am recovering from a recent episode of the anxiety driven disorder, OCD. Anxiety and low mood has struck a few times in those intervening years, but became magnified after the birth of my first child in 2010.
How does making jewellery help with that?
Above all, I am just thankful that I run my own business. It has given me the flexibility to take things easier when I need to, without having to explain my reasons to a room full of colleagues. I have had, and still have, the most supportive and caring people that I work with, particularly my assistant Pippa, who was amazing when things got really bad last year.
From a jewellery making perspective, I do feel at my most focused and mindful when I am at the bench, which always helps to settle the mind!
What’s your favourite jewellery making process?
Can I say taking pictures that inspire my jewellery!? I have always liked photography and find it really pleasurable to take images of nature’s details as well as the finished items we make in the studio.
How much does jewellery making/design help?
I think it can be a double-edged sword. As I mentioned, running your own business does give you flexibility, but I think it has also made me more vulnerable to mental health issues through the ‘must keep working’ mentality, combined with perfectionist tendencies that I know a lot of crafts people have!
How does this affect you in your everyday life?
Mental health issues, when they’re severe, can make it difficult to function properly – everything takes 10 x longer and it saps the enjoyment out of life in general, which in turn can make me feel sad, especially as we have two children. I feel I miss out when I am experiencing a bad patch.
My husband has always been the most supportive man you could wish to have on your side during these struggles, but it has put a strain on our relationship at times. I am just so thankful that he has stuck around to help me through an out the other side and been able to still see Kate when I couldn’t.
How do you manage the busy life of a jeweller, along with dealing with mental health problems?
Sometimes, actually having to get on with orders and commissions is a good thing – because effectively the buck stops with me as the creative driving force and business owner, so things just have to get done!
I am trying to be a little kinder to myself though now, and recognise that if I need to take things slower, say no to things and take a day off, then I will do. Because nothing’s as important as your mental and physical well being, is it? (It’s taken me about 25 years to actually realise and believe this though!)
What do you think should be done to help other people with mental health problems? Are we doing enough?
Wonderful services are available through the NHS – I have met many amazing, supportive people through my own experiences – but the waiting lists for therapy are just so long! Some would argue that these can never be seen as vital as services that treat physical illnesses, due to the life threatening aspect of them, but try telling that to a person who doesn’t see the point in being here, and then tell me that it’s not life-threatening.
Is there any particular part of the jewellery making process that helps you more than others?
Experimenting! I just don’t do it enough at the moment, but that freedom that you allow yourself is very calming and inspiring at the same time.
What would you say to someone else who might be struggling and haven’t found a way to manage their mental health problems?
Speak to someone who you love and who you know loves you, because they will want to comfort you. They may not have the answers, but it will help you to feel less isolated, which I have found is key.
Also to really believe that as humans, we ALL struggle, it’s just some people either hide it better than others or have maybe worked out what helps them. We all need that help sometimes, and it’s ok to ask for it. A visit to your GP would be a great starting point.
What are your plans for the future?
To stay well, keep making, creating and connecting with people.