I have another wonderful interview to share with you. This one is from the lovely Karen, she’s the founder of an amazing website called Conscious Crafties which features and sells crafts made by chronically ill people. The site has some lovely stuff which you should check out.
What craft(/s) do you do?
I make meditation benches with my partner out of recycled furniture. Jamie carefully sands down the furniture to make into the bench and I upholster the seat or brand the wood with symbols or words. I also love making unique hand crafted silver charms using Silver Art Clay. I paint, sketch, decoupage, make clay sculptures, shabby chic furniture and all sorts of things. I just can’t knit or crochet to save my life!
What illness/es do you have?
In 2011 I was perfectly healthy going about my workaholic lifestyle when BOOM! – I started fainting up to 10 times a day and my bed became my best friend. A year later I was diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) a rare condition affecting the blood vessels and heart rate. There’s no cure, but reaching out to others with the same condition has been a huge help in learning to live with it. 3 years later I was told my POTS was caused by EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) a connective tissue disorder affecting the skin, cartilage, ligaments and blood vessels – everything that holds us together! I also have some bonus conditions: Fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s Disease, Chronic Pain Syndrome, Migraines and Asthma. Life has been tough, but I’ve met some wonderfully strong friends who also live with chronic illnesses which gave me the idea to set up ConsciousCrafties – craft selling site and community for people living with Chronic Illness, Disability or Caring for a loved one.
What are your favourite pieces of craft equipment?
Since setting up ConsciousCrafties my craft has been web site building, so all my time is sat in front of my pretty pink laptop!
Why did you start crafting?
I started crafting again after realising that I no longer fitted into the constraints of being a reliable and ambitious employee. Who wants someone that can only be awake and conscious for a few hours?? I was practically bed ridden for about 10 months before I was finally diagnosed and helped with drugs. I then started making my own meditation benches out of old furniture that was lying around my home. I joined lots of support groups for my various illnesses and met other Spoonies who also loved to craft and we became great friends.
What adaptations or changes have you had to make to craft because of your illness(es)?
Certain things aren’t ‘Karen friendly’, I can’t stand for long without passing out so my previous love of shabby chic’ing furniture is off the cards. Instead I up-cycle children’s furniture as I can do this whilst seated because they are so tiny! I’ve always thought there was something magical about old children furniture so I’m not sad about the things I can’t do and instead focus on what I can.
Making a cushion and upholstering a meditation bench using a customer’s old baby’s blanket. I love creating something beautiful out of old materials!
How expensive is your craft/ how much do you spend on crafting?
I dread to think how much I have spent over the years creating shiny new things!
My silver jewellery has probably cost me the most as the art silver clay is so expensive and can only be bought from Japan.
I’ve not been able to make any lately as I’m struggling to survive on sick pay. I’m hoping in time I can start creating again, but I’m using every last spoon running our Conscious Crafties community – and loving it!
Advice for someone with a chronic illness starting off in your craft(/s)?
Always think about the things you can do, rather than upsetting yourself over the things you can’t. Buy everything second hand! Quite often people take up crafts but find they don’t have time or patience to carry on crafting so will sell all their tools/raw materials as kits on Ebay etc. Or borrow friends equipment first to see if it’s something you want to invest in. YouTube and Pinterest are craft havens and you can teach yourself literally anything! Some of our Crafties are about to start making video tutorials too!
Additional info – where the ConsciousCrafties.com idea cam from….
After becoming sick in 2011 almost overnight, I found my way to various support networks. I noticed that many of us turn to crafts to help distract from our illnesses and to feel useful again. Seeing so much untapped talent, the idea was born to create a community for everyone to showcase their work, in one place and give people a way of creating their own business. It was also a way for me to feel useful again, by using my skills to help others. ConsciousCrafties is about empowering us all to be successful through our crafts, tell our stories and meet new like minded friends who understand our struggles. I’m also hoping it plays a key part in changing the way disabled/sick people are viewed by the world. We can still contribute and are incredibly talented!! ConsciousCrafties has been built in honour of Sam, my beautiful friend I met through sickness and our love of crafts. Her strong fight with Gastroparethis and POTS sadly ended in Oct 14. Heartbroken, I knew then, after years of thinking about it, the idea for us all to sell our crafts within a supportive community needed to be launched, so it could help people now and give them hope for the future.
If you would like to take part in a crafter interview for my blog please do get in touch, I would love to hear from you.