Following on from Scott’s beautiful piece he wrote yesterday for Mental Health Awareness Day, we thought it would be nice to share one of our student’s stories.
We recently put a poll out to see how many people knew we were a Community Interest Company and an alarming amount of you said you did not. That is a failure on our part! We have a brilliant story to tell but we are simply not telling it.
To counteract that, we invited one of our students to tell us her story. We are a not for profit company, our profits our reinvested in our company and we have been supporting Sophie in her journey into Jewellery Making. When you buy a class or commission a piece of jewellery you are enabling us to help others like Sophie. She was invited to take part in our Summer Schools, Freestyle sessions and now she is a member, after she reached out to us earlier in the year.
We thought it would be good to share Sophie’s story and how the discovery of Jewellery making has led her to find her purpose and passion.
“I came across Vanilla Ink at a critical time in a shipwrecked life, whose ghosts were proving difficult to leave behind. Historically, I was always supposed to be a writer. Being unusually good at English from a young age saw this decided for me, with my lack of ambition – in any area at all, not just writing – making me nervous and suggestible where the weighty subject of My Future was concerned. I graduated from University, yes. But it didn't mean much to me. I went because it was expected of me, and therefore (I hoped) it must be right . . . surely? Contemplating my place in this world always felt like looking at a mirror, wherein my poor, spectral truth was betrayed by my lack of reflection. The future was neither mine to seize nor to throw away. This existential floundering would, years later, be identified as one of the many traits of being a female with Autism. However, even this diagnosis did nothing to free me from the insane amount of pressure I put myself under to function 'normally', or the constant guilt I felt from failing to do so thus far. These intensified, and to cut a very dreary story much shorter than it felt at the time, my mental health deteriorated, culminating in a suicide attempt when I was twenty-nine. Having failed to accomplish even that successfully, I was still left with the burden of my future, and what to do with it. Only now, at the age of thirty-three, am I beginning to have any real idea.
I'm not going to pretend that my skill level is anywhere near the point where I might make the (rather pretentious) claim that I can, through manipulating metal, express myself where I failed with words. One day, perhaps. Then again, part of what I find so comforting about jewellery it is that it transcends mere language. This is why we propose with rings; the discrepancy between the fragility of our bodies and the ineffable emotion our souls are capable of is a humiliation. The body is completely unequal to the task the mind puts before it. This is the tragi-comedy of the mortal creature who, if not exactly capable of fully understanding eternity and death, is at least aware of their logical ramifications. Metal bears this burden for us, where it can.
A treasured childhood memory:
It is the winter of 1995, and I am nine years old. I am at my grandmother's house, and as the Northern rain batters the windows, I am sitting before the fire and playing with her jewellery box, which I ask for every time I visit her. It is lined with red velvet, and contains a tiny brass pig, a china tortoise, a sprig of dried heather, pearl and ivory buttons, my grandfather's wedding ring (which he continually neglects to wear, much to my grandmother's chagrin), the milk teeth of a child, a rabbit paw, a kilt pin, a silver, segmented fish with genuine turquoise eyes, and many other rare things - glorious, seasoned items that are far older than I am. They make a mysterious collection, redolent of witchcraft and lost tradition. The mournful cry of a pigeon echoes down the chimney, and the firelight plays on the face of my grandmother, who has fallen asleep in her chair. The next year she would be dead, and everything she was would be lost to my childish world. But, in that room, sitting on a carpet burnt full of holes from fire-sparks, I am aware, in my juvenile way, that the magic of small things has taken root in me.
Only my jewellery can return me to that enchanted space in time, can awaken that same humbling, comforting sense of being a part of something ancient, powerful and beautiful that I felt all those years ago. Learning how to make my own means more to me than I can express, and Vanilla Ink have made that possible for me. It is because of them that I am - at last - learning to look forward to, rather than dread, my future.”