Since starting at Artsenta, Diane Lloyd has experienced acceptance, stable mental health and joy in creating pottery.
“I’d just encourage others when things have been so bleak, that there is hope and if people can nurture what they enjoy, it gets its own momentum,” she says.
The Dunedin art studio is for people who are using mental health services. It’s free and provides space to create all types of art, as well as activities, resources and specialist Art Workers.
Diane says while it might sound cliched, the studio helps her achieve the right balance, and she shares what this looks like.
“A purpose to work towards, a bit of faith and hope in what you can do, attending – it doesn’t happen on its own,” she notes, referring to the importance of turning up regularly.
She finds the Artsenta environment helps nurture faith and hope, as people with arts, music and craft skills work alongside beginners. Trying their hand in the shared space, they’re fellow artists.
“We don’t talk about our stories or issues, we’re more inclined to talk about art or music or food.”
The studio is purpose-based rather than a platform for sharing mental health stories because there are other places for that, she says.
Diane’s been diagnosed with depression, bi-polar disorder and schizo-affective disorder. Since starting at Artsenta almost two years ago, she hasn’t had a sick day.
“The combination of being able to attend here and work here and be creative, in line with taking medication, has kept me completely stable.”
Journeying back to pottery
Thirty years ago, Diane was a solo mum and while her two daughters were at crèche, she joined the Cromwell Ladies’ Pottery Group for about a year, flooding her family and friends with pots. Then she put aside the hobby.
More recently, while working as a registered nurse, she began having issues with stress and a woman from the Otago Mental Health Support Trust suggested Artsenta.
Diane has a lung condition and when the global Covid-19 pandemic developed in early 2020, she was laid off nursing and became more involved with the art studio.
“[It was] as a way of putting something in my day and my pottery just sort of took off.”
She realised what had been going on in her workplace and life.
“Because I started feeling so much better in myself, I realised the pressure and stress involved in working was actually too much.”
She loves the physicality of potting, describing a four to six-week process which includes intentionally waking up to mould something, waiting for it to dry, bisque-firing in the kiln, glazing, decorating and firing again.
“It’s very involving and just the whole thing has its own momentum”.
Diane used to self-isolate because her experience didn’t marry up with other people’s, however at Artsenta she’s discovered common ground.
“Here there’s a shared sort of experience and acceptance – acceptance, I think.”
She likes making practical domestic ware, both by hand and on the pottery wheel.
When I came here, I realised that I had skills that I’d taken for granted but now I look at them as a gift.”
Diane started producing more than the studio resources catered for, so Artsenta supported her joining the Otago Potters Group.
She’s never belonged to any club, yet is now part of this group and a market collective, because she sells her pots at various local markets.
And the customers’ feedback?
“People love it, they say it’s beautiful. I have people who come back to me who say, ‘I’m using your bowl and I think of you every time I use it’.”
There is joy in creating something which lives on for someone else, she says.
Large community space
Behind wide windows in Princes St, Artsenta’s large community space includes plenty of worktables, a general tool area, recording studio, kiln, potter’s wheel, sewing and knitting materials, an art library and shared kitchen.
People can work on jewellery, music, writing, painting, drawing, ceramics, pewter-casting, printmaking, bone-carving and glass.
One of the Art Workers, Dee O’Malley, says some artists come to the studio every day, others every week or month and others more occasionally.
For many, the hardest challenge is leaving their home. Once they arrive at Artsenta, the focus is on creativity rather than mental health.
It’s like they take their coat of mental health off and leave it at the door.”
Some are just out of hospital and recovering, while others might be working and becoming ill, so being at the studio prevents this progressing.
The Art Workers tutor sessions, teach skills and are creative coaches.
Artists get to know each other as they create.
“It’s amazing how you can connect with people through creativity,” Dee says.
If you liked this article, join up to our Daily Encourager Media Facebook page by clicking here
For more information:
- Artsenta has been going 35 years and is run by the Creative Arts Trust
- Funding comes mainly from the Southern District Health Board and also the Ministry of Social Development and local organisations
- Click here for Artsenta’s artist profiles, videos and writer’s blog