Hello. My name is Michelle and I like to draw, paint and make nice things… I’m twenty-six and I was born into a third generation of British expats living in Malawi, Africa. Oh, and I’m disabled – normally the wheelchair is a giveaway but I guess in this format, it needs stating. So, I spent the first part of my childhood in beautiful Africa – Satemwa Tea Estate. I had to leave to continue my education as the secondary school really wasnt accessible, but I still went ‘home’ to visit my parents and brother once or twice a year. I had (have!) a great bunch of friends. At college, I got my A’s and headed off to university to study neuroscience. Now, people think ‘in this day and age, it doesn’t happen’, but unfortunately the facilities talked of in my scouting visits didn’t materialise. My lectures were scheduled in rooms to which you had to navigate many flights of steps, there was no form of accessible transport to get me the 3 miles from Hall’s to campus buildings (and I simply couldn’t afford to get taxi’s – who freely admitted being told to charging me quadruple the amount because I was disabled?) The long and short of it was that it was simply impossible for me to just study, and my pleas for help fell on deaf ears or induced sarcastic responses.
I sound of a whiney, sour puss, don’t I? I’m not! It’s just relevant to where I am today. I lasted a year, although I didn’t chase shadows trying to keep up with studying for all that time. For bureaucratic, nonsensical reasons I had to stay put for the full year. It was the first time I’d ever really failed, and the first time I truly felt disabled. Worse still. I failed at something that I’d always found easy; studying and achieving academically was the one thing I was good at. And getting a degree, masters, PhD etc was the natural plan. I became incredibly run down and was diagnosed with depression. That was a shock. I had always been a very positive person. People said “you never see Michelle without a smile on her face”. Yeah, I have a lot of physical medical problems, but depression had never been on the radar as something that I could suffer from. It wasn’t me.
One very good thing did come from being at university. I met ‘The Squirrel’. Actually that’s a lie, I knew him before, but he lived near to my halls of residence and being the only familiar face within a reasonable distance, we spent a lot of time together and became an item. I’ll refer to him on here as ‘The Squirrel’ or just ‘Squirrel’, because firstly, he probably doesn’t want to be known, and secondly – it just fits. He’s constantly squirreling, I can never keep up with what his latest project is. He’s the kind of person that doesn’t walk anywhere, he runs, even if it’s just to the kettle. Actually, especially if it’s to the kettle.
That was several years ago. When I finally left university, the squirrel quit his job and we (with help from my brilliant parents) got a house. After going on a manic renovation project – making it ‘me-friendly’ – we took a break and went travelling. We spent a blissful 6 months in Malawi with no worldly commitments… and then we returned with a bump. Time to get back to reality and work out what we’re going to do with our lives. The Squirrel went for a total career change and decided to study again, achieving a first class degree in ecology. Now he works doing all kinds of ecology things. Unfortunately, my health has deteriorated quite a bit. A lot actually. I’ve had many surgeries over recent years and they still keep coming. A concoction of very strong painkillers get me through the days and I rarely leave the house except to go to medical appointments. This hermity lifestyle of recent years has led me to pursue a lot of the things that I’m going to be blogging about. Whilst I’ve always painted throughout life, the knitting, crochet and other makery skills have been honed and developed through a lot time at spent on my own at home. I have a pretty creative family, but most of my creativity comes from my mother; a brilliant all round textile artist. Her embroidery is amazing! She is always making something. I initially didn’t follow her in this sense – too much life to be doing – but now I wished I’d picked up more of her skills which she tried, in vain, to pass on to me. My parents still live in Malawi, so from my little bungalow in North Yorkshire, it’s a little hard to make up for lost time on this front. Though Skype helps!
I may go back to studying one day, law perhaps? Environmental law? I don’t know, it’s hard trying to decide what you want to be when you grow up! Anyway, for now committing to anything other than getting through each day is a long way off. Hopefully things will ease up! So, at the moment I spend me better days indulging in art. I split my artwork into two categories: ‘proper’ and ‘playing’. By ‘proper’ I mean oil or watercolour paintings; landscapes, figurative pieces, still life – you name it. And the ‘playing’? Well that’s more whimsical, illustrative works primarily for a child audience, but I find it pleases just as many adults! These start off as pencil sketches and usually got through several stages of development, ending up as ink and watercolour illustrations. I’ve designed many greetings cards and framed artwork for children’s bedrooms. My two styles are very different, I often wonder how they come from the same hand, but I guess there are traits of ‘M.E,” through out both. The latter category, the ‘playing’, will be what I frequently blog about on here. The processes, projects, successes and epic fails will all be shared with you. The ‘proper’ art (am I an art snob?!) is more personal. I’m not sure I’m ready to share these… yet. Perhaps one of these days… Please don’t be offended by my cageyness in this respect, I often don’t even like The squirrel seeing, and I cringe when he says; “Come and see what Michelle’s painted..” to unsuspecting visitors. Sometimes it’s okay, but (especially with one particular monstrosity that he has safely squirreled out of my reach in the upstairs bedroom for its own safety ) more often than not, these are for my eyes only. Having said that, over the years I have given in to the most constant requests and now my ‘proper’ stuff adorns just as many walls around the world than my ‘playful’ stuff…
I also like knitting, fabric, crochet, cooking, reading, gardening and quite a few more things too! … Looking at that list, I guess I’m an old lady at heart! I’ll probably blog about some of these things from time to time, as well as the exploits of The Squirrel and our two constant companions – the cats. Penny and Black Cat appeared at different times, but both decided that our home looked nice and moved themselves in.
So. Enjoy reading, and do please comment, follow or better still – get in touch!