Small Business Blossoms From Artist’s Mental Health.

With WOC small business’ growing, this resin artist uses hers to process a traumatic upbringing, and bring beautiful things into being.

Leilani Francis is 26 and living in Glasgow, Scotland. As one of the worst areas hit by the pandemic, the Scottish Government explored a lockdown long before the rest of the United Kingdom. Although there remained a significant question surrounding the approaches towards care-homes, Scotland singled itself out as the first nation to exercise it’s devolved powers and instigate one of the most controversial decisions of Covid-19 in Britain. Essentially; To Cancel Christmas.

With the majority of her blood family living in the South of England, Leilani found herself processing the nature of her previous mental health in lockdown with her partner 300 miles from where she grew up. Even with reduced services, she is one of the many who would find the dramatic halt to “normal life” a welcome respite.

When Covid hit, if I’m honest, at first I felt relieved. It gave me a legitimate reason to withdraw and be by myself.

Before Covid, I was living with depression, anxiety and PTSD. These mental health issues meant that I often deliberately isolated myself from others; I felt like I didn’t deserve them or that I’d be bound to ruin things, or that they would do something to hurt me. I guess my brain just cycled through each issue to decide what reason I should be alone that day!

Growing up with a narcissist, Leilani was forced to choose between securing the attachment with her main-care giver or her authentic sense of self. Being the oldest of three children pushed her into the role of care-giver herself. This is very common for children of a narcissist, to take on undue amounts of responsibility and pressure to uphold a sense of security. But it had an unfortunate knock-on effect.

It had a huge impact on how I went on to engage with others; trying to fit them as they needed. This usually meant I didn’t feel able to express my needs to them, [it] led to feelings of resentment and guilt.

The sudden impact on social interactions was a welcome respite for many but after a while, Ms Francis began to notice more interesting impact on her mental health. While she also suffers with fibromyalgia, and other chronic illnesses that have a high impact on her physical health, she felt a notable a numbness where her sense of self should have been fostered, and a significant worsening of depressive symptoms.

I felt nothing. I didn’t really have anyone to shape to. I felt lost and disconnected from who I was. I got more depressed and withdrawn for a while, but then I decided that there wasn’t going to be a better time to get help for myself! Its been a lot of hard work, but I feel so much more like a whole person than I did before.

Leilani drew on those coping mechanisms that she had built in the past; cosplay, costume making, crafting. Creativity was not something she had actively made time for in her past. Always a part of recovery, work, distraction or nessessity; the hot-pause on life covid-19 pushed was a fast-track to realising that her ability to create was both beautiful and essential. It was innate.

Creativity is one of the most vital things I need for my mental health. I treat it like brushing my teeth, every day, twice a day. If I don’t take time to be creative in anyway, (whether that’s art, music, dance or writing) I notice that I feel almost foggy.

Leilani Francis shows her natural gift for picking up crafting with a vivid blue embroidery; a self-taught skill.

Given that studies of creative threapy have revealed substantial improvement in brain functioning in the areas of physical and emotional memory, the lifting of that brain fog is valuable to notice on a macro-level. But Leilani reveals that embracing her creative nature has had an impact across her life involving all parts of her mind, body and soul. Here she describes the impact that belly-dance has on her physical and mental wellbeing.

Leilani Francis performing in 2017

I [did] belly dance professionally for about 3 years, and then personally ever since. I find its a very mindful activity for me. Feeling my feet rooted firmly, and noticing how each movement requires a set of muscles to work together. The awareness of the shift in my centre of balance and the control I have over my breath; it takes me out of the madness of the world and places me somewhere inside myself, where its quiet and comfortable.

Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve noticed that my work has become a lot more abstract, suggesting ideas and feelings, rather than reporting an image.

Creative business: Bookmarks from The Emporium Next Doorium

Miss Francis owns a small business specializing in abstract resin pieces; inspired by colours and motion, her pieces are carefully curated by-chance fortunes. One can liken stumbling on her functional pieces (a selection of bowls, bookmarks, trays and hair berets) to tripping over a lump of granite to reveal a precious geode. Her work has slowly progressed from being a trend-tailored small business venture to an active adventure into colour, texture and sensation. And she takes those steps with a choreographed mindfulness showing that one can dance a dance you have known all your life down a different path and change the performance entirely.

From a limited childhood and adolescence where she was not permitted to make mistakes, fearful of the impact, responsible for setting an example to a younger family, Leilani described the difference between life then, growing up, and now in the wake of the Pandemic.

It feels like the pandemic, and taking time to know and love myself better, has given me permission to mess up. To do something wrong, or not have it come out the way I thought, and be okay with it. I feel so much better about looking as a failed piece and trouble-shooting, trying again and doing better, rather than beating myself up about it and never trying again. I think during this time, my creativity and my work has given people a different way of looking at things.

She describes a sense of liberation in her creations, delighting in her, the creator, having no control over the interpretation of a piece once it has left her work shop.

I may have felt or thought a specific thing when I was making it, but others will take that piece and attach their own thoughts and feelings to it. Then it becomes a part of how they perceive the world. It’s a thought that makes me really happy; the idea that my work has meaning to someone beyond what I imagined.

Discovering and delighting in how vital creativity is to her daily life has given Leilani the determination to move forward with a sense of assuredness that she did not have previously and with a gentle humility that, I guarantee you, is sincere.

I feel more sure of myself than I have in forever, and I know now what I want to use it for. Moving forward, I know that I want to use my time, energy and skill to work with kids who grew up like me. I want to give them space to express themselves the way I wasn’t able to, using dance and music and art, and at the risk of tooting my own horn, I think it’s something that I would be good at. I hope so anyway.

Moon Sugar Hair Clips - Available on Leilani’s Website!

https://www.consciouscrafties.com/crafties/the-emporium-next-doorium/

I never thought I’d ever refer to myself as an ‘artist’ but here we are!

You can find details of Leilani Francis’ artistic journey on her instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/theemporiumnextdoorium/

Keep up to date with new releases on The Emporium Nextdoorium Facebook here: https://m.facebook.com/theemporiumnextdoorium/?ref=bookmarks

And you can purchase her beautiful wares through Conscious Crafties by clicking here: https://www.consciouscrafties.com/crafties/the-emporium-next-doorium/

Trinket Trays — Available on The Emporium Next Doorium.

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Philippa Cooper

Furious learner, exploring personal development, mental health advocacy and human connections.