… coming soon
For this first Prompt, each of us wrote our name down on a piece of paper and placed it in a bowl. WhIchever name we drew was the classmate we were meant to create a thoughtful handmade gift for. at the end of the week, we were to present it to them in front of the rest of the class.
I chose Howsem for my giftee. To keep it casual, Howsem and I sat outside in the sun with coffees purchased at the University cafe. I asked him about his biological and chosen family, his reason for falling in love with design, his choosing of ECUAD, his passion for reading and making books, his love of cooking, his tattoo, his girlfriend, their cat, and the distance between them.
After speaking with Howsem, I made a mind-map on a piece of scrap paper of all of the details he shared with me about his life and passions. Below is the consolidated extension of the quick mind-map—
I tried to pay attention and noted down the moments where Howsem reflected fondly on memories or passions. These included his love for his cat, girlfriend, handcrafted gifts, cooking, and making and reading books. Howsem also excitedly spoke about his planned future tattoo of his cat Mitmit by a local Vancouver illustration tattoo artist, and he was looking forward to a future trip to see his girlfriend and cat in Toronto.
With my skill and knowledge as a jewellery and metalsmithing artist, a bookmark seemed like the perfect way to illustrate and showcase all that Howsem shared with me.
First bookmark iterations
Moving on to paper models and brass sheet tests for the correct drill and saw blade sizing.
Planning out the drill and saw lines and breaks
After drilling and sawing out the final piece, I then de-burred, filed, and sanded the edges to a high polish. For a clean and consistent finish, I sanded the two sides in circular motions with 1200grit sandpaper and brass brushed with soap and water.
Wrapping it up
I personally feel great joy out of wrapping a gift with care. To me, it feels like an extension of the gift and it can elevate the overall experience. Years ago, I began and branded a jewellery business, Worthy Maker, where I accumulated various sustainable packaging materials such as jewewllery recycled boxes and bags, each stamped with my logo. I carefully placed the handcrafted brass bookmark in one of the black jewellery boxes, wrapped it in tissue paper, placed it in a black gift bag with tufts of tissue paper, which I find always brings joy. I then wrote a card to Howsen that read as follows;
Thank you for sharing parts of yourself and your life with me. I took great joy in witnessing your passion for your born-into and created families as well as your passion for reading and creating books.
My hope is that this handcrafted solid brass bookmark will bring additional joy to the experience of reading and viewing your books. I hope it does this through both its simple page-marking and the reminder of your beautiful Toronto family of 2, Mitmit and Kori.
I enjoyed our discussion about the strangeness of our relationship with cats. What incredibly complex creatures they are that some of us welcome them into our families with open loving arms even after they ignore and scratch us to bits. Mitmit is lucky to have such unconditional love and care from you and Kori. I’m sure that you will be reunited with them soon and you can bring back some fresh Mitmit battle-scars!
I look forward to getting to know you further,
Jade~ written card by Jade
Curious Process Reflections
As someone with social anxiety, I find initiating social interactions agonizing at times. Reflecting on the process of this Prompt project, it gave us the opportunity as a cohort to get to know one another in a unique way through the informal interviewing, designing, creating, and sharing of intentional gifts for one another. I have come to not only further understand and know Howsem, my “Giftee”, but I have also come to further understand myself and how my social anxiety presents itself. I am grateful for this prompt as it gently nudged me out of my comfort zone both socially in our Cohort as well as creatively in my studio.
I believe that with the ultimate purpose of this Prompt being to begin a connection with our cohort, a value of curiosity took place of my social anxiety. This granted me the freedom to speak openly with Howsem, to attempt to be the listener that he deserves. In my experience, to know someone – or to begin that process – requires a willingness and ability to show up with curiosity.
After speaking with Howsem, there were some elements of the design that could use some improvements. In the past, I have created 1 or 2 bookmarks with the response being that they were too thick. For this gift, I decided to research what thickness of metal larger companies were stamping their brass bookmarks out of. I based the gifted bookmark thickness off of the standard gauge from my research but I failed to wonder if the bookmarks were a strong or less malleable alloy of brass to what I had in my shop. Because of this, as well as sawing the whole way across some of the illustrated lines without breaks, the bookmark bent at the base of the legs when it fell out of his book. if i were to tackle this again, I would thicken the brass .05-.1mm more and test the design again. I would also learn how to engrave so that I could engrave the lines in some areas where the connection points might be too weak or thin. As another option, I would attempt to saw it out thinner and sweat-solder it to a flat sheet so that the cutout and sawn areas were backed my metal. This would create more of a relief look but it would also take much longer to form and finish.
For Prompt 2, we were asked to consider a creative task or medium that we were not familiar with and would want to engage with daily for a 2 week period. I have taken place in a daily creative practice before, and I found it exciting to be able to push myself out of my comfort zone again in this way. Although this was my initial reaction, my previous daily practice was just for my eyes, and this new practice had the added element of having to share my reflections at the end of the two weeks made me slightly nervous. This was mostly due to the practice of learning and engaging with something new, which automatically meant facing my fear of uncertainty and imperfection.
Daily Making Practice
Attempting to to lean into the discomfort, this thought process brought me to clay, a material that I have tried to interact with many times, but failed to connect with. As a material I find it to be the exact opposite of metal. Metal requires heat to anneal and become soft, whereas clay becomes hard with heat. Metal is precise and predictable, whereas clay seems to have a mind of its own and imperfection is a part of its history and its nature. As I wanted to make animations as my second option, my professor Cameron mentioned that I could try making quick clay animations, or “Claymations”. My gut reaction was “please no, no!” as I made a Claymation during my undergraduate degree almost 10 years ago. My second thought was “Jade, lean into the discomfort, that is where growth happens” and as Cameron mentioned to the cohort, we could always pivot in any direction during the process, as a part of the process.
On the Theme of Origin
The second piece of this Prompt was to link the daily making practice back to the theme of Origin, which was given to the entire class. I knew that I wanted to explore what I had been working on over the previous summer prior to my wedding. I had been examining and finding new alternatives to patterns of being that were directly effecting my relationships with others and myself. I had been guided by professionals in the field of psychotherapy to a theory that we are all an accumulation of our parent’s patterns, whether we mirror or reject them in our own lives now as adults. My physical origin is that I was conceived by both of my parents. From the perspective of who I am as a person, I am an accumulation of my parent’s patterns, who learnt their patterns from their parents, and so on and so forth. It is important to acknowledge that these patterns are deeply connected to the generational trauma that has been passed down in my family. It is my job alone to rid myself of the negative patterns that I have borrowed to protect me so that I do not pass them on to the next generation in my family.
I looked back through my lists of patterns from my introspective summer and I noticed that the most consistently pervasive ones were the patterns that could and would negatively affect my success during my time at ECUAD.
Top Patterns that could get in the way of Grad School
- Fear/intolerance of uncertainty
- perfectionism/fear of failure
- personal abandonment
- victimizing (myself)
- social anxiety
During this summer, I learnt that although acknowledging these patterns is the first step, it is important to intentionally express my emotions towards them to authentically open space for a healthier alternative. I deiced that this daily practice would be my expression of these patterns.
I Began with a trip to the local Squamish Walmart where I purchased various types of clay. I played for a bit, and eventually settled on simple shapes and colours as I felt analysis paralysis settling in, which I wanted to immediately avoid.
I set up my Jewellery light box, a tripod, and I downloaded a stop-motion-animation app recommended by another student in my cohort. I hoped that setting up a stable and visible workstation would increase the likelihood of my consistent engagement with the material of clay.
Sprouting from a song by the musician and poet Bjork, called “Virus”, the creation of this clay animation was an intuitive process where I did not plan how the two relational characters would engage with one another. Instead, I allowed myself to trust in the repetition of the song, which is about Enmeshment and Codependency, and I allowed my space of creative flow to dictate the progression of the animation.
Virus by Björk – Lyrics
Like a virus needs a body
As soft tissue feeds on blood
Some day I’ll find you, the urge is here
Like a mushroom on a tree trunk
As the protein transmutates
I knock on your skin, and I am in
The perfect match, you and me
I adapt, contagious
You open up, say welcome
Like a flame that seeks explosives
As gunpowder needs a war
I feast inside you, my host is you
The perfect match, you and I
You fail to resist
My crystalline charm
Like a virus, patient hunter
I’m waiting for you, I’m starving for you
My sweet adversary
My sweet adversary
My sweet adversary
Day 4 – a shift
This day was filled with frustration, which led to a pause in the daily practice, opening up space for a shift.
I sat in front of my clay animation station for a while, staring at it, picking up the clay, then putting it down, picking it up, putting it down, over and over again…
After moving away from the material, I journaled for 5 or 6 pages on what was coming up for me. Why was I feeling this way?
For the first two days, every time I touched and manipulated the clay, I physically felt shivers through my body. The material of clay was too overly stimulating for me, which is a cause of my sensitivity to stimulation due to my ADHD. If I am under-stimulated, I fall asleep or don’t engage, if I am overstimulated, I want to run away or throw something at the wall.
I hated the entire process of working with this clay for the past two days, and I could not imagine engaging with it for 2 weeks.
The day I moved to my iPad in procreate.
I began by watching a quick tutorial on how to create an animation in the app. I only began working in procreate about 6 months ago for a volunteer project at a school in town, and since then, I have always wanted to try making quick animated GIFs to express concepts I am interested around the theme of mental health.
I continued to play music, beginning again with Björk’s Virus, which rapidly became my new ADHD “hyperfocus”.
A looped animated illustration helps to mimic the looping and reenacting of relational patterns over and over again.
I journaled for a while after making this one.
Which character am I? Which character are you? Does this change day to day, moment to moment? What patterns do you fall into with your loved ones?
I noticed that the interpretation of this animation was different for everyone.
It was interesting to see who identified with which character, to see them instantly identify and empathize with the character who was now stuck for eternity in this animated looped relationship. I wondered if this sparking a more empathetic and compassionate response towards themselves too.
For me, this animation is about Codependency and the harm of not being able to be independent of another, harming everyone involved in the deeply rooted, protective, and learnt pattern. It reminds me of a heartbeat, a consistent and repetitive constricting and release. Codependency can feel like love. If it is what you have known as love, then that is how you show and welcome it. It is the thief of true connection. Is this act of love actually an act of love? Or is it based in possession, control, caretaking, self-abandonment, and fear? Once I step out of this pattern, I can begin to see myself and them more clearly.
Again, I listened to my new hyperfocus song on repeat and I journaled through the process.
The lyrics and the video made me think of the pattern and family system of enmeshment. The closer I get, the more the pull is to change and revert back into something someone can relate to.
This loop is something I keep in the back of my mind constantly. Enmeshment is too dangerous. I lose myself entirely in another person or group for love and validation.
Visually, I don’t think I like this one, and I don’t think I got the feeling across in a way that makes sense to other. That said, it was very validating for myself to put the way I experience this pattern into a creative space. Getting it out of my body and mind, I feel like I know it better. If I know it better, I can see it happening sooner and choose another way.
I didn’t complete this one as a seamless loop, but it captures how my pattern of avoidance, withdrawing, fear of people, and social-anxiety effect my life. I would sometimes rather fall into a pit of despair leading nowhere instead of speaking to someone new, especially if it is small talk. EEEEEEK
Fear of the unknown. This started down a dark path and quickly, I felt the urge to flower pick in the dark.
Even if the path is unknown and scary, I hope I lean into the little joys along the way.
Passing ships in the night. This is how I feel in hyperfocus. Hyperfoucssing on flower picking, the characters don’t even notice they are passing each other.
I often fall into this rhythm when afraid of the unknown. My low tolerance for uncertainty pushes me to hyperfocus on things that feels known and safe. Rather than looking up and engaging in the unknown, I submit to safety patterns. This means I lose out on a lot of important moments, such as meeting a kindred spirit. Instead – as seen in the looped video – we are ships passing in the night, both in our hyperfocussed safety state of picking flowers in the dark.
I like the concept of this loop and I enjoy the playful quality of it. It reminds me of a video game. I do wish that there was more tension and a bit more emphasis on the “fear/intolerance of uncertainty” piece.
It does not have the same simplicity as some of the others, which seem to leave the interpretation more open.
It is harder to engage on an emotional level to the characters in this loop as they have no expressions and they are not diverse enough as characters other than colour.
I decided to play around with this one further. It was not currently engaging with the relational aspect of acting out patterns of being, which is how I set out to represent the theme of “origin” in this Prompt.
Keeping the flame alive
Just prior to sitting down to work, I was reflecting on my husband and my recent dry wedding, where we were surrounded by so much love and support for the lives we had created together. Although he is now almost 7 years sober and we have done deep work together and individually, I still reflect on all aspects of what drew me to him. The volatility, the tension, the rollercoaster, the fire – it was also so exciting and terrifying at the same time. With my family of origin, I was primed for this relationship. It was all I really knew to be love. Again and again, I was the small flame, inching closer to the addict, enabling their addictions with my codependent behaviors and my eventual criticism and rage. It was crazy making, but I played and equal part.
Although this looped animation feels a bit on the nose as a portrayal of the volatility of addiction as a whole, I feel it is a simple illustration and reminder to myself of the part I play in any relationship. The flame is not a victim, neither is the bottle of booze. We are a series of choices. Choices to either step towards self-preservation and growth or away, into the arms of self-abandonment and sabotage.
This is a screenshot of the onion layers of the looped animation in procreate. Seeing this, knowing the fall is to come, and the inevitable explosion’s – I thought this was a perfect representation of the cycle of a toxic relationship, with both people falling into a negative patterned cycle of codependency and resentment.
Take and Take and Take.
I felt stuck today. I drew a yellow circle and turned it into a yolk. I imagined the yolk being my center. My spirit, my core, my inner-child.
This is a quirky and simple representation of a relationship between a codependent without any boundaries and a narcissist.
Give and Take.
I felt saddened by the first loop, so I played around with the procreate animation settings and I selected “ping-pong” rather than “looped”.
I felt a little better about this, but I still feel the egg has no agency and no boundaries. This is what it is like to enable an addict and be in denial about the consequences of their addictions.
I felt stuck today.
I took an image from my first attempt at clay animation and I used it as a starting point. This was a great way to pivot and shift from a space of “stuck”.
I feel strangely towards this one, and it feels silly. I am proud of myself for not giving up on this day even though I felt stuck. I realized that I won’t always have good ideas, or even medeocre ones. I won’t always come up with something I like or am proud of. I might even despise what I make, but the most important thing is that I showed up anyways.
I will always try to keep in mind that when I feel stuck, sometimes it is best to just try anything, even if it means re-visiting a previous idea or sketch.
Ouch. At first, I identified solely with the character of the red “rollee”. After a while, I began to realize that I can easily fall into both patterns of the green steam roller and the red squashed “rollee”.
I enjoyed creating the sequential flow of movement in this animated loop.
I revisited this loop to add more of a realistic pattern in a relationship of the back and forth of love and abuse in some relationships. The love, or perception of their being love in an abusive relationship allows for the relationship to more easily continue.
It is harder to leave when you feel love and loved.
I enjoyed the addition of the “kiss” as it enhances the tension and surprise of the abusive steam rolling that follows. This reminds me of the feeling of being “gas-lit” by someone you love.
The last day. I began to reflect on the daily practice and my connection to the theme of origin.
I created these characters, interacting with one another, each with their own generational traumas and passed down patterns. There is a reason that we gravitate towards some people in our lives. If we are lucky, we will see the patterns in ourselves and each other and through this realization, we can heal ourselves and each other and authentically show up in a relationship.
My husband and I are choosing to challenge this daily, for ourselves, each other, and the future generation. I will not pass this on. Or at least, I try my hardest not to!
The second day of the daily practice, I see now that something was coming to light. I wonder now if I should have tried again after that day of rest on the third day. Maybe if I had picked a different clay, with a different texture, maybe I would have been able to move through the sensory issues I was having with the material, and I could have seen more growth. In the end, I cannot dwell on this missed opportunity, but I can try again in another moment, or allow it to be a moment of learning how to shift next time into more of a side-step rather than a run away to something completely different. This is a pattern of mine, and only after seeing everything together on this blog am I able to see the missed opportunity in choosing such a huge shift from clay to my iPad.
Overall, after creating some of the loops I realized that there were certain elements that helped to evoke more emotion. When there was more than one character created, and when they interacted with one another, it allowed for more opportunities of tension and being able to relate to more elements of a pattern. I also felt that it opened up more opportunities and shifts in the illustrations, which could alter the entire relational interaction between them. I also noticed that the characters with more emotion, which were shown through movement of their bodies or facial features allowed for more opportunities for this as well. The shorter loops seemed to work better than the longer more convoluted ones. I think moving forward, quicker studies would be best – this helped to create a more realistic moment of tension with a back and forth cycle or loop of patterns within a relationship.
Music, specifically the repetition of listening to a song about relationships and Codependency helped to set the mood for creating each looped animation and is essential to keep me focused on the emotion behind the quick making practice. It was also important for me to journal after creating each animation as it helped me to reflect on the process and what I believed the looped animation was showing. I think moving forward, I would like to revisit them and reflect on them again in my journal to see if I have any other insights.
I had a lot of fun with this prompt – at least once I ditched the overly stimulation material of clay. This daily making practice pushing me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to actually learn how to create animated loops, which I have been wanting to do for almost 6 months. I was falling into some patterns of fear of failure and this Prompt made it possible for me to lean into that space, as an important and necessary part of learning something new. I think this is how I was to engage with anything new, 2 weeks of engaging with it daily and reflecting on the process, no matter where it heads.
This daily practice of listening to music, creating looped animations of relational patterns passed down through generations, and reflective journaling truly shifted my perspective on these patterns that I fall into daily. It helped me to have more compassion for all characters in this dynamic and to realize that I need to do the same in real life.
As part of this 2nd Prompt, we were meant to reach out and establish contact with a lab at the University. With my social anxiety, this was something that I left until the end of the 2 weeks. Although meeting with the technician of the Material Matters lab didn’t directly influence my daily creative practice during this Prompt, the conversations that took place and the introduction to some of the equipment pointing me towards a new direction for Prompt 3.
Stage 1: For our final prompt, we were asked to identify an area of interest that we were curious about. From this curious space, we were then asked to identify a clear and concise research question, as well as engage in background research to support our next steps.
Stage 2: Once we arrived at a research question for our topic, we were to propose a research plan or method that would allow us to engage with and hopefully reach a sense of resolution around the question.
Stage 3: For the final stage of the prompt, we carried out our proposed research and methods, trusting in the process and following it wherever it led us. At the end of the 6 weeks, we presented our research process and methods as well as our results.
Research Stage 1:
This prompt was introduced to us directly after I recieved my updated formal Psych Ed assessment to help identify any possible Learning Disabilities alongside with already diagnosed ADHD.
At the end of the 2 day assessment, the assessor said that she experienced me as “being all over the place and hard to read”. She said it was going to be a difficult diagnosis for her to carry out. After that experience, not only was I terrified she would undo my ADHD diagnosis, but I couldn’t understand why I was not presenting as my most symptomatic ADHD self during the assessment.
I spoke to my ADHD coach, listened to podcasts, and watched Ted talks on high-functioning ADHD adults. I learnt about Masking and the toll it can take. After 30 years with ADHD, I realized that I clung to them so hard that I almost fooled my assessor into thinking I don’t have ADHD.
ADHD Masking was not my first choice of topic for this prompt. I brainstormed many ideas around the topic of ADHD for almost 2 weeks, but none of them felt engaging enough to work on for six weeks.
I then came across a TED talk that my ADHD coach sent me weeks prior, How to do laundry when you’re depressed, by KC Davis, a mother with ADHD, licensed professional therapist, author, speaker, and a specialist in self and home care.
After watching the TED Talk, I realized I recognized her voice from a Ten Percent Happier podcast episode I listened to a few months prior.
Ten Percent Happier Podcast: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/kc-davis-501
In both instances, she speaks about the external stigma and struggle to keep up with housekeeping and care tasks as a female identifying ADHD adult and mother. She believes that care tasks are morally neutral and that the completion of these tasks has nothing to do with being a good or bad person. She explains that due to the lack of executive functioning, consistent focus, and issues with object permanence, adults with ADHD are more likely to experience judgment and shaming messages from society. These care tasks can include; doing the laundry, the dishes, making the bed, showering, etc.
Although I was very interested in this topic of ADHD symptoms, stigma, and morality, I decided to focus on what happens next; we mask to protect ourselves from shame. When I am about to have a friend over, I tidy up all of my perfectly organized piles of tasks that I am carrying out, which looks like a chaotic mess to others. That friend comes over and my space is spotless, but I have now put away all of the structure that helps my ADHD life in order. That same friend visits and I hide my ADHD medication in the drawer. I then forget to take it for days because one of my ADHD symptoms is a lack of object permanence and it is. Out of sight, out of mind. These are all moments of masking my ADHD and each has consequences both in the moment of actively trying to hide a part of myself, and after the masking ends. According to the article below, Masking in ADHD: The “Why” Matters, we “some people try masking to (ADHD) to avoid the social stigma that its symptoms can cause.”
My Goals for this Prompt that will guide my Research Question choice:
- To take responsibility for learning about ADHD and how it presents in myself.
- To self-advocate for my ADHD needs and access or create tools, accommodations, and systems that can help to succeed and thrive.
- To enjoy the process and allow my making and research practices and process to inform one another.
- To experiment with autoethnography and accommodate my ADHD by researching in an engaging way, i.e. watch documentaries, TED talks, listen to podcasts before reading.
- To build more confidence and be authentic in my process by staying true to my values of courage, joy, curiosity, connection, compassion, presence, self-care, kindness, independence.
With these goals in mind, the Research Question I developed was –
What are my ADHD masks, why and when do I wear them, and is there a natural process to remove them and be authentically ADHD?
Follow along below to find out!
What are my masks?
I began in Miro, attempting to create a mindmap of all of my ADHD masking. I had it all planned out in my head; I would map them all out from memories, illustrate animations and journal on my experiences of wearing each mask to help me let them go/unmask, and then I would finish the Prompt with a colourful interactive animated online “Mindmap of Masking My ADHD”. It was beautiful, it was all in my head, and combing my memories were foggy and laced with self-judgement, internalized ableism, and shame.
What does masking look like?
After the memory mapping didn’t take, I wanted to have a better understanding of what masking can look like so that I could try identify mine better. The images below were taken from an Instagram post by @mollys_adhd_mayhem, describing what ADHD masking can look like. Since my diagnosis and learning this term “masking”, I have found myself analyzing every aspect of my interactions with the outside world. “Am I masking right now?” is a statement that swirls around my head constantly.
Due to how recently I was diagnosis with ADHD and almost 30 years of masking it, I realized that this was not going to be easy. This list of masks was growing, but it was not clear.
I tried mind mapping, a bullseye chart of the masks I use most, and journaling. None of these methods seemed to get the results of a perfectly thought out list that I was looking for. If these simple listing methods worked for tracking and recognizing my negative patterns of being, i.e. impulsive, fearful, judgmental, people-pleasing, codependent, then why wouldn’t they work for mapping out my ADHD masks?
Then it hit me – the process of identifying my negative patterns took months of therapy. During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), I was given dozens of readings, worksheets, and processing tools to help me work through changing my thinking, actions, and emotions. This was the key to it all. I needed to comb through all of these documents over years of therapy and find the chronological key tools for moving from Masking to Unmasking.
Parallel Making Practice
Parallel to my research into understanding ADHD masking and finding methods to unmask, I was continuing to have impulsive ideas for illustrations on the topic of ADHD and I needed to express them.
My professor Cameron urged me to carry out a making practice parallel to my research.
For some reason, I felt the need to put my making practice on hold until I was on a roll with my research, but as one of my goals states above, I needed to allow my research and making practices to influence each other.
30 years of repetitive masking
Masking and Unmasking
Such a simple change in the animation settings and I feel like I could breath again seeing this. I can choose to remove my masks!
Who am I if I am not who they think I am or want me to be?
A late ADHD diagnosis can feel like the lights finally turn on and you can see everything clearly for the first time. All of my memories from childhood until now, they all make sense through this new understanding of myself. A piece I thought was missing, wrong is now explained and I am beginning to accept myself.
Masking the urge to interupt someone by fidgeting or making sounds for stimmulation can look like – coiling my body around itself.
“Do you have to use the washroom?”
“Nope… I’m just masking.”
I bite my nails as a “stim”, but its actually just a way to keep my mouth and mind busy. This masks the impulse to interrupt the person I’m trying to listen to. it is the better of two evils, either I bite my nails until I have none and I’m bleeding, or I engage in stims that are irritating and distracting to others. I need to find a healthier and quieter stim.
Through this making practice, I recalled the elements of acknowledgement and expression that had been such a key element in cultivating acceptance and self-compassion. As this has been integral for my healing process in other aspects of my mental health recovery, I wish to implement a creative expression step in the process as well.
I will also use my narrative illustration skills to further support and express each step in the process of my Unmasking ADHD tool.
Research Stage 2:
After realizing that I needed to analyze and draw on my years of therapy and self-help tools, books, and worksheets, I began to map out some key elements that I noticed I do naturally when talking through my masking moments with my partner.
I then attempted to move over to Miro again as a took to map out the elements, methods, and tools from my CBT, Focusing, and Mindfulness Meditation worksheets.
After a few days, I found I was too focused on the way it looked rather than the key points and steps that I needed to identify and organize on the page. I felt that I was being too perfectionistic with this form of mind mapping/planning, which prompted me to switch back to real sticky notes.
The tactile and interactive quality seems to keep me and my ADHD brain engaged longer than with Miro.
This process brought me so much joy. I let go of perfection and tried to see this as a complicated puzzle that need solving. All the pieces were there in my head and worksheets, and I had to try make them work together.
And again. A little less structured to take a step back before honing in again.
Looked to tools I already made
Now what? I started to shiver at the thought of designing a flat single sheet like all of the other CBT tools I have. They are never the practical choice to bring to a challenging social event in my purse or on vacation.
Then I remembered my Core Beliefs, Gratitude, Credit List Planner, which I designed 2 years ago after years of purchasing planners that never made it past January 7th.
Why didn’t these planners work for me? To the left are two pages torn from two planners that were beautifully designed, with 1 or two elements that worked well for me, but I needed much much more for me to be consistent.
I was tired of not being able to find a planner that worked for me. I took the elements that I liked from the abandoned planners and I merged them with CBT methods and tools such as a “credit list” and ”core beliefs record”. I then had this booklet made at a printing house in town so that I didn’t have any excuses to miss a day.
It is still too large for my ADHD everyday crossbody RAINS purse, so I cannot take it everywhere with me.
I knew I needed to make something more physically engaging and interactive. Our class TA had a few tiny rivet bound spinning books like the one drawn to the left.
It’s small size and kinetic qualities made the book feel playful and inviting. This felt promising.
My animated ADHD masking mind-map idea was beginning to feel forced and static so i decided to move into a space of physical making. I embarrassed to say that prior to the MDes program I hadn’t heard of, engaged with, or created a “zine”. With many of my cohort creating and exploring the zine as a medium, I felt inspired to lean into this uncomfortable and uncertain space. Something clicked for me in this moment and I felt that incredibly warm and fluttery feeling when I’ve tapped into my creative flow.
Over the past year, I have been volunteering at a school in Squamish helping to create illustrated children’s books about mental health. Part of my proposed thesis while at ECUAD was to experiment with this further, but for adults.
I was inspired by a comic series that I stumbled upon in a small Vancouver library, written by Steve Haines and illustrated by Sophie Standing. These comics attempt to explain the complexity of the brain and mental health topics such as Trauma, Anxiety, and Pain.
the have been interested in turning my illustrated characters into a small daily book. be small enough to fit in a purse or pocket so it would travel well, and it could be more manageable to see each step one a time rather than all at once, which can sometimes feel overwhelming.
The booklet/zine mockups begin
I began to play with paper; cutting, scoring, and folding it. My inner-child loved this as I used to make origami animals and flowers when I was young.
The possibilities felt endless, but I knew for the sake of time, I needed to choose a simple pattern to begin a low-fidelity mockup of my interactive unmasking ADHD zine.
To the right is a page spread layout, similar to what I learnt to use at UC Berkeley during the Children’s Book Illustration course I took last spring.
I enjoy creating and using layouts as it allows me to print it off and plan out the contents with sticky notes and tracing paper.
I transferred the brainstormed CBT tools and natural steps for unmasking ADHD to new sticky notes, which I placed on the layout.
From the layout, I transferred these elements to one of my zine/booklet mockup. I enjoy using sticky notes because you can quickly move them around to see how things will flow as a narrative.
Mockups, mockups, and more mockups!
Test print before printing the finals –
All 7 physical mockups together.
I really enjoyed this process.
Front + Back Spreads
Inside fold Spread
Folding and folding.
I designed this Unmasking tool to be able to fit in any purse, wallet, or pocket with ease. I wanted to make something that would be easy to take out and look at in any situation. I wanted it to be hard to forget so it had to take up little space.
Below are images that depict how the booklet would be used. Follow along, step by step.
Cohort Feedback + Reflections
Feedback – add more illustrations throughout to help express key elements of the process of unmasking ADHD. Makes it more engaging and brings joy into the process. It is also more accommodating to the symptoms of my ADHD and how I am most likely to engage with a tool like this. If I am in fight or flight mode, I am less likely to read so much text.
I would have chosen thinner paper than I used and I would have flipped the image with the white space still at the top so that the area I crop out would be the bottom of the illustrated masked and unmasked characters, This would get rid of the write border along my final printed booklet.
When I got home, I immediately stated writing down all of the notes that I heard from my cohort and professor. This was the first time that I haven’t felt my self-worth tied to critiques. I owe it all to the intention that I brought to the process leading up to my presentation and actively engaging with my CBT tools such as reviewing my coping card (scroll further down), and working through this imperfect, in-progress tool for unmasking my ADHD.
During the feedback at the end of my brief presentation, the class made the following critiques, which I wish o take into the next iteration and research process;
- take advantage of my abilities in storytelling through my illustrations by adding more of them throughout the booklet/tool.
- What can be said through illustration rather than text? Then keep the text minimal.
- To be a Zine, there must be an element of community building and sharing of the zines.
- I designed this particular one for myself to begin, therefore it is not a zine.
- I think my tool/booklet is more inspired by a zine than an actual zine itself.
- I was advised to try play with ways of sharing my animations with others. It was even shared that it could be a great moment to create a little flip book.
- could be a fun experiment.
- I was playing with Howsem’s miniature flipbook during his presentation and I found it to be a satisfying way to “stim” for my ADHD. This sparked an idea to create a “stimming” pocket flipbook that with illustrations that animate a masking moment. I could bring this flipbook into a challenging situation as a reminder of all that I have learnt about that particular mask. I could see this as a fun object to carry with me and possible something I could make and share with others as my animations seem to resonate with non-ADHD people as well.
- No matter what I do moving forward, I need to have a personal stake in the topic I am researching and the work I am making.
- Eventually I can advance some elements of this work into participatory design methods.
- some of these ideas, tools, and animations can be understood and engaged with by a broader audience as well.
- I could play around with different iterations of this idea for different stages of the unmasking process.
- pre-emptive tool to prepare oneself for a challenging situation where one may be inclined to mask their ADHD
- i.e. Home for the Holidays; family unmasking edition
- post-unmasking process. How to live in an unmasked state after working through this process. where does the work continue?
Below are a few examples of some of the illustrations that I think I could place throughout the booklet, which were adapted from entries in my 2021 daily illustration sketchbooks.
This is a coping card. I created this one just before the MDes Open Studio 2022.
I make a new coping card at the beginning of a challenging task or event. It reminds and keeps me in line with my values and away from engaging in negative core beliefs.
I am curious about a concept where the coping card and my current ADHD unmasking tool combine to create a tool to use prior to an event where I know I am more likely to mask. This would be a preemptive tool to stay unmasked, to prepare myself, and rewire my brain through visualization rather than something after the fact.
Overall, as the prompt goes, I am proud of what I accomplished. I felt like that way I showed up on the day of my presentation was a direct reflection of how well this process has worked so far. I was almost completely unmasked and the level of anxiety and pressure that I usually feel during presentations was missing. I was happy with the low-fidelity imperfect zine/booklet that I made as I felt that a more polished and finished product would not have had the same engagement from the group. I am excited about this direction and I hope to continue developing it further. I would like to experiment with other forms, folding techniques and materials.
An affirmation to close this Pompt and term:
You are a beautiful weirdo. Let your authentic self be known and know that it is worthy of love and compassion.