Today I interviewed Charly from Free Hand in Sheffield. Free Hand offers creative workshops for people struggling with anxiety and depression, as a way to help them express themselves. It’s an amazing organisation and honestly the more I’ve got to know the woman behind it, the more I want it to succeed! Regardless of where you are in the world, I would highly recommend you check out Free Hand’s blog, twitter and facebook page.
You can find the full interview below.
Ok so firstly, the dreaded question nobody likes (sorry!), tell me a little bit about you. Why did Free Hand start and where did the idea come from?
I’m Charly, I’m 27 and have lived with depression since my teens. I started the journey towards this I guess by studying A levels in subjects I didn’t really like, just because I had no idea what I was going to do with my life at 16. After a year of doing something I didn’t like a friend suggested fashion. I joined the course and fell in love, I went on to study photography and then did a degree in fashion. After I finished my degree I started to have panic attacks, while doing my MA. The creative process really helped me to work through a lot of stuff and find my confidence again. I set up my own label but after nearly two years of running it I realised it wasn’t making me happy anymore so I started to think about what I really wanted to do and that was to create a supportive community for people living with depression and anxiety. Art had always been a help to me so I believed I could use what I had learned to help other people. Wow long answer!
Good answer though – you’re like my soul sister, I love it haha! Do you think the sessions really do help people then? Have you had good feedback about them?
Yay! I do! I’ve gotten good feedback but I’m always looking for different things to do and ways to improve the workshops. It’s so easy to get caught up in day-to-day things and not make times for activities that are really good for your mental health. Much like exercise actually, I think creativity no matter what skill level is just as important. Even if you don’t feel like it just coming and playing around with ideas can turn a bad day into a good one.
I couldn’t agree more – all anyone has to do when I’m having a bad day is put a paintbrush in my hand and I’m golden! It must be such a nice feeling for you as well to know that you’re doing something that can help someone else feel good even if just for a moment. Do you think it’s helped your anxiety and depression to a certain extent as well?
Yea, I was going to say it really helps me, it makes me stay motivated and creative. I love it when Wednesday rolls around I’m just excited about sharing and meeting people.
It’s nice that you’re so enthusiastic still after six months of doing it. It just shows that you made the right decision when you decided to do it in the first place. It does sound like a lot of work though, especially if you’re always seeking ways of improving the workshops. Is it just you that runs them or is there a team of you?
Haha, it is quite a lot of work I want to do the best I can! It’s just me but I collab with Designing Out Suicide every 6 weeks so that is really nice; I’m always looking to get people with different skills in to co run a workshop. I have amazing supportive friends that help out but sometimes it is a lot, but I love what I do so it mostly gives me energy!
Did I see that you come with themes and stuff for the workshops too? I think I saw something about masks – that sounds like a great way of firstly creating even more work for yourself haha, but secondly keeps it interesting and different for the people who turn up.
Well, when I first started I just had a few activity ideas and art supplies. I thought people could just work on whatever they wanted! This turned out to be a bit over-facing so the themes make it more approachable, and the option to free style is alway there.
Oh ok I see what you mean, it’s a bit daunting being told you can do anything you like sometimes without anybody giving you any ideas! Do you have any cool projects or themes lined up then?
Nothing set in stone, but I’m hoping to get an exhibition of works together that’s a snapshot of mental health. I’ve also been talking to people involved in an environmental project about doing a photography trip there. I’d also love to go back and further explore escapism as a theme.
It all sounds really exciting – I’ll be definitely keeping track of your journey. If you could sum up Free Hand in three words, what would they be?
Supportive, creative and judgement free!
Just one last question and I’m done! Do you regret any of it? If you could back to the beginning and focus on the fashion instead, would you?
No, everything that has happened has resulted in who I am and that door is always open.
Please click on the links below to be taken to Charly’s social media pages and if you’re in or around Sheffield – go and check Free Hand out!