So after a lot of doodling, thinking and stressing out I have finally come up with an idea for my piece. I am hoping to create a zine called ‘I wear my heart on my zine’ which will include personal stories and experiences of those who have encountered mental health issues throughout their lives. Whether it be themselves who have gone through it or a friend or loved one, the zine will be a place for them to share their stories and so encourage people to talk and also show how they can triumph over their issues.
I think I will have the stories included by anonymous contributors as that gives people a lot more confidence to speak freely without being judged. It will hopefully contain narratives that are almost like diary entries.
So one of the main things I took from my feedback was that I wasn’t particularly telling my reader/audience anything they either didn’t already know or couldn’t find from any bog-standard leaflet. So I am going to look through some of the leaflets and see their angle on the topic, which will hopefully help me to counter their approach with my own unique angle.
I very quickly found a website which aimed to do exactly what I initially wanted to do which was to encourage people to talk about mental health and to combat the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues. Because of this I have decided that instead of trying to encourage people to be more open about talking about mental health I will simply create a zine that will explore my own (family’s) experience.
To improve my final piece for my self directed project I have gone through the feed back form and made some notes on what I want to do to change the outcome.
Firstly I was criticised for lack of connection which is probably because the topic of mental health is currently one that is extremely personal to me and so it is possible that I have almost detached myself from the subject. To do this I am going to try to approach the subject from a more connected angle and include my own personal experience.
Next, I was criticised for my visual which I knew were not my strongest. As they were seen as too literal I hope to develop them more and also hope that the strength of my written work will bring the level of work up to scratch.
Basically, I have been told to ‘critique and comment’ on a topic with a more personal mindset. I was given the option to choose a new topic but as this one is close to my heart I feel that I should persevere with it and do it justice.
Self-Directed Project Final Report
The topic I chose to focus on was mental health issues. Initially, my aim was to discuss mental health issues themselves and try to explain to people what those going through issues with their mental health were experiencing. However, I soon realised that this is impossible to do. Each person’s experience is completely different to the next and unless you, personally, have gone through it then it is extremely difficult to understand. Because of this I decided to focus more on people’s negative preconceptions of mental health and the taboo surrounding it. I hoped to encourage people to talk to each other about this topic and not feel as though it is a forbidden topic of discussion.
I chose to create a zine to create awareness of my topic. Zines are DIY magazines that often challenge the norm and contest society which is what I hoped to do with my project. For years, society has regarded mental health as a taboo topic that should only be discussed behind closed doors or with medical specialists. I aimed to counter this belief and get people talking.
I read various books to help me with both sides of my project; both the content about mental health and the zine. The book Hearing Voices, Seeing Things was extremely useful as it gave me an insight into how to approach the project and how to be sensitive to the topic. The book Fanzines was also invaluable when creating the layout and design for the zine. I also gathered information from various zines I have collected since beginning university. The zine LGBWHAT? was incredibly useful in forming an approach and style for the project.
One of the main changes I made to my approach was that in my initial brief I hoped to tackle the topic with a humorous manner. However, as I began to piece together content, I realised that I hoped to create something that had a more serious and empathetic tone to it. This came about as I started to implement elements of humour and noticed that if people were unaware of my experiences surrounding mental health, they may have thought that I was being insensitive.
The website for the charity called Mind was extremely helpful when gathering information of the more scientific side such as the examples of conditions and statistics and facts. As a charity, the way they write on their website is very professional yet comforting and I took a lot of inspiration from their approach when coming up with the content of my zine.
Sadly, due to unforeseen circumstances and family issues, I was unable to present my work at the initial opening of the exhibition. This is extremely disappointing for me as I was really excited about getting some feedback and seeing how people engage with my zine. I hope to distribute my zine around the exhibition at some point, and possibly also create some to leave in the various places around Leeds that promote the DIY scene. Although I was unable to get feedback from my peers, I did give my zine to a few of my friends and their friends. This was ideal as my target audience is people of around my own age. They all agreed that I had successfully been empathetic yet informative throughout the zine and said that they would have picked one up to read had they noticed it in another setting.
My aim was to create a talking point and I feel that I was successful in doing so. Everyone who read it then went on to discuss what their previous preconceptions were and what they got from the zine. This was really positive for me, especially to receive this feedback from people who I respect and know might not have already had a positive outlook on people with mental health issues.
Although I feel I created something interesting and effective, I would definitely do numerous things differently if I were to carry out the project again. Firstly, I would bring in other artists or contributors to collaborate with. I think that this would allow the zine to have a much more varied style and would allow for more people to voice their thoughts and opinions. I would also have liked to try a different format for the zine, although I was happy with the outcome, sometimes it is nice to be a bit more experimental instead of playing it safe.
I would also have liked to spend much more time on my project. Time management was difficult during the process as personal issues definitely conflicted with the project. It was also hard to focus when the topic I was covering was so close to home and was so relevant to my life during the time I was creating the zine. Obviously this could not be helped but circumstances change and I definitely know I could give so much more to the topic, had I not been so involved personally with it at the time. If I had been able to stick to the time plan that I made at the start of the project I feel that I would have had a more thorough development section but sadly this was not possible due to things out of my control.
Duncombe, S (2008). Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture. Microcosm Publishing.
Piepmeier, A (2009). Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. New York University Press.
Smith, B and Smith, R and Voorsanger, J (2006). Hearing Voices, Seeing Things. Serpentine Gallery.
Triggs, T (2010). Fanzines. Thames & Hudson.
http://www.mind.org.uk/ (Last accessed 16th May 2014).
Context of Practice was a module that I was really looking forward to. The history of art and design is very important to me and is something that I have always been interested in. The lectures we got throughout the year were fascinating and introduced me to some artists that I previously knew nothing about. I would actually have liked to have more lectures like this as I enjoyed them so much.
I found the public art task difficult to get into at first. Even though I really enjoyed the workshops we had with David there was something about the actual work itself that I couldn’t get into. I think the issue may have been how the emphasis was on treating it as if it was a live brief even though it wasn’t. Although I managed to come up with a few fairly good starting points for ideas, I found it very difficult to develop any of them further. I know that this is a weakness of mine as I worry too much and don’t just try things out which I hope to combat next year. I will do this by exploring more of my ideas and not worrying about making mistakes.
Despite a few issues, once I decided upon my installation I enjoyed creating the visuals and writing the statements. Writing is a strong point of mine so I wasn’t very worried about that side however using computer software is definitely a weakness. However, I persevered and did the best I could with my limited image-manipulation skills. I am going to practice with the computer software over the summer to try and improve my knowledge and understanding of the programs.
I enjoyed writing the essay for this module. I got so many books from the library and did a lot of research to make sure I knew what I was talking about. However, this did not stop me from struggling to write a total of 3000 words. The word count is the largest I have ever aimed for when writing an essay and it did not come extremely easily. My expertise definitely lies in writing shorter essays. Even so, the research process and choosing a topic of my choice made the essay component interesting and kind of enjoyable.
The essay caused me to appreciate the way that art can be used so strongly to evoke emotion and change opinions. Visual Communication, as a course, holds this ethos so highly and researching art that aims to critique society just like we aim to do was inspiring.
I have always been really interested in Kate Moross’ work, mainly because illustration and graphic design are definitely not my strong point so I really appreciated the work she has done. Also, the projects she takes part in are the types that I would love to work on. She works with musicians, clothing labels and other designers to collaborate and create some really inspiring work. Not only is she an illustrator and graphic designer, she also carries out photography work along with clothing design and has numerous other strings to her bow. The book is so inspiring as much of the work she discusses is from when she was still studying for her degree, this just shows how much you can achieve if you put your mind to it.
The first thing I learnt from the book is that you don’t need to be employed full time or graduated from university to get paid to do work. You don’t even need to be asked to do work for people either. Moross spent much of her time in university creating logos and images for bands and friends without them even asking. This allowed for exposure to her work and led to more paid work. Doing things for free can sometimes pay off financially in the end!
Secondly, I learnt that even if you’ve never done something before or are unsure whether you can do something, it is still always best to try things out and have a go. Practice makes perfect and trying new things can sometimes lead to the best results.
Lastly, learn from your mistakes and use them to your advantage. Making sure that you stop and look closely at a mistake or error of judgement ensures that you know what you did wrong and understand what to do next time to improve your work. Also, sometimes incorporating mistakes that you make into your work can give a different outcome, not one that you expected, but something you may never thought to have try or do.