Mindfulness

Anna posed some questions to us about our experience of mindfulness so far. This was a good opportunity to really reflect on how this has benefited me in both this project and my general wellbeing. These are my responses to the questions.

Does the mindfulness practice feel relevant to your creative practice and/or the work for your project? 

For my creative practice yes, I think mindfulness enables me to have a clearer and more positive approach towards the creative work I’m doing. It allows me to let go a little bit from the stresses of a final piece or set of outcomes – and instead frees me up to explore the process non-judgmentally. This appreciation then naturally informs an organic final piece. I feel like for this project its been particularly helpful, as I have found the way of working in this project very different from my usual approach to work. It has felt a lot more structured than I’m used to (though it has been of benefit to work in a different style). However, bringing mindfulness into the structure of the project has helped to create a more organic feel – and has definitely helped me to approach alternative ways of working with a more open mind.

How have you felt during the mindfulness practice?

Sometimes it has been quite difficult – if I’m feeling particularly restless or have something on my mind. But it is helpful spending time to almost neutralise how I’m feeling and sort of ‘reset’ my mood. I have found morning sessions a lot better than afternoon, as I feel a lot more open to the experience and my mind is a lot clearer. In the afternoon however I often feel a lot more restless and my mind is full of ideas and thoughts in response to the activities of the day. I have noticed that a lot of things are also heightened during the mindfulness sessions, for example my hearing and awareness of my body become a lot stronger. But its helpful when Anna reminds us to accept these things non-judgmentally and return the focus to the breath.

How have you felt after the mindfulness practice?

After the sessions I have felt a lot more calm and receptive. It often feels like a ‘reset’, like a sleep feels like the end of one day and the start of another – the mindfulness sessions help me to come to whatever it is I’m doing with a renewed mindset. I feel a lot more peaceful and my thinking is a lot clearer and more receptive.

How many sessions have you done so far?
Have you practiced at home, if so, how often?

I do it sometimes at home, a lot of the time in connection with deep breathing exercises that I already do. I tend to begin with deep breathing exercises to calm myself if I am feeling anxious or tense, and then turn to observing the natural breath. I find that this helps to refresh me and calm me down if I am struggling with anxiety. I have also been doing the mindfulness often as a replacement for naps – it acts as a refresher if I don’t have enough time for a nap, and makes me feel less groggy and disorientated than a nap would. I do this probably around once or twice a week outside the sessions, depending on how I’m feeling – the more stressed I am, the more mindfulness I do.

In the short time that you have been practicing mindfulness, have you noticed any difference in your experience of creative work? In particular your experience of creative flow?

I haven’t had many times in the period of time doing this projects where I have experienced long periods of creative flow in relation to creative practice. But there have been times of it during brain storming or processing ideas – where I’ve been able to generate and express thoughts and ideas more clearly than usual. What I have also experienced is myself becoming a lot more receptive to the ideas of others. This has helped in times of creative block as I have then been a lot more engaged with other people’s ideas and advice, which has allowed me to move past this. I really feel that not having this block has helped the process of this project flow a lot more easily.

How much does your creative flow relate to your sense of your own wellbeing?

Not having creative block definitely helps lower stress levels and pressure – especially whilst working within tight deadlines. Creative block just before an imminent deadline is incredibly stress inducing, which in turn affects many aspects of physical and mental wellbeing. And so being able to take time out to stop stressing has been very beneficial, it also puts things into perspective and acts as a reminder for our need to take time out. The mindfulness aspect of this project has reminded me that stressing every waking hour about producing ideas and outcomes, does not actually help you to generate better ideas and outcomes – in fact it hinders this process. Being fair to ourselves, allowing for breaks and time out specifically to just accept and be mindful of what is happening is actually something that benefits the process and allows for a much more organic unraveling of ideas and outcomes. It encourages you to be a lot more playful with the process and, I have found, just drastically reduces the stress levels associated with meeting deadlines and demands.

 

 

Untitled-1Within our tutorial with Wendy today, we discussed what simple concept could be brought out of our whole project. A simple and direct concept that could be used to summarize what it was we wanted to do, and act as a tagline for our campaign.

I talked a little bit about our main aim being to create empathy and share appreciation of our own personal communities so that we might learn to value wider communities. But it was pointed out that this was a very broad and quite abstract concept – and that if we were going to make this a campaign with ‘the stickiness’ factor then we needed to strip back our intentions to their simplest form, and build from there.

I found this quite difficult, I recognise that often it becomes easy to keep developing ideas into quite complex forms and often begin to over complicate it. This is something that I do often with my work, and so this was a really helpful chance to explore the need to strip back ideas to their simplest intentions.

We have been considering viral trends throughout this project and it has been worth considering how these can start from the smallest prompt or idea, set in the right context. In my mind, I liken this to a small snowball that once pushed – in the necessary conditions – starts to grow and grow beyond the control of the pusher. So, with this in mind when approaching the project it is helpful to consider that it is myself and Bex’s role to simply put an idea out there and watch how it develops and where it is taken.

During our discussion, with Wendy encouraging us to think of the simplest way we could express our intentions, Bex began to speak about how what we really want to do is help people to capture the beauty of the places they value. The phrase ‘capture the beauty’ began to resonate quite well with us – and was a pretty succinct and memorable way to express what our project is all about.We have looked to translate this into multiple languages to emphasize the importance of the importance that our work carries across multiple contexts.

Our Preliminary Pitch

Today we had the opportunity to pitch our developing ideas to our clients, and get their feedback. This was very helpful! And has given us some great motivation to continue with the processing of these ideas.

Overall it went incredibly well. They were very interested in the idea that we proposed, and confirmed that it fitted well with their aims and values as an organisation.
This was a very important part of the pitch for us, as we wanted to ensure that we were as fully engaged as we could be with their concerns and needs as an organisation. Particularly important to us has been to recognise what was said by the organisation following their initial briefing -we have been focusing largely on their positive approach to tackling climate change, and their aim to empower individuals and communities across the world rather than just offer distant and intrusive ‘Western help’. They affirmed that what we are proposing with our idea furthers this positive, encouraging and empowering message.

Following the pitch we now have several things to consider and move forward with:

  • Continue to develop the character. They preferred the seed shape to the ‘sprouting’ shapes. We discussed the sort of seed shape we could make reference to, and they told us that a lot of the plantation work they do is with Pistachio trees, and suggested we might consider this as a possible seed to base our mascot on.
  • Sow? They liked the name, but did draw our attention to the possibility of the word being read as ‘sow’, a female pig. We hadn’t considered this and so will look into how this could be resolved.

sow (1)

  • Be aware of staff limitations. The limited staffing was brought to our attention by Size of Wales, they explained that any ideas put forward would have to be a feasible project that did not require too much man power. However, we also discussed that our proposal actually fitted quite well with the work they already do with schools and partnering schools across Wales, South America and Africa.
  • Templates are the way forward. We discussed the possibility of distributing templates that the schools could work from to create the mascot, rather than just giving out pre-made mascots (this would require a certain level of production). They confirmed that it would be a lot easier and more doable for them to have copies of templates that could be kept and given to the schools, allowing the schools to make and customise their own mascot.

 

Mindfulness progression and Sustainability Report

I have felt that the mindfulness sessions that we are having alongside this project are really beneficial to my overall work ethic and self sustainability.

The mindfulness sessions are allowing me to work with quite a clear and positive mindset, I have found it helpful to be able to set time aside to focus on simply the breath. It allows for any stresses relating to the project to dissipate.
I have found it hard at times, particularly when I have a lot of things rushing round my head. But the guided nature of it does make it easier to learn how to switch these things off.

I feel a lot more calmer and receptive following these mindfulness sessions. And have found that this has helped with the group work we have being doing. Feeling more receptive has enabled me to engage more with the ideas of others.  Often with projects such as these, it can be easy to separate your own group off from others – and even within your own group, it can become tempting to push forward your own ideas without allowing any other influences to shape them. I don’t feel that this has been the case during this project. I feel personally, that throughout this project – with mindfulness playing a key part – I have been able to open up a lot more to the natural flow of ideas, how they interact with the ideas of others, and how this interaction begins to naturally form into a clearer and more finalised outcome.

In relation to self and peer sustainability, the smaller amount of stress presented by the project allows for a much healthier way of working. A few brief notes of how I have felt I have been able to sustain myself and others throughout the project:

Sustainability of self

  • Allowing myself to take regular breaks, be that through mindfulness or just spending time away from the work for a short while
  • Spending time discussing or seeking advice on obstacles preventing progression, practically working through any problems with the support of others – rather than just focusing on and worrying about them
  • Being able to recognise that although outcome is important, we should allow ourselves to embrace and enjoy the natural progression and process of exploring ideas
  • Having an open mind towards other ways of working, alternative ways of working e.g. working with more of a structure. Reminding myself not to cling so tightly onto ways that I am used to working, so that I may embrace new ways with a lot more enjoyment. Understanding how this allows me learn and grow as a working individual.
  • Listening to the advice and concerns of the client, ensuring that our intentions are informed so that we are able to drive ideas forward with a lot more clarity.

Sustainability of others

  • Openly acknowledging the strengths that other people have, encouraging them to use these strengths as part of the wider progression of ideas.
  • Using our own strengths to support other people.
  • Ensuring that we really do listen to each other, give each other our time, attention and engagement – making suggestions and encouraging other people as they share ideas.
  •  Allowing ourselves to explore and be more open to one another’s ideas enables us to feel valued and part of a constructive team.
  • Taking time to talk to and get to know one another outside the timetabled discussions as well as within them.
  • Openly communicating with tutors and team members, so that we understand one another’s ideas and intentions
  • Equally sharing work load within teams.
  • Open communication with the clients, ensuring that they feel involved and listened to throughout the process. Their concerns becoming our concerns.

 

Meet Sow.

Bex (Artist Desginer: Maker) and I have been exploring possibilities of characters and names. Bex from quite an early stage liked the name ‘Sow’, the acronym for Size of Wales and the verb for planting seeds. Our ideas have stemmed from this, and so we are exploring the anthropomorphism of tree seeds. In keeping with the work that Size of Wales does.
I have very little experience of character design, and so am not confident in approaching this task – however, Bex really enjoys and thrives in tasks such as this and so has dived straight in. We have begun to collaborate though, I sketched a basic starting point and Bex has worked with them to create them into character. We want to create a character that is cute, recognisable, and simple – simple to remember, and simple to replicate.

Here are some basic initial designs we’ve been working through.

We are interested in making this eventually into a three dimensional, portable mascot and have discussed with out tutors the directions that this could be taken. For example, its important that we encourage the use of sustainable resources to make this mascot – and so we intend to make our prototype out of recycled materials.

Another consideration is how this mascot would carry to various schools across the places that Size of Wales work with. We have discussed the possibility of making the mascot into a template, and providing instructions for schools to individually make their own ‘Sow’ – out of the recycled materials they have to hand. This would mean that the idea would be more transferable across a range of places, and would extend the engagement with the character as it would be personal and customisable to each individual school.

Further ideas that could develop with the project, is the possibility of creating something that is able to be built on each year. For example, as the schools continue to work with Size of Wales, the mascot begins to grow – or ‘sprout’, with various new leaves. There is also a possibility, again to further the engagement of the children with the mascot and with one another, of actually passing different ‘Sows’ around various schools. So that the children begin to see the mascots that they made travelling around different parts of the World. We have not fully considered the practical implications of this, but it is something that we could explore during the development and process of the project.

Our Idea.

Our challenge: 

To create a sense of unity and empathy between communities in Wales and communities in South America and Africa – particularly focused on working with schoolchildren in these communities.

How we are approaching this challenge:

We are looking to create a character or mascot that can act as a shared ’emblem’ between these different communities. The mascot will be used to create a fun and recognisable link between the schools that Size of Wales works with.
Using this mascot, we will then set up a shared activity that these schoolchildren can get involved in. The children will be invited to take the mascot to their favourite outdoor place and take a picture of themselves and the mascot or just the mascot in that place. An online platform will be developed, as well as the use of social media, to share these photographs. The children involved will be able to share their own experience of their favourite places and also get to see the favourite places of other children across the world. The mascot will act as a link between all of these photographs, and will allow the children to explore the multiple places it has been.

Goals?

We hope that encouraging children to share the places that they value, with one another will introduce an engagement with places otherwise unknown to them. Understanding and seeing the importance of places across the world to those that live there, linking this with their own experience of valuing their own landscape, will allow for a greater level of empathy. Hopefully, this greater level of empathy and engagement with other communities will translate into a greater understanding of the need to be aware of how our lifestyle habits affect the whole world, and the need to support one another as a global community.

Sustainability – Reaching out to Future Generations

Our idea as a pair is aimed particularly at schoolchildren, we feel that this is such an important group to work with if we are to make positive changes for the future of our environment. If we are able to reach out to children that are beginning to explore and understand the world around them, and create positive changes in the way they see this world, then we can hope to see this lived out in a future of real difference.
If we can help children to value and empathize with other cultures and help them to appreciate the beauty held in places across the world then real changes can be made. A generation growing up, valuing  communities across the world, understanding how their behaviours have a global  and personal impact is a generation that can work to sustain their planet.