Personal Stories


Personal Stories

Elesha’s Story

What is it like to feel unwell or well? I understand both of these states of being and I especially know what it’s like to feel unwell and what I call ‘not normal’. I live with the symptoms of ME and Fibromyalgia, so no two days are the same. I used to be a Park Ranger and Community worker but now I am an artist. I didn’t think I was an artist, but my relationship with the Art House has created a new mindset where I can explore my thoughts about identity, wellness and where aspirations can lead.
My home is England but at one point in my life I wanted a change and I set out for Spain. I gave up everything and moved away. 6 months in, things changed, my father was very ill and the dream ended. I returned to England, to South Yorkshire, to Sheffield. A big change. Life was very difficult and I was filled with anxiety and depression. I have felt these things before, but thought they had gone, but that was not the case.

I believe that I would have come out of this somehow, but I was asked to join an art group ‘Creative Artists’ run by Ali Kitley-Jones and one of the first images I was encouraged to paint was a mandala. Ali asked me to put it up on the wall for display and I was so proud of myself. I had not felt this feeling for sometime but that sense of delight, happiness and self-respect has remained with me.

Making art makes me feel free, calm and alive.
One thing led on to another and week after week of making art and being part of a supportive and positive group led me to volunteer and co-support the creative artists group now. I love helping others, being part of a cycle of making change and being an inspiration. My future progression is to run art workshops and continue exhibiting and selling my work… I still have anxiety and ups and downs but it is less severe now. I have a routine and structure to my week. I feel like a normal human being again. Rather than saying what I used to be and feeling useless, which is how depression makes you feel, I am an Artist now. I have a purpose and feel useful and want to inspire people to give art a go, you never know where it will lead.

My daily Motto: Give it a go!
My proudest moment: selling my first painting & riding 258 miles on a bike and raising £800 for St Lukes Hospice in 2008.

An impression of the Arthouse: Friendly place, lovely and smiley people in the café, welcoming, amazing art and pottery on show
Preferred Media: Acrylic: because if you make a mistake you can go over it and it isn’t ruined
Aspiration: exhibit somewhere big * Manchester or London.

Ben’s Story

My aspiration growing up was to become a joiner, so when I left school I went to college and successfully completed 3 years of training. My time there was not easy – I found college life stressful and I found myself feeling overwhelmed.

I went to my GP for help, but not long after finishing college my mental health deteriorated and I ended up in hospital. As part of the Occupational Therapy programme I began attending one to one pottery and shortly after my discharge I joined Inspired Potters wellbeing group at the Art House.

Since then I have learned hand building, glazing, creating birdhouses, plant boxes, storage jars, and animals. The Art House has helped me regain my confidence and I have now progressed into volunteering too.

Every Tuesday afternoon you will find me in the main studio working on a tile project for the café courtyard. It requires organisation and dedication to work slowly towards completing an entire wall but I have enjoyed it and found that I have a flair for creating beautiful tiles.   I also attend Saturday wheel throwing classes. Up to now I have 26 pots with more on the way.

I would describe the Art House as a big friendly community. It takes you on a journey of learning new skills, building friendships, opening up opportunities, whilst filling your appetite with food and drinks served by lovely, welcoming staff. You always leave wanting to return for more.

“The Art House has helped me regain my confidence.”

Kieron’s Story

I sometimes wish I didn’t have to rely on creative projects to feel mentally stable but it works. I can’t imagine life without art.

For around 15 years my projects revolved solely around photography, but for the past few years I have had my fingers in lots of different creative pies, from abstract paintings and digital art, to pottery and singing in the chorus of a play called Painters of Light and Shadow in December 2019

During the past few years the Art House has been a central factor in all of my projects. Although much of the art I produce is distinctly different from other people’s work, the surroundings of the Art House and the people I meet and have been highly influential in the evolution of the projects I develop. I have attended Creative Artists wellbeing art group, and the Stepping Stone course which challenges your notions of ‘how to create’. I also volunteer on a regular basis.

If asked, what does my work mean to me?  It never disappoints me, it never lets me down.  When I am doing this (painting) the darkness is never there, everything disappears. Nothing exists apart from this. I will often create in the morning or early daytime because it gives me a sense of peace and contentment for the rest of the day, even though I also find it emotionally depleting and exhausting. I love creating and it is an obsession. It takes the place of drugs and alcohol. Nowadays, I prefer touching paints and clay. Using my hands in a creative way.  It’s a pleasant experience and it provides a release.

My aspiration is to offer outreach art making to homeless people. I would like to be able to provide people on the street with art materials and some guidance to experience the contentment and relief that making art can bring.

Dan’s Story

I am a sculptor and pre-1988 I used to work in an artistic workshop in Santiago, Chile. We were very political and made banners and flags against the government and eventually the police began to show up.  We were very vulnerable and increasingly things turned worse. People were tortured and began to disappear and one day my close friend was found dead. I have never lived anywhere other than Chile but I needed to leave to save my life.  I ended up in Sheffield, applied for asylum and have lived here ever since. I became very depressed and spent 8-10 years thinking, alone. I needed a cure.  I needed to be around people.

I was encouraged by a support worker to attend a wellbeing pottery class. It took a long time but I joined Creative Potters in Sharrow.  When the class finished I followed them to a new pottery called the Art House. They were just opening up and they had a focus of working with art and mental health.  I helped set up the pottery and use the skills I had from the past to become a volunteer and help others explore the use of clay to feel better. It helped me to connect and feel more human.  I found that when I was free from harm, my own ceramics found its voice again and became more sculptural/political. ‘Making’ gave me hope.

These days I am making more now than ever and have created sculptures in the River Don.

I go down to the river and get in. Literally, get in the water. Going in the water makes me feel different and relaxed.  I assemble free standing sculptures out of the bricks and the remnants that have been dumped there over many years. I return again and again building tall monolithic forms, balancing the weight of one with another. To find out more Google Sheffield River Don Banksy’s sculptures…

Sophie’s Story

I’ve always loved art as long as I can remember. Even when I became ill and my schooling was interrupted I could always fall back on art.  It became my safety net.  When my physical and mental health meant I couldn’t attend school, art was the only A-level I could continue to study; mostly at home with tremendous support from my school.

I love learning and I am very detail-oriented, which is both my weakness and my strength. Too often this can manifest itself in an overwhelming sense of pressure and a need for perfection. Maintaining the balance between getting happily lost in applying patterns and becoming trapped and fatigued from not being able to stop until it’s perfect is tricky

I found the Art House by accident at the end of 2015 after I became hooked on BBC2’s Great Pottery Throw Down. I tentatively googled ‘pottery classes in Sheffield’ with very little intention of actually being brave enough to go to one. The first click was the Art House website’s description for Creative Potters; a class for adults living with mental health needs. I read the description aloud and my mum said “That sounds like it’s been written about you Sophie, you should go!” It took two months of mum’s encouragement, my dithering, a terrifying email and phone call, before I was sat in my first class. I’ve been coming ever since.

My participation in the Art House Stepping Stone group also helps me to focus on the concept of flow and being present in the moment. In this class we are not encouraged to do things to perfection and I personally find some of the exercises/warm-ups are designed to make perfection impossible to achieve. This has helped me massively and continues to challenge me.

Being a part of the classes validates my creativity in a ‘proper art space’, and talking through my ideas and sketchbooks with tutors makes my drawings feel more than just doodles. Working with clay has opened up a new 3D element to my art and gave me the opportunity to develop a project around my Grandma who passed away in 2015. I was able to explore memories of my childhood that I really value without becoming overwhelmed by loss and the hollow ache that exists with grief.

Mand’s Story

As a child I was forever drawing. Both pleasure and compulsion. I drew everything: pencil sketches of the grass that grew wild along the lane, paintings of stories that existed only in my mind, grandma’s angry yorkie rendered bright in felt tip pen. I simply had to draw.

As a child I was forever reading. Both pleasure and compulsion. I read anything: books filled with adventure and battles and strange alien lands, magazines and newspapers left lying around, cereal packets and jam jars at breakfast time. I simply had to read.

With my brother I built dens. Outside dens with walls made from corrugated plastic dug into the ground, inside dens from sleeping bags zipped together tied taught with rope and string. Places made for hiding and fighting and play.

Older, I made my own clothes, my mother’s clothes, and together a cover for a sofa sewn on a Singer sewing machine. Projects made in company; treasured memories of blackberry and strawberry picked for badly made jam, elderflower and dandelion gathered for very strong wine.

Playing tag, climbing trees, playing hooky; I threw balls, made mud pies, threw pots out of clay, learnt to knit, then embroider, made macramé pot holders, grew vegetables and herbs, learnt the value of weeds. I learnt to cycle, to swim, how to eat at posh restaurants, went on walks, laid on beaches and ate purple buns, watched films at the cinema, television at home, saw our cat Kitty’s kittens being born in a drawer, one by one. There were plays and the ballet, there were castles and churches, there were playgrounds and gardens and huge stately homes.

And then I grew up; ran away, an exciting new city, left the time and the place where I was unhappy. Made new friends, saw new places, dressing up, dressing down, for pubs, clubs and parties I came into town. Drank a little cheap beer, tons of blue Thunderbird wine with bottles as trophies plonked all in a line. Necked Nescafe coffee till my hands shook; smoked straight cigarettes and roll ups that really did stink. Knew the Square and the blues, transport cafes, cheap curry, bought a house from the money left to me by my mummy, paint it black, paint it white, drinking rough old Jack Daniels. Played Dungeons and Dragons, erected marquees, watched others make music, looked on jealously.

But me and my lover, we started to fight; crossed words and shouting and then making up. Paying bills, writing letters, it was never enough: cooking meals, then the laundry and then washing up. I hoovered and dusted and redecorated, learnt to tile, wire and plumb, clean bricks and build fences. Suspicious when life went terribly well that tomorrow, instead, would be a mess, an impersonal hell.

And then, on day one of a new century, a message arrived beamed from ships sailing high drifting blackward to a brain broken low that fizzed and crackled and popped and felt certain uncertain that what was, was what. And they came, masked in white, disclosed and transmitted: shifting place, drifting time

And I stopped
Very still
For moments, forever, for a very long time
Had to and made to
Stopped. Stuck. Stuck frantic. Stuck still
And did nothing, for no one, and did it nowhere
Maybe sat
Likely waited
A second, a minute, a day, month, a year
Thick, thick, thick, fast with slow
Runaway. From a life; playing patience, and pressed in a knot, codes and pills, burning bones, and coffee cups thrown. Thoughts spangled on walls shaded piss green and blue. Nightly sculptures for pigeons out of jam, bread, and mustard; daily cartons of milk each one strangely opened and I do not belong, I can’t eat the food.

But this story is already far too long and so it stops short, suspended and untidy; a cliff hanging, brutal unending finale, an unfinished end that’s continued in my work, here on the walls and there in a book. For the child who once drew really never did stop creating.

James’s Story

If you asked me what happens when I make art and pottery I can describe it like this; I become my eyes, whatever I am seeing becomes me. It might be touch, smell, listening to sounds, but I am listening to my senses and in that moment, there is no past or future. I drift off somewhere and the results are amazing.

I was born at Jessops Hospital in the 1970s.  I was shy when I first went to school but soon I decided to rebel; inspired by the tobacco advertisements of my beloved Formula One cars, I started smoking discarded cigarettes from the age of 11. By age 12, drink factored in and remained a constant for the next 26 years of my life alongside cannabis, gas and LSD. This was a foot on the ladder which led to mental illness, class A drugs and thoughts of suicide.

I ended up in hospital diagnosed with psychosis. What followed was weight gain and the fight to get off class A drugs. Eventually in 2003 I managed to free myself from the physical symptoms of drugs and I started on a course of Naltrexone which blocked any high I could receive. To this day I take Naltrexone daily and devoutly.

The next 12 years were a blur until 2015 when my nan had her leg amputated on my 37th birthday. This defining moment prompted me to make a change, and I started to attend Turning Point for alcohol prevention. I received reflexology, Indian head massage and acupuncture. I also lost nearly 10 stone after a medication change which led to me being accepted for an alcohol detox. During this time my CPN encouraged me to attend the wellbeing pottery classes at the Art House.

The immediate benefit of attending the Art House was meeting people, but I fell in love with the pottery itself. After a while I increased my schedule to attend another class and it wasn’t long before I was volunteering to recycle clay with the head technician. I was mostly doing this all for my family but at some point I realised this is my week and I had committed myself to a creative life and was on a path to feeling better.

All of these changes take a great deal of emotional and physical energy. I concentrate on trying to be the man that I would like to be but at present I am a man-child and don’t yet know what it is like to take full responsibility for myself. My long-term aspiration is to find full time employment and contribute more to my own recovery.