A creative therapist on a mission to collect 1,000 portraits from women around the world is well on her way to seeing her wish come true on 20 March when 100 works of art, go on show at Huyton Suite, Knowsley (Merseyside).
Clare Campbell, from Liverpool, has already had great success getting women suffering from mental health issues or trauma to find solace in art, even when traditional remedies such as medication and counselling haven’t worked.
“We gathered 100 women from all walks of life and created a fun, safe and magical experience for them to paint self-portraits. I wanted to share with other women how powerful creativity has been in helping me with my own experiences of mental illness and distress,” said Clare.
“The project, Big Love Sista, caught the attention of women from all sections of society and I’d always envisioned a truly mixed group with a huge spectrum of experiences so I was delighted when women from the community were joined by women in business, some of whom hold senior positions in their organisations.”
“The underlying anxiety kept returning and I retreated into a withdrawn world and suffered unbearable nightmares every night. Nothing seemed to work,” explained Suzie.
“I was constantly fearful and I’d started to believe that life would be like that forever. Then, my sister recommended Big Love Sista because she’d gained so much from an earlier group. I was sceptical, but it changed my life.”
It was the sense of belonging that she found in the group and the things she learned about herself when she started to paint (for the first time in her life) that helped Suzie to re-build her confidence and learn how to manage her anxiety.
“Painting has been the best treatment because it removes barriers and highlights things about yourself that you need to change to get better. And to belong to a group of cool women like this? It’s been a life-saver and I’m now full of hope for the future.”
By contrast, Siobhan Slater, is just 20 and had low self-esteem issues when she joined Big Love Sista, but is now so buoyed from her self-portrait experience that she is making real headway with her ambition to become a professional photographer.
“Confidence feels good,” said Siobhan. “I feel the painting experience and listening to the other women’s stories brought me out of my shell and I’m much more determined to achieve things.”
“Because I feel I can put my mind to anything, I’ve been able to just go and do it! I’ve always wanted to be a photographer and now I’m even getting commissions – I feel so proud of that. And I love that my Mum and Dad have noticed the change too.”
A number of senior executives who joined the Big Love Sista project were members of its steering committee but realised it was time they tasted the goods for themselves before they recommended it to other women.
Sue Westwater, Managing Director of LHT said: “Big Love Sista brings something different, creative and magical to so many people; it makes women believe they can achieve whatever they want – that’s the simplicity and strength of it.”
“I am thrilled to be working with such an innovative and creative project. It is a fabulous, shared experience for all who engage,” added Lesley Martin-Wright, Chief Executive of Knowsley’s Chamber of Commerce.
Big Love Sista has now generated its first 100 self-portraits, (and each one a staggering 6ft high), which go on show on 20 March at the Huyton Suite, Knowlsey when women from all over the country will attend a conference about the power of transforming lives through art.
“We will also launch a Big Love Sista book containing the women’s self-portraits and the story of our project, which we want to share with others,” said Clare.
“And since there has been such an incredible response from the attending executives we are also launching a monthly women’s leaders’ gathering for those wanting to continue drawing on the shared group experience.”