Coronatude is a mindset
COVID has impacted the world and inspired reflections and actions that show the goodness of folks.
During Stage 4 lockdown restriction across Victoria, we’ve witnessed the resilience, connectivity and inspiration of many.
I know so many Victorian’s who have adapted and contributed in inspiring ways. So why not share their stories?
This Q and A series share’s how others have navigated 2020’s impacts and changes, and the attitude and ideas that have sustained their business and wellbeing.
If we’ve learnt anything from these times, it’s that a generous spirit and determined attitude in COVD times can have lasting positive impacts. These are Victorian’s worth meeting and supporting!
Welcome to the Coronatude Chats!
Meet Claire Monique Taylor
Tell me about your business Claire Monique?
The surgery resulted in me losing both my hearing and my balance nerve on my right side, which meant that I had to learn how to balance again in order to walk and move around as well as perform basic tasks and activities.
As an actor with a Music Theatre degree I felt a lot of grief for the loss of my senses and abilities, which meant that the things I would normally do to bring myself joy like listening to music, dancing and singing lost a lot of their appeal and became far more difficult.
I have always been artistic and loved the process of creation – I studied Art and Studio Art in VCE and even briefly studied a Contemporary Art degree before deciding to pursue performing arts.
So, while I was stuck on my parent’s couch post-surgery I started making art! First came pom poms, of which I made about 400. I made some into keyrings to gift to friends and family over Christmas and created a beautiful garland for my Mum (the rest of them are still sitting in a basket in our living room waiting to be turned into a jacket). After I had my fill of pom poms I started noodling around with painting and Procreate and I haven’t stopped noodling since.
How did the Coronavirus impact your business?
I always hate it when other people say this, but I never intended to make art as a business, it just kind of happened!
For me, the most personally rewarding thing that has come out of my art due to Corona is the masks I designed for people like me who also suffer from single-sided deafness. It’s one of those things that unless you suffer from it, or know someone who does, it is really difficult to understand how much it actually affects your day-to-day life. People don’t realise that when you lose your hearing on one side it completely throws off your spatial awareness, so you often can’t tell where a sound is coming from and your brain actually expends more energy trying to make sense of what you hear so you get very tired – it’s a big deal!
So, when mask-wearing started to be a thing it occurred to me that lots of people like myself in the deaf community would struggle big time from not being able to lip-read and having masks muffle people’s voices. I quickly made a couple of simple mask designs reflecting single-sided deafness and hearing difficulty and uploaded them to a site called RedBubble, which is a worldwide print-on-demand service. The masks started selling immediately, and it has been very personally fulfilling for me to know that I have helped so many people like me all over the world to communicate their limitations and needs.
How did coronavirus impact your own life?
When the global pandemic came around I didn’t feel like I had anything else to lose! I was in a pretty good place to just keep rolling with the punches.
It might sound silly but one thing that frustrated me was having to stop going to the gym. I’d only joined a month prior to the first lockdown and had been going every single day to work on my balance and fitness, so having to stop that was really hard because I was really starting to feel like I was in a good place with my recovery. It was so nice to just get out of the house and to have that taken away was very disappointing. I also had to stop seeing my Myotherapist which was tough, because my body was still dealing with what I’d been through in surgery.
I’m thankful I was able to keep working with my Psychologist and GP throughout the pandemic to manage my mental health because I think things would have been very different without their support.
As we moved into the second lockdown it definitely began to wear on me that I couldn’t see any of my friends because they’re all based closer to the city, as is my brother’s family; not being able to see my nephews for six months was absolutely heartbreaking.
Isolation was hard on many people, and those 5km limits were brutal for those of us who are geographically displaced from our networks.
As I mentioned before, in many ways it was helpful for me to have more time to continue my recovery. I spent a LOT of time reading, making art, snuggling with my dogs and doing things that make me feel good.
I’ve been working on my health and have successfully “quit” sugar and lost about 6kg which I’m very proud of. While progress stalled in many areas of my life, others have come along in leaps and bounds. I feel like it’s almost been a luxury to have so much time to process everything I’ve been through, and now that things are settling down for us here in Victoria I feel well equipped to keep moving forward.
How did your business evolve during COVID times? (What did you offer, how did you adapt, who did you call on to help?)
I started by painting and creating designs for myself, then people started asking if they could purchase my originals, and that evolved into me taking commissions.
During lockdown, I started making digital portraits for people as well as my own original logos, and a lot of people have commissioned those as gifts for occasions like Father’s Day and Christmas. The Psychology practice I used to work for in Melbourne asked me to create original art for them to post to their socials, so I do that regularly, plus I’m always working to further my own art practice, learn new techniques and keep making art to keep my spirits high and share it to make others feel good too.
The biggest turning point came after I decided to enter the Mornington Peninsula Arts and Culture BINspiration competition by painting my household bins! I painted all three of our bins and entered them in the competition and won one of the prizes which I was beyond thrilled about. From that competition, I connected with the gorgeous Kristie Evans from Connecting Good People, who interviewed me on her Instapod. Because of that interview, I was contacted by Mary Tresize-Brown who invited me to speak at one of her Happy Places & Co Events.
Another gorgeous local couple spotted my interview and asked if I would take Zoom Art Classes for their kids, which we have had on a weekly basis ever since and just started in real life! I’ve also been fortunate to connect to a number of other local artists through social media during this time, mostly through the MAVA Collective which has been an invaluable source of support and friendship.
Midway through the second lockdown I also set myself a deadline by setting a launch date for a collection of the pieces I made throughout the year.
With the help of my brilliant sister, we created my own website, on which I launched my first official collection. On the anniversary of my surgery, I released over 100 original pieces and pledged to donate 20% of sales to the St Vincent’s Hospital Neurosurgery Department.
The launch was a wonderful success and I’m still in awe of how many people decided to purchase my work and show their support! Since the release I have also connected with Meesha from Meesha Hair in Sorrento who is displaying some of my work in her waiting room alongside a couple of other local artists, and I have also started stocking some of my pieces in Incub8r in Fitzroy! What started as a few humble pompoms have come a long way, baby!
What do you customers and community tell you they appreciate about your service right now?
In my opinion, there is already enough doom and gloom in the world. We are surrounded by it – in the real world, on the news, in what we read and watch and listen to – and because as humans we already have a negative bias, I think it’s important to make sure we consume and create even more positive things that we do negative. It makes me feel incredible to know that people are buying my paintings and designs to bring a little more joy and colour to their lives.
My community often tell me that they find my story inspiring, that they appreciate my openness and seeing my art makes them want to be creative too.
I don’t make “fine art”, my art is intentionally a little bit messy and imperfect, because I think art should be accessible and inspiring. My favourite artists – Warhol, Haring, Van Gogh – are the ones that make me think “I could do that” or “I wish I could do that” when I look at their work. I could think of no better compliment than having someone look at my work and think “I want to go and make something now!” – in fact, someone said almost exactly that to me today and it made my heart very, very happy. (Thanks, Jaz!)
What has been the hardest thing for you to overcome?
Now that more people are becoming interested in me and my art I find myself being afraid of disappointing people. Because my whole business has been created online during the pandemic not many people have seen me or my art in person, so my absolute biggest fear is that someone will receive an artwork from me and be disappointed.
I definitely feel some pressure when it comes to meeting expectations, which isn’t a bad thing, but like so many others I have allowed my own perfectionism to stop me from releasing my work into the world because it wasn’t “ready” or because I wasn’t ready, and I have to consciously fight against that pretty much every day.
I know my website isn’t perfect, I know my pieces aren’t perfect, I know I’M not perfect – but I’d rather put myself out there and be vulnerable to the process and grow than hide myself and my work until I think we’re ready, because I don’t think we’ll ever be. I remember feeling the same way after I finished my theatre degree – even after studying performing for three years full-time I still felt like I was an imposter, so I constantly waited until I was ready to audition, or until I’d lost 10kg’s and was ready to get a new headshot, but all it meant was that I wasted a tonne of time and missed a lot of growth opportunities because I was afraid – and I don’t have a lot of time for being afraid anymore.
The time is going to pass anyway so you might as well do something with it, and even if you release something prematurely there aren’t many things that can’t be fixed. In all my art listings on my website I write “Embracing the concept of Wabi-Sabi”, which is a Japanese worldview of accepting imperfection and impermanence which I have resonated with very strongly since my diagnosis.
Who has inspired or motivated you to keep going during the pandemic?
Creating art is such a different experience of performing art for me, because with acting I always felt like I was dependent on someone else to create an opportunity. Plenty of other actors will make their own work on YouTube or write their own shows, but I always felt it was always up to a director or a casting agent to cast me in a role so I could go through the process and do the work; I never felt capable of creating my own opportunities.
With art I’m only limited by my imagination and my bravery – nobody else can decide if I’m going to have an exhibition, or experiment with a new medium, or put a new design out into the world, or pivot and try something completely new – that is all up to me.
I don’t feel like my success is dependent on someone else “choosing” me, and that’s a wonderful feeling. So I’m always thinking about the next project I want to start, the next painting I want to paint, the next technique I want to try, the next concept I want to explore.
I can’t imagine myself ever being bored by it. Even during my hardest time during the pandemic when I felt like I had no energy to make anything, I just sat in bed and chucked on Gilmore Girls and doodled. What started with me feeling completely blocked ended up being my most prolific period.
I created almost 90 pieces during that month, which absolutely blew my mind.
Can you share something you’ve learnt about yourself or others during these times that you’d like to continue to explore or offer?
Embrace the uncertainty.
You never know what is going to happen. You could be diagnosed with a brain tumour tomorrow. You could win the lottery.
Your entire life could be turned upside down for reasons completely out of control – like a global pandemic – and you still need to find a way to be OK. Embracing uncertainty is the only way.
You can’t always predict what is going to happen, or what other people are going to do, and it is easy to expend a lot of energy worrying about all of that, but there is literally no point.
When I was preparing for my surgery I knew there was a possibility I could die. There was a possibility I would lose my hearing. There was a possibility I would end up with permanent facial paralysis.
There was a possibility I’d come through it exactly the same – and I had to embrace all those possibilities. Instead of wasting all my time worrying, I spent the three weeks between diagnosis and surgery having a blast. I ate gelato every day. I watched every sunset. I walked on the beach with my Mum. I cuddled my dogs. I went into the surgery with hope and faith and the belief that no matter what, I would be OK.
After my surgery, one of the anaesthetists came to visit me in the hospital, and she said that she wished she could bottle my attitude and give it to all the patients.
She said it was a “boring” surgery for them because my body didn’t miss a beat throughout the whole 13.5 hours. She put it all down to my state of mind.
Nobody will ever wake up after a crisis and wish they’d worried more. They’ll always wish they did more things that made them happy.
We get to choose how much the small stuff affects us, and I make the choice every single day to work on the things I can control, let go of the things I can’t, and spread a little joy through my work.
This is definitely not the life I imagined for myself, but it’s the only one I’ve got and I believe it will only get better. I may not be able to bottle my attitude, but I can definitely splash a little of it on a canvas!
Thanks for sharing your story Claire. You have added colour and depth to reflections of lockdown.
Keep that Coronatude going strong everyone.
If you know a regional Victorian story worth sharing, I’d love to hear from you.