One Year Gone ~ Still Going Strong

by Jenny Ashley.
Admin, Physically Challenged Artists Support Group

Last year Alicia from Jewelry Making Journal collaborated with me to start up a group on BigTent called The Physically Challenged Artist Support Group. It started out as a trial to see if there were other artists like myself out there who have disabilities and create art, whether it be jewelry, or other art forms.

Multi Strand Beaded Bracelet

Beaded bracelet by Jenny Ashley Designs

Through making jewelry I have found a passion that gives my life meaning while in the midst of dealing with illness and chronic disability. My hope was to find that others shared my passion to make life mean something no matter what the physical limitations.

To my surprise and happiness, we have recently made it to one year as an active group with a current total of 83 members strong.

For me personally, the group has been such a wonderful way to step out of my isolation of hurt and illness and share with like-minded individuals the art of creating something from nothing. Within the group, members are able to build forum topics, exchange ideas for art projects, support each other through illness and make long lasting friends with other artists.

Recently we tried a “get to know you” activity and here is what one of our members, and now friend of mine, Diane Ballou had to say…

The Bead Exchange Challenge was not only meant to be a fun way to participate in a challenge, but a way to get to know each other better within the group. Jenny and I were assigned as partners. While I have a chronic illness I have other health problems as well.

We both have severe spinal problems that cause us much pain and we both started making jewelry as a way to not go crazy with the isolation and boredom that often comes with long chronic illness and chronic pain.

Diane Ballou in her studio

Diane Ballou in her studio.

Upon getting to know each other based on jewelry and pain, we soon found that we have much more in common, such as the way we both look at the world. If we met under different circumstances, we would have been instant friends!

Jenny and I talk or text almost every day. We have become very close and our friendship is so very important to me. Finding someone who truly understands my pain, understands my isolation, is kind and compassionate and has common interests and views is a rare find and one that I will treasure the rest of my life.

Most often, one never meets in person an online friend. While Jenny and I don’t live close to each other, I travel 5 hours by car to see my specialist, which is 2 hours away from Jenny. I go to see my specialist next month and will be spending a few days with Jenny.

I am excited to meet her in person! Not only to talk, relax and have fun, but to spend time in her studio and teach each other techniques. Perhaps collaborating on jewelry is in our future.

To artists of all kinds: Let’s keep creating and keep each other going without the limitations of our disabilities.


If you’re interested in joining the Physically Challenged Artists Support Group just follow the link and request an invitation.

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