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.

FREE - Get 7 Super Jewelry Making Hacks

Get Rena's 7 Super Jewelry Making Hacks, plus the Jewelry Making Journal Newsletter - all for FREE.

We Respect Your Email Privacy

  • Diane says:

    Yay! I’m published! This is my main work table. I also have an area for my flexshaft, saw, etc and another area for hot work. All in a 12×10 foot heated, insulated outbuilding with a window air conditioner. It was orginally built as my wildlife rehabilitation building before becoming disabled. Then it sat as storage for years. I am very happy that it has found a new purpose in life.

  • Karen says:

    Congratulations to the Physically Challenged Artists Support Group at BigTent! You provide a much needed haven for people with chronic illness to unite around the common theme of creativity. This was a well written article by Jenny and Diane. May I say that I am impressed with the neatness and order of Diane’s studio space….you go girl!

  • Diane Smith says:

    Congrats on the first year anniversary of your group! What a great inspiration you are. I began making jewelry when I was bedridden for six months with a lung disease and I identify with your need for a creative outlet. I always joked about my jewelrymaking as “better & cheaper than therapy”. I wish you the best and hope your group continues to grow, as well as your close friendships!

  • Diane says:

    Karen, thank you. My studio is finally neat and organized after a long overhaul. All those boxes on the floor propping up my book are actually empty and I just haven’t removed them yet!

  • Karen Watson says:

    Beautiful studio!

  • Carol says:

    I joined this group soon after Jenny set it up. It has been wonderfully supportive as we each have our challenges… Most recently they have all supported me ass I am going through creations withdrawal after six weeks in a cast and months of rehab in front. Did I mention the cast was on my right (majorly dominant) hand? I couldn’t ask for a better group!

  • Ellen Head says:

    Diane – just Love your Beaded Bracelet! I also see you’re an Animal Lover as well. I can’t desert the Animals in my care nor can I stop my spay/neuter campaign. But I’ve been downsizing due to my Disabilities; when you’re the Director everything falls to you to do. I can’t take the constant Chronic Pain. I just want to make my jewelry best I can, expand on that and the other Art forms I enjoy. I wonder if you know how much yours and everyones stories inspire me to keep putting one foot in front of the other even though it may hurt like hell. Funny part is …I never asked for this all I wanted to do was Volunteer-LOL!!!

  • Diane says:

    I’m so glad that you have found inspiration in our stories.

    I’d like to invite you to join our group which is now on Facebook. It is a closed group to the sensitive nature of health issues, just request to join and we will let you right in!

    I am an animal person through and through, in fact, my career was all animals all the time before becoming disabled. I respect your spay/neuter campaign to the highest degree.

    BTW, the bracelet was made by Jenny Ashley, isn’t it great?

    Here is the link to the Facebook group:

  • >