Podcast in Brief

The Sweet Taste of Inclusion

Elizabeth Donoghue’s Journey from Teacher to Chocolatier Championing Neurodiversity

Milk, dark, and white chocolate pralines stacked. World famous from The Chocolate Caper in Oregon, Wisconsin.

Have you ever bitten into a piece of chocolate and felt an instant connection not just with the flavors melting on your tongue, but also with the story behind its creation? In the latest episode of our podcast, “A Conversation with Elizabeth Donoghue,” you’ll be taken on an extraordinary journey that intertwines the love of chocolate with the power of inclusion, resilience, and community support.

Elizabeth Donoghue is not your ordinary entrepreneur. Her story is a heartfelt tale of transition from the realm of education to the entrepreneurial world of confectionery. As a former teacher, Elizabeth brings a unique perspective to her business ventures, running two establishments with an admirable mission: to provide employment opportunities for neurodivergent individuals.

But why chocolate, you may wonder? The answer lies within this engaging episode, where Elizabeth opens up about her fascinating transition to becoming a chocolatier. She’s not alone in her entrepreneurial endeavors; the episode also sheds light on a relatable narrative of another individual’s quest to overcome health issues and financial hurdles by starting a home baking business. These stories are not just inspiring—they’re a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Listeners will also be treated to the chronicle of a couple who, despite early financing difficulties, took the reins of a chocolate business, earning the trust of its previous owners and turning it into a beacon of hope and success. It’s a story of love, determination, and sweet success that can only be fully appreciated by tuning in to the episode.

The Chocolate Caper family, from one couple to the next, with trust. A photo of the couples.

One of the most touching moments is when Elizabeth discusses her son, who joined the family business after facing autism-related employment challenges. His story is a shining example of how a supportive work environment can truly change lives.

Elizabeth’s establishments have become more than just places to enjoy delicious treats; they are hubs of inclusivity, drawing in families who cherish the atmosphere and local educators who frequently visit, making use of special offers like a rolling gift card for teachers.

The podcast episode concludes with a powerful message about the importance of creating supportive environments for underserved communities, particularly in addressing mental health and embracing neurodiversity. It’s a call to action for all of us to be more mindful and proactive in supporting systems that uplift these communities.

So, are you ready to be inspired, educated, and perhaps a little hungry for chocolate? Tune in to “A Conversation with Elizabeth Donoghue” and join the movement of sweet inclusivity that’s reshaping how we view business, community, and the art of chocolate-making. Your heart—and taste buds—will thank you.

A photo of small caramel truffles in white, milk, and dark chocolate.

Listen now and let us know what you think. Are you as moved by Elizabeth’s story as we are? Do you have your own tales of overcoming challenges or fostering inclusion? Together, let’s spread the message that the world is a better place when everyone has a seat at the table—or in this case, a spot at the chocolate counter.

Guest Post

Why is Marketing Important for Artists?

Layered Onion Guest Post all about marketing for artists by Alexis Arnold, artist and founder of Art Connective

Marketing is an essential aspect of any business, and that also applies to artists. For artists, marketing helps to promote their work, connect with potential buyers, and build a reputation. It is a way of getting their art out into the world and making it visible to a wider audience. Marketing can help artists to establish themselves as professionals, and showcase their skills and talent to the public.

Marketing can also help artists to build relationships with their audience, and create a loyal fan base. By sharing their work on social media, attending events, and collaborating with other artists, they can create a strong network of supporters who are interested in their work. This can lead to increased exposure, sales, and opportunities for future projects.

In short, marketing is crucial for artists because it helps them reach their target audience, build their brand, and establish themselves as professionals in their field. By investing in marketing, artists can increase their visibility, expand their reach, and ultimately, achieve their goals.

Now that you know why marketing is important, how and where do you start? The easiest way to start is with social media. Instagram is the top platform for artists because it is focused on imagery. You are able to build a timeline showing the progression of your artwork. Collectors are attracted to your development as an artist, and how certain styles from early works continue into later works. This is an area where the longevity of the internet plays to your benefit – the timeline framework of Instagram provides a logical flow.

Effort = Success

Social Media content graphic - social media is critical to an artist's marketing strategy.

The great part about social media is that you can create an account and start sharing your art quickly. Unfortunately, Instagram and other platforms cannot be mastered quite so quickly.

The amount of effort you put into something often determines the level of success you achieve. That being said, there are many other factors that can also play a role in determining success, such as natural talent, resources, and luck. However, putting in effort is a crucial component to achieving success. When you put in effort, you demonstrate dedication, persistence, and a willingness to work hard to achieve your goals. This can lead to improvements in your skills and abilities, increased confidence, and a greater likelihood of achieving your desired outcomes. So, while effort alone may not guarantee success, it is an essential ingredient in the recipe for achieving your goals.

Remember, this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to grow and build anything. As you are building and growing, you are also learning. Pay attention to what people are reacting to when you post. Be sure to comment and reply when someone leaves a comment. Follow and comment on other artists and art-related accounts as well, aiming for at least 15 minutes a day. All of these things let the algorithm know what you are interested in.

Now, this can be difficult for those of us with lived experience, and it can be an excellent opportunity to leverage tools such as social media managers to help you plan content so you don’t feel the continued pressure of posting daily.

One in particular that offers a great free plan is Metricool. It gives you analytics tools for monitoring website or social account traffic, but more importantly, the Planning tab allows you to post to multiple platforms at once for days in advance.

A screenshot of a social media manager tool called Metricool that allows for post planning in advance. Can assist artists in marketing efforts.

Using Create New Post, you can create and schedule a post out months in advance! Say you have a holiday sale you know you want to promote that you don’t want to forget about.

A screenshot of a social media manager tool called Metricool that allows for creating posts in advance. Can assist artists in marketing. Marketing for artists.

Scheduling posts can help make content and engagement feel more manageable, especially as we manage our own health – which must always come first.

If the above seems overwhelming, start by scaling. Or create different types of post content that require less prep work, but still get engagement from your fans.

Don’t make this mistake

Keep your personal account personal and your art account about your art. If you already have a “personal” account, great, keep it for just that. Create an artist account that is only for your art & you as an artist. Your Instagram is essentially your digital business card. Yes, galleries do look at it, and yes, potential collectors do view it. If I find an artist whom I am interested in, I go to their feed and see what they are sharing. If the art is scattered within other random posts of your life, I am not going to follow. Why? Because I am here to see your art and follow you on that journey.

Key Marketing Points to Remember

  • To see results, you need to post more than once a week.
  • Engage in other art-related accounts by commenting and sharing.
  • Comment and reply to people who engage with your account.
  • Keep your personal and art business accounts separate.

The sooner you start, the sooner you will see results. Just start posting: Don’t worry about it being perfect; just post. Oh, and let go of the idea of it ever being perfect, because it won’t be, and it shouldn’t be. Marketing today is very different: it is about sharing your story and your journey. You are inviting people to follow along as you make and share your artwork. Have fun with it, and be yourself!

About the author: Alexis Arnold is the founder and president of Art Connective, Inc, a non-profit art organization dedicated to helping artists gain more time to create by understanding the business side of art. Want to learn more? Enroll in any of Art Connective’s online courses at

You can follow her on Instagram @theartconnective for exclusive live sessions on Thursdays as well!

Artwork Spotlight Guest Post

Guest Post: Charlotte Amelia Poe

Today The Layered Onion has a guest post from poet and author Charlotte Amelia Poe. Charlotte Amelia Poe (they/them), like many of us with mental and chronic illness, has let life inspire their work, including experience as an autistic and nonbinary person.

I write. It’s how I make sense of the world.

Charlotte Amelia Poe
A photo of the author - Charlotte Amelia Poe. Writing from a place of being autistic and living with mental health challenges and addressing mental health through the arts. Addressing mental health for the arts. In fact, writing and art for mental health. Art and mental health together to help us cope.

The author has migraines.

Without further ado, an intro from the writer:

I didn’t used to get migraines. That’s new. Well, not new, but it’s been maybe four years since all of this started and I don’t remember what it was like before. It’s strange how quickly your internal world shifts to accommodate some new horror, a pain you can’t escape from.

I write. It’s how I make sense of the world. I’ve always written, perhaps as an autistic person it always made more sense than the spoken word, writing can be precise and honest and sometimes brutal, sometimes healing. It’s a salve on a wound I don’t know how to close.

For one brilliant month, my migraine medication worked and I didn’t have migraines. But something else happened instead – a lack of sleep and a sudden overstimulation meant that I was writing all the time, poetry, prose, nonfiction, anything and everything. I stayed up for twenty four hours and wrote a book. It’s being published next year.

But the brilliant month ended, and the uncertainty returned. It’s difficult to plan for anything when you don’t know whether or not your head will be trying to kill you. The only thing I could do on the bad days was write on my phone, brightness turned way down low, tapping out every thought I had and trying to make it beautiful even as the darkness of the room seeped in and turned the air sour.

I do, completely, understand why people would drill holes into their skulls. I understand this about depression, I understand this about anxiety, and I understand this about migraines. The primal need for exorcism is something we cannot help but seek out, but it’s not the answer, as much as we would like it to be.

In the darkest room, an opening sentence that spawns a thousand words, or a line of poetry that twists into something brand new – that can be magic.

Creativity, perhaps, is. I write because I have to, because I’m possessed by all the demons of my life and I want to splurge it all onto the page and see if I can make sense of it all. In the darkest room, an opening sentence that spawns a thousand words, or a line of poetry that twists into something brand new – that can be magic.

And maybe, in lieu of medication that doesn’t work and trepanation that can’t be provided, we have to count on that instead. That magic.

So I do.

The migraines may never go away, I can’t find what causes them, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. But the creativity remains. The urge to create remains. It’s a scream into the void, loud against an aching head, but god, it might be the only real thing.

And I think it might be everything.

Charlotte Amelia Poe

Introducing this piece:

Content warning: Strong language.


So I say –

“My head hurts.”

And I grit my teeth and I fold my fingers into my hair and I tug until maybe my scalp loosens a little and I can hear myself think again. I think if I buzzed off my hair then maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much, like maybe the throbbing above my right eye would dull a little and I could finally sleep.

(It’s been thirty six hours and the caffeine in the painkillers keeps me buzzing like a moth to the light streaming through the holes in my blackout curtains and I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep, but I can’t do anything else either and time is treacle slow and my tongue sticks to the inside of my mouth and I breathe in and out and bury myself further under the duvet, legs curled up to my chest and I want to scream but noise makes it worse and – )

I understand why people would take rocks to their skulls and carve a hole into themselves to let the demons out. The pressure release valve option seems so fucking appealing. I cannot touch my own skin, can only press my fist into my eye socket and wish I could scoop everything out and let it drip through my fingers until there was no pain anymore, no nothing, just the blessed emptiness and my head would be empty, and my eyes would be empty, and do you understand?

Try cold compresses, ice from the freezer wrapped in a washcloth and pressed to the side of my head and for a moment I don’t feel anything except the chill of numb and blessed relief. My pillow soaks through and the room is warm, so warm, three days of stuffy air and I’m breathing in my own fumes and I can’t stand up to open a window and my head hurts, I am trying to tell you that it hurts, I am trying to find language to describe the fact that it feels like I’m dying and there is nothing I can do except wait it out.

I think about stepping on broken glass. At least that bleeds. This isn’t red, isn’t liquid, there’s no colour or texture to any of this, just pounding, and I’m inside of myself and outside of myself all at once and I can hear somebody begging to be let out and I think it’s me, but it might be the demons, you know? And I can understand. Because being trapped here with me is a fucking nightmare, I understand that, I hate it too, but I don’t try to self-destruct every other day just to get my own way.

Unless the demons are me, in which case, I guess I do.

I can hear my sister’s children laughing and shrieking in the garden and I’m so happy they’re alive and that they’re not in pain but I also want them to just let me lay curled up in silence. Everything is so, so loud and I am flinching against the shuffle of my sheets as I shift my body from one side of the bed to the other, burying my face into the pillow until the nausea becomes too much and I have to lift my head again, the inside out bruising of my neck an extension of it all and I have googled this and Google says meningitis, and I don’t think I get meningitis every other day, but maybe.

See, you get kind of crazy with it.

You make all kinds of deals with any deity you can think of. You don’t even believe in anything except that time is cyclical and that this will happen again. But you still beg and hope and plead that this will stop and maybe this will be the last time it happens, maybe you won’t have to cancel plans and waste away in this fucking miasma of stale breath and old t-shirts.

So I say –

“My head hurts.”

And my mum says, “go lie down.”

And I do.

And after a while, it goes away. And for a little while I can bear to be in the light again.

But it comes back. The demons eat at me again and it hurts hurts hurts.

And then I must be quiet and still and dark.

And I don’t think people understand the cost of that. I am losing time. I am losing time. I am losing time.

Can’t get enough? Follow Charlotte Amelia Poe on Twitter @charlottepoe or Instagram @smallreprieves or on their website.

Or check out one of their books – available via links on their website. Charlotte Amelia Poe published How To Be Autistic in 2019, an honest memoir that shares a personal account of autism, mental illness, gender, and sexual identity.

A photo of the author's first book, a memoir. How To Be Autistic - Charlotte Amelia Poe. 
Writing from a place of being autistic and living with mental health challenges and addressing mental health through the arts. Addressing mental health for the arts.

This is a perspective we have to read. Thank you for sharing your story!

Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Natalia Tcherniak

In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about each artist and their work. In this post, we are featuring Natalia Tcherniak (she/her). Natalia Tcherniak is a cyanotype artist, alternative photographer, sketch artist, and has referred to herself as “cyanotypical.”

A photo of the artist, Natalia Tcherniak. Canadian artist, cyanotype artist. Mental health through art. 
Talks about mental health for art.

Natalia is a visual artist, theatre set designer, alternative photography printmaker, and occasional burlesque performer. She is also a licensed architect, working on mixed-use and healthcare projects across Canada.

Natalia did a Q&A with The Layered Onion, talking about her art:

What first drew you to art?

I grew up in a fairly artistic family, but because it was comprised mostly of architects, visual art has always been regarded as a “side” to architecture. Not until my last years of high school did I fully separate art into its own discipline, and not until my early 30s did I choose to pursue it as a second career.

How would you describe your artistic style?

Since I work in many disciplines, I don’t have a word to describe my style. A piece’s style is dictated by the media that I use – cyanotype is one, architecture is another, painting is a third, and that is different from what I do in my sketchbooks. It changes to adapt to the medium and the intent.

Natalia Tcherniak, Snakarchitecture.

How do you decide where to start when you sit with a piece?

Almost all my creative process starts in a sketchbook. Whenever I have an idea, I write it down, draw it out, in whatever form it takes. As it starts to develop, it informs me of what shape it is going to take – whether it’s going to be a cyanotype print, a painting, a mixed media collage, or an installation. I look at the sketch and decide what the most important part is that I need to translate into “a final piece,” and I start there. For example, a long piece in the making was “Self-Section,” where I was investigating what my soul would look like if it was a wall construction assembly. I started by developing a language for it, and eventually, it became a cyanotype.

Sketch work.

Mental health and the arts.

But often it just remains a sketch in a sketchbook, because it has already said everything it needs to say.

Cyanotype. Blueprint. Blueprint Jam. Mental health for art. Architecture informed art.

Are other parts of your life reflected in your creative work?

Inevitably a lot of my work is influenced by architecture, which is what I have been trained in. In a way, my artistic practice started as a form of rebellion against the architectural practice: something that is not bound by the same rules as my professional life.

How does mental and emotional space play out in your work?

I often do art therapeutically. Whenever I am in an emotionally challenging situation or a poor mental health phase, I turn to my sketchbook and try to put pain down on paper. I live inside my head, creating headlands and mindscapes.

Why cyanotype? How does this technique work? What draws you to it?

Cyanotype was invented as a way of reproducing technical drawings, and has evolved since then into a vast practice of alternative process photography. The technique, for me, consists of two major aspects – application of the medium (the sensitizing solution) and overlaying the negatives for exposure. This combination I see as painting with photography. It provides a platform for so many layers of intent and communication: the brushstrokes look like something violently exploded, while the reproduced image of a map is so strict and orthogonal. I feel like the cyanotype process has a large volume of potential.

Cyanotype. Blueprint. Blueprint Jam. Mental health for art. Architecture informed art.

What draws you to multi-media cyanotype?

One of my main themes in art (and in life) is the idea of existing “in the multiple realms,” trying to get a thing, a concept, a piece, to work on more than one level, serve more than one purpose. And since the cyanotype process already has that inherent quality of being versatile, I am curious to stretch its boundaries further. That’s why I experiment with different substrates, negatives, etc. – to see “what else can it do.”

What other mediums have you worked with and do you enjoy?

Ink wash, acrylic paint, watercolour, and stamping.

Natalia Tcherniak, Japan street. Watercolor.

I really love the BioGraph on your About page. Can you tell us more about that? What does it help you express? I would love to know more about what cyanotypical means to you. ?

Text reads:
We are not alone; we are not in a vacuum. We exist in a network of relationships, visible and invisible,conscious and unconscious. We connect directly and indirectly to other people, things, concepts, events,places, and everything around us. If lines were drawn to represent all the connections, they would comprise a pattern so dense, it would be solid, a Connective Tissue. Overarching theme in my work is a search for orientation. I explore methods of defining position within a Connective Tissue, creating new frames of references, mapping new readings, adding layers to the tissue. I strive for multiple readings as I explore my own psychological construction assembly and the dystopian urban environment I call home.
Circular image that graphs out Natalia's relationship with burlesque, art, architecture, and theatre. BioGraph concept created by the artist.

BioGraph came from the idea of making a biography in graphic form. I like mapping and diagramming, so this was an exploration of how to visually represent many aspects of my life in time and place – how to map out my existence. Also, admittedly, in the end, it looked like a bacterium under a microscope, and now “bio” has a very different meaning.

Cyanotypical is a play on the words “cyanotype” and “typical,” as in “typical detail” or “typical [construction] note.” In the architectural world, typical is something that is very common, ubiquitous, and easily applied to multiple things, the opposite of “unique.” While cyanotypes in general and the cyanotypes that I make are unique and atypical, they are also commonplace for me, so I chose to use this oxymoron.

Anything you’d want to add or answer about mental health that I didn’t ask?

I think what is not being talked about enough in the artistic community, or in general in the world, is how inconsistent the creative process can be and how much of a struggle it can be just to keep it up. I am sure we all go through periods of artistic blocks and creative droughts, but what I am still having a hard time coming to terms with is that it can last years. And during those “lost years,” the biggest challenge is not to give up, and to fight self-doubt and self-deprecation, to have faith that despite not creating all the time, you are still an artist.

You can see more of Natalia’s work on her Instagram @nattchbob or in the second issue of The Shallot. It is the cover piece!

The Shallot Volume 1, Number 2. Natalia's art is on the front cover. 

Cyanotype on wood.

The Journal advocates for mental health through the arts. The power of art for mental health.

More work visible on the website – BlueprintJam!

Guest Post

Read this before pricing your art!

A Layered Onion Guest Post all about pricing artwork by Alexis Arnold, artist and founder of Art Connective

A viewer evaluates pieces of artwork hanging on a gallery wall. One is colored faces of a woman, another piece is a giant painted dollar sign. An illustration on pricing artwork - very literal.

Before you price your art, read this.

Are you an artist looking to make some money from your artwork? It can be tricky to know how to price your artwork and ensure you get a fair return for your hard work. In this blog post, I will provide some helpful advice on where to start before you begin crunching numbers. Don’t worry if you’re feeling overwhelmed – I will make it easy to understand!

Pricing your original and limited-edition artwork can be a challenge for most creatives. Where do you start? Do I price higher or lower? Should I offer sales or discounts on my work? This artist is similar to me; should I just copy their pricing?

I’m sure at some point, you have had at least one of these questions run through your mind. Know that this is completely normal, and the majority of artists struggle with pricing. Unfortunately, this is normal because there is a lack of open discussions and information sharing around pricing artwork.

How you price your artwork equates to how you value it but, more importantly, how the collector will value it. Too often artists are pricing from their emotions and connection to their work. This is one of the worst things to do.

Need help pricing art? Price your art? A string of emojis - hearts, dollar signs, and dollar bills is here for emotional support.

Artists will price too high because they “love” the piece and essentially don’t want to sell it. They may also price too high because of the time spent to create it. On the flip side, artists price too low with the thought that the lower price is what will sell the artwork. An artist may think, “Who would pay $800 for this painting?!” If you think it is too high and you wouldn’t spend that amount, why would anyone else?

These thoughts and rationale will only hurt you in the long run.

The first thing to remember, you cannot become attached to the work. When you do, you price without a method and toss numbers out there, hoping they will attract the right buyer. You may get lucky and have some sales from this method, but what happens when you keep selling at this price point and soon realize you are not even breaking even? You may then suddenly raise your pricing to cover costs, but now you have lost your collectors because they are accustomed to your work being at a certain price point.

Let’s take an example regarding this that we all will understand. Let’s say you get coffee from your local coffee shop weekly, and you order the same thing, a large vanilla latte for $5. You are used to this; you know it will be close to that price each time you come in. The coffee shop has created loyalty with you by being consistent with product, price, and service.

Now let’s say you go in to get your weekly vanilla latte, and when the cashier goes to ring you up, she says, “That will be $15.” You would be shocked and most likely tell her she can keep the drink and walk out!

Fifteen (15) dollars in five dollar bills laid out. Can you imagine a fifteen dollar latte?! 
Illustration of sticker shock re: pricing art or pricing your artwork.

This is the same concept when you abruptly change your pricing for your artwork. It shocks your collectors, and they are left confused. Understand that you should be increasing your pricing by around 10% each year, but this also is dependent on how well you are selling for the previous year. Before we can talk about pricing options for your artwork, you need to sit down and figure out what you are spending on supplies, framing, marketing, packing materials, travel, etc., for your art.

Serene image of clean paint brushes on an indigo background with a white stripe at the bottom. The brushes are of various sizes.

Yes, you need to make a budget for your art business. It’s time to know what is coming in and what is going out. This is essential for any artist seeking to do this as more than a hobby. Create a monthly expense log and start recording what you are spending on the things I listed above. That is a short list – of course, you may have more or fewer items on yours.

This is your primary starting point. It is often an eye-opener for artists who realize that it costs them $50 to create an 8×10 canvas painting only to then sell it for $65. You have “earned” $15, which doesn’t cover your cost of materials nor the time it took you to create the artwork. You would have needed to sell it for closer to $200 to cover the costs of your materials and for you to pay yourself a small amount. These numbers will vary from artist to artist, which is why it is important for YOU to figure out what works for you.

Start here, figure out what you are spending monthly, then log what you sell monthly. Seeing the numbers on paper or your computer screen is the first step towards taking control of your creative business.

Once you have this figured out, then it’s time to decide if you want this to turn into your main source of income or if it is a side income that provides you with some extra spending cash.

If you are ready to learn more and establish a solid foundation to grow, you can enroll in the Building Blocks for Becoming a Successful Artist online courses now until June 11th, 2023. The first online courses of its kind helping artists understand what is needed and expected of them. By having a solid foundation, you can open the doors to more opportunities.

Learn more here:

Logo for the Art Connective.

Alexis Arnold is a working encaustic artist as well as the founder and president of Art Connective, Inc, a non-profit art organization dedicated to helping artists thrive. She created the Building Blocks online courses to give artists all over the world access to learn how to become more successful doing what they love. You can follow her on Instagram at either @theartconnective or @scorpioencaustics.

Layer Reveal

Mental Health Awareness Month: Quiz

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – an important time when the broader world focuses on the crisis we face. And it is a crisis. 

In the United States, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services goes so far as to say:

“Our country is facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. The crisis isn’t just affecting adults, [it is] devastating young people, and people from every background are impacted.”

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon. Mental Health Awareness Month.

And mental illness is international, with millions of individuals from all nationalities and all continents affected. This is not an issue that any one country faces alone.

The stigma of mental illness is universal… There is no country, society or culture where people with mental illness have the same societal value as people without mental illness.

The American Psychiatric Association and a study by Wulf Rössler via the National Library of Medicine

The term mental health is an umbrella term – it contains both awareness of mental illness and general care of one’s mental health. While both are important, The Layered Onion’s focus lies on the first. 

Mental illness has been stigmatized, something previous generations pretended did not exist or never happened.

Now, it is so important to focus on mental illness support as part of Mental Health Awareness Month – mental illness support and the healing power of art.

Around the world, those with mental health challenges face and are affected by stigma. 1 in 5 Americans is negatively impacted by stigma in their lifetime (NAMI) but – 

The stigma of mental illness is universal, notes the American Psychiatric Association. A 2016 study on stigma concluded “there is no country, society or culture where people with mental illness have the same societal value as people without mental illness.”

Mental illness is present in all cultures, though global data is hard to come by. IHME’s Global Burden of Disease (GBD) remains one of the only sources producing estimates at the global level. All said, the data is still only as good as what is reported and it can be hard to get data. As of 2017, about 10.7% of the global population, or 792 million people, encountered a mental health challenge. The language we use to speak about mental health challenges is important.

The way we talk about and view mental illness is not innocuous. Take film for example. The APA describes it well in the following example:

‘Media representations of people with mental illness can influence perceptions and stigma, and they have often been negative, inaccurate or violent representations. A study published in April 2020 looked at a recent example, the popular film Joker (2019), which portrays the lead character as a person with mental illness who becomes extremely violent. The study found that viewing the film “was associated with higher levels of prejudice toward those with mental illness.” Additionally, the authors suggest, “Joker may exacerbate self-stigma for those with a mental illness, leading to delays in help seeking.”’

Movie poster for Joker (2019 film). Features a character with mental illness and describes him with negative language which contributes to stigma.

The character is in mental health crisis.

That was a popular film. Did reading this encourage you to reflect on your own impressions of the movie (if you saw it)? What thoughts are you having? An internal and external dialogue is often a very valuable thing. 

It’s okay to recognize that you’ve been looking at from a perspective that might not be totally correct and want to alter your views.

“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”


There is great strength in admitting and learning from those with lived experience and organizations that specialize in the area. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers some suggestions about what we can do as individuals to help reduce the stigma of mental illness (summarized by the APA):

  • Talk openly about mental health, such as sharing on social media.
  • Educate yourself and others – respond to misperceptions or negative comments by sharing facts and experiences.
  • Be conscious of language – remind people that words matter.
  • Encourage equality between physical and mental illness – draw comparisons to how they would treat someone with cancer or diabetes.
  • Show compassion for those with mental illness.
  • Be honest about treatment – normalize mental health treatment, just like other health care treatment.
  • Let the media know when they are using stigmatizing language presenting stories of mental illness in a stigmatizing way.
  • Choose empowerment over shame  
    • “I fight stigma by choosing to live an empowered life. to me, that means owning my life and my story and refusing to allow others to dictate how I view myself or how I feel about myself.” – Val Fletcher, responding on Facebook to the question, How do you fight stigma?
  • Don’t Harbor Self-Stigma
    • This is what our collective voice sounds like. It sounds like bravery, strength and persistence—the qualities we need to face mental illness and to fight stigma. No matter how you contribute to the mental health movement, you can make a difference simply by knowing that mental illness is not anyone’s fault, no matter what societal stigma says.

You, too, can break the stigma. Support those with mental and emotional health challenges.

    You will be glad you did.


    Data for this page came from the below sources if not listed above.

    American Psychiatric Association. Stigma, Prejudice and Discrimination Against People with Mental Illness. APA blog, Aug. 2020.

    Fact Sheet: Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 HHS Press Release

    Facts about Suicide. CDC

    Greenstein, L. 9 Ways To Fight Mental Health Stigma. NAMI blog, Oct. 11, 2017.

    National Institute of Mental Health Mental Illness

    Rossler, W. The stigma of mental disorders: A millennia-long history of social exclusion and prejudicesEMBO Reports, 2016. 17(9); 1250-1253.

    Saloni Dattani, Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2021) – “Mental Health”. Published online at Retrieved from: ‘‘.

    Scarf, D., et al. Association of Viewing the Films Joker or Terminator: Dark Fate With Prejudice Toward Individuals With Mental IllnessJAMA Network Open. April 24, 2020.

    The Lancet Editorial. The health crisis of mental health stigmaThe Lancet, 2016, 387:1027.

    Guest Post

    Cultivating Hope

    Today The Layered Onion has a guest blog post from Shelly Smith of Good Human Work on the topic of hope. Mental health rises and falls as life moves forward; we need art and we need hope as our points of consistency.

    Shelly Smith, LMFT, is a licensed therapist and a co-founder of Good Human Work. Shelly’s roles include writing, speaking, and taking good care of her team of therapists and the clients they serve. She is dedicated to offering services that are approachable, productive, collaborative, and impactful. 

    At Good Human Work, we believe that focusing on human connection is essential. Through our therapy services, licensed therapists provide our clients with the education, insight, and tools to create real and lasting change on a deeply human level.

    Shelly’s blog offers perspective on cultivating hope and keeping it close to us to support us.

    What really is hope?

    When we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, fearful, or sad, our emotions and thoughts can create a sense of loneliness or despair. We may feel that we are somehow broken or flawed or not enough. When we feel this way, it’s important to find hope.

    We remind ourselves that those negative thoughts are not true. We are not broken. We are not alone. We are no more flawed than any other human being. Hidden behind our toughest thoughts and feelings, there is still hope.

    Hope is a link that connects us to the world at large. It is a connective tissue between our thoughts and feelings that ties us together and encourages us to take one more step – then another, and another. Hope is what makes life seem possible during the worst moments.

    At its base definition, hope tells us that something is coming. Hope is a want for something, a positive anticipation, a reason to keep moving forward. There are always glimmerings of hope within us, because hope is part of the human condition.

    There is always hope.

    It’s normal to sometimes feel like we’ve “lost” hope. And when we feel like there is no hope left, it can be devastating. In these moments, we must remind ourselves that it’s still there, hiding underneath the overwhelming and difficult circumstances. Hope always exists within us. Tapping into hope can bring us out of our anxiety or sadness and position us in a more optimistic space.

    An illustration of the space that hope can give. Optimistic space. Art and mental health. Mental health and art.

    In this space, we begin to see new opportunities and find resiliency, and it becomes a part of how we take another step forward. Hope reminds us that, even though challenges involve elements of many complex emotions, what we are doing in this world is good and has purpose and meaning.

    Purpose and meaning are important. What you are doing has purpose and meaning. You add value. Value with art and mental health. Mental health and art.

    But it is up to us to find and cultivate our hope.

    How do we find it?

    When we feel as if we haven’t any hope, it serves us well to try one or a few different alternatives to seek it. Create a list for yourself that includes these and other options that resonate with you, so you can choose what might work in different moments.

    Here are some ideas to consider:

    • Enter into the natural world – take a walk or hike, sit in a park, listen to the birds, look at the sky or stars, or seek a body of water. Nature is filled with hope in every creature and in all seasons. Look for it. Seek out where you can find awe, wonder, peace, or curiosity there – these naturally help us find hope. 
    • Open up to a trusted person, explaining that you can’t seem to find hope, and ask if they can help. Frequently others can see the glimpse of hope and, through conversation or comfort, can help us find where it lies within us. 
    • Find laughter. When we can’t find hope, it can mean we also can’t find joy or levity. These are tied together, so by seeking one, we will find some of the other. What makes you laugh? It might be a favorite comedian, a funny friend, pets or other animals, a well-written joke or pun, or something silly you saw recently. Lean into the laughter, allowing yourself to feel lighter and amused by the world around you, and you will find a glimmer of hope.
    • Try to create. When we have lost hope, it can be difficult to be creative. However, creative expression inherently incorporates elements of hope. Sometimes finding hope through creativity takes trying a new form or returning to one we haven’t used recently, so the novelty can spark something inside of us.
    Hope flies as if on the wings of birds. Hope elevates mental health. Nature updates the view. Art and mental health. Creativity. Mental health and art.

    How do we cultivate hope?

    In finding hope, each of those examples above involves us “getting out of our own heads” and engaging with the world around us. It’s really about connection. Connection between us and others, or between us and the world we live in. Connection helps us feel hope.

    We often get lost inside of ourselves, which can increase feelings of sadness, loneliness, and fear. Interacting positively with the world around us shows us that there is more than those feelings, which helps clear the clouds so we can see the rays of hope shining through.

    Once we get the smallest glimpse of hope, we can use that little bit to cultivate more. As soon as we can recognize hope, we “feed” it, encouraging it to grow.

    Water the seeds of hope with a watering can so that they can grow. Our minds need hope. 

Art and mental health. Creativity. Mental health and art.

    Here are a few ways that we can visualize and encourage hope to grow:

    • We can choose to hold onto that glimmer of hope and imagine it like a little flame that we can build into a larger fire, or a baby plant that we nurture into health and strength.
    • We can tell ourselves over and over that “I know there is hope” or “I know things will improve.” With repetition, our brain begins to believe what we tell it.
    • Feel the hope deeply and long for more of that feeling. We can have hope about having more hope, and wanting to feel more of that. 
    Longing for hope. Longing in a word cloud. Word art and mental health. Mental health and art.
    • When doubts or negative thoughts come to cloud it out, we can tell our brain, “Stop. I want this hope, this feeling,” and hold onto it. Again, with repetition and mindfulness, our brain will respond, and it gets easier.
    • We can use our artistic self to cultivate this glimmer of hope through any preferred expression that allows your passion and positivity to thrive. Grow the hope through writing, visual art, dance, song, or any creative outlet that allows you to feel the hope more deeply. Feel it growing as you lean into it and express it fully.
    • Similar to finding it, cultivating hope is easier in community rather than in isolation. With another who understands our journey, we can encourage and support one another to continue doing this emotional work.

    Hope naturally wants to grow with us. And cultivating hope is a skill that becomes easier the more we practice it. Eventually, the cultivation will begin to happen on its own, without us even trying. Repetition and consistency matter.

    Repetition and routines help. Routines build hope. Your routines and repetition as an artist can do this. Mental health and art. Art and mental health.

    Our hope reminds us that even during hard times, good is coming – and we can rest in knowing that we are doing the best we can. Remember, you are doing the good, hard work of being human. Hope is there for you.

    You are doing the best that you can. Take the time to rest.

This visual is the word rest with the musical symbol for a half rest over the T. 

Art and mental health. Mental health and art.
    Artist Spotlight Artwork Spotlight

    Artist Spotlight: Erin Smith Glenn

    In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about each artist and their work. In this post, we are featuring Erin Smith Glenn (she/her). Erin is open about her mental health and how it impacts her work. Black history also greatly influences Erin – she illustrates its power in vivid colors.

    A photo of the artist, Erin Smith Glenn (Erin M Smith), with The HAIRitage of Nina Simone. Art and mental health. The importance of black mental health and black history. In Black history month and beyond. Simone was neurodivergent and likely bipolar. 

Erin was published in The Shallot.
    Photo of the artist with The HAIRitage of Nina Simone.

    Erin Smith Glenn is an associate professor of art, advisor of the Visual Arts Club, former vice president of the board for the Dayton Society of Artists, and proud alum of Central State University, Ohio’s only public HBCU (historically black college or university). She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Cincinnati with a concentration in 2D drawing and painting, working in a variety of media and mixed media. Erin has exhibited works in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, Vermont, Texas, Virginia and Illinois, respectfully, including numerous solo exhibitions.

    Recently, she was awarded Best in Show for her 4’x8’ painting in the “New Woman” art exhibit hosted collaboratively by the Pendleton Arts Center and the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Cincinnati OH. Upon completion of the new CCAC building, a gallery in honor of Elizabeth Nourse (1859-1938) will be housed within the new CCAC. As a feature included in the Best in Show prize package, Erin as the inaugural exhibiting artist in this venue and has been invited to spend 3 months creating new work in Cincinnati’s only home established by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Elizabeth Nourse gallery will be dedicated primarily to women artists and is due to open early 2024.

    Among Erin’s lifelong pursuits is to continually practice her artwork and overall creative experiences, vowing never to stop “growing as an artist and individual,” while always striving to instill this concept in her students and her three children, as she does within herself. The award stated above has already begun to provide students with opportunities to engross themselves in the art scene. Erin proudly stands on the shoulders of many while she strives to be that same catalyst for others.

    Follow the gravitational pull within you that leads to a life of consistent growth and development through the pursuant act of creative imagination. 

    Erin Smith Glenn

    What first drew you to art?

    I have always been an artist. My first “masterpiece” was when I colored over the family portrait at the age of 3. 🙂 I soon realized that reproductions of this kind would not be suitable for a lifelong career, so I started drawing FROM the portraits instead of ON them. My first portrait sales were at the age of 11, and soon, I became addicted to this new lifestyle. But it began with many hours in the basement drawing from family photos, especially baby photos.

    How would you describe your artistic style?

    Realism with an emphasis on color theory, alternate use of the color palette, and a touch of fantasy.

    What topics inspire you?

    Black culture and every aspect of it, especially parenthood, joy, politics, and, more recently, mental health awareness in the Black community, which is only recently gaining traction in society.

    The HAIRitage of Nina Simone by Erin Smith Glenn. Art and mental health. The importance of black mental health and black history. In Black history month and beyond. Simone was neurodivergent and likely bipolar. Neurodivergence needs to be recognized.
    Erin Smith Glenn, The HAIRitage of Nina Simone. Acrylic paints by Royal Talens of North America. 2022.

    What was the impetus behind The HAIRitage of Nina Simone?

    I LOVE Nina Simone. My favorite quote by her is, “I’ll tell you what freedom is: no fear.” Because of her unwavering tenacity in speaking for and speaking up for Black people, I know I have a duty, a responsibility, as Simone says, to document the times. “For what is an artist if they do not document the times they are in?” I have now completed 2 of many pieces that will be part of the “FREE NINA SIMONE” series, for when her mental health suffered near the end of her life, lawyers manipulated her into signing over her fortune. Her family, to this day, does not receive royalties. I plan to protest this through my artwork until a change has been made.

    HAIRitage is an intentional play on words that contains a world of meaning. What conversations does the piece spark?

    Wow, so many conversations are rooted in the power of HAIRitage. In the past (15+ years ago), this was my way of reconnecting with my own hair and cultural roots, as it was rough for me growing up in conservative Ohio. This was my early protest against the injustices that loom within many communities concerning the perspectives, microaggressions, and misinterpretations often associated with Black hair. More recently, I have focused on celebrating short hairstyles and no hair, child-to-adult hair ritual ceremonies, adornment culture, and even the mental health associated with not knowing or even understanding one’s own attributes due to the deaf ears and blind eyes of the often critical mindset within American society.

    What influenced your choice of colors? They really bring the pieces to life, and they stand out.

    I typically work from black and white images, which often means removing saturation altogether from images before working from them. I love the idea of using colors to evoke more than just mood but also energy. Nina was a very dynamic figure, and so I wanted to create a piece (unlike the other piece I created of her in B&W) that felt like her energy from songs, lyrics, and influence was flowing from the artwork to the viewer. In a way, I also wanted to make her relevant to the current generations by showcasing her in a lively way, ultimately begging the question: “Who is/was Nina Simone?”

    Golden Time of Day by Erin Smith Glenn. Mixed media - acrylic paint, acrylic yarn. Yarn art.
    Erin Smith Glenn, Golden Time of Day. Acrylic paint and yarn, mixed media. 2022.

    Applied with careful strategy and super glue. 😉

    Vivid color is also true of the second piece we discuss today – Golden Time of Day. Did color speak to you for this piece?

    Color was purely at the heart of this piece. I used this time as an image in color because I wanted to capture the various colors in the model’s lovely espresso-toned skin. Surrounding it with a sun-like halo against the “sunset violet” adds a nice contrast and makes her stand out against both the “sunrise” and the “sunset.” The Sunrise, in this case, represents the mindset that arises from the Sunset, the low, deep depression. 

    The piece is mixed media. What inspired you to incorporate colored yarn? 

    The yarn represents the tangling, the very unraveling of the mind as we go through life’s challenges. The facing upward in the painting portion of the work represents the “golden time” where the lyrics of the song by Frankie Beverly & Maze: “When you feel in your heart all the love you’re looking for…don’t it feel okay? There’s a time of the day when the sun’s going down…that’s the golden time of day.” I feel that whether we are rising for the day or falling to sleep, any time should be the golden time of day, especially mentally and spiritually.

    You mentioned that Golden Time of Day is a mental health awareness piece – did that influence your inspiration?

    As I faced the end of another academic year of teaching and some of life’s challenges surrounding being a divorced single mother of three with a demanding career, I suffered a nervous breakdown. Upon my healing journey, and with much support, good advice, healthcare and by taking back my power, I used that energy to curate “The Inaugural Women’s Mental Health & Trauma Art Exhibit.” This was the first time I displayed this piece in public, and it is one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever created. I plan to do more this summer, once I have the time and space to plan out another one that hits on this level.

    How does mental health play into your artistic style?

    I want to normalize mental health worldwide. Mental health and the awareness of it in both my hair-themed work and in my artistic lifestyle is a must; everyone deals with mental health much like we all eat, breathe, and live. So, yes, mental health is embedded in my work whether I realize it or not, whether I like it or not, and whether I try or not. After suffering much trauma throughout my life, I know that mental health awareness is part of my life’s mission and purpose, and that is very liberating for my family and me.

    Do you have any takeaways you want the reader to have?

    Trust your gut when it comes to creativity and life in general, but know when to fall back and take sound advice and counsel. You’ll thank yourself in the long run. And speaking of yourself in the long run, your latter self is looking at you now. Don’t disappoint them, so do what you gotta do, love; work on you for the sake of no one else but YOU. 

    Anything I missed asking that you would like to share?

    Just an announcement. 🙂 I have a solo exhibit coming up called “HAIRitage: A Cultural Journey & Experience.” The exhibit opens at the Dayton Society of Artists on March 3rd, with an artist talk on March 11th and the grand closing reception on March 31st, my birthday! You can find more details on Facebook or at the Eventbrite link.

    Erin Smith Glenn, The HAIRitage of Lauryn Hill. Colored pencil. 2018.

    As we close in on the end of February, Erin gives us a perfect chance to celebrate Black history, mental health, and the incomparable Nina Simone. These pieces have power.

    Erin brings the HAIRitage to life in living color. You can see more of Erin’s work on her Instagram @thescarvinartist in the first edition of The Shallot and available for purchase on her Etsy shop.

    Thanks for sharing, Erin!

    Artist Spotlight

    Artist Spotlight: Ifasina Clear

    In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about each artist and their work. In this post, we are featuring Ifasina Clear (they/them). Ifasina is a performing artist and dancer, introducing us to the rich history of African dance, among other things.

    A picture of the interviewee, Ifasina Clear. They are a dancer and performing artist with soul, heart, and movement and the center of their being.
    Photo credit: Debrena McEwen

    In their words:

    “My given name is TaMeicka Lashelle Clear. I have come to love this name as it says a lot about the time frame that I grew up in (early 80s) and displays my southern, Black roots in a way that really shows the color and creativity of Black people during that time. I believe that Black American English is real, valid, and a whole language. TaMeicka Lashelle is a proud badge of Black American English that I love to wear!

    I received the name Ifasina during ritual initiation into the African Traditional Practice of Ifa, in 2014. Ifasina translates loosely to ‘Ifa brings forth blessings with power and great force.’ It is a powerful name and a vibration I strive to walk in. Most people in my life know me as Ifasina at this point. My roots and history both from the name I was given at birth and given at rebirth are a large part of who I am.”

    Ifasina did a Q&A with The Layered Onion, talking about their art:

    on dance

    What first drew your interest to dance?

    When I was in 2nd grade, I joined a modern dance class taught by the most beautiful dark-skinned woman I had ever seen. She reminded me a little of Janet Hubert (original Aunt Viv from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). She had us perform a piece at the Dallas Museum of Art and complimented me on my “natural turn out,” also known as being slew-footed. I thought she was so elegant, and more than that, I felt so alive while moving together with that troupe. Being in sync with the others and expressing my inner spirit in that way, felt like home. I took to dancing in any way I could from then on.

    Photo credit: Debrena McEwen

    What kind of dance do you do?

    I am formally trained in modern and jazz dance. I am self-taught and informally trained in hip-hop, west African, afro-beat, and liturgical-style dance. I also use improv and interpretive dance styles in each area of dance that I engage in.

    How do you prepare for shows?

    For dance shows, I tend to listen to a song on repeat for weeks all day in the car while doing chores, any chance I get. I have to embody the song, know when the beat changes, anticipate certain notes and runs to be able to play with it so that when I want to improvise or put emphasis on the song, I can be ready while also using the moment with the audience and/or how the song makes me feel to really be present and IN the performance. I operate more like a minister than a choreographer as a dancer. Giving as much energy as I get and, at times, soliciting the audience for response to my calls. 

    What’s your favorite part about dance? What empowers you?

    I feel so empowered when I sit. When I do something to slow down and take care of my body while still keeping it in motion. When I make direct eye contact with someone while moving my body suggestively. When I make a loud sound with my hands or feet at just the right moment in a song. I feel like a note in the song, and it allows me almost to transcend my human form while also being more human than ever when I dance. The duality is delicious and one I wish for us all. 

    The artist's Instagram is @get.embodied. They are a dancer, teacher, performing artist.
    Photo credit: Ifasina Clear

    on performing

    What kind of performance do you do?

    I am a performance artist, and for me, that means I will recite a poem theatrically, tell a story with passion and bravado, learn lines for a character, and embody them/perform them, usually for the purpose of being with complex ideas, and experiences of the human condition. I love to perform a piece and then do audience discussion after–to engage around social issues. To act out things the way they are, the way we wish they were, to dream the impossible, and to imagine a world that we all wanna live in. One that affirms fat people, and makes space for the humanity and sexuality of disabled people. A world that normalizes queer and trans folks, and deals with death, loss, and change head-on and wholeheartedly. I don’t know what to call this kind of performance, but it’s the kind I do. Sometimes it’s funny, and other times it’s painful and gripping. 

    Are there performances or characters you remember fondly or are especially proud of?

    Two come to mind. I played a character called “Dewey The Announcer,” and he was the announcer on a racist talk show called “Ask a Black Girl.” I’ve always heard people talk about how fun it is to be the villain. It really is!

    In that same show, I played a character in a different vignette called Donique. This was a genderless/genderqueer kid in a story about the return of The Ancient peoples that left Black people on earth in hopes that we would survive. I channeled one of my favorite actresses Regina King, who is doing the voice of the two kids that star in the animated series The Boondocks. Donique was literally the best protagonist I’ve ever been able to play. I still think of what it felt like to get into that character and how much I wished to be like Donique more in my life – bold, honest, direct, committed to their people, and brave. 

    What’s your favorite part about performance?

    Performing with a cast. I get to use what I have experienced, coupled with what is around me. You must be present. You can’t just recite words when you are performing with others. It’s an adventure of its own kind to become the character and to really live in the story you are creating with the other cast members. 

    What led you towards improv and comedy? What do you find most challenging and most rewarding?

    These tools can really teach. People walk away with reflections, questions, and even changed perspectives. They get help with imagining something different, and laughter helps grant the levity required to really change hearts and minds. It is one of my greatest social justice tools.

    Photo credit: Debrena McEwen

    Anything inspiring or exciting that you’re working on right now?

    Mostly, I am trying to write small books on different things that I care about. Things that seem complex, like managing grief and protecting young Black kids from molestation. I wanna write “manuals” for life that speak in plain and relatable language. That give people ideas and options for some of the hardest things to imagine having to navigate. I hope to act again soon, but I’m not rushing it. I’m writing right now, and as an artist I’m okay with any medium that speaks to me. 

    What a lovely interview – savory words and “crunchy phrasing” (“duality is delicious”), as an old music teacher of mine used to say. With such a flow of words and body, Ifasina is a natural performer.

    You can see, hear, and learn more from Ifasina on their website or at their upcoming show on 3.26.2023 – Virtual Ancestral Upliftment Showcase EventBrite and Link coming soon. Head to their Instagram @get.embodied to get details and tickets.

    Artist Spotlight

    Artist Spotlight: Bailey Constas

    In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about each artist and their work. In this post, we are featuring Bailey Constas (she/her).

    Trigger warning: This piece discusses sexual assault.

    Bailey uses recycled materials and found materials to bring her works to life.

    A black and white photo of the artist, Bailey Constas, wearing statement earrings. The artist works with watercolor, clay, and recycled-media. 

She uses art to heal herself and address mental health - art for mental health.

    In Bailey’s words:

    “I’m watercolor and recycled-media artist, Bailey Constas. I’m using art to heal myself, the land, and to build safe spaces. I make largescale watercolors with intricate ink linework, ethically forage and process my own clay, and build humane + ecological designs out of recycled waste/material.

    Community recycling, composting, gardening, dreams for sustainable Earthship architecture—I aspire to develop safe, beautiful community scapes.”

    Bailey was also recently featured in the New York Times (!!) for a eco-focused project using Fresh Direct bags.

    Bailey did a Q&A with The Layered Onion, talking about her art:

    What first led you to art?

    I’ve always been an artist, but my medium has always changed. I was a serious ballet dancer for most of my life, but after hip surgery at 15, I found fashion design and construction. Later on, I discovered photography and writing. But after a traumatic sexual assault when I lived in New York City, it was watercolor that allowed me to express my emotions in ways that words could not. 

    I could pull apart the different mental struggles I faced through visual art. The painting would ease my anxiety and depression, and the ink tracing would comfort my constant OCD and ADD brain. I’ve found that allowing myself to use elements from nature by foraging for pigments and clay has connected me to the earth in a way I only felt as a child.

     *OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder

    Aino, a piece by Bailey Constas with ink and watercolor.

Mental health and the arts. Art for mental health. Art heals. Representative of southwest art.
    Bailey Constas, Aino. Watercolor on paper. 2019.

    How would you describe your artistic style?

    I’d say my work falls into abstract expressionism more than landscape. My art means to reveal our inner worlds and express the natural patterns happening around us in an emotional and untethered way.

    Colorful watercolor of a woman and a shark by Bailey Constas. Art for mental health - mental health and the arts.
    Bailey Constas, i married a shark. Watercolor on paper. 2021.

    What are your favorite materials and mediums with which to work?

    I absolutely love water and clay, especially how they interact with each other. Water always wants to elude and erode, and I’ve found this lack of control on my part is extremely therapeutic. Gravity is also a powerful medium in my work, as I trace the drying patterns of the water with ink. The way gravity pulls the pigments to the paper, mixes the colors, and suspends them in time. That’s why I trace them with ink–to bring our attention to the small miracles happening under our noses all the time.

    Clay art. Finding mental health through the arts. By Bailey Constas. Support mental health, survival of sexual assault, living with PTSD.
    Bailey Constas, clay settles. Clay on paper. 2021.

    You mention you use recycled media. What kind of materials have you worked with recently?

    Paper waste, cardboard, Fresh Direct bags! I’ll take paper and cardboard and turn them into paper pulp. I’ll then add cement and create papercrete sculptures. I’ll also just take that paper waste and develop my own paper. I’ll put that paper to use by creating journals out of Fresh Direct bags (or those plastic reusable grocery store bags). The idea behind those is to create reusable journals with 100% waste. That way, there’s no guilt involved when I need to spew my thoughts out.

    Pastel watercolor. Mental health for the arts.
    Bailey Constas, spirits of light. Watercolor and ink on paper. 2015.

    You have an attractive eye for color – do you approach color in a particular way or more freeform?

    Thank you! I owe my color inspiration to the Southwest. Growing up in Colorado and loving New Mexico—I’m constantly striving to replicate the patterns and colors of sunsets, geologic formations, and the land. I’ve also started foraging and making my own paint. In some ways, this makes it easier for me to find those perfect colors, but it adds many more steps to painting a piece! I find myself always adding steps to create a more pure piece of work. I also think this has to do with my OCD and PTSD—obsessively collecting colors but also feeling immense shame and guilt when I throw things away. 

    You process your own clay!! What is that like?

    Hard and messy work! On hikes and in the backyards of my family, I’ll look for clay-rich soil—the type of dirt that is colored so beautifully you want to eat it. I’ll then go through several steps of adding water and filtering any debris or extra water out of the clay. After a few days, I’ll knead the clay and begin hand-building! I prefer to fire my pieces in a wood-burning fire just like our ancestors have done for thousands of years.

    You also pursue photography. What is your favorite part about it? What kind of topics inspire you?

    I am a journalist at heart (it’s what I got my degree in), and much like my obsession with collecting colors and pigments, I love collecting and documenting moments. I’ve found that I perceive the world around me much differently than others. When I found the confidence to allow myself to believe this was a good thing, I found it much easier to look for those unique angles and throw myself on the ground to get that shot. Sacred geometry in nature is endlessly inspiring to me. I think that’s why I find beauty in a perfectly mirrored sunset in a car window, the erosion lines on a sand dune, or the texture of a leaf. Small things other people might take for granted, and I love highlighting those things. 

    Other things on my mind: 

    More recently, I’ve realized I make the best work when I’m happy, full of wonder, and awe. When I was younger, I believed that being “sick” or “tortured” made me more exciting and a better artist, but it was only when I started looking deeper inside myself and going to therapy that I found the most inspiration. Getting better and getting help is never something to be ashamed of. 

    Icon of the artist, Bailey Constas. Created by the artist. Colorful art.

The Layered Onion supports artists with mental health challenges.

    Help can be hard to ask for, but it is something we all need. We’re here for you in this community.

    Want to see and hear more from Bailey? Check out her website here. Want to bring one home?  Check out here or here. A spot of color really cheers me up.