Andie, a graphic designer, has been making banners for everyone, but specifically those suffering from mental illness, to spread messages of positivity and self-assurance in a modern, visual way after years of her own battle with anxiety and panic disorders.
With statistics like 1 in 5 American’s (or 18.5%) experiencing mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health, it’s refreshing to see artists taking a stand and spreading awareness.
To learn more about Andie and her artistic journey, read on:
EA: How long have you been making your banners and what inspired you to create them?
AB: I started making them over the summer. Initially, I had no intention of showing them necessarily, it was just for me. I’ve had anxiety for over 5 years now and at the very beginning it was much worse, panic attacks, you know, really just crippling anxiety, and over the last couple of years it’s definitely been a journey of going through school, kind of falling and picking yourself up and getting through it. So, it’s definitely based on personal experience by taking what I’ve experienced and what has helped me to help other people. That’s the end goal, I wanted to effect people’s lives in the way that I kind of needed it at those times.. and still do sometimes, too.
EA: How do you come up with each of the phrases for the banners?
AB: I think it’s a little bit of my own personal things and what I also think could connect to other people. I’ve never made one that I don’t personally think that I also need to hear. It’s just something that if it feels right then I end up choosing it. I usually end up pondering about it for a little bit. It’s definitely been a nice experience that if I make them, those kind of phrases, I reflect on how I need those and the times that I needed to hear those things, so I’m hoping that while I make them that it resonates with someone else in a profound way like “maybe I didn’t realize I needed that, but I actually did.”
EA: Was there one particular phrase that you started with?
AB: Yes, the original one, the first one I made and the name of the series, was “you matter” and it’s because, especially at that time, I moved back from Iowa and I couldn’t find a job in my field right away, I’m a graphic designer now, but I was actually working here (Graham’s 318 Coffeehouse) and I was just down. I was down because I had to move back home, I wasn’t in my field, everyone else that I knew that I had graduated was moving on with their lives and I was stuck; I felt like I didn’t matter in those ways that I really needed to, you know as a young adult and as an artist, I felt like I wasn’t getting my place in the art world. So, that was the first one and it was just a personal thing that I wanted to make for myself and then ended up realizing that I could share it with other people. That’s where it started.
EA: While these banners are certainly centered around mental health, do you find that even those who don’t identify with having a mental illness are purchasing?
AB: I definitely think so and I thought about that when I wrote things and geared it more towards mental health. I didn’t want to exclude anyone and I think that everyone needs a little boost sometimes, you know, everyone needs something that no one else is really telling them and what it’s about is that you have to tell yourself and get used to relying on yourself a little bit more because you’re the only person who can do it. I think it’s for anyone who just needs a little bit more.
EA: What are your greatest goals while creating and selling these?
AB: I don’t know, I haven’t figured it out yet. I think at the moment I realized, especially in the past year and a half of being at a graphic design agency, that my end goal as an artist is just to make things that matter, that mean something, that touch people and help people. I think the end goal of this was just to reach as many people as possible in a short short of time that I was doing this and hopefully whatever someone saw on the wall resonated with them to where they needed it to take home.
EA: Besides the banners, what other art do you create?
AB: I draw a lot. I’m lucky enough that I went to a liberal arts college and they really made you experience everything. I like the paperworks kind of thing that I have done with these. I love photography; black and white photography, old Canon cameras. Just a little bit of everything, but mostly those and also personal graphic design projects outside of work; making things because I feel like I need to make it to be happy.
EA: Is art your mental health outlet?
AB: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I found myself, epecially in the summer time, just coming here (Graham’s) after work. You know, long commute, so it was nice to just sit down and zone out. There’s something really nice about when you can’t think about anything else except what you’re creating and getting it down on paper. I think another reason these came about is because written word is really powerful to me so writing things down, getting it out of my head, especially with anxiety. Those things that I needed to hear, writing them down became kind of like therapy too.
EA: Who do you think are important mental health advocates right now?
AB: I think currently I find a lot of yoga teachers and the ones that are really important on social media, I think that’s where they spread positive messages, so Rachel Brathen, who’s a yoga girl down in Aruba, and Adriene from Yoga with Adriene. Yoga was one of the ways that I helped cope with mine so I think that they’re the ones I went to.
I think I went into that community because it’s all about love, it’s all about trying to better yourself, trying to pick yourself up and accepting that there’s going to be bad days.
EA: For those suffering through mental illness, what would be your greatest bit of advice for them?
AB: You have to try to believe it even on the days that you don’t. Try to believe that everything’s going to be okay, try to believe that there’s people out there that love you, that care, that you matter in this world, that you’re enough. It’s kind of, and it sounds cheesy, faking it ‘til you make it. There were so many days that I didn’t want to get up and it was just like ‘I have to do this’ and I think it’s just persevering through that. I know nothing is going to be perfect for everyone, but it’s just continuing and knowing that when you continue, you are succeeding.
EA: How do you think that the mental illness stigma can start to get erased?
AB: Talking about it more.. really talking about it more. Within this too, I’ve been so much more open with talking about mental illness cause so many people deal with it on a daily basis, whether it be anxiety, depression, bipolar, PTSD, emotional abuse, anything like that. It’s really talking about it that helps other people understand where it comes from. It’s not “oh she’s freaking out for no reason”, it’s “there’s things in her past that have effected her and this is why she feels like this right now.” I think it’s people understanding that it’s not necessarily that if i’m upset that it’s YOU; If i’m upset, I’m trying to deal with my own personal things. I think the more you talk about it and communicate, the more it will push things forward.
EA: Will there be more things to come besides the banners pertaining to mental illness?
AB: Yeah, I was just talking to woman who’s a regular here (Graham’s) yesterday and she was talking about how I could reach out to cancer patients, since she was a survivor, and I like the idea of that because my senior capstone show for graphic design was also about depression and these signs that I made, different kinds of signs. I think that if I can find a way to continue this, I haven’t totally figured it out yet, whether it be showing at more places trying to reach more people or if it’s continuing the project in a different way, maybe it gets on the computer, maybe it’s more graphic instead. I think I want to continue it, nonetheless, after this.
Her work is on display and available for purchase at Graham’s 318 Coffeehouse in Geneva, IL until February 3rd.
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Photos included in story were courtesy of Andie’s Instagram page.