When artist Belinda Latimer started having panic attacks she found a way of coping that opened up a world of creativity. StaffsLive’s Jessica Dawson spoke to her at her studio in Stoke.
Fed up following a heart attack and struggling with a difficult recovery period, Belinda Latimer remembered one of her first loves – textiles.
The 44-year-old suffered the attack in 2014 and battled with her mental health during her recovery.
Belinda, who was born in the Staffordshire Moorlands, had studied metal and textiles at Manchester Metropolitan University when she was younger.
But is was during a period of emotional bleakness as she tried to recover physically, when she found solace in creativity.
She said: “When I started getting anxiety and panic attacks and ringing the ambulance thinking, ‘oh my gosh, it’s happening again, I’ve got aches and pains’ – I got my fabric stash out that I’d bought off eBay and just started cutting it up and stitching into it.
“For me, that was really freeing.
“It’s a release, it’s a way to express yourself, it’s a way to clear blocks even though you don’t think it is.”
Despite the intense lows and anxiety she felt, she went on to create more and more.
She said: “I have found myself creatively and also having had mental health issues personally I found that by allowing my own creativity to come through, I was able to manage them.
“For a while I didn’t do anything I just kind of existed in a numb way.”
She set up her own art studio in the city in June 2016 at the Acava Studios, Spode Works in the former Spode factory on Elenora Street.
The converted part of the factory contains 43 artists’ studios and they are part of a plan to develop a hub of creativity to revitalise the city.
Belinda’s studio is one of the larger rooms at the site with a huge window which covers one wall, throwing extra brightness into the studio.
She described the first time she saw the studio with her husband.
“When we walked in here we both just looked at each other and thought, yes this feels right.
“It was just a box – it was just a shell with white walls and a concrete floor, but we have made it a space that is quite welcoming and inspiring and has a really nice energy about it.
“I’m finding it an inspirational space being around other people. I used to work at home which was quite lonely.
“It is my second home basically, I come here when I can.”
She now runs art and wellbeing workshops for both adults and children which focus on building artistic ability and also improving mental and physical health.
She said: “I was able to come up with sessions I thought would help other people too.
“I don’t just help people learn art and craft from a technical point of view but I also encourage them to come along just to have some fun, relax and use it as a therapeutic process.”
Belinda runs various day and evening classes at her studio for people of all artistic abilities.
For more information about Belinda’s workshops, you can visit her Facebook page.
She said she is fully behind the bid to make Stoke-on-Trent City of Culture in 2021.
She added: “I am very proud to be here at the moment.
“Just to know I’ve got opportunities to exhibit and to be part of a bigger artistic scene is absolutely brilliant. I’m just so excited about it, it’s fantastic.”