March 30, 2016

Creativity is Self-Care

I’m going to let you in on a secret: you were born to create.

It is in your nature. It is in your blood, your breath, and your bones. The infinite and glorious flow of creation pulses through you, and it is your incredible privilege and responsibility to honour it.

Children still know this, of course. Small humans create constantly and instinctually; they are intuitive, imaginative, weird, and wise. And so were we, once, before we abandoned this magic for the bland reward of social propriety, or banished our holy inspiration out of frustration and embarrassment. Even if we do continue to create, we apologize for the result! We hate our own work, we obsess over imperfections, we brush it off as a silly hobby, we hide it, delete it, put it into storage.

Somewhere along the line, we forget to create for the sake of creation.

Perhaps it’s because we are fed insidious lies about creativity – that only the talented have the right to create, that the production of art is a narcissistic indulgence instead of an absolutely essential and noble pursuit, and that unless art can be marketed and consumed, it is worthless.

I am telling you that this is all bullshit.

Creativity is not a commodity, it is not selfish, and it is certainly not required to fulfill someone else’s definition of “good”.

Creativity is really just self-care.

When you create, you are fulfilling the most primal of urges. Those Paleolithic hands that painted the aurochs and elk at Lascaux felt it; Mozart and Jane Austen felt it, Julia Child and Tupac felt it. When you create, you are no different than these giants of imagination. You ignite your divinity. You are pure light.

Creating gives you your power back. It invites the universe to resume its flow through you, the flow of imagination and abundance, playful and erotic, enormously holy.

It is the surest way to discover yourself, to unearth the crystalline truths that your subconscious has buried, furtive, in your own backyard. You can’t hide in your art. A part of you will always shine through, as silver as a mirror.

Creativity heals you. It cleans your wounds, sets your bones, and stitches you back together. It siphons your darkest, most desperate pain out from the depths of your heart and spills it into the world.

When you create without consideration of what people might think, when you pour yourself out honestly into tap dance, or haiku, or finger painting, this is self-care. This is self-love. And this is your purpose.


Check out Paige's creative endeavors, wisdom, and inspiration at:

Instagram: thewholesomehandbook

March 07, 2016

Fairly Traded Honey by Emmy Daniels

As I rub drugstore shampoo into my scalp in the shower, I try to remember what kind of shampoo I used to use that I loved so much. It’s fall now, but there was a shampoo in the summer, I remember, that I fell in love with. I bought it in the summer, it made my hair smell sweet, and clean-
It helped my hair grow really fast, I remember that.

Honey shampoo, it hits me. I used the honey shampoo they sell at LUSH Cosmetics. As quickly as I closed my fingers around my tiny treasure, another memory came back with it. A bitter memory. I remember myself, my younger self, my summer self, thinking, Why did I want honey-scented hair? as I sat alone in my bed, as I cried into my blanket, as I asked my boyfriend to come over because I couldn't sleep tonight because I couldn't be alone with myself, and later as he pulled me step by step toward his apartment on a sweaty Chicago night, as I sat in front of a bowl of macaroni that he made me and cried into that too, not eating it, just using it as a collection plate for the uncontrollable bawling that came from an animal inside of me.

I can't ever forget the kisses on my shoulders, the tugging at my shirt, the unrequited nuzzling. I can't forget telling him no, telling him no three times, telling him stop or get out. I can't forget the internal screaming. Internal screaming sounds melodramatic but I mean it as literally as I can; it's a voice ringing in only my ears, but not my own, not out loud. That would be actual screaming, which I did not do.

Why did I want honey-scented hair? There's no easy way to be a victim. After one night of crying, it felt unnecessary to bring it up again. My boyfriend didn't like hearing about another boy trying to touch me over and over. It was my job to remember it, to remember inviting him over, a stranger, a customer, sharing alcohol, sharing a bowl, letting him sleep on my floor with the rest of us. My job to remember his comment about my hair, which smelled nice that day, as it smelled every day.

This memory is a bitter one, but if you hold it on your tongue long enough, it changes notes. Because I also remember standing up abruptly, throwing his jacket at him, telling him we were going on an adventure. The sun was rising. He was too drunk to resist, so he followed, imagining (I assume) that we were about to have sex on the concrete outside my apartment building. I asked him where he lived, and he told me about his new place, excitedly, as we walked there. He put his $550 leather jacket around my shoulders, and I took it off and handed it back in the same beat. We approached his front door and, as he stepped inside (expecting me behind him) I turned around and kept walking until I reached my apartment again, ready to repress the entire memory for as long as I possibly could (two whole days, two short days.)

It's not hard for a memory to be so fluid, because most of the time I don't remember the whole thing at any given moment. I remember the first note, abruptly, and I can't wait for it to change before I push it down again. I can't be expected to walk myself through the entire night every day, sometimes every hour, depending on how the day is going. I can’t retrace the mystery of honey-scented shampoo every morning in the shower. I want to unlock my fingers, step out of the water. It's cold now. I am shivering in this cold water, with this thing I've caught, but it's with me now. It's mine.


Follow Emmy at:

December 02, 2015

A Letter to My Former Classmate: Spoken Poetry by Amanda Waters

"In between my thighs is a barrier made up of love that I earned, a badge I proudly wear that says: I survived."

Today we're honored to share a spoken poem by Amanda Waters, an Arizona native now living in Oregon with her adorable rescue dog, Scout. She has two collections of spoken poetry that are more than worth a listen. Her words resonate with honesty, imagination, and a deep-rooted strength. She explores difficult experiences with inspiring bravery and passion. A Letter to My Former Classmate is about things said to her in the midst of her eating disorder and how she would respond now. Listen below!

For poetry and more, visit her:

November 18, 2015

Shay: Self-Love Project

I'll start this piece off by stating that I had the idea for these photographs over a year ago. After I had the pleasure of meeting the creator of this amazing blog and community, I finally had the motivation and courage to complete this series. In the heat of July, in my empty apartment while my husband was out of town for a business trip, I hauled out my tripod, lighting equipment, and camera. I then proceeded to remove all of my clothing and stand in front of my camera, photographing the parts of this body of mine that I have loathed my entire life: the rolls on my sides, the roundness of my stomach, the pimples that have decided my chin is their home, my dry and plump fingers, my thighs that always touch along with my bruised and scarred knees, my veiny and imperfect skin.

I made these photographs over two months ago. It is only now that I've had the courage to actually allow them to be seen. While I was standing in front of my camera, alone and bare, I temporarily felt empowered. The fear and self-hatred dissipated while I was creating these photographs of my deepest physical insecurities. Even when I was finished photographing and uploaded them onto my desktop, I still felt a sense of power. I had finally made a step towards loving this lumpy, spotty, imperfect body that allows me to experience life. However, this feeling slowly faded and self-doubt and second-guesses crept into my mind. I've thought about writing this and contributing my story everyday since I made these photos. This is a prime example of the constant battle self-love can be. It is not a consistent feeling, and that is okay! I have realized that like most things in this universe, there are strong days and weak days. And I cannot dwell on the days that I feel inadequate or less than. I must relish in the days like today, where I have what it takes to say: "Hey, this is my body! It may not be considered beautiful by most, but it is beautiful to me."

- Shay


To view more of Shay's photography, visit her website.

October 01, 2015

Artist Interview: Sophie Cangelosi

"One of my goals has always been bringing forth often overlooked aspects of one’s senses and surroundings."

Today we're sharing a chat with Sophie Cangelosi, a freelance artist based in Maine. Her work will immediately grab your attention with bold lines, vibrant color schemes, and a strong depiction of mood. Read on to find out about her style, obsessions, advice, and more!

Introduce yourself!
Hi hello! My name is Sophie Cangelosi. I am an enthusiastic observer and documenter of the world.

Tell us about your art. What do you make?
I suppose a large sum of my work makes me a conceptual illustrator and fine artist. My current practice is predominantly made up of brush, ink, and digital media.

How did you find your style?
I can thank inspiration from illustrators like Yuko Shimizu, as well as cartoonists like Charles Burns and Marjane Satrapi for my initial love affair for brush and ink. Over time I’ve experimented with all kinds of different brushes and methods in creating texture. I’ve also held a huge interest in digital media for a while and have learned to create my own brushes and create textures that are inspired by printmaking methods. I am very inspired by my peers and my friends who similar and differing creative practices.

Are there themes you find yourself returning to?
One of my goals has always been bringing forth often overlooked aspects of one’s senses and surroundings, and I additionally aim to do so in as many ways as possible. I am always working to expand my practice and translate illustrative problem solving and thinking into different mediums and methods. I suppose a recurring theme in both a conceptual and physical sense is experiencing things in details at a time and indulging one’s senses.

What are your current obsessions?
Mango turmeric smoothies, sweaters, getting in the last swim sessions of summer, fan brush textures and watercolor.

What’s a creative work day (or period) like for you? Do you have a regular process?
Between being a full time student, a retail employee, a freelance illustrator, and an intern, it’s really difficult to exactly develop a regular schedule right now. My life is a little hectic, but I guess it’s the best kind of hectic! On a general scale, most of my days start with a small breakfast and caffeine in some form. I work on assignments in the morning and freelance or do personal projects in the afternoon, and then if I don’t have a work or class obligation in the evening, I’ll relax at home and finish up the last things on my mental to do list for the day.

How do you regain inspiration during stagnant phases?
I live in a beautiful seaside town, so my first instinct is to always go to the ocean. My go to narrative for inspiration was a time I spent sailing and living on a boat for a couple of weeks as a teenager. It was one of the most important and visually beautiful experiences of my life. Otherwise, my collection of art books and paying closer attention to what my peers and friends are doing gets me inspired because they are all amazing and wildly talented people. Or I will try and learn more about practices outside of my realm. I took a lot of intro classes in my foundation years of college like metalsmithing, ceramics, printmaking, etc. and those hold so much inspiration for me still. So learning about practices that blow my mind like that is always a great bet for instant motivation!

How do you handle criticism?
As long as it’s constructive, I fully encourage it and invite it! I am the queen of second guessing myself, so receiving feedback from my peers is a large part of my process.

What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
One of my favorite things in the world is getting ink all over my hands. Getting your hands dirty and feeling fully involved and immersed in your process is truly satisfying.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a similar creative path?
Don’t tune me out when I say this, but believe in yourself! Seriously, I was thinking about this recently. I sound cynical, but a lot of things adults repeat to you as a kid turn out to be totally sugarcoated, but that really is one thing that I have learned to be true. Working to stay confident through choices you make or things you work toward, even at least appearing confident, is so immensely helpful. Actively ask questions! Collaborate! Don’t be a schmooze. Take risks! Actively think about what you can learn from each failure you make. Seek constructive criticism wherever you can get it.

What strengthens you?
The ocean, really great color schemes, supportive feminine relationships.

What nurtures you?
The change of the seasons; it keeps me on my toes both inwardly and outwardly.

What do you adorn yourself or your space with?
Things made by friends, other artwork and crafts I enjoy, some Halloween inspired things.

What inspires you?
Observations made while riding my bike, phone calls with my mom.

What is something you’ve overcome?
I’m a product of my time, so I don’t know if I will ever fully overcome it, but I’ve come a long way with living with anxiety and depression in bouts since I first started dealing with it as a child.
Lastly: Arc & Ember is about the many ways we find the myth in the girl. How are you finding the myth in the girl?
By staying curious, being eager to learn and excited to overcome challenges.

To see more of Sophie's work, process, and adventures:

Instagram: sophiecdraws

*Studio photos (1&4) by Gabby Riggieri.

August 31, 2015

DIY Herbal Tub Tea

Admittedly, I've never been much of a DIY kind of girl. I usually glaze over tutorials...too intimidating, too time-consuming. However, I made an exception for tub tea, and you should too! It's so easy to prepare and definitely worth experimenting with if baths are your jam.

Here's what you'll need:

Muslin teabag (1) - $0.39
Epsom salt (3 tbs) - 3lbs for $8.31
Dehydrated coconut milk (1 tbs) - $3.79 per bag
Dried hibiscus (1 tbs) - $0.96 for 0.04lb
Dried lemon balm (1 tbs) $0.92 for 0.04lb
Dried eucalyptus (1 tbs) $0.65 for 0.04lb
*the herbs are totally up to preference, you can switch out for mint, lavender, sage, whatever sounds good to you!

I was able to snag all of the above at my local CoOp, mostly from the bulk section (including the muslin bags). You also might have luck at your local farmer's market, herbalist, or online. The downside to online seems to be larger minimum quantities, so it's more of a cost up front. I found that Mountain Rose Herbs stocks a 4oz option, which is more reasonable than some of the other places I've seen online. If you have other ideas for where to buy bulk herbs feel free to leave your suggestion in the comments!

Anyway! Back to the DIY! Let's talk ingredients: Epsom salt is a timeless standby for baths, said to soothe aches and exfoliate the skin. Dehydrated coconut milk is a little less predictable, but it's become a new favorite of mine. I love the smell of coconut oil, I love how moisturizing it is, but I do not love how it sticks to every surface and and almost results in slippery, awkward doom every time I use it in the bathroom. Cue dehydrated coconut milk! You could substitute oatmeal or regular dehydrated milk if you're less coconut inclined. Onto the herbs! As I said above, completely up to personal preference! I chose hibiscus for its fruity smell and bright pink color. I had the suspicion that it would make the water pink, which turned out to be correct (temporarily, ha)! I've read that hibiscus has been used to promote skin health and relaxation. Good bath properties, yes? Lemon balm is also supposed to be good for relaxation, particularly for the muscles and the mind. Eucalyptus is said to help with clarity and healing, but I'll be honest, I mostly chose it for its fresh scent. Of course, it's hard to verify the true health benefits of any herb, but with so many years of lore behind many of these sayings...I feel inclined to give them a little credit. If nothing else, I feel like a refreshed river spirit after an herbal soak.

Okay, now that we've talked ingredients, here's the deal: using the above quantities, fill the bag with your ingredients and tie it closed. Add to your hot bath water. DONE! Told you it was easy! Worth noting: some herbs have the potential to stain. I didn't personally experience that with hibiscus, but be wary if you're using your sacred towel or something. Also, the water may darken due to the herbs (think of what a cup of tea does when you let it steep). My bath got pretty dark and spooky, which made me really happy. It also smelled AMAZING.

Hope you enjoy! Feel free to tag @arcandember with your tub tea experiments!

- Allison

August 21, 2015

Emily: On Living With Bipolar Disorder

"My candle burns at both ends, It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, It gives a lovely light!"
- Edna St. Vincent Millay

I sobbed when I found out I had Bipolar Disorder. We're talking full-blown snot and red face, what my aunt calls "The Ugly Cry." Suddenly I had an answer to a question I'd been asking myself for as long as I could remember: what's wrong with me? The relief I felt, mixed with fear and bewilderment, caused me to hide under the covers and cry for a long time. When I finally stopped crying I felt mad, and then I got serious. I realized pretty quickly that I didn't want to live the way I'd been living. I wanted to fix this and finally have the life I'd been dreaming about for a long time, a life that I felt like I deserved, but didn't think I could ever have. Let’s go back to the beginning...

For those who don’t know, there are two types of Bipolar Disorder. The first type is categorized by experiencing mania more than depression. The second type, the one I have, is depression more than what is called hypo-mania. Hypo-mania is basically a lighter form of mania. The type of Bipolar Disorder you are probably used to hearing about is the first type. What generally happens to a Bipolar brain is that you have a period of mania or hypo-mania, and when the euphoria is over, and you're left with whatever mess you made, depression hits you hard and gets worse by the day, by the hour, by the minute. This is where you might recognize the stereotype: first she's laughing, then she's crying. First it was raining, now it's sunny. To the general public, a Bipolar person experiences happiness and sadness every other minute. To actual Bipolar people, and the people who love them, the truth is so much more terrifying than that.

I can remember being six years old and lying on my bedroom floor, feeling like I couldn't breathe, I couldn't move, I couldn't calm down. I had woken up feeling hyper, and it never went away. Weirder than that, it continued to feel more and more intense until I ended up there, on my floor, gasping because I felt trapped in my own body and because I was scared of what to to tell someone. I could barely put it into words, so how could I possibly explain it to an adult? What if I did tell someone, and they found out something was really wrong with me and they took me away from my family? I lived in fear and confusion. Those two feelings stayed with me for my whole childhood.

Throughout school people knew me as a bubbly, outgoing person. I was having the same problems, and I still wasn't talking about them. Even when I was old enough to understand that no one was going to take me away, I still remained silent. I guess part of me was hoping someone would notice so I didn't have to be the one to say it. To me it felt so out there, so obvious, that I grew more angry and more resentful as time went on. I started to call it "Crashing." The way I saw it, I was always over the top, always bubbly and happy and hyper, so it made sense that eventually I would crash. During those times I slept a lot. During those times I experienced what I now understand was depression. The problem is that on the outside I looked like a normal teenager going through puberty. I also had learning problems the whole time I was in school. I had trouble remembering things. I had trouble understanding what I was seeing and hearing. I had trouble concentrating. People think of Bipolar Disorder as just being a cycle of happy/sad. They don't talk about how Bipolar Disorder effects your brain's prefrontal cortex, the brain structure in charge of problem solving and making decisions. It can affect the way you learn and form memories, as well as your emotions.

Bipolar Disorder can become more prevalent as your brain develops, which is why most people don't discover they have it until they're in their late teens/early twenties. I remember my symptoms starting as early as six. As my illness remained untreated, it only got worse. By the time I was sixteen I felt like I was barely human. Everything felt so surreal and dream-like. I was so tired of living in constant fear of my own body that I contemplated suicide all the time. I eventually dropped out of high school and entered a state of depression that was so powerful and long-lasting that I'm amazed I survived it at all.

I found out I am Bipolar because of a teen magazine. I was reading the "Real Life" article, which was about a young girl living with Bipolar Disorder and how her family coped. As I was reading her story and her symptoms, I couldn't believe how well I understood what she was going through. A light bulb went off; I realized that this is what I'd been dealing with. After the crying I mentioned before, and the wave of emotions, I made some promises to myself. My first promise was to start being 100% honest with myself and other people, no matter what. My second promise was that I would put myself first. For the first time in a long time I wanted to live more then I wanted to die, and I understood that it was up to me to protect myself. I started doing as much research as possible. I took notes and made diagrams. I learned the terminology. Most importantly though, I started to talk about it.

I wish I could say that people were receptive, but unfortunately they weren't. My childhood fears came true pretty quickly, and I realized that I would have to do this alone. I felt less scared, secure in the knowledge that I really was sick; just because someone didn't believe me didn't mean I was making it up. I remembered my promises and I repeated them to myself often.

After that began a long, long, long journey to wellness. It took a while, but I eventually convinced my parents to listen to me. I saw many doctors and therapists. Again, I wish I could say that everyone was receptive. During all of this my symptoms were still getting worse. I was learning coping mechanisms, but it was hard work. At one point I called a local treatment center, crying and begging them to take me in. I was so tired and scared. My symptoms were so severe that I was barely sleeping. I had started hallucinating. The woman on the phone sounded tired too. She asked me how many times I had attempted suicide and how many times I'd been hospitalized. When I told her none, she told me that the center only took in people who were serious. It was painful then, but in retrospect I understand where she was coming from. The treatment and funding for mentally ill adults is so poor and so lacking. Because so many illnesses are hard to understand and hard to treat, and because there is a stigma that comes with being labeled a mentally ill person, the system is trying to deal with a very large problem that they'd rather not have.

For the first time, I felt guilty for all of the work I'd been putting in. I was angry with myself for not just letting it all go so that someone would be more likely to help me. I got over it after a while. Eventually I found the right combination of therapy and medication, although that was a battle too. I was trying to advocate for myself, so I usually began with a new doctor by telling them what I would or would not take. Most doctors didn't like it, but luckily some respected it very much. I realize this sounds like I just changed doctors until someone agreed with me, but that's not entirely the case. I changed doctors until someone spoke to me like I was a human being, capable of understanding my own illness, and able to make an educated guess at what was best for me. It paid off in the end, and I have been on the same medication for about 6 years.

What I want you to know is this: Bipolar Disorder is my default setting. Regular depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain that can be fixed with medication. My brain can't be fixed. Medication helps with the severe mood swings, although I still experience them to some degree. I still have trouble learning and reacting to the things I see. I will never stop being Bipolar, and it will never stop running my life. I have to always be one step ahead, and that can be exhausting, sometimes impossible. The effort is worth it though. I get to live a happy life with my wonderful husband. I get to work and have body autonomy. I am very fortunate for what I am able to do because not many people like me are able to do those things. Many people like me are already in the throes of addiction when they find out that the things they were trying to mask with drugs and alcohol are really mental illness. Many people don't have access to the education they need to understand that they are not alone. Some people like me might know what's happening to them, but they don't have the health insurance required to do something about it. About 60% of people living with Bipolar Disorder are addicts, alcohol being the most commonly-used coping mechanism. As many as one in five people suffering from Bipolar Disorder complete suicide, and roughly 25 to 50% attempt suicide. These people need a voice, and they need you to care if they live or if they die. You don't even have to go out of your way; all you need to do is educate yourself. Acknowledge that this is a problem, and know that your language can help. Stop calling someone Bipolar if they were fine yesterday but having a bad day today. Stop calling the weather Bipolar when the sun comes out after a thunder storm. Acknowledge that your words affect the lives, well-beings, and safety of the people around you. For as comfortable as I am talking about my illness, it still stings every time someone uses the term Bipolar out of context.

Sometimes I think of my illness as a gift, and sometimes I feel like it's a curse. No matter what though: I will never stop fighting for myself and the people like me, whatever it takes.


A&E is thankful to Emily for bravely sharing her story. If you have something you'd like to share, please feel free to contact us.