The idea for the “My Frame of Mind” project was hatched in conjunction with Steph Mackenzie of the Joint Health Improvement Team (Scottish Borders Council & NHS Borders) in early December of 2019, when Covid was little more than a grey smudge on an otherwise sunny horizon. The original idea pivoted around a central question: what helps you maintain a positive frame of mind? The brief was fairly straightforward: photograph that thing – or a representation of that thing – through a photograph frame (so that the frame becomes part of the composition of the picture) and submit your finished piece to the project. The plan was to invite submissions up through March of 2020 and then focus on framing them and hanging them as part of a larger exhibition in Old Gala House in Galashiels. The exhibition was to feature as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2020. But alas, Covid had other plans…
However, if it seemed important to emphasise a positive frame of mind before the pandemic then it became absolutely imperative to try to adopt one during it. Submissions came from residents across the Borders and Cheviot Youth group made it part of their summer programme. Things slowed in the winter, as we weren’t quite sure where the submissions were going to end up. Steph and I chatted it through around Christmas time 2020 and came up with a new idea – the creation of a book. The project grew new wings and became even more collaborative and rich…
There is so much talent and creativity in the Borders, and it was so rewarding to be able to tap into that. We had fifty submissions in total, which we formatted and had professionally printed onto thick glossy paper.
Aero Leathers in Galashiels donated a beautiful piece of leather, and Lucy Baxandall of Tidekettle Paper in Berwick-upon-Tweed made sheets of paper from cotton, abaca and recycled Berwick Film Fest brochures. Cass Barron of Bookbinding with Cass, based in Edinburgh, donated a binding pattern, and Lara Armitage of At Birkhill House bound them together into a beautiful book.
After mounting the photographs into the book, it was carefully passed along to calligraphy artist Alison MacLeod, based in Carfraemill, who added the text and illustrations to bring the pages to life.
The completed book was then photographed, every page multiple times, which were then used by At Birkhill House to create a slideshow, allowing the book to be shared virtually. Finally, the completed slide show was sent to Galashiels husband and wife team Roger Simian and Sarahjane Swan, also known as The Bird and the Monkey. They composed a beautiful, haunting soundscape, picking out details from all of the stories submitted to create a stunning musical journey that leads the viewer through the book, binding everyone’s words together and sealing the collective effort that went into the making of it.
You can experience the book here, as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. It’s eighteen minutes long, so find a quiet bit of time, make yourself something to drink, put it into full screen view and enjoy.
I am so proud of the completed work. It has really cemented At Birkhill House’s commitment to running large-scale community projects, on at least an annual basis. It’s a wonderful feeling, to be a part of channelling so much creativity into making something wonderful to share.
Many thanks to Lizzie Mayer and all the young people at Cheviot Youth Group, who adopted this project as part of their Summer 2020 programme.
Thanks also to freelance graphic designer Sarah Woodbury, based in Ayton, who carefully checked, resized and formatted all of the submissions.