Hi! I’m Robin, and I’m a mixed media artist. I love to paint birds.
I create art to express the joy in the ordinary and the power of being an individual.
My mission at Themshed Creative is threefold:
- To create art that reminds you that you are amazing, and that being unashamedly you is your superpower.
- To bring a little bit more joy and colour into the world, and more specifically, your home.
- To be authentically myself and radically honest about my identity and mental health and normalise celebrating that we are all different.
The Full Story.
I’m an engineer. I’ve worked as an engineer for the last 10 years, and there are lots of things about it that I enjoy. I love solving problems. I like designing things. I love materials, and understanding how and why they work. But I’ve also found engineering really hard – it can be super stressful, and I’ve had mental health problems more or less since I started my career. I’ve never felt like I truly “fit” into engineering.
I’ve been doing creative things as hobbies my whole life – nail art, knitting, sewing (see attached sock monkey), and dabbling in the occasional painting. I discovered mixed media art during the pandemic, and art journalling has been a lifeline when everything has just felt totally mental. The pandemic also gave me a love of birds.
Like many, when the pandemic hit in 2020, I started working from home. And I got pretty friendly with the birds in our garden. I started to feed them. I started to recognise different types of birds and the different twitters and chirps and songs. I developed a real love for birds. I’m now a member of the Wetlands & Wildfowl Trust and the RSPB. There are binoculars by the kitchen window. (The picture is a fledgling blackbird that I got very friendly with!)
Also like many, my mental health really suffered during the pandemic. Birds were a thing that made me really happy – their lives didn’t change when the rest of the world did, they just kept going. When I was watching birds, I felt calm and peaceful.
I rediscovered my love of painting when I was signed off work as a result of stress in mid-2020. I knew I needed something to keep me busy and I knew that something creative would help me process how I was feeling. I watched a bunch of videos about art journalling, bought myself some paint, and off I went. I totally fell in love with it. Don’t think took much, just put down paint and collage and stamps and see what happens. It was an entirely new form of expression. When I went back to work, I tried to keep it up. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn’t. But I always felt better when I did it.
In 2021, I painted my first bird. I can’t adequately describe to you the feeling of painting that blue magpie. It wasn’t a particularly complicated or accurate painting, but I felt alive in a way that I hadn’t experienced for a very, very long time. I felt like I found myself in that painting. It was a real goosebumps on the arms, tears in my eyes sort of moment when I finished it. I’d found a whole new level to my creativity.
The other thing that I found out about myself during the pandemic is that I am gender non-binary. This means that I don’t identify as entirely female, or entirely male. Much of the time, gender doesn’t really feel like part of my identity at all. I can only describe the process of coming to this as totally beautiful. It was an exploration of how I’ve always felt about myself, what it feels like to “not fit”, what it feels like to embrace who I really am. The first time I put on a binder, I cried. It felt so right. How I look on the outside now feels like it reflects who I am on the inside. I explored this feeling in a piece of artwork that I just call “Coming Out.” I’ve posted it here. I believe passionately in representation. Those of us who have found our strength get to stand up for those who haven’t yet. We get to pave the way for those who can’t just be exactly who they are yet. One day, I believe it won’t be hard to be authentically yourself if you don’t conform to what society calls “normal”. I felt this as a woman in engineering, I feel it even moreso as a non-binary engineer and creative.
The concept of identifying as non-binary is still quite new to a lot of people, and coming out and explaining myself over and over can be exhausting. Having a safe space to just be myself was vital. My husband started referring to my little boxroom studio space as my “Themshed.” (It’s now more often referred to as my “Arthole.”) When it came to finding a voice for my art, I knew that I wanted to represent my “otherness”. And I wanted a name that would encompass all the things that I am – not just the bird art, but the knitting, and the nail art, and the sock monkeys, and the sewing… etc. So I decided to invite you into my Themshed. Themshed Creative is my stand. To me it means “here I can be everything – and I want to show you that you can be everything too.”
So. Having survived the worst of the pandemic, coming out to myself, my friends, family, and then professionally, and several mental health setbacks, in the middle of October 2021, I was let go from my job. I was utterly spent. I was emotionally and physically exhausted, and the thought of going straight back into another engineering job filled me with a deep feeling of existential dread. I was fed up of being told that I don’t look, sound or think right for engineering. So I painted instead. And I drew. I painted birds, I painted flowers, I painted leaves. Anything nature inspired. I started feeling like I was developing a style. For the first time, I actually shared pictures of my art with people. I saw that my art made other people happy, as well as me. I felt like I was doing something that made a difference. After about 6 weeks of this, I thought “going back to engineering after this just doesn’t feel right.”
And that, dear reader, is why I’m here. Because making art makes me happy. Making art makes me feel free. Free to be exactly myself, with all my colours and my weirdness, and nobody telling me that I’m doing it wrong. Looking at art is scientifically proven to make people happy. Artwork featuring birds makes me positively euphoric. I want you to feel the same joy that I do every time I look at all the colour and life in one of my paintings. I want you to understand the peace and calm that comes from being surrounded by nature. I’m here to share my happiness with you.