Each of our creative journeys develop in unique ways. Some may discover excitement and motivation through learning new crafting skills, while others find that crafting helps them stay connected with loved ones and friends. For Hannah Cate, her passion arose from a need to express herself while also coping with the long-term effects of a traumatic brain injury she received in her early teens. This creative passion of hers has developed rapidly into a desire to help other disabled individuals learn about the many therapeutic values in creating art.
Learn more about Hannah’s incredible journey of crafting, therapy, and self-expression:
Q: Can you tell us about your journey and where you are now?
A: Ten years ago, when I was 13 years old, I suffered a series of concussions playing sports, leaving me with a traumatic brain injury at the young age of 14. I don’t remember a lot from the years following, but I remember being in horrible pain. I spent much of my adolescent years in and out of the hospital, and wasn’t allowed to go to more than one class in school in fear of over stimulation. After I graduated high school, I jumped right into college where I struggled… a lot. I still was in and out of the hospital and spent a month in a transitional care unit after another brain injury. Through that stay, I had to relearn just about everything, how to walk, talk, feed myself, and think clearly. Walking is still a struggle for me, I use a wheelchair most of the time and still do a lot of physical therapy.
Q: How have you learned to express your emotions and your personality with the art that you create?
A: Expressing myself verbally is something I really struggle with. I see a therapist weekly to help me learn that valuable skill, but it is still so hard for me. However, I realized I did need a way to express myself and that’s where I turned to art/card making. Art is only art through interpretation, my interpretation of my work could be completely different than someone else looking at my creation, which I find comfort in. Art was always a scary thing for me because of art classes in school, I was never the cookie cutter artist that my teachers wanted me to be and so I often did not score well on projects. When I learned to create art for myself and not others, that was when things started to change. It was no longer scary, in fact quite the opposite, it is my escape, and where I can truly be me.
Q: You’ve created several stamps designed for people with disabilities. We’d love to see a few! Which stamps would you say are your top favorites?
A: I am hoping to release more stamps soon, I have a lot drawn up just have to get them to the manufacturer, but I think my favorite stamp I have created will always be my “Wheelchair Warrior”. That stamp I designed off of myself, because I was still having trouble accepting my new normal. It helped me accept my chair and who I am today.
Q: We heard that you are working on adaptive art tools for people with disabilities! Can you tell us a bit more about that?
A: Creating a line of adaptive art tools and inclusive stamps is my biggest passion in life. Art is a hobby that has such huge therapeutic benefits and should be open to all. However, while searching for tools to fill my own craft room, I was disappointed with the lack of accessible/adaptive art tools on the market. Many adaptive tools were made for children with disabilities, which is great, but wouldn’t work for an adult crafter like me. Unfortunately, the adult tools on the market that I could find were so expensive that many wouldn’t be able to afford them, including myself. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an incredible craft brand to hopefully help bring some more inclusive/adaptive products to the market.
Q: What do you focus on the most when it comes to making accessible art tools?
A: When I am in the designing phase, I like to gather information from people with disabilities different from mine. No disability is the same as another so the more disabled people I talk to the more inclusive a product can be. I also like to always keep in mind that I am not an expert on any disability except my own. I think it is easy for someone in a minority culture like disabilities to think that they know everything about that culture and the experience of others in that minority. So, I will never talk for the whole disability community or brain injury community when I design and do use my platform to educate. It will only be based off of my experience and will educate myself whenever I can.
Q: You’ve been using the DreamBox to organize your craft supplies and art tools. Is there anything you can tell us about how it has helped you with your crafting sessions?
A: I am OBSESSED with my DreamBox and it is by far my favorite accessible tool in my craft room. Before getting the DreamBox, all my supplies and tools were spread out throughout my craft room, forcing me to spend my already limited energy to find the supplies I needed. With my DreamBox I have everything in one place, allowing me to save energy and craft for much longer each session. Before getting it, I could only craft for about an hour or two. Now, I can easily spend 6-8 hours in my craft room and still have energy left over.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to say to our community about your creative journey?
A: I feel so fortunate to have the platform I do. Disability is a widely misunderstood thing and growing up, many are taught to not ask questions about. I love being able to educate others about disabilities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! My craft journey has taught me so much about myself and my disability, it has given me the opportunity to start healing emotionally and accept myself. Disability is not a death sentence and not something you should ever be ashamed of. Life goes on, and I have not met a single disabled person so far who isn’t appreciative of what their disability has taught them. I personally would never stop my injury from happening if I could. I would not be where I am today without it.