Yessica's Journey Blog

Welcome to the Yessica's Journey Blog Site, a Journey through Mental Health, Wellbeing and Creativity.

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The Movie War Horse

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I went with my Dad to the cinema today to see the film War Horse. It was brilliant and I highly recommend it. It is directed by Steven Spielberg and was originally a book written by Michael Morpurgo. It has such a fantastic storyline and is set in World War I and depicts the journey of the War Horse. I cried all the way through practically but I was feeling very emotional and unwell. It is such a beautiful story, please go and see it. It makes you feel good and has a happy ending.

More blogs to follow soon.

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Service Users Redesign Communication Pathway Meeting

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I went to the Service Users Redesign Meeting at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. This meeting was to give Service Users a chance to discuss and ask questions about two individual pathways. Pathway D Non Psychotic and Psychotic Disorder and Pathway A Primary Care and accessing more specialist support. There were also other Service Users invited from Rethink and Mind and other organisations which was really good.

The meeting was very successful and I enjoyed meeting the staff  from the different pathways and being given the opportunity to ask questions directly to them. It was also nice to meet other Service Users from other organisations. The group asked many questions and I think the meeting was very useful and successful.

I was particularly interested in both these pathways but especially the Psychotic Pathway. I asked many questions and raised many points which included some of the following. Usually I am very quiet on the SUC but I was quite pleased with myself for having the courage to ask these questions and raise important points. I was not feeling particularly well at the time so perhaps that gave me the confidence that I usually lack sometimes.

I said that I felt it was unfair for instance that one person can make a decision about your care and what services you can access and that if that person gets it wrong, the door and all services are closed to you. I said there should be a panel of people to make it fairer and that other people like your doctor, family etc. should be included in the decision making process. I realise this would cost more money but I think it would be a much fairer system and people unfortunately can make mistakes.

I also mentioned an idea which my Wellbeing Mentor has said and I also agree with and have been involved in as you are probably aware if you have read my blogsite. I said how my Wellbeing Mentor has helped me but I got this person through Rethink and not the NHS and because of my animation project ‘Yessica’s Journey’. I mentioned how you need to see someone over a long period of time to build up TRUST with them and to open up to someone and talk. That is when you start to listen and take notice and learn to develop a more positive attitude, then you can gain HOPE. It needs to be a person who is a good role model and has experience of mental health. I said this person would be willing to come and give a talk to the group so I hope he is invited.

I also said that what was needed was a Wellbeing Mentor who is in charge of the persons care and perhaps the Volunteers and the Service Users who are helping that persons care. That volunteers and service users could be used for certain skills and tasks to help people with problems, and that the Mentor was the main professional who took the responsibility for that care and main talking therapy for the person, also accessing other services and professional expertise. I strongly believe that Creativity is extremely important in helping people who have Mental Health difficulties and helping to improve their wellbeing and self-confidence.

In fact one of the staff said to me afterwards what a great idea it was which was such a lovely thing to say, this meant a lot to me. I told this person that it had also come from my Wellbeing Mentor who deserves credit for his innovative ideas.

Another subject I brought up was about age discrimination. For obvious reasons as in my own case this is something I feel very strongly about. I said that why is there an early intervention psychosis team which only treats young people up to the age of 35. What happens if you are 36 or in your 40’s. What if it’s your first experience? Is this fair? In my situation I was terrified and had no idea what was happening to me, I should have had access to this service or something similar, a talking therapy of some kind. Hopefully the system has now changed.

I also sent one of the staff on the Psychosis pathway some extra questions as we ran out of time and she very kindly said when she had time she would answer them so I am looking forward to receiving them and I do appreciate staff are very busy, so I appreciate her time and interest. I thought this was very kind and thoughtful of her.

Here are the extra questions I asked. I had many more that I would have liked to ask but just concentrated on a few.

  1. If Hope is central to recovery how will you use service users lived experiences to show Hope to people who are experiencing Psychosis? How will you use Service Users stories of Hope. How will you monitor the process? How will you make sure the process is fair?
  2. How will use safeguard vulnerable adults who are feeling unwell and ensure they receive the right advice and message of Hope?
  3. Would you provide professional training for Service Users and what would this be? How will you select suitable candidates for the role?
  4. Have you thought about using creative activity as a way to help people who are experiencing Mental Health problems and creating useful projects which actually enhance peoples wellbeing and confidence and helps them to explore their own mental health?
  5. Research is very important in understanding Mental Health. Have you thought about using ‘Service User’ Research to enhance the Trust’s Understanding of Psychosis. Using service users stories of experience, specific case studies, questionnaires, interviews. Monitoring, recording and analysing the results to help improve the understanding of Psychosis?Are you involved with other organisations with research into psychosis?
  6. How will you ensure that service users are treated as individuals and recognise that each person has a unique experience of Mental Health? Are you going to move away from the typical Tick Box system and one size fits all way of thinking?
  7. Often personal qualities, experience and skills are equally as important as qualifications. What personal qualities and skills will you be looking for in staff.How will you make sure that you find the right staff with the right attitude and skills to help people experiencing mental health problems?
  8. How will you monitor the effectiveness of staff?
  9. How will you make sure that your staff receive proper training and guidance, support and time to ensure they give a good effective service. If staff are unhappy this sometimes reflects badly on the very people they are trying to help.
  10. How will you ensure that you provide a Fair system for everyone who experiences mental health problems. What will you do to ensure this? In a tick box type system often many people are left out from being helped as certain criteria can go against them.
  11. How can you ensure that assumptions are not made about what someone experiencing Psychosis says? How will you ensure that they are listened to properly? Sometimes people may have delusions but sometimes in amongst the delusions there may be some real events happening which are true. How will you differentiate this and how will you offer reassurance to someone?
  12. Medication is important in helping someone to get well but talking therapy is equally as important especially in helping people to understand what is happening to them, why it is happening and how they can help themselves. It also opens the doorway to TRUST and HOPE. What talking therapies are being offered as a service by the Trust for people who are or have experienced psychosis?
  13. Is the Trust actively seeking out new and old therapies, researching therapies and trying out therapies to find out which ones work best and also find out good professional organisations and therapists which work and work well? Sometimes what works for one person will not work for others so it is important to offer a wide diverse range of therapies and therapists. It the Trust using Research to formulate ideas?
  14. Is this something Service Users could be involved in helping with – surveys, questionnaires etc. Monitor and recording of information perhaps so there is a database of good therapists and therapies. Could service users help the Trust in researching therapies in some way?
  15. What do you think of the idea about psychiatry becoming like other medical specialities where there is a range of tests including imaging tests of the brain functions, blood tests and psychological tests to find out about susceptibility factors to mental health problems, help with diagnosis and enable help in a different way?

I also asked several questions for Pathway A, mainly about what talking therapies were being offered and about the new Wellbeing Service. I am also very interested in this Pathway as it is about helping people before they reach Crisis Point and it is about Wellbeing and staying well.

I enjoyed the meeting but unfortunately I could not attend further meetings the following week which involved other pathways.

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Mouldmaking and Plastic Slush Casting Test for ‘Yessica’s Journey’ Head

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I highly recommend this book – The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation by Ken A. Priebe Foreword by Henry Selick. Director Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas. I used this book on how to do mouldmaking a casting using the slush method as shown below. This is an excellent book which you can buy from Amazon. It is filled with really useful information, everything you need to know and more.

Sculpted Head on Metal Rod Fixed in Position

Image above of the Sculpted Head on a Metal Rod which will allow it to be suspended. Fixed into position using clay. Below is a slideshow of all the images and showing the whole process.

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Mixing the Silicone Liquid in two parts.

Mixing the Silicone which comes in two parts. You don’t get much time so you have to work fast before it sets.

Pouring the Silicone Mixture over the Sculpture.

Slowly pour the silicone over the sculpture making sure that everything is covered.

Suspending the Head in a container. Do not use hard plastic as I did here as it was difficult to get the mould out.

Suspend the sculpture in a container. I used the wrong one here, as it was made of hard plastic which made it difficult for me to remove the mould once set. I had to cut it out. I would recommend using Lego and sealing with tape or a softer plastic which can be bent to free the mould. I used a metal rod which was part of a scalpel knife and used wood and tape to suspend the sculpture. The head must not touch the bottom of the container.

Filling the container with Silicone to cover the Sculpture.

Pouring the mixture of silicone into the container and using tape to stop the wood from moving.

Finished Mould. Important to leave hole in top to fill with plastic.

Finished Mould. You can place in the freezer so that once you cut the mould and take the sculpture out, the sculpture is more likely to remain undamaged. There will always be some damage but this can easily be fixed if you need to use it again. Important to have a pouring hole at the top which was made from the metal rod.

Cut a zig zag pattern to pull mould apart to take out sculpture.

Cut a Zig Zag pattern with a sharp scalpel knife to free the Sculpture. It is important to mark the front, side and back of the head suspended in the container before you pour the silicone in so that when you cut it you can identify where the back is and there will be less damage to the mould. I forgot to do this so I ended up getting a line down the front of the face. You learn as you experiment.

Sculpture removed from mould.

Sculpture head removed from mould.

Filling the mould with plastic resin. Do not pour remainder liquid into a plastic cup as I have done in image - mistake.

Pouring the Polyurethane Liquid Plastic Resin into the mould. This comes in two parts which you mix together. Again you have to work fast. If you want a solid plastic head you just leave for the time required. This however makes the head too heavy for stop motion puppets. I then experimented with Slush Casting which is where you pour a smaller amount into the hole and rotate and turn the mould for a while until set. I experimented a lot with this as you are not sure how much to pour in and I was trying to achieve a light hollow plastic head.

After the plastic resin has set, open the mould to reveal the plastic head cast inside.

Remove the tape which holds the mould together and stops the liquid coming out and take out the plastic head cast. This was such an exciting moment as the process is quite long and technical. It is great when you see the plastic head. Thoroughly enjoyed this and learnt loads. Never really done anything like this before. I decided this was the best method to use for one of Yessica’s heads.

The great thing about making a mould is that you can make as many heads as you want.

Cutting into the head using a scalpel knife

You can also cut into the plastic using a sharp knife because it is hollow.

Bowl of all the head testing on different materials and methods.

These are all the head tests I made using different materials and methods. I have learnt a lot and will be using a different material and method for the Magician’s head as it is much smaller. See previous blogs to see how I started. Please note you can also make a mould by using the more usual method of making a mould in two parts rather than one.

More Blogs to follow soon. Catching up as have not been very well recently.

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Making the Sculpture Test of ‘Yessica’s Journey’ Head out of Plastalina

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After completing many tests (see previous blog) I decided to use a polystyrene ball as the core for the head making it lighter. I sculpted it roughly to cut out the eye sockets and change the shape slightly.

Using sculpted polystyrene ball as the core for the head as it is light.

I used a hot wire tool to cut into the material, see image below.

Using a hot wire tool to cut into the polystyrene

I covered the polystyrene head roughly in a thin layer of Van Aaken Plastalina. I got this from the USA. It is softer than the one used in the UK and also you can melt it as well if you want to. It is also acid free which is good for mouldmaking and casting. Newplast Plasticine is much harder and is great to sculpt with but I wanted to try a new product to see the difference. If you were using Plasticine characters to animate you would use this one as it is less likely to melt under the lights.

Sculpting the Clay over the polystyrene. Rough Sculpt.

It takes a lot of time to sculpt and build it up. I intend putting a lot more detail in the finished one. I mainly use my hands and use some sculpting tools.

Using Wooden Beads to shape the socket for the eyes

Gradually she is taking shape. I inserted wooden beads in her eye sockets to get the right size for her eyes which will be animated.

Finishing off, constant smoothing using linseed oil. Sculpture can be frozen to smooth out fine detail if clay becomes too soft.

Constant smoothing with your hands and sculpture tools is required. I used Linseed Oil to smooth the clay which seemed to work. You can also freeze the clay and then work on it to smooth even more.

Finished Sculpture with mouth taken away as the puppet will have stick on mouth pieces for lip sync.

Rough finished sculpture with metal rod inserted so I can suspend the head upside down when I make a mould and cast. Removed her mouth as she will have stick on mouths. This is a test head and not the finished look of Yessica.

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Testing Different Methods and Materials for ‘Yessica’s Journey’ Head

Polystyrene Head Testing

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Here are some images of tests for making Yessica’s Head using different materials and cores to the head. It is important to find a method which looks good but is also smooth and light. These are just rough sculptures and I did not concentrate too long on the actual sculpture, it was more about finding the best method and material to use for her main head. I started with Polystyrene but this is difficult to sculpt a natural looked head so I tried other methods. See Slideshow below.

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Testing out Femo Clay

This clay was far to rough and did not have a smooth texture so was unsuitable. A lot of the clays are air drying so they are prone to shrinkage.

Testing out other clays

Another material clay I used was very hard to sculpt with. Tried using Dremel on them to smooth them out. They were also too heavy. I used a screwed up ball of tin foil and polystyrene as in inner core to make them as light as possible.

Testing out Sculpey Clay

This was using Sculpey Clay which is easier to sculpt with but again too heavy. You cook it in the oven to harden. Only use foil and not polystyrene for the core or it will melt.

Sculpey Head Test

Testing out Paper Pulp method

Tried putting the paper pulp in the mould but didn't quite work

Tried this method of making a paper pulp method out of paper. You tear up paper and use a blender to turn it into a pulp. Did not work at all but I think I must have done something wrong. Guess I need to try some more methods and materials.

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Yessica’s Journey Update

Well what a year it has been for Yessica’s Journey. It has been very hard work but well worth it. I have met so many wonderful people through this project and I would like to say a special thanks to all of you. I consider myself very lucky to have been given this opportunity.

2011 saw the completion of the second version of the script, this has taken a huge amount of time to do and get right and has been one of the hardest things I have ever done because of the personal nature of it and I was not feeling well. We completed the voiceover recording of the dialogue in July which was probably one of the most fun parts of the project to do, I laughed so much and enjoyed every moment of it. It was also very emotional to finally hear all the words come to life when spoken. We completed the design and construction of the set for the stop motion animation, another very emotional moment for me when I finally saw the amazing set which David had constructed and to see all my ideas and designs finally come to life. The set table is completed to animate on and the preparation for the studio room where the animation will be shot. We also have a fantastic temporary flash website which has proved very useful during the project. And who would have thought I would get better, that really is the icing on the cake. I do believe this project has helped me to get well, creativity is such a wonderful way to use your mind, the hardest part now is to stay well, that really is a challenge. I am sure with the support and help of others and my determination, strength and tenacious attitude I will continue to stay well and make this project successful.

Well those are just a few things to mention and I am looking forward to a great year ahead where I can concentrate more on the creative artistic side of the project. I have just completed the storyboard for the cut-out part of the animation and I will be continuing to create and finish off the puppets for the stop motion part. I am very excited to have 2 new armatures to work with. I will be spending the next few months concentrating on this as well as doing many illustrations and an Animatic.

It is anticipated that the animation will take a further 3 years to complete and we have just put in an application form to try and apply for additional funding so fingers crossed. We are also planning to hold a Yessica’s Journey meeting soon at Hellesdon Hospital (Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust) with the organisations involved in funding the project which I am looking forward to (apologies for the cancellation of the last one which was due to be held at Mind).

Thank you again to everyone who has helped and supported me throughout my journey.

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No longer the Service Users Redesign Communications Chair/Lead

A few months ago I was thrilled to be asked by the Chair of the Service Users Council at Hellesdon Hospital if I would be interested in being the Chair/Lead for the new Service Users Redesign Communications Sub Group (SURC). I would just like to thank the Chair for giving me this fantastic opportunity. Above is an article from the NHS Newsletter at Hellesdon Hospital. Unfortunately it did not get sent out or printed last month but I managed to get a copy from Greta Neiss who is the Redesign Communications Lead at Hellesdon. I was thrilled to be asked to be in it.

I was really pleased to be asked to be the Chair and accepted but I did have some reservations about it from the start. Unfortunately, I decided after the last SURC meeting that for many reasons, I felt I was not the right person for this role. I felt out of my depth and without support and training I felt unable to commit to this role. I also felt it was affecting my confidence which has taken me ages to build up having been so ill. I think I find it hard to say NO sometimes but at least I did in the end and it does take courage to do this as it was quite an honor to have been asked in the first place. You have to be careful you don’t take on too much. I need to trust my own intuituion and instincts more and not be afraid to say NO.

I had suggested someone else at the start who I felt would represent the Service Users much better than I could and was also well respected by the Trust. I am pleased to say this person has now accepted the role and I am sure he will do a great job.

Hopefully there will be other opportunities for me at the Trust, I hope I can help them in any way I can. Below is a picture of me (back of my head) from the Radical Pathway Redesign Stakeholder Event last year which I attended. I also attended another Redesign event at Hellesdon with Oz Osborne who invited me.

There are more Redesign events coming up, the next one is at Dunston Hall.

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The name of the Trust has now changed to Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust as they have now merged with Suffolk.

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Finished Storyboard for the Cut-Out part of the Animation

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Hurray I finished the storyboard last week for the cut-out part of the animation which is about 4mins long. This part of the animation is going to be created from drawings and illustrations, painted textures and then cut-out in Photoshop so it can be animated in After Effects. I am also going to try Anime Studio Pro for animating the characters as this software has a simple rigging bone system but not sure yet if it will work.

I can’t show the storyboard obviously and not even going to name anything but the above screenshot is from the Storyboard software which I used by Toon Boom. I did not use the drawing tools within the program as I decided to use all the visuals I had already created and cut-out and adapt in photoshop. I then imported the images in which means I also have a high resolution one if I wish to print out at a later date. I really enjoyed doing this as its very creative. I imported the text from the script and added camera moves and shots.

I have changed and adapted the storyboard already. As soon as you start to see visuals you can see where things are not working and form new ideas and improvements. I see the script as a guide and something which is flexible and should grow, change adapt as part of the creative process. This is the advantage of directing your own film and having the freedom to create your own ideas rather than having to work for someone else, creating their ideas which can sometimes hold you back. Please take time to read the following article, Jan Svankmajer is a genius.

From an article – Vertigo Magazine Decalogue by Jan Svankmajer Jan Svankmajer is a filmmaker and artist. Here is a quote from the Decalogue Article.

‘Never work, always improvise. Script is important for a producer, not for you. It’s a non-binding document you should only return to when your imagination lets you down. Although I have formulated this Decalogue on paper it doesn’t mean I consciously refer to it. These rules somehow emerged through my work, they didn’t precede it. Anyway, all the rules are there to be broken (not avoided). But there is one rule which, if broken (or even avoided), becomes destructive to the artist: Never subordinate your personal creativity to anything but freedom.

Still got loads of storyboarding to do over the coming year for the stop motion part. I do not intend doing this in as much detail as I want the process of animating this to be more fluid. Now got to get on with finishing making the puppets, doing lots of illustrations and an animatic.



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New Cat Armature Completed


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Here is the new armature for the cat character. He is a ball and socket armature and was made by John Wright Modelmaking. I sent my design of a cat and also made up a plastercene model to get the right size and proportions. It was quite hard as I had to go slightly bigger for the cat or it would have been hard to animate and also impossible to make. It had to look right beside Yessica who has a small body. The armature is constructed very well and I highly recommend this company for armatures. The quality and craftsmanship is outstanding.

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The armature has ball and socket type joints which can be manipulated and loosened or tightened with an allan key. The paws have holes drilled in them so I can use tie downs to animate it walking or magnets. He also has a head and jaw which can be manipulated. I am not sure how I am covering him but I will think of something eventually.

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There is also a tube attached to his body so that I can use a rig. A rig is used for instance if the character needs to fly through the air. It holds it in position and then the rig is deleted in post production. I have never animated a cat before, but I like a challenge and most things I attempt I have no idea what I am doing half the time and just learn as I go along by experimentation and trial and error. Sometimes you have to push yourself a little, take a few risks and face the fear, most of the time it works out fine and even if it doesn’t, well, does it really matter.

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Here are Cat and Magician armatures to show scale.

Blog and more pictures of Magician armature in previous blog.

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New Magician Armature

John Wright Modelmaking Website

Here is the new armature for the Magician character. The armature is a ball and socket type and was designed by John Wright Modelmaking. I sent them my design for the character and the old armature (which proved unsuitable) and part of his outfit. They were able to match the same proportions. This armature is excellent quality and will be more durable and longer lasting which is crucial in a short film of around 14mins. It is well designed and constructed and I would highly recommend this company. The craftsmanship of the armature is just so good and each joint can be manipulated with an alan key. Sometimes it is worth spending extra money for quality, it saves you a lot of time and less tears in the end. This is something I have always tried to strive towards for this animation. I am a bit of a perfectionist but sometimes I think that is a good thing when you set your standards high as long as they are achieveable.

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© Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Please do not copy or download images/text.

These images show the old armature with the new one. The old one was bought by someone else who was originally going to make a puppet for me. Unfortunately it proved totally unsuitable for what I needed. Originally it was bought for Yessica but it was obvious it would be too big for her tiny frame so rather than waste money I decided to use it for the other character. I spent ages making it up as it came in a kit form but the joints kept breaking. After reglueing quite a few times I gave up.

It was not stable and would have been a nightmare to animate with. John Wright Modelmaking were able to take the foam off that I had already stuck on and recreate similar proportions for the new one. I had already started to make clothes for him so it was important for them to fit. This armature was a lot more money but well worth it. This is the same company which made Yessica’s armature.