Mosaic picture of a hummingbird
Daily Life, Hope

What learning to mosaic taught me about mental illness

Mosaic picture of a hummingbird

There’s nothing like smashing a bunch of tiles to get stress out.  Which is why one of the things I look forward to most on our annual Summer holiday is creating another mosaic picture.

We love to take advantage of Australia’s warm Summer weather by taking the kids camping along the beautiful coastline of New South Wales. One of our favourite spots is a caravan park nestled between a stunning beach and a National Park.

It is the perfect spot for us and the kids to relax after a busy year – with lots of outdoor activities and a Kid’s Club every morning.

A few years back, while watching our three kids participating in the Kids Club, the teacher asked me if I wanted to join some other parents for a mosaic class that afternoon.   I quite like craft, so signed up on the spot – not really knowing what mosaic was or what it involved.

Four hours later, I was in my element – smashing tiles with a hammer, smearing glue over them and painstakingly selecting different shards of tile to create a picture.

It was slow-going and required concentration… forcing me to ignore the thoughts that had been whirring through my mind, and the stress of the past six months.

Ten days later, all those shards of smashed up tile had been transformed into a picture of a beautiful hummingbird, which I proudly took home to give to my mum as a gift.

Visiting her this past weekend, I noticed it hanging in her kitchen – and it made me think.

In the months leading up to its creation, I had been in the throes of a severe depressive episode.  It felt like someone had taken my life and smashed it – breaking me into unrecognisable pieces.

Yet, now as I look at that mosaic, I realise that (very slowly) the broken shards of my life have been taken and molded to form a different me.  One that is not quite the same, but equally as special.

Looking around me at my friends and family, I realise that most of us have been through something that has shattered us.  Left us feeling broken and worthless… like a pile of smashed up tiles.

Yet, there is a plan in store for us – a plan to use our pain and our hardship to show others that out of brokenness can come something beautiful.

Do you enjoy doing crafts?  Do they provide you with an outlet to help manage your condition?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

16 thoughts on “What learning to mosaic taught me about mental illness”

  1. Mariska , this is a beautiful article. I wondered how much feedback you get to encourage you , so I thought i would reply. For me just thrashing some paint around on a canvas helps or listening to a beautiful piece of music. I guess the older I get , just listening to myself and my needs gently and admiring my strength to try again , brings back confidence.

    1. Thanks Mel – I always love hearing from other women! I’d love to be able to paint like that…. Sounds like a great outlet. My five year old daughter is very into craft and is happiest with an array of paints, paintbrushes and paper. I find when I’m a bit hypomanic, art is really helpful. I’ve got a house full of quilts, mohair teddy bears, cross-stitches and other sewing projects as a result! The thing I like best is – despite my mental state at the time – my ‘projects’ usually turn out quite well and are something nice to look back at.

  2. A very beautifully written post….and I’m SO IMPRESSED with how awesome your hummingbird turned out! One could easily find something of that high quality in a gift shop. You have a potential side business! 😉

    I also found it so moving that you chose to give it to your mom. As the mother of two little girls who enjoy making crafts and giving some of their creations to me, it would be a dream come true if I ever received anything from them that was along the lines of your hummingbird.

    I also really enjoyed how you compared the making of the mosaic to your life and specifically mental illness.
    All in all, the post is so insightful.

    1. Thanks Dyane – that’s so encouraging! Don’t know about a side business though…. It took me 10 afternoons to make so would probably equate to being paid a few cents an hour!!! Creating it forced me to relax and sit chatting with other women as we made them together. And the fact that I was planning to give it to mum made it even more fun. Looking forward to our upcoming holiday and already planning what picture I’m going to do next…

  3. Love the metaphor here: “(very slowly) the broken shards of my life have been taken and molded to form a different me.” Similar to Kintsugi: “Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum a method similar to the maki-e technique.[1][2][3] As a philosophy it speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” (Wikipedia)

    1. I really love that idea of brokenness and repair becoming part of the story of who you are – rather than something that you try to hide from others. I’ve been on holidays this past week and have been enjoying slowing down and doing another mosaic… I’ll have to share the photos of the finished product tomorrow. Somehow, all that cutting, sorting and gluing of tiles has a really therapeutic effect on the mind – not to mention the fun of chatting to the other women crafting alongside me.

      1. Wow! Your mosaic shelf is really beautiful… I love the son rising over the mountains. Sometimes, I find that doing craft is a great outlet – when you can’t seem to find the right words.

  4. Hello from Flagstaff, Arizona, USA! Thank you for this blog entry. I’m a mosaic artist & elementary school art teacher, and I’m going back to school in the fall (at age 46) to pursue a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I want to integrate art into counseling because I know there are many people in the world who will benefit from the therapeutic effects of art as you have so perfectly articulated in this blog entry. Lovely hummingbird by the way! Please check out my work at or Oh, and I’m on Facebook. Cheers!

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