The Power of Creativity





I don't know anybody who welcomes a long-term illness or disability into one’s life. I certainly did not, but must admit that after a few big fights with M.E., reality has brought me to some amazing places and has given me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people. I gained a greater appreciation of life, which I am fortunate enough to share with a good circle of friends. Friends ‘in the flesh’, by phone, post and cyber friends!

This journey into the unknown is now an almost 18-year adventure. A fact I still find hard to imagine. Eighteen years is a lifetime… a child being born and about to embark on college life. Living with illness is a bit like that. Growing up, to grow into who you are meant to be.

Creativity and writing became my way to understand this changed life. Initially purely for myself, but as a bonus it has become a tool which brought me to publishing (four) books, to having exhibitions and sharing my thoughts via cyberspace. More recently these experiences were also shared ‘hands on’ through talks and facilitating a puppet-making workshop. All this is possible by being very mindful of my energy, setting timers for activities, asking for help (which stays challenging), planning in blocks of rest, meditation and solitude. A fine balance. A very fine balance!


“Metamorphosis" © Corina Duyn 2011


My initial art and writing was all about eggs, and birds, and flying. See my first book Hatched or my New Beginnings gallery. At least twelve years into the illness the work changed to using roots. Maybe I had become more rooted, more accepting of the reality of illness in my life, and gave up on the ‘need’ to fly away from illness. These days, it seems to be all about boxes...


"Stepping out of the box” © Corina Duyn 2014

My latest book Into the Light, three years in the making, is a book-in-a-box. The loose sheets deal with the daily challenges, the medics, society’s perceptions, but also the power of creativity and those beautiful moments of gratitude. All through images of art and nature and very short observations. This final format was created around the same time as the sculpture ‘Stepping out of the box’ (a coincidence I only realized months later), and the participants of the recent puppet workshop decided on ‘Life Outside the Box’ as its title.

“Into the Light” book-in-a-box Corina Duyn 2015


In the summer of 2015 I started facilitating the Puppet Project with my fellow members of the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA). We were to create a series of puppets, make a set, write a script and create a short film. During the first session I brought the little box sculpture with me and suggested that maybe we could make a large version of this and it would allow for each puppet to be created as an individual, and each one can ‘leave the box and step out into the world’. The reactions were amazing. All sort of ideas were floating through the room. Butterfly, a dancer, a biker, a musician.
Little did I know how powerful an adventure it would become. We didn’t just create puppets. We re-created ourselves in a way. We all stepped – proudly – out of the box.

The puppets have taken over our lives. They have taken over my life. They are intent on going on journeys. Two have visited Youghal beach – others are going to Spain on holidays in May.


My puppet “Johnny Dwyer” stepping out of Society’s Disability Box.
© Corina Duyn 2015


I believe the puppets are speaking for us. We communicate through our puppets – that yes, we are living with illness or disability – but we are very much part of society in our own right. We are capable of doing many things – including making puppets, creating a book, a video, having an exhibition and having an awful lot of fun doing so. We very much live outside the box.

These two Box-projects have helped me too. The interest I received for Into the Light and successfully guiding the group through eight months of this puppet project have given me the courage to give a lecture at University College Cork (UCC - Ireland) by invitation of the Folklore Department. The title of the talk was 'BOXED OUT:  Art and Disability - A Folklore and Gender perspective.' It was an interesting experience, on many levels.

I have learned to speak up, and be proud of whom I am. What I have achieved. The power of creativity never ceases to amaze me. Wishing you all the best, and hope you find some creativity in your life. For more about my journey, art, and books see website and blog.

The Puppet Project was kindly supported by an Artist in the Community Scheme funded by the Arts Council of Ireland. Into the Light was supported by Rehab Visual Art’s Bursary.


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