Anxiety and The Artist

You all know me as a Chloe Dougan: Fashion Designer since I launched my own fashion brand after graduating. I studied Textile Art, Design with Fashion in the University of Ulster and it wasn’t until my final year that I decided to focus on fashion! When I left school to go to UUB, I was sure I wanted to work in ceramics or textiles, I loved making pieces with clay and imprinting lace and fabrics into them to create gorgeous designs. My mind was made up, I was certain this was my chosen career path. I loved making things in my spare time and I didn’t need to try to be creative, I just always was. And it was lovely.

Little did I know that Uni was going to be nowhere near what I expected. I went from top of the class in school to the bottom of the pile in Uni, I was so demotivated, felt so out of place and for the first time in my life I didn’t feel creative.

During my time at Uni, a lot had happened in my personal and family life, I dipped in and out of the Uni scene, skipping lectures and missing tutorials and found myself getting so lost. I didn’t want to work in front of my classmates, I didn’t listen to the lecturers, I lost my enthusiasm and really just stopped caring altogether. For a long time, I blamed other people for my lack of success during this time, I just thought I hated my course, things at home really distracted me and no one in Uni seemed to really understand my thought process. The reality was I was suffering from terrible anxiety and depression.

It wasn’t until I almost dropped out in second year that I realised how bad my situation had gotten. I didn’t even recognise myself, it felt so bad to have always been so good at something and suddenly lose the skill altogether.

Years have passed now and looking back I wish I had made different choices, looked after myself a bit better and maybe not have let all the negatively sink in. Sometimes you just need time to fix yourself.  

Now, being self-employed, I have to be my own motivation. I love the freedom with this, (as obviously being told what to do in Uni did not work for me) but it is not without its low points. I am so lucky that every working day is different for me, I have had some amazing opportunities along the way and I have met some amazing people. At the same time, I have had sleepless nights worrying whether I will meet deadlines, panicking over whether my clients will like my ideas and stressing over money and what my next move will be.

The thing with being in the creative industry is that you open yourself up for scrutiny. The deepest, most secret places of you that you share through your work are out to be judged. This judgement isn’t vindictive of course, but with anything art related the artist has to be prepared for people to dislike their work, and for me, especially if it’s been a particularly anxious week, it is very hard to take. I have always taken things to heart.

So this is how I came up with Anxiety and The Artist. Just because you are a creative and you are lucky enough to work in an industry you love, does not make you more fortunate or our job any easier than someone working the 9-5 desk job. In my opinion, and yes perhaps I am bias here, an artist’s work is more raw and vulnerable, we work by ourselves, make all our own decisions and struggle with the constant battle of making money or keeping our artistic integrity.

Hand and machine embroidery techniques and hand beading. 

Hand and machine embroidery techniques and hand beading. 

The Arts Council NI have supported and funded this project and it feels so good to be supported on something I am so passionate about. I am very grateful to the Arts Council and its Support for the Individual Artist Scheme 2017 as without this type of public funding my project would not be happening! It is so lovely to finally get back to making artwork that is just for me.

“Anxiety and the Artist explores a personal relationship with being a creative; the challenges and opportunities that happen along the way, and the struggle worry and stress that come along in the same package.”

“This project explores the vulnerability of creating art, taking its influences from Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver. The Japanese believe the repair of an object gives it a new lease of life, and the piece should be displayed with pride, even more beautiful now it has been repaired.”I think this is a really beautiful concept and I had to include it in my work.

My interpretation of Kintsugi patterns on embroidered leather.

My interpretation of Kintsugi patterns on embroidered leather.

Throughout the next few weeks I will be sharing my story in the build-up to my exhibition on April 12th, I’m hoping to get other artists involved and will be using the hashtag #anxietyandtheartist so if you fancy getting involved please email me on or use the hashtag on your social media.

Sometimes its nice to know you are not the only one who has anxiety. Speak soon, C 


Arts Council NI
Chloe DouganComment