I’m still buried under responsibilities, so buried I’m getting visions of Dr. Hunt shouting compartment syndrome. Just joking. I’m probably going to get it now somehow.
I think that about everything. Whenever somebody makes a morbid joke around me I am convinced I’ll die next week of whatever they said, laughing nervously and tapping my head in search of wood. I am afraid even typing this.
Anyway since I don’t have time to write, here’s an old interview with the amazing Hannah Hill. Since this interview Hannah has now went viral with a cross stitch meme, been interviewed by Vice and co-curated LDN WMN for the Tate Modern, a collection of large-scale public artworks exhibited around London.
If you don’t hear from me by next week I’m with the fallen of Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital.
Hannah Hill is a 24 year old woman from London. What initially drew me to Hannah’s social media presence is her power to use raw relation in a way most girls can’t stomach. She is forthcoming with her position on social standards, mental health, immigration, drug use, politics, equality and body image, but she also shares her weaknesses and strengths. She lays herself bare and brave. Throughout, she has cultivated a network of girls who genuinely care about her; girls who read her vulnerable musings like a diary, who notice when she seems happy or sad, and like a private-public chat room, they communicate those concerns and well wishes for all to see.
Scrolling through Hannah’s Instagram is the mental equivalent of a girls’ sleepover. It’s like the admiration for yourself you wanted to have but didn’t know where or how to start, like an uninhibited conversation in the girls’ bathroom with someone you immediately know has shared a slice of your love and loss.
Hannah is single-handedly the girl gang we all need. She is the kind of girl who dominates Laura Callaghan’s illustrations – sassy, sincere and unapologetically sexual. She’s the person reinforcing feelings worth talking about and with 24k people watching, it’s a socially significant mind-set to have and a courageous life to live.
One of the most recurring aspects of your Instagram is artwork.
How does art fit into your life and as a fine art student what kind of work do you create?
Art is literally everything to me. I fucked up at school, came out with minimal GCSE’s and a BTEC from college. Without art, I honestly don’t know what I would be doing and I know that sounds so cliched but its really true. I’m always thinking about new pieces of work or projects, but lack of motivation can be a real problem for me. My work is very autobiographical, through stitching but more recently through drawing as well.
Hand embroidery seems to be your favourite media at the moment. When did you first get into it, and is it something you would say benefits your mood and could be a creative outlet you would recommend to others for de-stressing?
I started stitching when I was about 17, although the influence was always around me as my mama is very crafty and a skilled embroiderer. It wasn’t until college though that I really tried it for myself and saw it as a new way of mark making. I was never confident in my drawing skills, and had a lot of anxiety about producing work, but embroidery really changed that. It takes so much patience and planning and with lots of practice has turned into my chosen medium. Embroidery is mainly therapeutic to me as a process but when getting commissions I don’t think people realise how labour intensive it is, which causes me stress to work under tough deadlines. I always feel accomplished with the final results which makes all my hard work worth it though.
As someone who posts openly about the ups and downs of depression and the aid of your support system around you when rough patches happen – what people, places and things do you maintain relationships with to keep a sound and satisfied mind?
I am truly blessed to have an amazing mum dad and brother who I am 100% honest and open with, which means we all support each other and can confide in one another, especially when I am feeling bad. I do feel like a burden sometimes, but that’s the depression talking, and through our hardships with mental illness, we have become closer as a family. My best friend is my biggest cheerleader and I’m hers, I’m so lucky to have someone love me the way she does, and to give that love right back at her, she is a shining star. I have good friends who support me and keep me grounded, who I can have stimulating conversations with, and get high and laugh. A month ago a stray cat walked into our lives and we have fallen in love with her. She’s become my companion and definitely impacted my mental health in a positive way. I listen to grime music and smoke weed, binge watch trash TV and try to appreciate nature or the small things in life. Reading comments on Instagram has also become the highlight of my days with so many beautiful people connecting with me.
Was there ever any element of denial in your attitude towards your mental health, and what helped you feel comfortable with yourself?
I was sort of thrown in at the deep end with my depression, it came out of nowhere in the form of suicide attempts and self harm. I think because I missed so much school, I developed this ability to not care what my peers may think of me as I went back and finished my GCSE’s. My mum has a history of depression which is both good and bad at times. I’m not sure when I decided to be open about my struggles, it kind of just happened naturally. Its been one of the most rewarding parts of my life, having people share their stories and experiences with me so openly, to have people care about my wellbeing and create a sort of community.
Body positivity is something you have weaved through all of your posts. When I look through your profile, I see a steady belief that loving your body is one of the most important things you could do as a person. Would you say that’s true and have you always felt this way?
As I have learned more about feminism, I have learned the importance of loving yourself. I have always had strong women around me who were not afraid of showing their lumps and bumps, as well as normalising female nudity without sexualisation. This has given me the safety blanket of self love, but I still go through immense low self-esteem even now. I guess it really is a journey that most of us will spend our lives figuring out but it is so important to do so. Self acceptance mixed with laziness has helped me to not care about body hair or scars, and from there I have learned to embrace things which we’re taught to hate about ourselves in the media.
Recently one of your beautiful Instagram posts was removed due to the visibility of hair. Comments on your picture were quick to point out the double standard for men who can share images with snail-trails with no consequence.
Where is the line drawn for women and how do you feel about Instagram’s role in this? Do you think social media organisations have a responsibility to be on top of and at the forefront of social progress, especially in regards to women, like the #freethenipple campaign?
I was really gutted when that image was removed. I really liked every aspect of that photograph and saw many women commenting on it positively about body confidence and girl love. There is a huge problem with the censorship of women’s bodies on social media. I have had pictures taken down of paintings where pubic hair is shown, which absolutely did not go against any of Instagram’s community guidelines. There is a clear distinction between oppressive, oversexualised images of women’s bodies, and women finding empowerment in showing off their bodies, or bodies in art. Free the nipple is a good start but I feel like that movement mainly represents skinny white women, and can excluded many people who don’t fit into those boxes. That is an amazing thing about Instagram though, that I can follow many babes of all shapes colours and sizes, who I can relate to and see beauty in.
Have there been any significant moments for you to make you feel as strongly as you do about body positivity?
I’m not sure I can think of a specific moment that made me feel this strongly, it is mainly my intense frustration at the hypocrisy and injustice that so many people deal with. We were taught to hate ourselves, critique ourselves and our appearance instead of accepting ourselves and showing what more we have to offer other than our looks. Saying that, I grew up with a lot of art around me which represented plus size women, women with body hair and non-sexualised nudity which definitely reassured me. Little things like that are so, so important.
If you could go back and tell your younger self three things you know now, what would they be?
1. Don’t shave your lip hair, if you really want it removed ask mum coz she’s an expert lol, but also don’t worry too much about it because its not the end of the world and that’s just how you are!
2. Stay in London to get your degree with the support of your family around you
3. Practice drawing
Image Credit: Girls With Tattoos
Interview date 02/09/2015
Published here for GUM