II’ll Share My Spoons is a project developed by Kate Welsh at the Feminist Art Collective residency on Toronto Island in May 2017.
I developed this series of 10 greeting cards as an alternative to “get well” cards. Get Well cards can often feel patronizing if you have a chronic illness that will never get better. Episodic disabilities are long-term conditions that are characterized by periods of good health interrupted by periods of illness or disability. These periods may vary in severity, length and predictability from one person to another. HIV, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and MS are some examples.
The sentiment of Get Well cards may be pure, acting as a vehicle for the the card giver to express their care and love for the sick person, but ideas of getting “better” or getting “well” are out of reach for a chronically ill person. Having a chronic illness and episodic disability means I may never fit into your ideal of what healthy or well looks like. I made this series of greeting cards so that family and friends can express their care and love while honoring the reality of the sick person’s illness. Being sick sucks but it can suck a little less when you receive genuine love and care. This series of cards ranges from serious and heartfelt to light and funny. Hopefully these cards will make you reflect on what you are actually trying to convey when you give a Get Well card. Are you demanding that I fit into your expectations of what better or well looks like or are you expressing your love for me?
Be Good To Yourself
Crip Care Card: Self-Care and Resilience
Self-Care is not self-indulgent or selfish, it’s about the day to day things we must do in order to survive life. The way we manage our health, our bodies, our spirits. This card is a reminder that we need to be gentle with ourselves especially when it’s easy to blame our bodies and circumstances for how badly we may feel.
Crip Care Card: Congratulations!
Finally getting a diagnosis is often cause for celebration, finally having a name for all the misery is a possible way forward. Having a diagnostic name can be a start to finding community and support. Getting a name can take forever and may bring a lot of mixed feelings but it’s important to celebrate what we can.
Crip Care Card: Sick Femme
Being sick/disabled and femme can be hard. When we don't feel well, putting on our femme armour is daunting. Gender presentation can be difficult when it takes extra effort such as putting on makeup, and this card is a good reminder that I can be sick and a femme even if I don’t always have the energy to put on my femme armour.
Nourishment as Care
Crip Care Card: Food
Sometimes you want to show your love with some food, give this card as a coupon for later or alongside their favorite homemade dish. Nourishment can be one of the best ways to show love and care, especially since grocery shopping, food prep and cooking can take lots of energy. I also was intentional about having comfort food of various cultures represented on this card. Often mainstream cards continue to perpetuate white supremacy, this card attempts to challenge that.
I'll Share My Spoons
Crip Care Card: Spoons
This card is a nod to Spoon Theory and disability subculture. Sharing your spoons means you are willing to give up some of your energy so that your loved one can have some energy especially when they may not have any/much because of chronic illness/disability. Spoon Theory is a disability metaphor used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness. Spoons are a visual representation used as a unit of measurement in order to quantify how much energy a person has throughout a given day. Each activity requires a given number of spoons, which will only be replaced as the person "recharges" through rest. A person who runs out of spoons has no choice but to rest until their spoons are replenished. See Spoon Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoon_theory
Crip Care Card: Navigating Systems of Care
Navigating healthcare systems is hard, really hard. Doctors send us to specialists, they send us to other specialists, for tests, for treatment, to more doctors and more specialists. We explore alternative options and end up where we started. It’s tiring and this card validates that.
CripCareCards: You're Invited...
Being sick/disabled/chronically ill can sometimes mean you have to cancel plans and are at risk of seeming "flaky." Hanging out can look many different ways and being invited to make plans even though I may cancel or may be sick is such a strong message of love and care.
Crip Care Card: Pumpkin Time
Sometimes you need to leave, no questions asked and no explanation needed. My fellow spoonies and I call this "pumpkin time," as in "I need to leave otherwise I will turn into a pumpkin," ala Cinderella. Let your spoonie friend know that their experiences are valid and don't need an explanation. This card was the original inspiration for this project. My neighbor, who has Lyme disease, and I would often end our hangouts citing “pumpkin time”. I originally made a card like this for her.
Crip Care Card: Rainbow Vomit
Being sicks sucks, this card acknowledges sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh. Inspired by the rainbow vomit Snapchat filter. In this project, as an intersectional feminist artist, I knew that representation was crucial. The skin tone on this card can be interpreted in many ways and reflects an alternative to traditional greeting cards which perpetuate white supremacy by excluding people of colour.