WHELMED is a project born out of necessity – it is a book written entirely in quotes that have been curated from conversations with anonymous sufferers of mental illnesses. It is a resource designed and illustrated for young adults and creates for this age bracket an open communication about struggling with diseases and disorders, such as depression. However, it is also designed to allow anybody to step inside the mind of somebody struggling with mental illnesses, and learn to better empathise with the struggles.
The narrative is contained within the over-arching metaphor of the mind as a house, and the viewer is led through the story by a character dressed in red – an ode to Little Red Riding Hood and her quest to avoid the “Big Bad Wolf” (an obvious metaphor for depression). The illustration techniques are a combination of etching, linocut, scratchboard and digital media, pieced together in Photoshop. Other analogue techniques are also used – the dust jacket and the type for the book are embroidered by hand. The precision and obsessive quality that analogue techniques require is fitting for the content. In the book, dark quotes from real people are contrasted against childlike illustrations to enable a visual discussion about the nature of regressing into childhood habits for someone with a mental illness. The characters are also drawn in a childish, blank style that portrays them that allows anyone of any age bracket to relate to them.
The nostalgia associated with picture books is palpable for many people, and it is for this reason that this book exists. By placing a dark topic within something that people have such a positive response to, the book provides a safe viewing platform for the subject matter – it is contained, approachable. The book can be closed at anytime, and yet it enables open communication around the subject. The format itself acts as its own safety net for the content within.
Nga Pae Mahutonga - The School of Design, Massey University, New Zealand