‘For a Friend’ is a body of work that is based on several self care principles and themes. In my process, I explore each theme through character design and creating respective worlds for these characters. The themes are as follows: For a Friend With Anxiety, For a Friend Who Needs Creative Energy, For a Friend Who Needs Rest, and For a Friend Who Needs Affirmation.
I chose to pursue this project because I wanted to address mental health and self care in a thoughtful, positive manner. I grew up in an environment where I didn’t know how to describe my anxiety or voice my need for affirmation. Inspired by the notion of guardian angels, imaginary childhood companions, and even religious icons that are meant to instill comfort, stability, and fondness, I started off with making plush toys. I chose to make plush toys due to my personal association with them growing up. For me, plush toys were a way to engage with an otherwise flat cartoon on a screen, or a character from a book. Their physicality allowed me to further understand the character as well as be able to conjure my own narratives. While the fundamental design and materials of these ‘friends’ was a starting point, I wanted to provide audiences with a roadmap of sorts in how they could choose to approach self care. Initially, I wanted to make zines or guidebooks that would utilize text, but was later persuaded to try a more image-heavy approach. These 2-D pieces vary in format, but serve to accompany each corresponding plush. The character is imagined in different scenarios, and these scenes are then compressed onto the same plane to tell a larger story. These scenes depict each character approaching their respective theme in different ways. These scenarios were collected by asking my family, friends, and acquaintances how they personally cope with anxiety, a creative block, and so on. By moving away from using leading text, I could achieve my goal of letting audiences choose how they want to approach self care without creating a specific rulebook or pushing a certain agenda. Each aforementioned theme comes with several products to reinforce the presence of each Friend in its owner’s life. Each package comes with a tote bag, stickers, the plush, and some form of 2-D illustration. I chose to curate this project as a whole package to encourage the notion of gift-giving and generosity. The title of this project was also chosen for this specific reason. The tags that go along with these products have been left with a blank space so that the giver may insert a thoughtful, personal note for the recipient.