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Why nature and creativity go hand in hand with wellbeing

A couple of summers ago, I was suffering from severe depression and insomnia and hadn't had a proper night's sleep in years. I was referred by my GP to the Sleepstation service for sleep therapy. Doesn't that sound lovely? Well, the outcome was... the getting there, not so much. Over the course of six weeks, my time allowed in bed was restricted to just four hours per day. To someone who is severely sleep deprived, the idea of not being allowed to go to bed to try and have a nap if I needed one seemed like torture. And it was. At first.


What I quickly realised, though, was that getting up at 4am meant that I got to experience things that I wouldn't normally. A quiet house. Nobody asking for a snack or to be taken to the toilet. The sound of the birds waking. The sun rising over the crags and fields behind my house and filling my studio with the most beautiful rose-gold light. Some time... just for me. To create. To be still. To see and think about nature.


Each morning, I'd take my peppermint tea out to the garden and enjoy the cool air before the light started to show. Then I'd climb the four floors up to my studio, open one of my butterfly or flower reference books and start cutting.


Work in progress - artist Kat Taylor creates a common blue butterfly using cup paper collage
Work in progress: a common blue butterfly

Focussing on the intricate details of the butterflies' wings, the tiny feather-like hairs on their bodies, the different textures and colours and thinking of ways to recreate them from tiny pieces of painted paper allowed me to completely empty my mind of everything else.


Work in progress: artist Kat Taylor pieces together a small tortoiseshell butterfly from over 100 pieces of painted paper
Work in progress: a small tortoiseshell butterfly

For three whole hours each day, with only the silence and birdsong for company, I created butterflies. Beautiful, palm-sized, photorealistic butterflies made from paper.


A marbled white butterfly made from over 100 pieces of cut and torn paper rests on artist Kat Taylor's palm
A marbled white butterfly

During those six weeks, not only did my sleep improve, but so did my mental wellbeing. I began to feel happier. Lighter. More calm. I realised that this new connection with nature was bringing me something I hadn't had before.


A peacock butterfly made from over 100 pieces of cut and torn paper rests on artist Kat Taylor's palm
A peacock butterfly

I started going on long walks in the woods with my daughter. Paddling in the stream. Picking up leaves and looking at all the different shades and textures. Actively seeking out wildlife. And I began to feel better still. And the better I felt, the more creative I became. We started taking sketchbooks and an art pack with a variety of papers, crayons, pastels and pencils, and we drew and wrote about what we saw on our walks


A swallowtail butterfly made from over 100 pieces of cut and torn paper rests on artist Kat Taylor's palm
A swallowtail butterfly

This link with nature was like a drug. The more I had, the more I wanted. I spent that entire summer outside and by the end of that six weeks, I had produced a whole kaleidoscope of British butterflies in cut paper collage, each made from up to 200 individual pieces of paper. I had achieved something; something beautiful, something I felt proud of. And I was sleeping again, like a baby in fact.


A Camberwell beauty butterfly made from over 100 pieces of cut and torn paper rests on artist Kat Taylor's palm
A Camberwell beauty

I have made sure that I maintain that friendship with nature. I walk for at least two hours a day, I keep a nature journal, I garden, I spot butterflies and bees and birds and insects, and my art continues to be inspired by the things that I see. I am happy.


A red admiral butterfly made from over 100 pieces of cut and torn paper rests on artist Kat Taylor's palm
A red admiral butterfly

My butterflies are available as greeting cards and a butterflies of Britain art print in my shop.

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