Mental Health and Creativity

CREATING your way to Positive Mental Health

by Elizabeth Rice

I do not have it all figured out. Who does? I do however, believe that sharing one’s journey and opening up the conversation is one of the healthiest things we can do for one another and ourselves.

Personally, I have experienced a range of emotions and all levels of happiness at varying points in my life. That’s humanity, right? One constant in my life, has been the desire to create. I have always enjoyed the problem solving components of a DIY project, art in all mediums, and the pride in creating something.

My company, Concrete Theory, was created out of a weekend project. I found myself in a stressful, yet rewarding day job that took a lot out of me. I set a goal to do something I enjoyed, just for myself, every weekend. A few weekends into this journey, I discovered the medium of concrete and rediscovered how great it felt to create something.

There are two types of “funk” I tend to find myself; a compulsive urge to do a million things within forty-five minutes and the lack of desire to do much of anything. When I am feeling down or defeated it is my instinct to withdraw and isolate. Despite knowing this to be the less than ideal choice, it happens. Having a creative outlet has been a great asset when these feelings arise. Often times, taking that first step of creating something new reminds me why I started in the first place. Similarly, finishing a previously started project gets me going again and allows me to check something off the never-ending list. The sense of accomplishment (usually paired with a cup of coffee) reignites my desire to share in the community again and reminds me what I love.

Art as Meditation

by Hannah Martin

A great number of celebrated artists were known to suffer from various forms of mental illness and while I don’t know if there is a direct link between this, I can somewhat imagine what it might have felt like to create. Anyone who has suffered a mental illness and has practiced art will know that art is almost like escapism. Sitting down to practice some sort of art forces us to think about what we are doing in the current moment; it almost becomes a trance. Meditation also emphasizes the same state of mind, focus on the present moment and let everything else escape you.

I often think about how it feels to create. Meditation seems to be one of the closest ways to describe that feeling. Despite the creative process being different for every individual, there seems to be a unifying factor that brings a sense of escapism. On top of that, creativity is a form of self-expression, which implies that when we create we are reflecting on ourselves and using art as an outlet to organize our reflections.

Whether it’s writing or painting, practicing your creativity is one of the best ways to alter your state of mind, reflect on yourself and bring about positive change towards your mental health.

Resources for mental health:

Find FREE mental health resources in Milwaukee here.

Bloom Center for Art and Integrated Therapies

NAMI Greater Milwaukee

Lighthouse Clinic

La Causa

Pathfinders Milwaukee

Wraparound Milwaukee




Feature: Elizabeth Rice of Concrete Theory

Elizabeth Rice is a Milwaukee native who creates and designs concrete goods. Her work often features geometrical shapes and greatly involves plants and greenery. She has participated in maker markets around Milwaukee and loves contributing to the maker network in Milwaukee.

unnamed (1)

Where did your inspiration behind Concrete Theory come from?

I am constantly inspired by design & culture around me. Concrete Theory began as a weekend project in a time when I was experimenting with a new medium each week. I was living in Austin, Texas when I planned to try something different each week for a few months.  Two weeks in, I fell in love with concrete. I have always loved puzzles and problem solving. Mixing concrete and using recycled and found objects as molds for my work is the ultimate puzzle!

What does your creative process look like when it comes to making concrete goods?

The process often times begins when I least expect it. A take-out container, an item at the grocery store, or a trip to Home Depot have been known to spark an idea in me! I begin with finding the exterior mold for the object that I want to creste. These vessels range from milk cartons, to to-go containers, coffee cups to gift boxes. The puzzle component comes in next when I need to find a smaller, interior vessel. When the molds have been designated, I hand mix the concrete and pour it into the  forms to set. Waiting until the concrete has cured is crucial and releasing the item from its vessel is very satisfying!

What’s one thing you’ve learned since starting Concrete Theory and how has it impacted your creative process?

Great question. As satisfying as the end result can be, the process of creating with concrete has been a lot of learning through trial and error. One thing that a lot of people may not know is how fickle concrete can be. I have learned that each bag of cement is variable in texture and grit. I am constantly surprised by how different materials manifest the production of concrete. For example, cardboard is too porous, aluminum does not release cleanly, and shape and size can affect the integrity of the object.

What inspires you about Milwaukee?

Being a native of Milwaukee, I have a lot of iconic memories in The Good Land. However, I am loving the influx of new restaurants, shops and buildings lately. Shapes and textures inspire me. The geometry of new buildings in contrast to the lake is breathtaking.

I am also very inspired by the community here. I have found the local business and the “maker” communities to be welcoming and supportive.

 What is your go to shop to buy plants from in Milwaukee?

 I love Rojahn & Mullaney for large orders and beautiful fresh florals & Bayside Garden Center for tropical and succulents. I always find unique plants at ModGen, Ursa, and the seasonal farmers markets (I’d love to hear where others shop for plants!)

Find Concrete Theory on Instagram and Facebook!