Play with Subliming

An Interview with Tessa Forrest

Posted on 12/08/21

A reminder that 'Timing is Everything' and practicing play and presence are the key to strong mental health.

State your name and what you’d like to be presented as.

 

My name is Tessa Forrest. I'm an artist, graphic designer and I have a project called Subliming. That's kind of my gig.

 

Walk us through the origin or Subliming and a little bit about its journey.

 

I started subliming in 2016, I was working at an agency in Florida and I was depressed and uninspired. I had a lot of things going on personally and I wanted somewhere to put all of this creative energy that I had. I was also learning about spirituality and wellness for the first time. It kind of just came together in a perfect formula and just became a brain dump, a portfolio, and just a space for play.

 

You’ve stated that you began posting your work as a form of therapy and to release your excess creativity, with growth did you feel yourself moving away from your original intentions?

 

I think I did pretty good at staying true to what it was supposed to be. I always kept that top of mind, but it was hard when I started growing. I had all this attention, there was a lot of noise and you want to keep up especially, on social media. I knew I started that project as a way for me to communicate my feelings. Like a diary, a way to process my emotions, so it always remained that for me. Even until the past year, it's still a diary for me, it's still a way I process my emotions. I can feel overwhelmed when I have a lot going on. I'll take some time to process and create something that I feel helps me put it all together in a visual form too. I think that's something that I've done a pretty good job doing. That's always been important to me.

In your own words, what does Play mean to you?

 

To me, Play means staying in the moment. When you are in a sense of play, you are not thinking about anything else. You're only engaging in the complete present moment. You are fully authentically 100% yourself, and you are not trying to be anything that you're not. You're just enjoying yourself and enjoying the moment.

 

Can you walk us through how your idea of play has evolved over time?

 

Growing up, I would like to pick up rocks and want to see bugs underneath but, also I would sit at my table in my kitchen and take my parent's copy paper and I would draw over and over and over. I feel like that has just evolved into different forms as in middle or high school, it was a little bit more refined art. I would go hang out with my friends, and we would go to the beach. Then in college, it would be a similar thing where I'd be doing more extensive paintings or more thought-out pieces of art. Then I got into the digital space, which was a new thing for me. Exploring a new medium of digital art and then again exploring the Earth. I think those two things are such a through-line for the way that I see the world.

 

What was your favorite children’s game?

 

My best friend and I would hand draw clothing catalogs. That’s the first thing that comes to mind that we would do. We would draw clothing catalogs, not even artful high fashion magazines. It would be today's e-comm. It’s just so funny to me, we would draw out all the pages, staple it together on the side, and it would be our little clothing catalog. It was a way for us to draw outfits we wish we could wear. When you're eight years old, you want to dress like a teenager, that was so fun. I would also pretend I was a makeup artist. I would do all my friend's and my sister's makeup. Everything was always creative; it was always me pretending that I had some sort-of adult creative role. I remember rearranging all the pillows and little knick-knacks in my parents' house. I said that I wanted to get into interior design when I was older. Looking back on all these things, it was just a lot of playful experimentation with all this stuff.

"When you are in a sense of play, you are not thinking anything else. You're only engaging in the complete present moment."

In work and life, do women have the same ability to express play, or playfulness, as men?

 

I think in a lot of ways men have been socialized to not get as emotional. Look inward and be introspective which is a huge element of play, so in one way, I think they are cut a little short. Then in another way, I think a lot of women are always struggling to be taken seriously and make sure that they are on their best behavior. Sometimes that removes an element of play, so I think the word nuances is it. The goal is to allow everyone to be who they are, then that way, a sense of play is encouraged between everyone.

 

What does mental health mean to you?

 

I think mental health is about your internal systems, your environment, and your tools. It's really about strengthening all of those things to have a strong sense of mental health. You have to work through issues, work through traumas, work through insecurities, work through the pain. Things that you didn't realize from your childhood, a lot of self-esteem, self-love, self-acceptance, self-compassion, and forgiveness because you're not going to get it right you know you're not going to get it right all the time.

What do you do when you feel anxiety building?

 

I reach for my toolbox when I'm feeling low. Have I gone outside, had enough water, focused on my breath for literally 30 seconds, have I talked to a friend? Acupuncture has been a huge one for me recently, that's been a new tool to my toolbox that has increased my mental health. Then also, a lot of self-compassion because I think there's so much pressure to get everything right all the time. We all analyze ourselves so much now to where we think that because we understand where our feelings are coming from, we are going to work through them quicker than we are. Allow things to be the way they are and be at peace with yourself for noticing that you're not feeling your best and not trying to rush yourself out of it. That's what helps me and that's what I try to do, I try to ask myself where it's coming from? What's bothering me? I try to talk to myself as if I was talking to my best friend, and what's been on my mind. Has anything come up recently and it's funny because sometimes you don't even realize when a little mood comes on where it's coming from or where things are stemming from completely. I just try to ask myself those questions and then reach for my toolbox.

 

From your honesty in how you felt working for other people before you were self-employed, is there any advice you would give to people who want to make a change?

 

You have to let it flow when it flows. You have to put in some practice because I think creativity or whatever field you're trying to go into, it's a muscle. You have to ask yourself questions and be your mentor in a way. I would pretend that if someone was mentoring me for this phase of life, what would they ask me, what would they suggest I do? You have to find that inner wisdom that involves being patient, putting one foot in front of the other, making small steps. It could be overwhelming to try to do everything at once. You immediately want to succeed in this new phase that you’re going into, and it doesn't work that way. It's not going to work that way and it's good that it doesn't work like that because it gives you time to settle in.

"Allow things to be the way they are and be at peace with yourself for noticing that you're not feeling your best and not trying to rush yourself out of it. You have that peace of knowing that it is temporary, even if it doesn't feel like it. It's so hard to believe that it's just a thought and that it is temporary, but you just have to wait it out and get to the other side."

Your work seems to challenge the narrative of hustle culture, among others, by simply reminding people to look inward and to find the root of their happiness or unhappiness. What experiences shaped this point of view for you?

 

When I started Subliming a lot of people wanted me to turn it into a brand. They wanted me to sell products and they would tell me you can do something with this. I just never wanted to, I liked it for what it was, and I didn't want to make it bigger than what it was. Having a following and suddenly feeling a lot of pressure from people to be this complete version of myself or a version of who they think I am, was often met with a lot of disappointment. When people would meet me, they realized I was more dysfunctional than I seemed to be. When I create these messages, I am trying to learn them too, and not preaching. I am journaling for myself. We talk a lot about healing but, you are never completely healed, never completely whole, it is a journey, and it never stops. Having been someone who grew a following, I am lucky because I'm saying nice things. Saying nice things that people want to hear and so everyone is happy, they praise me, everyone is so grateful that I am in this space but then I fall apart again. Then I don't know how to share or I don't believe what I am putting out because I am depressed. After all, I am not perfect. I wouldn't say it's a facade, but there is just so much more than meets the eye.

 

Inside all of us, each day is our little selves just trying to get out there and play, to explore, and to find answers. What does your inner child want, what answers are you searching for?

 

This one is personal but something that has given me so much peace. I realize that my purpose in life is to love myself. Through my family, everyone's inner child and child didn't get to learn that lesson, and I think that is my family's lesson. That has been top-of-mind for me lately. The wounds that are left unhealed from our families inevitably get passed down to us. It does not mean anyone is necessarily at fault or wrong for not healing those wounds. It takes a lot of work, and I think our generation is lucky that there is a lot of dialogue around these things because it wasn't normalized in past generations. That's what my inner child wants, is to love myself and enjoy myself no matter what. Through that, I am such a peaceful person.

"I realize that my purpose
in life is to love myself."

How did the Play with Subliming watch concept begin to develop?

 

The name of the play watch planted the seed in my brain of how I wanted it to look. I wanted to tap into my inner child as a playful person and lean into that, what felt fun, free, confident, present, mindful, and exploring how that could look.

 

What sort of influences did you pull from?

 

Tying back to when I felt most free and playful, as most people can say, is in our childhoods. Luckily, we're the generation that grew up with Y2K, so I pulled from a lot of 90s references. It was such a fun and magical time, whether that's just my memory or not. I love the energy of a sporty, playful, fun, light, and not taking anything too seriously. Clear materials, sparkles, colors, and it was really fun.

 

What was the inspiration behind the keychain?

 

I think bubble letters are the unspoken font of the Y2K era, so playing into that style and then Timing is Everything. Take the time to remember that timing is everything, which means that the now is timing, that the now is everything, and that being in the present moment, just enjoying your life and being playful. It is a little reminder of that, and to have it on your keychain and to look down on that and remember to have fun, play, and be present was the inspiration.

 

What do you want people to feel when they wear the Play with Subliming watch?

 

I want people to feel inspired to be in the present moment however that means. Go outside and go for a walk, go on a trip, be in nature, move your body, hang out at home, and if you want to make art. I think being comfortable and feeling that nostalgia of that freedom and playfulness that we had as kids growing up, where nothing mattered. That energy could be utilized better as adults. If you can have a little bit of that on your wrist to remember, that’s the goal.