Whitby Artist Empowers Mental Wellness Through DIY Art
If you feel like you spend all your time these days staring at a screen, you’re not alone. With the majority of our population working and socializing from home this past year, screen fatigue has become a major problem for many people. When Carmen Darley, founder of Carli D Collective, developed her DIY resin project boxes as part of her art business, she hoped to provide a creative outlet for unplugging. Each box contains everything needed to create DIY resin pieces, such as coasters. The boxes are accessible for beginners to resin work, as well as creators with a little more experience.
“More so than ever, creating something from scratch is very important,” says Carmen. “It empowers us to take a mental break from Zoom and social media, and really focus on our capabilities and what we can do with our hands.”
Of course, COVID-19 has limited opportunities for customers to connect with Carmen’s art and access her products in person, which was why getting a website set up was so crucial for her business. This was where the ShopHERE Powered By Google Program stepped in to help. “I basically didn’t have a site and I didn’t know where to start before this program,” explains Carmen, who runs her business from her Whitby, ON, workshop.
“Kylie, my eCommerce Coordinator, was amazing. She was patient and investigated everything that I envisioned. She really brought the conceptual ideas to life!”
Carmen’s investment in mental health and wellness has deeply personal roots. As a recovering alcoholic, mother, mental health advocate and motivator, she started her business back in 2016 with the goal of giving back to her community. As she tells people on her new site, her mission is “not change the world but the world of one person” just as her own support network has done for her. Through her partnership with the Ontario Shores Foundation, she uses her project boxes to facilitate workshops that encourage participants to discover paths to mental wellness through the hands-on powers of art and creativity. A number of the events Carmen hosts contribute some or all of their proceeds to supporting the foundation’s initiatives and research related to mental health. She also facilitates workshops and art sessions as a volunteer with the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health.
Since March 2020, Carmen has sold project boxes to over 500 customers. Although the pandemic limited her fundraising efforts for 2020, it also provided opportunities for new ways to connect with customers and open conversations about mental health. Carli D Collective’s project boxes have allowed Carmen to lead and facilitate virtual birthday parties, helping kids stay connected with each other and channel their creativity without putting the additional organizational stress on their parents. Her new Shopify website helps her connect with and empower new communities all over Canada and the United States.
In addition to providing a creative break, Carmen’s virtual workshops have also allowed people to connect with and express their feelings about the frustrations of lockdown. Carmen recalls the 40-person virtual workshop she led in April in partnership with RevolutionHER: “It was great for a girl's night in, a date night, and a family night to create something magical,” says Carmen, adding, “there were some tears afterwards from some of our guests because the workshop helped release some anger and anxiety due to the past few weeks of lockdown.”
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Yellow Pages and Lightspeed.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern Ontario.