Nikki Schiedel truly wants people to find their own happiness and comfort. Having personally struggled with her own mental health – being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder around the age of 14 – she knows firsthand about the obstacles that individuals can face in the pursuit of simply feeling comfortable in one’s own skin.
“I find a strong responsibility in myself to show other people how I was able to conquer a really difficult place in my life,” says Nikki. “I’m sure a lot of people dealing with their own mental health can associate with this, but I found that it kind of came in cycles.”
Schiedel points to a time, just prior to graduating university, when she found her day to day life wasn’t so difficult to deal with. After graduating, however, managing the more negative emotions which were coming increasingly to the surface became a little harder to navigate.
“When I graduated University and was out on my own, trying to work in a nine-to-five job that I was miserable in, it definitely amplified to the point where I wasn’t used to it,” she recalls. “I was actually concerned that it was getting much worse.”
When Nikki was feeling the most helpless, she rediscovered painting – something which she had delighted in during her younger years – as an outlet and means of coming to terms with the feelings she was experiencing.
“I turned to painting as more of a pastime because I was working in the field I went to school for. I found that when I was smoking weed and painting, it would help to almost take me out of the small space in my head where I was kind of going crazy with my thoughts. It gave me an outlet…a way to escape.”
Elaborating on her experience, Nikki had this to say:
“I found that with the combination of [cannabis and painting] I was able to focus on the art, and not what was going on in my head. Doing that was almost like meditation for me. I was able to clear my head, creating stuff that I loved, and I was getting positive feedback from my friends.”
It was shortly after Schiedel had reacquainted herself with a passion for creating art that a good friend (and fellow Bong Mansion Goose Skull1), Monika Benkovich, suggested that Nikki should showcase and sell her work at an event that Benkovich was hosting.
“[Monika] said: You should sell your art here. It’s beautiful, and you should let other people see it. From then on, I started to pursue [art] as a career, and my mental health has honestly never been better. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Even when it’s a lot more work, I’m a lot happier for sure.”
The event triggered a type of Eureka! response in Nikki, and once the possibility of shifting her role as an artist from pastime to career had presented itself, she jumped at the chance and took off running.
“I’m self employed full-time,” Schiedel proudly remarks. “All of my income comes from art right now; whether it’s marketing commissioned pieces, selling on my own through Instagram, sponsorship collaborations, or running my own events, like the Puff and Paint class we did [at Bong Mansion].”
The “Puff and Paint” class to which Schiedel is referring, is a cannabis-friendly idea based on the “Paint and Sip” events which she used to host at local pubs.
“I used to teach painting classes at a bar or pub,” Nikki recounts. “You get your canvas and all your supplies, and you just drink and have a good time. But I’m a stoner, and that’s more my kind of people as well.
“I found that when alcohol was involved people would sometimes just get frustrated or angry, and in a bad mental space, and take it out on the people around them…or myself. That’s just not a fun vibe. So, I was thinking that since I smoke before I paint, why couldn’t I incorporate those two aspects of my life into one?
“I started doing that on YouTube first where it was a kind of get high and paint along with me tutorial…but I really wanted the opportunity to do it in person, in a class style. At Bong Mansion, I was able to finally do that for the first time, and that was really cool.”
“Puff and Paint” gave Nikki the opportunity to facilitate a safe space for like-minded individuals to consume cannabis and create personal works of art in a stress-free environment. The inclusivity of such an event has proven to be as – or more – important as the creative aspect itself, and Schiedel has found that the inclusion of cannabis consumption (for those whom are so inclined) can help participants to relax and enjoy the experience that much more.
For her personal cannabis consumption tastes, Nikki tends to prefer sativas, hybrids or CBD heavy strains.
“I find that I like sativas, especially during the day. I do also like sativa-heavy hybrids. I’m an active stoner…I want to work, and it gives me more of a body high, so I’m not really in my head. I have gotten a lot of feedback from women specifically, that they find indicas make their anxiety and paranoia worse. There have been times in my life where I’ve seen that, and maybe that’s why I lean more towards sativa.
“I also really like CBD strains like Charlotte’s Web. It’s one of my favorites, and I really like that for painting. I like Great White Shark as well. There are a few strains, but I definitely like the CBD ones, and I recommend them to a lot of my female friends who have some paranoia with cannabis.”
While cannabis has been useful in Nikki Schiedel’s personal journey, the core of her art and her outreach remains primarily focussed on bettering the lives of individuals struggling with mental health concerns. To aid in this pursuit, Schiedel and Monika Benkovich host a monthly event where people can create art and discuss mental health.
“We hold an event once a month; it’s a mental health night, and it’s a paint your own denim event. You can bring your own pieces of clothing, and we provide the fabric paint and stencils. Monika and I want to start doing this in the colder months to combat seasonal depression”
At the last such event, held on Friday, November 8th, Nikki shared her own personal experiences in dealing with mental health and opened up the floor to other speakers also looking to share their stories.
“It’s like a little community that we’re trying to build throughout the winter months so people have a creative outlet to meet like minded people and to not feel alone, because sometimes that’s the biggest thing,” says Schiedel.
Nikki Schiedel will continue to push for the importance of mental health awareness and the elimination of all negative stigmatization associated with it. Throughout it all, she will also emphasize the importance of artistic expression in her own journey and the therapeutic benefits which a creative outlet can so often provide those who struggle to find their own voice.
“I always say painting saved my life. One awesome reaction I have seen to me pursuing art as a career, is meeting other people that I’ve inspired to try to do the same. I do think it is important to do what makes you happy.
“I know a lot of us are in situations where we have debt, or families, or things that you have to be responsible for. Even if it’s just as a pastime for your mental health, I do think pursuing some sort of creative outlet benefits us all. So, if you’re considering picking up a camera and trying photography, or picking up a pencil or a brush, I think you should do it. Release any judgment you have towards yourself: We judge our artwork, and a lot of people quit when we don’t think we’re good enough. Art is subjective. It’s what you put into it. It’s your soul, so I think it’s important that we all pursue something creative.”
You can find Nikki Schiedel on social media via:
1 The Goose Skulls are a small group of people – which some jokingly refer to as a cult – responsible for the day to day operations, and curation of activities, at Bong Mansion; Puff Digital’s creative studio/incubator. More information on the Goose Skulls will be available via an upcoming episode of the Bong Mansion web series.