What is luxury? From a carer’s perspective

Earlier this year, we returned to Newham with our project for adult carers, creative:release. Under the expert guidance of our professional jewellery designer Hayley Kruger, the adult carers began the project by creating unique pieces of bespoke jewellery, inspired by their visit to the V&A‘s What is Luxury exhibition. At a time when eight out of ten carers feel lonely or isolated because of their caring role, the social interaction that projects like these allow carers can mean everything. Full-time carers can often feel marginalised from their communities and can feel ignored by society. creative:release gives them the chance to express their individuality through creativity and get support from other carers in similar situations. MaxineSince taking part last year, one of the carers, Maxine, has begun creating jewellery in her spare time, allowing her to express her personality and relax in the small amount of time she gets to herself. Maxine has been caring for her husband who was diagnosed with throat cancer six years ago.  He has received heavy doses of chemotherapy and is in remission from the cancer but has not overcome the side effects of the chemotherapy.  Maxine helps him with bathing, taking medication, preparing his food (which often times needs to be pureed as swallowing is difficult). We sat down with Maxine and asked what luxury means to her. “When I think of luxuries, I think of jewels, fancy clocks, intricate music boxes, and sparkly things. We saw lots of those in the V&A’s What is Luxury? exhibition. My favourite piece was the music box decorated with a monkey – I would have liked to take that home! As we walked round the exhibition, we were given the task of taking photos of the pieces that we liked so that gave us confidence. The more we explored the exhibition, the more we were able to pick out the details in what we were seeing.  As I looked round, I thought ‘Things were more well-made in the past!’ We’ve got gadgets now to make things for us, so we have more things but they don’t last for as long. It’s ironic really. To me, luxury is not defined by money. It’s not how expensive something is. Luxury means having nice things to make your life more comfortable. Time is my biggest luxury. When you’re looking after someone, your whole life changes. It’s a luxury to be able to go out and do something. As a carer, you might plan a day out but then the person you care for might wake up in the morning not feeling well and you’ve got to adjust.”