Wednesday, July 24, 2013

masks and expression

In my work as an MFT Intern, I get to really delve into one of my passions - using art in therapy.

A few weeks ago I went into a classroom of adults with intellectual disabilities to do an art workshop. We created masks. I was pleased with the outcome for several reasons -

1. It was an adult form of expression. Too frequently, these students are given really child-like craft tasks to do - pages from coloring books, stringing pony beads, things like that. Now - I love me some coloring books, but I take issue when they are given as the only option, and because of a perceived lack of ability or skill. They met my level of expectation, which was high.

2. It was an open-ended art form. Creating a mask from mixed-media is a very different thing than "follow this pattern and color inside these shapes." Doing something this open-ended requires imagination, perseverance, creativity, problem-solving, and a certain amount of courage.

3. They filled the time and the space. We had a certain amount of time to fill and 30 students in the class. A lot of times in that situation, a handful of people will finish really fast, and then be bored, while the rest take longer. Going beyond the time it takes - a lot of people will glue two things on a piece of paper and then decide they are done. I really wanted to push the students to do more - to use layers, depth, and a lot more materials. They did. I made this happen in a few ways - a) I rotated supplies, so every 10 minutes they'd get something new. b)I showed examples of masks in museums for some inspiration. c)I demonstrated how one material could be used in a lot of different ways. d)I used art vocabulary - such as dynamic, energetic, depth, layers, complexity, repetition - and they kept going with it.

So I wanted to share some photos - for obvious reasons, photos of the actual students have been left out. But their work, I think, speaks for itself.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Selfish Blanket

The events of my life could be described by what project I am working on. When something big happens, my first thought is, "what yarn goes with this?" When we go on a trip, when a friend gets pregnant, with every holiday, and with every bit of grief or sadness. 

When my daughter died last October, a week before her due date, one of the most strange things about my sadness was that my hands weren't busy. I had been making baby clothes, soakers and stuffed animals - and then when I got out of the hospital I put all that away and did not know what to do. I didn't want to start a new project, which would forever remind me of the excruciating pain I was in. I ended up working on a cross-stitch project that I had already been working on for about 2 years - a photo of my husband and I dancing at our wedding. It was time-consuming (a blessing when you are grieving), did not take much thought (also helpful), and the photo of my husband and I holding each other helped me remember to be grateful, even then.
It has been almost 9 months since then, and I have worked on a lot of other projects since. But despite the growing number of friends I have who are pregnant or have babies, I have not been able to bring myself to work on any baby-related item. Instead, I decided to start something entirely for me. I've been calling it My Selfish Blanket, and it has helped me remember that I need to take care of myself, too.

It's a knitted blanket, made with sock yarn, on size 3 double pointed needles. So far I've been averaging about a square per week. I currently have 13 squares done, and 1 on the needles. I figure I'll need about 80 squares to have a good-sized blanket. 

The way the rest of the knitting world knows this blanket is by the name Barn Raising Quilt - the idea is that a lot of people each knit one square, and contribute. There is something resentful and rebellious in me that rises up and thinks I Can Do This On My Own - that I don't want anyone else to touch this, all those people who get their babies and their families and don't know what it's like.

 That feeling ebbs and flows - and another takes its place. There's something about the insanity of this project - the fact that I am making a queen-sized blanket on sock yarn and size 3 needles, the fact that it will take me at least a year to complete, the vastness of this project that reminds me of the work that goes into living a grieving life. That there is this huge, seemingly insurmountable chore in front of you, and all you can do is take another breath, knit another stitch, keep going because that's where the work is, that's what you have to do.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

post-conference and some new crafty items

This weekend I went to the CHN conference in Torrance. I had a really, really good time - I did 1 talk, and 4 workshops, and was also able to sit and sell my items in the vendor hall all weekend! I love conferences, and will do more posts with photos from some of the different workshops, with descriptions. 

But for now - one of the things I love about conferences is the inspiration I get for new products. So here's the first photos of some new things...
itty bitty crocheted bows, these are for your hair, but I'll be doing rings and earrings too

large heart rings and earrings are a big seller of mine, but these have the americana twist :)

these are earring holders made with lace, burlap, and embroidery hoops. They are light, lovely,and a great display for your jewelry, and mine....

In the vendor hall, some of my earrings on display!
No promises as to when these will be on my showyourcolorz etsy site, but I am having fun making them!!!

4 Art Projects That Will Make You Slow Down and Take Notice

As a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, one of the most frequent complaints I hear from my clients is that they feel stressed out and hectic. Parents come to my office after dropping their kids off at a class, between practices, or from play groups. They are busy making their homes enriched, wonderful places for their children to be. If their children don’t need them, their significant other does. I have teenagers come to my office feeling like they are under pressure, too – with schoolwork, conflict in their social groups, or the feeling of being pulled in too many directions. Even the little kids I see these days seem more frantic, being shuttled from activity to activity.

I also have a BA in Recreation. I am all for hobbies, classes, and pursuing your interests. But I also see a pattern among my clients where they fill all the gaps in their days, without leaving time to slow down and see what happens naturally. When you don’t leave some gaps of time, you miss out on some of the sweeter things in life. Small miracles start escaping you. You might stop noticing the tomato plant going from blossom to fruit in the backyard. You might move so fast you miss the lizard scuttling out of your way. The tiny and beautiful details of the world around you gets lost in the rush to get out the door and into the car, to move on to the next thing, the next group, activity, or event.

Even in the midst of a busy life, you can schedule in some time to slow down and learn how to hone your awareness again. Art can be really helpful in this process. Here are several art projects that you can do that will help you slow down and take notice.

1.       Cut a small rectangle out of the center of a piece of cardstock. Hold that piece of paper up about 8-10” from your face. Using colored pencils, draw only what you can see through that cut-out rectangle.  Use this frame to help narrow your focus, eliminate distractions, and take the time to notice all that goes on in that small, compact space.

2.       Go to a favorite place in nature, such as a park, field, or garden. Draw the outline of your hand on a piece of paper. Then place your hand on the ground. Lifting it up, look at what fit underneath that space, and draw it on your paper in as much detail as possible. Focus on how amazing it is that so much detail can fit in the palm of your hand.

3.       Close your eyes and think about your favorite place to visit. Try to imagine you are there, using all of your senses. Use markers and paper to try to recreate it on paper, trying to get in as many details as you can. If someone you know has been there also, enlist their help in coming up with an even richer description, or see if they can recognize the location based on your drawing.

4.       With a partner: choose an object, such as a favorite mug, stuffed animal, or book. Do not tell your partner what you have chosen. Give them crayons and paper, and carefully describe the details of the object while they draw only what you tell them. Make sure you cannot see their paper, and they cannot see your object. When you think you are done describing it, you get to look at what they’ve created and see if your powers of observation and description are finely honed or could use more practice.