Links: Creative Therapy

Mal | Art Journal,Art Therapy,Links to Others,Paper,Resources | Saturday, February 28th, 2009

creativetherapy

I have been following a lovely little website called Creative Therapy which celebrates the art of visual journals. The site serves as a community for creative/visual journalers, and its administrator, Karen Grunberg, puts forth “catalysts” (journaling prompts, basically, but with an awesomer name) to which the CT team responds. She then invites readers to respond as well, and to post links to their creations.

There are lots of things that I like about this website, including:

  • Each contributor is invited to write about their project and their process, which can be really illuminating. This is something I often do with my art therapy clients, as it can sometimes facilitate a better connection between our rational and emotional selves. On the practical side, you can learn new techniques from these artists’ blurbs. On the emotional side, you can really get a feel for the way that creating these responses has touched people. As you know, the emotional side of art-making is something that interests me very, very much.
  • Karen tries to eliminate the all-too-common air of competition which can seep into these kinds of community ventures. She seems to truly celebrate creativity and personal expression and to genuinely encourage it in others.
  • There is a spotlighted artist for each catalyst, and it’s often someone I’ve never heard of (though some famous faces have made appearances).
  • The site has sponsors who sometimes do giveaways. Not that any of us need extra stash, but… I do think it speaks to how involved and proactive Karen (and maybe her team?) has been.

The responses seem to be largely grounded in the world of scrapbooking, altered books, and other popular paper-based arts, but are not exclusively so. For instance, a recent response to Catalyst 50: What is something that you turn to, to lift you up out of a bad mood? was a crochet project made by Debee Campos. Debee graciously gave me permission to post her artwork and words here, because I feel they really speak to some of my own explorations about the emotional impact of various art media. In this instance, Debee writes about the experience of learning and practicing crochet.

I’ve recently taken up the art of crochet. And just in the nick of time. Wedding planning. House hunting. Future dreaming. All have left me a little chaotic. You would think it’s crazy of me to take up crocheting during this crazy phase of my life. But in fact it has helped silence my thoughts. During these times of learning and practicing the rhythm of the process, I have found my thoughts are all hushed. My time has been well spent. Thinking pondering and praying. There are times when I just listen. And most of the time I’m not such a great listener. It has also helped my patience level :) But the combination of the two has helped my outlook on all the things I’m juggling. I find this time to be the best at bringing peace to my heart. All the while I am bursting with pride taking up a lost art in my family and creatively expressing myself in another form. This is for sure something I hope to continue throughout my life.

 

I laid a drawing I drew years ago of one of my hands over the top of my blanket that is still a work in progress. I felt like it fit the picture perfectly. As drawing was once my quiet time long before scrapbooking and crochet came into my life.

How about you? Have you ever used journal prompts or participated in some kind of creative community? Do you keep a visual journal? Why or why not?

Sewing room disguised as kitchen

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Quilting,Sewing,Stitching | Friday, February 27th, 2009

Sewing room, disguised as kitchen

Recent social obligations (out-of-town guests, dates that I knew would end up at my place, drop-by visits from the neighbor’s kids for playdates with the dogs, etc.) have necessitated a quick and temporary return to regular, adult living.

What I mean by this is that I have temporarily reclaimed my kitchen. Sadly, my sewing machine (which had resided on my kitchen table for months) has been packed up and put away for the past couple of weeks.

Sewing room, disguised as kitchen

No more late-morning hem repairs as I run off to work. No more lauching into elaborate patchwork projects “because I have a few minutes.” No more midnight sewing marathons to buzz away my insomnia or inexplicably-motivated Adventures in Buttonholes.

Maybe that’s okay, though, as it has allowed me to turn my attention to more handwork, embroidery, and other machineless modes. I’ve finally started the band sampler and hand-bound the baby quilt. I’ve been exploring a bit with hand-pieced quilting and such. My hands have needlepricks and callouses where there was once fingerprint.

I may pull the machine out again this weekend to do some finish work and some mending. A part of me kind of hopes not, though. I’m enjoying the quiet.

Someday, a two-bedroom apartment.

How about you? Do you have a dedicated workspace, or do you double-dip rooms, as I do?

Band Sampler: Back Stitch

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Stitching | Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Band Sampler: Back Stitch

Continuing with the idea of starting the band sampler with stitches that I already know, I dive in to the Back Stitch. For many years, Back Stitch and French Knots were the only stitches I knew, besides Cross Stitch. I did this up in an evening (note the little pop of orange) a few days before the Academy Awards.

I only mention the Academy Awards because why isn’t everyone talking about that one backdrop on the ceremony stage!? During the presentation of the awards for Best Documentary, there was an amazing, art-deco-esque, scrolled thing that was really beautiful and reminded me of my Back Stitch motif.  

manonwire_documentaryfeature

Maybe we were all too dazzled by the feats of human strength performed in front of it — but this is the only photo I could find of the backdrop (and it came from the Academy Awards official website). Although the video quality is very poor, you can also see the entire segment on youtube and drink in the deliciousness of a scroll-y, swirl-y stage.

If you’d like to try your hand at Back Stitch, here are a few tutorials:

In the meantime, please share! Do you love scrolls and swirls? Do you hate them? Are there other good stitching tutorials online?

Biting the trinket

Mal | Collage,Media,Paper,Prosaic | Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Collage Girl

What is this girl thinking? Is she sleeping? Is she scowling? She emerged from a collage activity during one of my groups this week, and I’ve enjoyed postulating about what part of me she might represent.

Today is Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras. There’s a new girl at work from Louisiana, and her mother shipped a traditional King Cake overnight express. Well, no one explained to me about the little plastic baby baked into the cake, so when I bit into something hard that was all arms and legs, I honestly thought a beetle had traveled to California from Louisiana.

20090224-plasticbaby

But, no. That painful little crunch apparently signified the onset of a year of good luck!

Normally, I wouldn’t put too much stock into such a thing, but last night when my back tire popped and deflated not ten feet away from a tire store, when the guys who work there were still cleaning up even though the shop had been closed for over 30 minutes, and when they quickly changed my tire for a reasonable price, I thought: THANK YOU BABY JESUS! I hope I didn’t spend all my good luck in one night.

Please share! Have you had good luck recently? Do you celebrate Fat Tuesday or Lent? How do you make traditional celebrations meaningful for you?

Baby Guilt

Mal | Finished Projects,Media,Quilting,Sewing | Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Cartwheel Quilt Blocks

I’ve about finished the baby quilt I’ve been working on. It’s the one patterned off of the mini rough draft quilt.

20090219-cartwheelquilt5

A friend of mine from grad school will be having a baby girl next month. I’m happy for her, and a little bit jealous of the baby! My friend is sweet, and smart, and creative, and good-hearted. That lucky baby will have such a good mother.

20090219-cartwheelquilt2

I grew up in a culture where children and family were valued above all else. Many of my peers married and began having children when they were very young. Some of them have told me how they envy my life.

Cartwheel quilt close-up

I have two dogs, a career that I love, and an interesting, challenging life. I have the luxury of focusing on myself and my own development. I get a good night’s sleep and ponder the meaning and purpose in life.

Cartwheel Quilt Close-up

But I have no husband and no babies and no white picket fence.

Cartwheel Quilt Almost Done

In some ways, making this quilt stirred up some of my feelings about all of that.

Tutorial Roundup: Non-quilt Patchwork

Mal | Quilting,Sewing,Tutorials | Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

 Patchwork, but not quilts

This week I’ve also enjoyed seeing lots of projects made from patched-together fabrics which weren’t necessarily for quilts. I guess once you realize that patchwork can be used anywhere that plain fabric can, there’s no stopping you!

Below, I’ve linked to some tutorial sites if you’d like directions on how to make non-quilt patchwork projects.

 Have you made a non-quilt patchwork project? Please share!

Intermittent Inspiration: Quilts with Orange

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration | Friday, February 20th, 2009

Intermittent Inspiration: Quilts with Orange

Continuing inspiration from flickr, I noticed I was really being drawn to the color orange this week. Orange is a funny color — it is thought to be bold (but is not necessarily so), is associated with sunshine (though it is really more the color of fire), and is generally associated with cheeriness (with a few notable exceptions).

I agree with Sarah that in craft, there seem to be two camps: orange believers and non-believers. Those who have embraced orange in their lives really inspire me. It’s not an easy thing to do in our culture.

Rough draft quilt

I definitely had fun playing with orange recently, and can’t wait for next week to show you photos of my latest. 

Tell us: Are you a member of team orange?

Kiln Gods

Mal | Art Therapy,Clay,Media,Pottery | Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Kiln Goddess front view
 by antware

I talked about the Kiln God in the entry on Media and Meaning. In my ceramic training, the Kiln God was mostly mentioned as an abstract concept — a metaphor for the process of letting go and accepting the outcome that is required in ceramics. You offer up your creation to the kiln god, and hope that he’s feeling generous. Many times, I’d spend hours and hours perfecting a clay vessel or sculpture, only to have it mysteriously explode, melt, crack, or wither in the fiery kiln.

I’ve been thinking about this a bit more in the past few days. After all, clay is not the only medium which requires a fiery and unpredictable transformation at some point in its development.

I decided to do a little exploring about the concept of the kiln god. It turns out that there is a tradition of taking this abstract concept and transforming it into something physical, literal, and then ascribing a bit of magic to it. (Right up my alley!) People build actual idols to the kiln god and place them at the opening of the kiln in hopes of appeasing the temperamental god’s appetites.

kiln gods
by jpettit

If you’ve ever felt a higher power taking over your creative process, or held your breath and hoped for the best as you molded, painted, clipped, glued, or otherwise irreversibly altered your creation, you understand why ceramic artists have adopted the practice of creating a kiln god to watch over their creations during such a phase of unpredictability.

More reading on the kiln god:

Please share: how do you let go and trust when it comes to your creative process?

Band Sampler: Running Stitch

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Stitching | Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

BS: First and Running

Made some progress on the band sampler this week. I decided to start by documenting the stitches I already know — the very most basic, beginning with running stitch.

BS: Daisies and First Stitches

I like this tiny font, and I feel like it’s going to let me narrate the work as I go. The flowers, leaves, and dots were done with some thread I bought from a bazaar in Mexico a few years ago. It’s very fuzzy and textured.

BS: Running Stitch

The first stitch I chose was running stitch — the easiest stitch of all. I was heavily influenced by Mandie’s sampler, and used variegated floss for the first time. In fact, I pretty much used every variegated floss from my collection!

If you’d like to try your hand at running stitch, try these tutorials:

I ended up doing about twice as many rows of running stitch as I originally intended. As I got into it, I got sort of swallowed up into it. Like knitting, it was easy to get lost in the repetitive, meditative quality of this repeating pattern. If you look closely, you’ll see spots where I got off the track and this usually happened if I lost focus for some reason or started to fatigue. I had to decide whether to go back and un-do and re-do. For the most part, I decided not to. After all, I reasoned, the purpose of the sampler is to practice and learn. It’s always good for me to start a project by accepting its imperfections.

How about you? Is it difficult for you to accept imperfections in your work?

Art therapy and health

Mal | Art Journal,Art Therapy | Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

My art journal when I was in the hospital.

I don’t know how many of you are interested in formalized art therapy (I am — but as an art therapist who works in healthcare I’m slightly biased). There is a recent article making news today that talks about art therapy with breast cancer patients. If you’re interested, you can read either the full article, or a quick news summary of it.

Between this and the researchers’ other articles, their evidence seems to indicate that breast cancer patients who engage in art therapy show:

  • Improved psychological health
  • Decreased side effects of radiation treatments
  • Higher overall quality of life
  • Increased physical health
  • Improved coping skills
  • A ”better ability to deal with others’ demands”
  • More positive self-image

Why is this important, if you are not an art therapist, an art therapy client, or a breast cancer patient? I guess I wanted to share it with you on the hope that you’ll feel some deeper meaning in the art that you make every day.

Maybe you are making art to sell — to put food on the table or supplement your family’s income. Maybe you make art because you’re bored in meetings with nothing to do but doodle. Maybe you make art as gifts for loved ones, decorations for your home, or to explore the outside world. Maybe it is simply your hobby — your pastime. But, maybe it could be much, much more?

Whatever art you make, I hope you make space for it to have a deeper impact on your life.

Please share: How has making art impacted your life?

Band Sampler: Beginning

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Monday, February 16th, 2009

Band sampler detail: header

I finally got a jump on the band sampler and finished a simple header. This picture shows it before I finished cross-stitching my name, but I thought it was neat that I could photograph it to look like my blogging handle, Mal*. When the full name is completed, all of the words are flush right with the “2009″ and the “Band Sampler.” Although it looks great finished, I am trying to keep my full name off of this blog for now.

Band sampler detail: spiderweb

I had read that quilters traditionally stitched a spiderweb into their quilts for luck. I thought it might be nice to start off this project on a lucky foot, but didn’t want a cartoon-y, Halloween-y spiderweb. Instead, I studied some photos of real spiderwebs in corners, then used Annie’s spiderweb tutorial to make it all hang together.

Band sampler detail: spider

The spider is made from two beads and I think he turned out pretty well, but a bit cartoon-y and Halloween-y because I didn’t take the time to study pictures of real spiders. I used to be a real arachnophobe, but I started to do art of insects and spiders and it helped me get over the fear to see them more as beautiful and intricate.

Other people doing band samplers who have inspired me:

Intermittent Inspiration: Pieced Quilts Edition

Mal | Intermittent Inspiration,Quilting | Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Weekly roundup: Pieced quilt edition

There’s so much inspiration to be found on flickr. Lots of amazing quilters out there showing their piecing skills — both traditional and contemporary. (Click through to see the list of artists.)

Colored flowers

Mal | Current Events,Home,Prosaic,Simplicity | Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Valentine's Day

My dad sent me these flowers for Valentine’s from 2 states away. Something about the colors really appeals to me — feels like a vintage print.

I spent a good portion of the day cleaning my house to get ready for a [pretend to watch a video but really make out on the couch all night] date. The cleaning included clearing off the table pictured above, which doubles as a dining table and a craft/work space. My sewing machine is now put away for at least a few days, which means I can focus on some hand stitching — getting a jump on the band sampler and hand stitching a quilt binding. Pictures to come.

Being in a clean, clutter-free place inspires my creativity.

Media and Meaning

Mal | Art Journal,Art Therapy,Media,Sewing | Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Ingredients

Jennifer, over on Craftstylish, posted an essay about the meaning of making. As an art therapist, these are the types of philosophical questions that are on my mind daily, so I was happy to read them as phrased by someone else and Jen did a great job with a focus on the reputation and perception of people who engage in certain crafts. Behold (emphasis mine):

 

 I haven’t dipped my toe into the world of scrapbooking [. . .] As I ponder the profile of the scrapbooking enthusiast, I think it’s for folks who like to bring order to something and create a perfect world even if their lives are chaotic and messy. Come to think of it, I could use some order. Cue the jones for acid-free paper…

The opposite of pristine and controlled, silk screening seems gritty and radical. I desperately want to try it. It seems counter-culture, very Haight-Asbury in the ’60s [. . .]

After seeing Erika Kern transform a T-shirt in a couple of hours through the magic of embroidery, I view embroidery fiends as not only traditional and elegant but also meticulous with a side of inventive. Or maybe that’s just Erika.

 

Art therapists are trained to consider the inherent qualities in various art media and use them to their advantage when working with clients. What’s interesting is that I can trace the thread of my own psychological growth through the labyrinth of my meanderings in arts and crafts and media.

I mentioned before that I had a meaningful love affair with pottery when I lived in Boston 9 years ago. At the time I was profoundly depressed, lonely, untethered, and riddled with anxieties. In hindsight, I realize that working with clay, smelling the earth, allowing myself to get messy, and working on the wheel were exactly what I needed at the time. The process of centering — of muscle-ing a hunk of clay into a stable position on a spinning wheel — of finding stillness in the midst of chaos — was a big part of my transformation. Then, once you had crafted the “perfect’ piece, you glazed it and offered it up to the kiln god. The kiln, that paragon of unpredictability, would either accept your offering and bless you with a beautifully glazed bowl, or it would chew up and destroy whatever piece you had devoted your hours to. Dealing with that unpredictability reduced my anxieties; it had to.

I later went through a bookbinding phase. This was sparked largely by my first love: writing. (Writing’s purpose? To incubate my rebellious and revolutionary thoughts quietly, until I could escape my repressive upbringing.) I made journal after journal out of boards and papers and fabrics, as though I were a robin building a nest. The beauty and richness of my current life has hatched from the ”eggs” I laid in those journals. There, I questioned, experimented, railed, accepted, cried, destroyed, exulted. And then, at the end of the day, I could close the book — contain it all neatly inside — and move on. It was the only way I could make it through grad school. I would go to the books, make a tremendous mess of things, and then close them up so that I could go about my work.

Other phases have included watercolors (letting go of absolute control, learning to “go with the flow”), screen printing (productivity, planning), self-portraits (body image issues, self-exploration), altered books (questioning authority), and more.

My current phase is very textile driven — sewing, quilting, embroidering. I’ve postulated that there is a sort of healing taking place — a stitching back together after the ripping-apart of a difficult breakup, the physical effects of a traumatic surgery, and a long convalescence. 2008 was a time of yanking and pulling and tearing. I enter 2009 with needle and thread in hand, ready to follow wherever the line of stitches leads.

What about you? What do you gain from the things you make?

Applique tote bags

Mal | Finished Projects,Media,Sewing | Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Bad photos with my old camera. I made these two for gifts — the initials belong to the intended recipients, of course.

L Tote

I love the leaves on this one, and the little bird with its legs all spread out. These aren’t usually “my colors,” but I must say I love how this one came together.

GG Tote

Wish you could see how cute that fabric is on the cursive G — it’s black and grey leopard print, kind of a suede texture, with adorable pink flowers and tiny green leaves. I love it and am using it on all kinds of projects at this point.

Worth the effort

Mal | Band Sampler,Media,Sewing,Stitching,Works in Progress | Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

…all the short, and cheap, and easy ways of doing that whose difficulty is its honour — are just so many new obstacles in our already encumbered road. They will not make one of us happier or wiser — they will extend neither the pride of judgment nor the privilege of enjoyment. They will only make us shallower in our understandings, colder in our hearts, and feebler in our wits. And most justly. For we are not sent into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts. We have certain work to do for our bread, and that is to be done strenuously; other work to do for our delight, and that is to be done heartily. neither is to be done by halves nor shifts, but with a will; and what is not worth this effort is not to be done at all.

—John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture

Getting ready to start a band sampler

Made progress last night toward starting a band sampler: edged the 6″ strip of linen (backed with light cotton), sank a center line for anchoring, got a good night’s sleep.

Knowing is not enough

Mal | Art Journal,Band Sampler,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Monday, February 9th, 2009

Knowing is not enough 

I learned to embroider when I was a very young girl. As a sometime-farm-girl, I learned all of those skills necessary to become a good, midwestern housewife. Most of the skills stuck (though I do still struggle with knitting and tatting, and have never canned produce without an older relative providing guidance) and I go back to them, periodically, in their turn.

My exposure to embroidery, as was true for most crafters in the 80′s, was comprised mostly of cross-stitch. I did learn to do simple backstitch (mostly to define the facial features of my cross-stitched Precious Moments figures) and running stitch. My grandmother taught me to do french knots, and called it candlewicking. But, after completing a large piece at age 14, I burned out on cross-stitch and put the needle down for good.

Well, I put it down until a couple of months ago, when I suddenly became consumed with stitching. I also googled for tutorials, and found blogs like Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread and Primrose Design (especially her Stitch School). It didn’t take me long to realize that while I had been taught a few embroidery stitches (and I had become adept enough at making my own designs out of straight stitches and knots), there were huge gaps in my actual embroidery knowledge.

Stitch dictionaries

Knowing that samplers in Britain and the US were used to teach young schoolgirls how to stitch, and wishing I could go back and learn/re-learn the basics of traditional embroidery, I decided to seek out a sampler pattern. That way, I reasoned, I could be learning while I make something purposeful.

I found one sampler online that interested me, designed by Mary Corbet.

Then I found Sharon B.’s Pin Tangle and Annie’s Crazy World blogs. These women, real-life friends, each work on a band sampler. In her archives, I read Sharon’s musings about autobiographical textiles — the use of stitching as a journal. Annie does it, too and, are you kidding me? A combination of stitching and journaling? I am in love!

Linens

It’s time for me to pull out the linen I bought before Christmas and finally start work on my own band sampler. After all, Knowing is not enough; we must apply. (Goethe)

Embroidered names

Mal | Finished Projects,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I also did a lot of personalizing with names on gifts this year, which was a satisfying and quick way to make handmade objects freel more special. One of the best parts about making all of these gifts during my recovery was that it really helped me to be reaching outside of myself and thinking about other people, without having to overexert or do more than my body could handle.

Yoga Mat Bag Strap

Inside the strap of a yoga mat bag, loosely based on this tutorial. I included eyelets and drawstrings on the ones I made, and they really added that nice, professional touch. Like most of my gifts, these were made with drapes and leftover sheets.

Coffee cozies

And, finally, although I don’t drink coffee or tea myself, I felt this would be an appropriate gift for my employees and coworkers. There are bright, eye-popping fabrics on the reverse sides of these, with names stitched on the outside. Inspired by pink milk and fairycakes’ tutorial.

Tell us — how do you add that little personal touch to handmade gifts?

More personalized gifts

Mal | Art Therapy,Finished Projects,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Monday, February 2nd, 2009

 I finally got access to the photos of my holiday gifts, so here are a few more examples of what I worked on during my early embroidery rush.

Pencil roll

This pencil roll was made as a gift for another friend who was present for me many nights in the hospital. She is also an art therapist and brought me my journals and some art supplies because (as instructed) all I had taken with me to the hospital for my allegedly-outpatient surgery was my cell phone and a pair of flip-flops. I wanted to repay her for her kindness in an art-supply kind of way.

That’s one of my favorite quotes. I sort of love that none of the colored pencils have erasers — just to emphasize Mr. Davis’ point!

True Love Motorcycle

This is a poor picture but I loved this project. A friend of mine has been transferred to a new branch of his job and had to exchange his daily motorcycle rides for a car. This, naturally, had him pretty upset. So, I designed this illustration and made it into a CD Poket to hold music and books on tape. I also bought him a trial subscription to audible.com to help ease the hours of carpooling. Of course, I wanted his car to be perfectly clear on where his true affections lie — he will always be a biker boy.

OK — we’re almost done posting photos taken with my awful camera. Stay tuned for the final embroidery installation!

More embroidered aprons

Mal | Finished Projects,Media,Sewing,Stitching | Sunday, February 1st, 2009

I mentioned before that during my convalescence I was drawn to fabric arts and, particularly, embroidery. Fortunately, this coincided with the holidays and I was able to handcraft every single one of my gifts for Christmas and Hannukah. With one exception (a book I bound), all of the gifts were made of cloth (though even the book was bound with a cloth of my choosing), and nearly all of those had some personalized embroidery that I designed.

Awesome apron

This is the first of the aprons that I made — and was given to my older sister. She had rushed to my side from far away to be with me when I was hospitalized. She kept extending and extending her stay until I finally sent her away. I’m sure her family of husband and three kids (including 2-year-old boy!) appreciated having her back. I didn’t know how else to express my deep gratitude and admiration for her after that experience. I sort of hope that when she wears it, her children roll their eyes.

Helpful apron

Another apron — this one mentioned when I posted about its mate — was for my brother. I totally adore the halo and smiley face on this one. All the aprons are reversible with snaps on the neckstraps so they can be adjustable.

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