I'm working on an art-doll-making zine for a pre-conference course for the American Art Therapy Association conference that Susan Anand and I will be giving this year in Sacramento, California. Our course will be on creating simple art dolls with pipe cleaner, scrap fiber and cloth, drift wood, pebbles, buttons or Crayola Model Magic faces, and embellishments. We will be using these familiar materials because that can be a comforting and comfortable experience, but also because simple materials are often more accessible for those working with a small budget.
I learned this technique of wrapping pipe cleaner from Jhan Groom and Joy MacLeod art therapists and artists in Calgary. Jhan says this about the process:
The materials and act of wrapping are reminiscent of wrapping healing and protective bandages, which calms and focuses the individual in a meditative way, and provides the opportunity for feelings to be worked into the doll itself. ...Making wrapped dolls creates a strong tactile and grounding connection with materials. As a result, combining fibre and fabric through doll making is a particularly effective and satisfying activity for people who are fragmented and confused.
The theme of our course will be creating compelling cultural narratives and positive cultural exchange through this simple art-doll-making process. We have always enjoyed taking an artist's approach to culture, looking at the layers of history and cultural baggage as potentially fascinating layers of texture and color, and we have always taken an anthropological approach to our art therapy practices, looking at our culture and our assumptions in a somewhat curious and permissive way (as potentially interesting source of creativity, art, collaboration, and growth). Because of this stance we are more willing to see and accept what actually is, without resistance or denial. Only when these assumptions and cultural layers are accepted, are we able to alter, transform, or even just make some interesting art with what we find. Our hope for this course is to use this art-doll-making experience to explore and celebrate the strength and beauty of who we are and who we are becoming, as individuals and as a group. We will use simple, familiar, and comforting materials like soft, colorful fibers and cloth, pebbles, chenille pipe cleaner, drift wood, buttons and embellishments, providing ourselves with experiences which will engage our whole selves in positive experiences.
Here's the list of authors who most influenced us in this particular workshop:
Feen-Calligan, H. McIntyre, B. and Sands-Goldstein, M. (2009) Art Therapy Applications of
Dolls in Grief Recovery, Identity, and Community Service. Art Therapy: Journal of the
American Art Therapy Association, 26 (4) pp. 167-173.
Gerity, L. (2000). The Subversive Art Therapist: Embracing Cultural Diversity in the Art Room.
Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 17 (3) pp. 202-206.
Gerity, L. (2006). Trauma, Puppet-making, and Narrative; Creating Moments of Reprieve in
Puppetry in education and therapy: Unlocking doors to the mind and heart. (Bernier, M. and
O'Hare, J. Eds.) USA: Author House.
Gerity, L. (2010). 14 Secrets for a Happy Artist's Life; Using art and the internet to encourage
empowerment, resilience, happiness, and community building. In Materials and media in art
therapy: Critical understandings of diverse artistic vocabularies. (Moon, C. H. Ed.) London,
Hastings, P. (2003). Doll making as a transformative process. New York: Saugerties.
Kramer, E. (2000). Art as Therapy: Collected papers. London, England: Jessica Kingsley
Moon, C. H. (Ed.) (2010). Materials and media in art therapy: Critical understandings of diverse
artistic vocabularies. London, England: Routledge.
Moon, C. H. (2002). Studio Art Therapy: Cultivating the Artist Identity in the Art Therapist.
London, England: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Ltd.
Perry, B. (2006). Applying Principles of Neurodevelopment to Clinical Work with Maltreated
and Traumatized Children in Working with Traumatized Youth in Child Welfare (Boyd, N. Ed.)
New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Talwar, S. (2010). An Intersectional Framework for Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Art
Therapy. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 27 (1).
For those attending the AATA conference this year, I do hope you will consider coming a little early to enjoy our course.