Summer Mosaic Project

As part of a summer project, two local high school students have been working hard with our kids over the last few weeks on a mosaic project. The finished work will be displayed (location to be announced) with the goal of educating the public about the benefits of art therapy. Both kids and parents have helped out this week, arranging hundreds of little glass tiles to create this beautiful piece of art. Kids were also invited to use clay to make their own mosaic tiles featuring whatever they wanted to include in the landscape. Their creations include flowers, leaping dolphins, a black widow spider, a leprechaun–and a “flying potato” (contributed by a very creative two year old!).

Here are some pictures of the work in progress: 

Our project leaders, Mave and Rachel

Our project leaders, Maeve and Rachel

Coming up with the idea

The landscape

The landscape

Drawing ideas

Clay objects created by the kids

Close up of clay creations

Close up of clay creations

Laying out the mosiac tiles

Laying out the mosaic tiles

Watch Out for the T-Rex!!!

Today one of our young patients came in with a friend and the two of them spent the morning using the relaxation mats in our clinic to build an elaborate house complete with passageways, doors and a roof. For the patient, having his own space in the house that had a roof over it was particularly important. When the roof was on his house he didn’t want anyone to be able to see him. His mom and I worked to fulfill his need only to find moments later a “strong wind” had come through and knocked the house down! The strong wind quickly developed into a T-Rex that was determined to destroy everything in its path. The two kids giggled and jumped up and down in delight as they tumbled over the large mats. Once the T-Rex was gone we worked to rebuild the house until… (you guessed it!) another T-Rex came along to knock the whole thing down again!

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The theme of creation and destruction is one that we sometimes see with kids. As adults, we usually view creation as a linear process- we come up with an idea, work to create it and hope that in the process and after it is completed that it doesn’t fall apart. For some kids however, the creation process can be less linear and more circular with equal joy and importance on the creation as well as the destruction of the artwork. At times destroying something can be far more therapeutic than making it!

In this patient’s case, the creation of a place where he could hide and not be seen by anyone made him feel safe and protected, while the later destruction of the house allowed him to feel more in control and powerful. The process seemed to validate both of these feelings and help relieve his anxiety about the medical care he received today.

Kari Kant and Tracy’s Kids

A couple weeks ago American flags created by patients from the DC and Virginia Tracy’s Kids locations were featured in an art exhibit along side the work of artist, Kari Kant. The art show was a lot of fun and we were so happy for the opportunity to share the kids’ artwork!  Thank you again to Kari Kant and to everyone who came out to show their support!

Here are some pictures from the show: 

Tracy's Kids team with Kari Kant and Sabra Rogers

Tracy’s Kids team with Kari Kant and Sabra Rogers

Gretchen and Jess in front of the found object flag created at CCBD of Northern VA.

Gretchen and Jess in front of the found object flag created at CCBD of Northern VA.

Tracy and Kate in front of the syringe painted flag created at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

Tracy and Kate in front of the syringe painted flag created at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

String quartet

String quartet

 

Art Therapy in The Washington Post!

One of the things that we try to do regularly at our clinic at Georgetown Hospital is provide a creative outlet for our medical and psychosocial team.  In an article published today in the Health & Science section of The Washington Post our clinical nurse manager, Jan Powers, gave a wonderful description of why making art can be so helpful during difficult times.  In this particular workshop we invited staff to get together to make art using clay.

“There was a lot of pounding and kneading, and while we made our pots or whatever, people started to talk. When your hands are occupied and you’re not in the spotlight, it’s easier to say things like ‘I feel really bad’ or ‘This child touched my heart and I’m grieving.’ It gives staff a chance to create out of something that is hurtful and painful.”

This is a great example of how the creative process and art therapists can play a very important role in supporting the other members of the clinical team.

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 To read the entire Washington Post article about how hospitals are using the creative arts to combat compassion fatigue follow the link:     

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/with-nurses-at-risk-of-compassion-fatigue-hospitals-try-to-ease-their-stress/2013/06/07/b92b9e86-97e3-11e2-97cd-3d8c1afe4f0f_story.html

Beading!

Of the many art materials available to our patients, beads are one of our most popular. Often a patient or parent will come in wanting something to help pass the time or to make a gift for a loved one.   Usually, once one person starts beading other patients and parents start to jump in and we often end up with an impromptu beading party!

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Creating bracelets for friends

There are so many reasons why people are drawn to this kind of project, but one of the reasons that we encourage it in art therapy is that beading provides patients, siblings and parents a way to connect with each other. It can open the door for them to laugh together, support one another and share their experiences. For some the thrill of searching for just the right bead or helping someone else find it is rewarding and a helpful way to pass the time at the clinic. Others enjoy the ability to create something beautiful for oneself and loved ones.

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For other patients beading can provide a means of reflection and sharing information. One patient, when he first starting coming for treatment at our clinic, created a bracelet made up of beads he selected to represent each year of his life. Some beads represented significant experiences and other beads represented things he likes. The creation of the bracelet gave this patient the opportunity to introduce himself to the art therapists and share the parts of his life that he wanted us to know about.

Zentangle

I recently attended an art therapy workshop where I learned how to Zentangle!

What is Zentangle you ask? It is an easy- to- learn method of drawing beautiful patterns using a fine- tip pen. One of the reasons why Zentangle is so relaxing is that drawing repeating lines and shapes can help the artist enter into “flow”- a timeless, focused feeling of well-being.

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I have to admit, however, that at first glance Zentangles appear very complex as they are composed of hundreds of little lines and shapes.  The first time I saw a Zentange I thought, “I can’t make that!”. Many of the patients and their parents who we shared Zentangle with at Georgetown this week had a similar reaction to my own. Fortunately, we have a lot of brave artists who gave Zentangle a try and ended up really enjoying it!

In many ways, Zentangle is much like the obstacles in our lives that we think we can’t get through. For families coming to our clinic, cancer treatment may feel overwhelming and the long road ahead impossible to navigate. However, as with most of life’s challenges, if we break our challenges down into manageable steps we can get through them.

Focusing on getting through one doctor visit, one blood draw and one hospitalization at a time can be a less overwhelming way to approach a long- term medical treatment. Similarly, starting a Zentangle with one line, adding another, then another without thinking about how the entire picture is going to turn out allows for the creation of an intricate work of art.

A lotus inspired Zentagle

To learn more about Zentangle, visit www.zentangle.com

Shamballa Bracelets

We were treated to a really fun workshop last week by the mom of one of our patients, who also happens to be a very talented jewelry maker!  While caring for her son as he undergoes treatment she became interested in making shamballa bracelets. In addition to making her own jewelry, she enjoys teaching others how to make jewelry and offered to teach our staff how to make these beautiful bracelets. 

Shamballa bracelets are made using various kinds of beads that are tied with hemp cord using special knots originating from macramé. The knotting looks complex, but with a little practice the technique is easy to get the hang of. The bracelets we made in the staff workshop turned out great!

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The bracelet’s name, Shamballa, has its origins in Tibetan Buddhism.  “Shamballa” is believed to be a mythical kingdom filled with peace, tranquility and happiness. Similarly, creating these bracelets can be very meditative and peaceful. The repetitive pattern of knotting makes the creation process very calming.

Interestingly, some people make these bracelets with specific gems and stones that are believed to have healing properties or represent an inner personal strength.  Creating a visual reminder of inner strengths or imparting special powers on the bracelet can be particularly helpful to an individual and the family members of someone going through a difficult experience, like cancer treatment.  

As a staff, we are going to be wearing our Shamballa bracelets in support of this patient and his family as they continue on the path towards healing.

Making Art Together

Sometimes parents and their children share some very special moments doing art together. As an art therapist, it is a wonderful treat to get to witness a child and parent play with art materials and create something beautiful.

On this occasion, a mother and her young daughter take turns drawing colors and shapes- engaging in a fun, “visual conversation” on the paper.

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Bravery

Many of the kids and their families that come to our clinic are very brave. You have to be to undergo treatment or watch someone you love undergo it. Many of our kids pride themselves for having courage in the face of needles and procedures. “You were really brave” can be the biggest compliment for a child after a scary procedure is finished.  

Acknowledging the bravery of a child also acknowledges that what they just did was scary and they had good reason to feel scared.  At times, it is tempting to downplay scary things to make kids feel less anxious.  However, acknowledging the child’s feelings allows for the child to be heard and find the courage needed to get through it.

Bravery also has many faces in our clinic- maybe it involves squeezing a stuffed animal, yelling, or distracting oneself with pictures of favorite things.  Sometimes it involves imagining a pleasant place.

Watercolor of a relaxing place

Watercolor of a relaxing place

Often, at the art therapy table, before a procedure a child will talk about the procedure, express fears, make art about something he or she likes or express some of the inner turmoil with splatters of paint across a canvas. As art therapists we facilitate this range of expressions- acknowledging worries, creating an art space to contain anxiety, helping to create a comforting place using art materials. All of these things help kids develop coping skills to help them through treatment as well as life’s future challenges.

Egg Bombs!

Everyone knows what it is like to feel frustrated and sometimes it is really hard to figure out a healthy way to express it! For our patients, feelings of frustration can arise when they have to miss school to come to the hospital, fast before a procedure, take medication that tastes yucky or have a shot that is painful.  Art therapist can help kids vent some of their frustrations by encouraging them to create and throw “egg bombs”.

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The idea behind the egg bomb is that the individual allows the egg to represent the thing that he or she is frustrated about.  The egg is then filled with an assortment of things- glitter, sand, flour, paint, feathers, googly eyes, beads. The more variety the better, as it allows the creator to choose items that symbolize the frustration.  It can be helpful to provide strips of paper so that the frustration can be written down, rolled up and placed inside the egg. The outside of the egg can also be decorated to reflect the frustration.

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Once the egg bombs have been created the next step is to throw them! When we do this at the hospital we lay out a large piece of butcher paper on the floor- outside if the weather is nice- so that the egg bombs can explode onto the paper. It is helpful to encourage the egg- bomber to reflect on the frustration represented by each egg before it is thrown. As the contents of the eggs splatter onto the paper a piece of artwork is created. Depending on the needs of the individual this resulting artwork can be destroyed or altered to make something else. 

Egg bombs are a great way to release energy, emotion and get physical with art materials. This process is especially important in our medical setting as it allows the child to feel empowered and in control. Getting a little messy and free with art can also provide a nice contrast to the sterile and more rigid environment of the hospital setting.

How- to prepare the eggs:

  • Use a small, serrated knife to create an opening in the top and bottom of each egg (a chopstick can also be helpful to poke small holes in the shell).
  • Drain out the inside of the eggs.
  • Once drained, run cold water through the eggs to get both the inside and outside clean.
  • Arrange the eggs in a muffin tin and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Once the oven has reached temperature, turn it off and place the eggs inside the oven- leaving them in there until the oven has cooled down. This will give allow the eggs to fully dry.
  • *When preparing eggs that will be used in a medical setting we always make sure that the eggs are really clean by wiping them down with hospital disinfectant wipes before use. 
  • Once the eggs are clean, tape up one of the holes so that the filling placed inside the egg will not fall out.

Happy egg bombing!