Felted Scarves

One afternoon the clinic emptied out a little early, so we invited the doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplain to an impromptu felting workshop. We had been experimenting with felting techniques, and found the process to be fun and relaxing and the results dependably good, even for first-time felters. For the oncology clinic staff, the chance to engage in a little creative play can be a great stress-buster.

 We took over the art tables and showed everyone how to lay out small strands of roving in several layers and felt them using hot, soapy water and friction to create beautiful scarves. It was pretty amazing to see the variety of designs, and how individual everyone’s piece was. We took a “class photo” of our finished scarves–we think they’re inspirational!

You can learn a lot about felting on the internet. We have found that websites that sell felting supplies (Outback Fibers and Dharma Trading often have excellent tutorials on their sites. Happy Felting!

Always Happy No Matter What

One important facet of the Tracy’s Kids philosophy is that art-making can empower children to be active in their treatment, alleviating the passivity of being a patient. When most people think about hospitals they imagine sick people laying in beds, but this painting perfectly illustrates how art can transform the treatment center into a place of wellness and activity. Created by the 10-year-old sister of a patient, she said the following about her art work:

Even though the kids here are sick, they still have fun and do things. There is a big rain storm, but they don’t care. They are painting and playing anyway.”

This young girl had never been with her sister to the hospital before, and it is incredibly gratifying to see that the art room made her view the entire hospital as a place where kids are happy and getting well.

The Tree

Working with art materials everyday is exhilarating and exhausting at times. It can be easy to get into a rut and pull out the same materials for the same projects time and time again. I am constantly searching for new ideas that will interest the patients I see at the outpatient clinic. One project I recently found was to wet an unprimed canvas and spread watered down acrylic paint on the canvas. This project caught my eye because I happened to have a roll of unprimed canvas. I decided to try a group project of a large tree to hang on the wall. I drew and cut out a tree on the canvas, filled cups with watered down acrylics, and placed syringes in the paint cups. While I was setting up a teenage boy and his mother stopped in on their way to the teen room. I told them I was making a tree and would they like to help. The mother seemed interested, but I thought the boy would not be. I was definitely wrong! Not only did he show interest in the project, he stood in the art area, connected to many pumps and monitors, and waited for me to finish setting up. I had met the boy and his mother two days before and found them both to be very nice and very quiet. The simple availability of the art project brought them out of the dark teen room where they engaged with other families and enjoyed themselves. At one point the boy exclaimed “This is fun”! I learned a lot from the family during our time with the tree. With my simple questions they opened up to tell stories of their family and how the illness is affecting all of them. I was even able to remind them of ailments they mentioned to me when their doctor stopped by to see what everyone was making. The ability of the art to engage, relax, and bring about further communication is what draws me to art therapy and pushes me to always find new and fresh ideas for the patients.