Felting- A Universal Language

As the snow fell outside the hospital today our patients were busy creating colorful, snuggly felted scarves.

felting

 

One little boy from Afghanistan particularly enjoyed the felting process. As he lay the bright red wool onto the table he smiled and called to his mom to come look at what he was creating. As his mom watched, he pulled little tufts of the soft material apart and carefully laid them on top of one another. His mom enjoyed watching the process, she shared that back home, in Afghanistan, they use the same felting process to make beautiful carpets.

felting!

 

afghan rug

 

This is the wonderful nature of art- the creation process and the materials are often a bridge between so many different cultures. Art, in this case, brought a little reminder of home to the clinic for this family.

Tape-imals

The art room at the Methodist Children’s clinic is currently overrun with tape animals (and a few other interesting creatures), and they have created quite a buzz among everyone who sees them!

tape-imals

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tape-imals3

A young college student visited our clinic one day to learn more about art therapy and specifically how Tracy’s Kids operates.  While she sat in the art room, getting to know some of the kids, she showed us how to make sculptures out of paper and masking tape.  The kids and I were enthralled.  The construction is simple, but really require a lot of patience and problem-solving to get the desired effect.  It’s a great project for families to do together, because sometimes you need extra hands.

All you need is paper, masking tape, and paint.  Regular masking tape works the best.  We started with painter’s tape because I had it on hand, but it doesn’t stick very well (by design), even though it IS  a fun blue color.  The paper is easiest to sculpt if it’s on the thin side, like copy paper.  This could be a great use for extra sheets of paper that are often floating around hospital clinics.  Crumple the paper and work it with your hands until you get the desired shape, then wrap in several layers of tape.  If you do make an animal – or anything with limbs and parts that stick out – it works best to do it in pieces, and then join them together.  Most kids decide to paint the sculptures at the end, but it’s up to them!

I am a big fan of any art that is cheap to create.  As an added bonus, despite their use of simple materials, the end-result looks really special.  I love the attention they get from everyone in the clinic – doctors and nurses and everyone who happens by all “ooh” and”ahh” over them, to the kids’ delight.

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Yes, that is the Pillsbury Doughboy!

Tie-Dye Summer Fun!

TIEDYE

Though tie-dye was a summer staple for me as a kid at summer camp, many of the patients and their families that I work with in the clinic had never done a tie-dye project! It was fun to introduce the kids to this colorful activity, and what I enjoyed most was the “happy accident” quality of this kind of art work. It requires little technical skill, but always turns out interesting and beautiful. There’s a surprise element and delayed gratification because you have to wait for a long time to see the end result, which makes it different from other art experiences to which the kids are accustomed.
This can be a pretty messy project, so preparation is key. Luckily, there is a lot of protective gear in an oncology clinic and the kids enjoyed using the medical supplies for artistic purposes. Dressed from head-to-toe in contact isolation gowns (usually worn by staff when going into a room when a child has a contagious illness) and latex gloves (which are plentiful!), each child wrapped rubber bands around plain, white bandanas. I purchased a tie-dye kit with powdered die already in squirt bottles, so all that was needed was water. This made the project more contained than the tie-dye of my youth, which typically involved big buckets, if memory serves. We then wrapped up the bandanas in our handy “Biohazard” baggies to let the die set.
A day later, the kids got to take home a beautiful bandana – great for protecting bald heads in the Texas summer heat. Each one was so unique, and kids and staff really enjoyed getting to see the final project.

Latex Free

Latex allergies are very serious, especially in hospitals and clinics.  The medicines and blood products given to the patients can actually increase their likelihood of developing this allergy.  For that reason there are no balloons in art making at the clinic.  This limits the piñata s, balls, bowls, and heads created out of paper mâché or plaster cloth.  I have found that large, latex free gloves work almost as well.  the gloves are difficult to tie and not as strong as balloons which is why i go with The largest size I can find.  First you tie knots in the fingers of the gloves right at the base.  Then you turn the glove inside out.  Now blow the glove up and tie a knot, which is the hardest.  I have found a piece of string or wire wrapped tightly works better than a knot.  This also helps as a hanging sting for while the ball is drying.

 

 

 

 

 

The layers of plaster cloth or paper mâché need to be thin and allowed to slightly dry between the layers.  The gloves are not as strong as the balloons and will become disfigured if applied too heavy or deflated too soon.

Happy mâché-ing!!

 

Winter Ballerinas

I am always searching for new, seasonal art projects for the patients, their families, and the staff to do. This helps the patients pass the time in the clinic, learn new techniques, and explore their creativity. The addition of all this artwork to the clinic walls makes the patients proud to spend time her, especially when their artwork is displayed.  When these snowflake ballerinas first made their appearance at the clinic, all the adults asked for directions, staff and parents. First fold an 8×11 piece of paper into a triangle and cut off the extra strip.  Put that strip aside for another step.  Fold the triangle twice more, point to point, to make a smaller triangle.  Cut tip off triangle where all folds come together. About two inches down from that point, cut a wavy line across. This makes the skirt. Proceed to cut pieces off sides of skirt as you would a paper Snowflake.

 

 

 

 

 

Next take extra strip of paper from beginning and fold in half lengthwise.  On the fold draw a body of a ballerina. Cut this out. Open snowflake skirt and slip folded ballerina body through top hole until skirt is under snowflake. Open ballerina body and hang. Enjoy!

 

Tools of the Trade

As Tracy’s Kids art therapists, we are lucky enough to be able to offer the kids a wide array of art supplies every day. In addition to these hand-selected fun and colorful tools, as medical professionals we also have access to a whole other world of resources – medical supplies! Kids love nothing more than to blow up latex gloves and make puppets, or throw rolls of exam table paper on the walls for a mural, or squirt paint onto paper with a new syringe. The novelty of using these supplies always gets the kids excited, but it also gives them the opportunity to interact with the medical environment in a positive way.