Chocolate Party!

Last week we had a chocolate party sponsored by the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation! An expert chocolatier volunteered her time to come in and help the kids make tasty creations in milk and dark chocolate. The kids spooned dollops of melted chocolate onto trays and used almond slivers, candy corns, peanuts and cherries to create little faces.

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Some kids ended up covering their own faces in chocolate…

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It was an awesome day and everyone had a great time!

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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

Tis’ the Season for Peeps!

Here we go again- thinking up crazy ideas for the annual Washington Post Peeps Contest! (http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/peeps ) The deadline is this Monday, the 25th, and we are in it to win!

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We have our idea (but you will have to wait to see what it is!), now we just have to figure out how to make our Peep masterpiece.

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A couple years ago when we created our first Peeps Diorama (Peeper Fever) the kids jumped right in, helping to construct the scene and dress the peeps. Although very different from our first entry, I think this year’s diorama is going to be awesome and the kids are going to have a great time making it!

Wish us luck!

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New Year’s Resolution: Make More Art!

I recently spent some time reflecting on this last year and realized that while I worked hard as an art therapist, I neglected my “artist self” by not taking enough time to create my own art. As a resolution for 2013, I am going to try to make time (hopefully every day!) to engage in the creative process.

While this may seem like an easy resolution to stick to, making art is not always an easy or pleasurable task. It can be very agonizing to find the right composition, complimentary colors or to work within one’s own artistic limitations.  It takes courage to start a painting on a blank canvas, flexibility to adjust to a new art material, and confidence to know when the artwork is complete.  These are all parts of the struggle and joy that can go into making art.

As an art therapist, understanding the challenges of making art gives me an appreciation of the incredible work that I ask my patients to engage in every day. Engaging in my own creative process reconnects me to my intuition and feelings, and it often helps me to more deeply connect to my patients’ experiences at the art table.

A little space at home for art

“I Don’t Know What I am Making, But I Like It!”

As an art therapist, I often hear people say “I am not creative” or “I am not good at art”. These statements are not surprising as art is often judged by the final product and many of us feel like we fall short when it comes to creating something that can be called art.  While product- focused art making can be valuable, the desire to create a “good” work of art can also get in the way of experiencing the creative process. Creativity can be stifled by focusing on what the artwork looks like rather than what it feels like to create.

One way to focus directly on the process of creating art is through the intuitive painting process, which was originally developed by Michele Cassou.  We incorporated this process into our summer workshops by inviting the kids to “just paint” until they felt the picture was complete. We worked in an outdoor space at the hospital, turning a brick wall and a picnic bench into our own artist’s studio. Paper was taped to the wall and cups were filled with colorful paints. When one painting was finished a new paper was offered. The kids ran back and forth from the table of paints to the paper with dripping brushes in hand. Some kids splatter painted, some created meditative circular forms, while others painted people and animals. There were even a few participants that got so much paint on themselves that they became the artwork! As the kids painted they laughed and asked questions. Many commented on their own process saying, “I don’t know what I am making, but I like it!”

Stepping into a process in which the focus was on how something was created rather than what was created allowed the kids to let go. They enjoyed the messiness of the paint, explored how colors dripped down the canvas and pondered the wonderful and unexpected images that emerged onto the paper.