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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Art Therapy 2: Birds of Release Session 1 of 3

This blog series, in three parts, covers a wide range of crafts when we pretty up three bird die-cuts, namely mosaics, decoupage and painting. However, we take the process even further when we use these birds as catalysts to deal with our own issues regarding forgiveness and release. In the process we create and opportunity for you to delve into areas you may have been avoiding and we attempt to help you create a pathway towards release and healing. This blog is not to be missed for either creative input, or therapeutic value. The first of these blogs uses mosaics to help you shape your image of yourself.
This blog is co-authored by Marietjie Uys (artist) and Melette Els (therapist).

As is the rule when working with raw material, we need to start by prepping the surface. We do this by painting a coat of Gesso onto our birds. Gesso is a primer that will assist in making your decorations and paints stick to the surface. Make sure to paint the front and the edges as all of these will be treated and decorated. The therapeutic process works much the same way, if we consider the concept 'raw material'. We also start on a a 'raw' and painful wound. In that, we need to prepare ourselves to work on and with the issue at hand if we are to benefit from it at all. You can prepare by asking yourself:

  • How will my life be different if I can deal with this issue?
  • How can I prepare myself not to feel too vulnerable to continue with the process?
  • Would it help me to rather do this with a friend, or would it be possible/better to do this on my own?
  • What can I do to set aside the time needed to complete this process and concentrate on what I am doing, or will there be too many interruptions in my life?

If you think you may want to do something on the backs of the birds (perhaps a repeat of the whole course, if necessary, for your own benefit) you may gesso the backs as well. If, for no other reason at all, it will serve as a sealant for the wood, protecting it against outside influences, such as damp, etc. Remember, in life it is also important to watch your back ;-)

The first signs in life that we are in trouble is usually when we get a bit frayed on the edges. The picture still makes sense, but the furthest corners start to show signs of wear. That is why we start with the edges on these birds. You can choose to paint them any colour you like. I opted for painting them Lamp Black, using Acrylic Colours as these dry quickly.

Use a small flat brush and paint all around the edges. Taking care of the fraying edges first can be compared to allowing yourself to get temporary help with a problem. This is not a long term solution, but simply admitting that for a short period of time you may need some outside help. Do you perhaps need an extended holiday? Perhaps you need to make an appointment with a therapist? Or, perhaps you need to see a doctor for a prescription for sleep medication? Admitting that you need help is the first step towards healing.

The first place to start is ourselves. Do you remember Jesus' answer when He was asked which was the greatest commandment? He said it was to love God with every fibre of your being. Then He continued and said that there was a second, equal to the first; this was to love your fellow humans. But He did not end the conversation there. He set a standard. Both God and man has to be loved as much as you love yourself. Do you love yourself? Can you openly and honestly declare that you love yourself as much as you do others? This is why we start the process with mirrors. We want to take a look at ourselves. I have collected a number of mirror tiles and I put these on the bird. They are beautiful squares and somebody has taken great care to create them, but they do not fit your shape. In this course you are always represented by the birds. How can me fill the holes if the squares don't fit the round shapes of the bird? This is the conundrum of life.

I want you to pull the squares away from their backing. Allow yourself to pull away from the image that others have created of you. We want you to be the most authentic you, not an idea that someone else had of you.

I now want you to tuck those tile squares in between two layers of thick fabric. Do not use something that is valuable as the glass may damage the fabric. Before you continue, I want you to make a list of the shapes that people have tried to fit you in. Which of these shapes really and truly do not fit you at all? These can often be identified by the fact that they cause pain, discomfort and frustration. Imagine yourself placing those between the layers of fabric when you put those mirror squares in the folds of the fabric.

Then I want you to take a hammer to the tiles and to shatter them to pieces. That cloth serves as protection between you and flying glass shards. In life we find this layer of protection in the people we trust; our friends, a councilor, a parent. These people differ from person to person. Choose them carefully, just as you would the cloth you use. If their protection is inadequate, you could get hurt. Who are these people in your life? Think about them carefully and write down their names. Why do you trust them? Why do you feel safe with them? Remember that you should always have more than one person in this supportive role. One may not be able to be there for you when you need them, and then there need to be others to fill the role. If you do not have people to fit this role, please consider consulting with a therapist, a life coach or similar professional to assist you in creating such a supportive network.

Now take a look at the shattered mirror pieces in front of you. Are they ugly?  At this moment they still are. But at this moment they are not a part of you. You are that blank canvas in the shape of a bird. You are now free to keep what fits and to discard the parts that makes no sense to include when you start rebuilding your image.

You need to find an adhesive with which to attach the parts of you back to your life. What is it that gives meaning to your life? For me it is my faith in God. Life makes sense in Him. Outside of Him, I find very little that makes it worthwhile to me. What gives meaning to your life? If you do not have the answer to that question yet, I do not want you to despair. You may borrow my glue for the time being and gradually replace it with your own as you learn more about yourself. Sometimes we have been suppressed for such a long time, that we have lost touch with the answers to these questions. That is what this journey is about; self-discovery and release. Enjoy it, don't fret it. Learning who you are is getting acquainted with the best friend you'll ever have.

I now want you to slowly and methodically select the mirror pieces you will be using to fill the shape that is you. Putting these back, you run the risk of cutting yourself on the sharp edges of the broken glass. Whenever we begin a process of reconstruction in life, we run this risk. But we take the risk anyway, because the results outweigh the risks. You will note that some pieces are big and others are tiny. It is true for life as well, where not everything takes up an equal amount of space in our lives, yet they all find a place where they belong. Can you see why you could never be a collection of equally sized mirror squares? How does this knowledge make you feel? Does it give you a sense of freedom, or do you have a negative reaction to this. Explore the reasons for having this negative reaction, if that is the case.

Once all the spaces have been filled, I want you to take a close look at the mirror. Are you annoyed that it gives you a broken image? But how is that different from the one you got from the squares? That image was also broken, only along more predictable lines. Nothing has changed, except that you have released yourself from the mold cast by others. You now fit your shape and although that shape is unfamiliar and unpredictable, it is a beautiful one, and one that is worth getting to know better. How do you feel about this? Choose three words to describe your feelings, e.g. good, excited, uncomfortable, neutral, etc. Please be creative here and do your best to find words that accurately describe how you feel.

It is at this point that we start adding others to our life. We do this by mixing some grouting with water. We then work that grout into the holes and grooves left open for it, the same way we allow people to fill small spaces in our lives. Note that we never once take a piece of mirror out to make way for more grout. The grout compliments the mirror, not the other way around. Now leave the grout to dry in the sun.

Once the grout is semi-dry, we wipe away the layer that dulls our reflection, with a damp cloth. This is when we reassess our relationships and remove or alter the ones that detracts from our shining to the best of our ability.

When you now hold the bird up in front of you, you will be able to see a clear image of yourself. But more importantly, you will be able to see a clearer reflection of the people around you as well. And when you shine a light into this mirror, you will note that you are now also able to reflect God's bright light to those around you.

In the next blog we will be exploring forgiveness and release through decoupage.

Melette Els (Clinical Social Work) can be contacted via the webpage, or by email at, or by phone at 082 776 1536.
Melette Els B.A. (SocSc) M. (Th) 
BHF Pr Nr.: 089 000 00 28754 SACSSP Reg.Nr.: 10-17310

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