Your stories…

An Art In Mind student.

“I remember from the days of my childhood the pleasure to be derived from simple colouring, drawing, making and doing. In taking part in this course that delight has returned.

“I stumbled across this course by accident. Visiting Sudbury library, I noticed a pamphlet called ‘Art in Mind’ which I scanned quickly. It seemed to offer a six week short course designed to increase awareness of the role of art and making in enhancing life, I signed up.

“During our first class, the tutor, Juliet, made it clear what we would be doing and I immediately learned that we would not study drawing, watercolour nor oil painting techniques but would involve ourselves in practical actions; making objects, creating styles of work from paper. Crumpling, creasing, waxing, drawing, pattern making etc until our skills were sufficient to actually design, make or construct a piece of work that we could display and consider fully finished. Nice!

“Within minutes we were all engaged in making our own folio books, in which to record our notes, comments, drawings and ideas, just like at art class. Juliet and her colleague, Paula, showed us ‘wow’. The end result was neat and nice to handle and would have cost good money in a specialist paper book shop. I was immediately ‘hooked’.

“The weeks passed, at each session, we were offered a new challenge, help in working this out and finally a real target ‘to actually produce an artwork ourselves’. I am still working on mine, but find the work intriguing.

“If like me you are lazing about with time on your hands, if you are blue, grey or black in mood and not looking forward to the dark days ahead, why not come and see if this little course can give you a lift, a challenge and an interest.”

A Puppet Project Student.

(Alice is not her real name and this account was written by her carer.)

Alice is a young woman who has been experiencing debilitating mental health problems since her GCSE mock exams at age 15. Over the past 6 years her health worsened and she had a period as an inpatient. Traditional therapies and treatments had little (if any) impact on her health.

Alice was diagnosed with acute depression, severe generalised anxiety – which included panic attacks and acute social anxiety. She became completely mute – she was unable to speak with anyone and began finding it increasingly difficult to communicate in any way with fewer than a handful of people. As a consequence, Alice became increasingly isolated.

Alice was introduced to the puppet workshop by her art therapist. The group consisted of 6 people, including Alice and her Art Therapist. To begin with Alice found the very prospect of joining a group terrifying and it was impossible to enter the building without a great deal of support. Gradually Alice was able to begin participating in making her puppet, first outside of the room and later with the rest of the group. Some additional sessions were added to the workshop and, although some weeks were extremely difficult still, Alice was able to work in the group and supported other group participants. Alice was given an opportunity to join a second workshop in a different place (a museum) with a much larger group with new people to meet. Alice found the change to a new place and meeting new people was very difficult, but she was able to attend each of the sessions and make her puppet, using the exhibits of the Museum as inspiration for her work. She was also able to write a poem to describe her puppet. Alice took her family to see the exhibition.

The things that helped Alice to participate in and benefit from the workshops were:

  • The environment: whilst meeting new people was very challenging, Alice got to know Juliet and some other supporters and participants and felt she was in safe hands with them. The museum was an inspiring and interesting place to work, with a café where her mum could work whilst she was with the group. Quiet spaces were available if any of the participants needed a break.
  • Acceptance and support: Alice was accepted as she is, with kindness and understanding. The programme was flexible enough to meet her needs as they changed. She could do as little or as much as she was able or wanted to in each session, with no pressure to perform. If it were needed some help was offered.
  • A bit of a challenge: The task itself was a bit of a challenge. It was absorbing activity. There was plenty to do, and the expectations were that the work done was achievable – but Alice, like others, took more or less time and with more or less support, depending on how she was on that day.
  • Activity: It was helpful to Alice for the content to not be about her illness or how she was feeling. The activity was interesting and had some complexity. Juliet took the participants through the development and construction of the puppet in a staged way, encouraging creativity and individuality.
  • A group: Alice particularly benefited from the ability to work with other people. To be with other people, to work together, help one another with the task and with no awkward questions!

Joining the group was very stretching, but with her Art therapist’s and Juliet’s support, she achieved much more than she thought possible. And her success had had wider ranging benefits to her overall health and wellbeing. Whilst Alice is still on the road to her recovery and the journey will be a long one, she now feels that at least she knows she can turn a corner.

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