This week I experience a brief moment of peace at the Florida Hospital’s Cancer Care Center.
Besides being my favorite place to escape the Florida heat, the Ormond Memorial Art Museum consistently wows me with their unique classes and art techniques that even the most novice of artists (aka me) can put to use. So when I saw the invitation for local art celeb and tree house dweller Kristin Heron’s Art in Healing Spirit Doll-Making class, I was all on board. Until I did something completely out of character and read the entire email.
“In this class led by Kristin Heron, participants will rediscover and explore the depths of their true self through the ancient, creative ritual of doll-making. Formed from mixed-media fibers, natural objects and personal embellishments, your doll will be an outward expression of your inner essence.”
True self? Inner essence? Though I’d like to think I’d make some ultimate discovery and learn something awesome about myself, I’m pretty prone to expecting the worse. What if this exercise brought up some ugly feelings that I’ve been repressing for years? The last thing I wanted to do was have an emotional breakdown about a time in third-grade when Zachary McDonald told me I had a “boney butt” all while trying to make a spirit doll that wasn’t terrifying in front of a group of ladies that were likely a lot more stable than I.
This is why I don’t get out much.
But in the spirit of taking risks (and this really felt like a risk), I secured my spot and attempted the impossible: a peaceful afternoon of creation and self-discovery. The closest thing I had done to something like this before was when my grandma signed me and my cousins up for a sewing class at Joann’s Fabrics. I had to make a teddy bear, and let’s just say his permanent home is in the top shelf of my closet where he is forever hidden from human eyes.
As always, Kristin made the class welcoming and mellow. She talked to us a little more about having an intention behind our project and showed us what we could pick out from her table of supplies called “the body bar.”
I decided to make my intention mindfulness because, as you can see by now, I’m almost constantly living inside the chaos of my head instead of in the real world. What I learned about myself almost instantly is that I’m interested in what other people are doing than my own work. Also I’m like, really bad a doll-making.
But anyway, the first woman I slightly stalked was Barbara Acree, who after today is pretty much my role model. Her smile was contagious and her wrists were overly decorated with a million beautiful bracelets because according to her “jewelry doesn’t do any good in a drawer.” She said her intention behind her doll was expansion and making a conscious effort to try new things. She was currently working through her bucket list, and since her fear of heights keeps her from typical goals like skydiving, she had to get a little more creative.
“Tailgating was one,” she casually said while wrapping her doll’s twig-built body in tan tulle. “I went to two tailgate parties this past weekend, and they were awesome. I might have been the oldest person there, but it was fun.”
Some people discovered that their essence wasn’t human at all, but animal. Mary McBride stared at her creation for a few minutes before I interrupted to ask what it was.
“It might be cat,” she said with a tilt of her head. “We’re not sure yet.”
Jacki Booth had a more complete intention when she started making her spirit turtle, and for a moment I thought she made it just for me.
“Sometimes we have to get outside of ourselves and help others and do other things. Sometimes we need to solace for personal reflection. Turtles are sometimes slow, but they always make it to the end.”
Jacki, you really get me.
It’s okay to color outside the lines
Good news, you don’t need to be kid to enjoy the benefits of messy artwork (though you’re an adult now, so you have to clean it up)! According to Psychology Today, art therapy and creating in general, can have an enormous impact on the way you feel and interact with the world. The following conclusions were gathered from studies done on people with mental and physical illnesses:
- Art making may reduce anxiety and stress reactions as measured by cortisol
- Several studies demonstrate that art therapy enhances the psychosocial treatment of cancer, including decreased symptoms of distress, improved quality of life and perceptions of body image, reduction of pain perception, and general physical and psychological health.
- Studies indicate a reduction of depression and fatigue levels in cancer patients on chemotherapy.
- Art therapy strengthens positive feelings, alleviates distress, and helps individuals to clarify existential questions for adult bone marrow transplant patients
- Evidence indicates that art therapy and other creative arts therapies stimulate cognitive function in older adults who have dementia or related disorders and may reduce depression in those with Parkinson’s disease
If You Go
Join Kristin and the gang at the Ormond Memorial Art Museum's next Art of Healing Workshop where they will be creating Dwellings of Possibility. In this enchanting workshop, participants will build a tiny piece of the world where endless possibilities reside. Mixed-media houses constructed from stiffened fabric and collaged paper will delight and renew the intrinsic wonder we all possess, that is so easily stifled by everyday obligations. Include imagery, words, fibers, and embellishments to illustrate a space, or honor a memory, where you find comfort and happiness. Each house will be lit from within. No art experience is needed and all supplies are provided. If you’d like to add personal touches to your dwelling, please bring any embellishments, fabrics, collage papers, photographs, and quotes that speak to you.
Held at two locations:
- 3 to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 8, at the Ormond Memorial Art Museum. Free. Call 676-3347 to register or register online.
- 3 to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Cancer Care Center of Florida Hospital. Free. Call 231-2229 to register.