Before my second career as an art therapist I made most of my living in art education doing residencies all over Chattanooga and North Georgia. I worked as a teaching artist for 25+ years gathering experience with a huge range of media, a deep understanding of developmental stages and lots of personal growth through things like the 12 Steps, Jungian theory, codependency treatment and a daily practice. I felt my career evolving from art teacher to art Teacher. The process taking on more import and more time swimming in the metaphor… the part I like to connect with in my studio.
Got a clear glimpse today about the difference between teaching art and doing art therapy. My Third Stage recovery art therapy group made clay boxes/urns/vessels for our altars. The idea being to represent the earth on our altars. To ground our spirituality in the earth. Import dirt from our childhood grounds or any favorite place. Home. So I introduced this idea and did a quick intro to clay. Clay as dirt, pinch pot construction, coil pot construction and scoring when connecting two pieces of raw clay together. The basic hand building skills. Then everyone made a lidded pot. I put feet on mine! N. made a sarcophagus, M. made a hand-sized cylinder, and B.’s got all wampy jawed and catty wampus like her. Great little self portraits! While drying, two of the pot lids lost their knobs. When I took them to the art center to get them fired, I did not pop them back on with potters’ magic glue. Instead they were fired together, but separate.
Altar pots fired clay Friday morning group
As an art teacher I would have fixed the student work so that it was presentable. As an art therapist I left it the way it was for the client to consider. Is there something for us in the break? In the falling apart? In the part that’s holding on? A lesson from the “mistake”? Because I don’t believe in coincidence, phrases like “ can’t get a handle on it”, ”hard time opening up” and “losing my grip” come to mind. May be. Art therapy asks us to consider what actually is before we decide to “fix” it. We see where we need work. We see where we put our focus. Or it just might be we may learn from our inner artist that it ‘s not broken at all!