Blogging 101 Day 1 task: introduction: Who I am and What My Blog is About

I’ve been taking a great blogging class, and I am finally doing my homework! This is the first assignment! For me it’s the Evolution of my blog to where it is today.

I started blogging a long time ago, and this blog has over 200 posts, but I only recently changed its title and tag line. To begin with, I thought I was doing a blog about art therapy, as a way to informally introduce people to it who don’t know what it is, and to promote my own philosophies and slant on my work as an art therapist and psychotherapist in private practice. Once I got going, I realized I missed the act of writing, and that I enjoy writing about a variety of topics, from art therapy to psychology to stereotypes, gender, mindfulness and death and loss.

The blog has continued to evolve, and recently my interest in Social media that I just started exploring, Twitter and YouTube, got me thinking more about my blog and what I want it to be about. I realized I wanted to get back to what has been a personal focus since I started art therapy training, the identity of being an artist first and foremost and layering it with that of the art therapist. My former professor and mentor Arthur Robbins described an art therapist as “having the soul of an artist.”

Thus, as a professional artist and art therapist, I have always been interested in the balance of these two identities for myself as well as others. My studio turned into an artist studio art therapy office blend many years ago when I started my private practice, and has remained that ever since. Ironically I moved to a new studio that happened to have two rooms, and, given the choice of making each room a specific kind of room, I chose to make both rooms for art making and work with others. That metaphor has carried out in my approach to art and art therapy. For example, if a friend or colleague drops by, we often end up making art during the visit. I’ve always wanted my studio to be inviting for all kinds of people to make art, especially people who don’t usually do so.

On Facebook, I’ve had two professional pages, one for being an artist and one for being an art therapist. For some reason it works well to separate them on Facebook but not on other social media like Twitter and YouTube which I only just started using. Tweeting lends itself to unifying both parts.

So a few weeks ago, I had a revelation about this blog, that I wanted it to reflect my identity as an artist too, and I realized I could make it more personal as well, by simply changing the title and tag line along with the inclusive focus! I don’t know why it took so long for me to realize this, but I think my first foray into blogging just involved keeping up regular posting, and occasionally getting a guest post on my colleague’s blog about stereotypes.

Now I’m in the deeper stage of blogging where I’m looking more closely at my blog, and really fine tuning it. Turning it into “Musings of an Artist/Art Therapist” was instrumental in inspiring me to go deeper with the blog and explore how I can make it more personal and more “me” while keeping it professional.

It also brings me back to my main focus as a creative artist and a healer, that to heal “make oneself whole”, we need to revive and reawaken and nurture our creative spirit, that sickness of the emotional and spiritual bodies is directly connected to a sickness of our inner artist and that we can always heal and return to that creative part of ourselves that is integral to awakening to a fuller and more fulfilled life, in our relationship to both ourselves and others.

Coincidentally, I posted about the new title and focus before I found wordpress’s great Blogging 101, which I signed up for without thinking much about it.

As I was busy the first nine days of the month preparing for my altered book workshop,I missed the first ten days or so of the blogging class and only recently got refocused on it; a whole new world has opened up way beyond just changing the title and focus, and I’ve encountered a whole new community of bloggers, which has been perhaps the most delightful part, that we all share a love of blogging and seeing and reading each other’s blogs, with very diverse topics and interests…
G topics, from art therapy to psychology to stereotypes, gender, mindfulness and death and loss.

The blog has continued to evolve, and recently my interest in Social media that I just started exploring, Twitter and YouTube, got me thinking more about my blog and what I want it to be about.

As a professional artist and art therapist, I have been interested in the balance of these two identities for myself as well as others. My studio turned into an artist studio art therapy office blend many years ago when I started my private practice, and has remained that ever since. Ironically I moved to a new studio that happened to have two rooms, and, given the choice of making each room a specific kind of room, I chose to make both rooms for art making and work with others. That metaphor has carried out in my approach to art and art therapy. For example, if a friend or colleague drops by, we often end up making art during the visit. I’ve always wanted my studio to be inviting for all kinds of people to make art, especially people who don’t usually do so.

On Facebook, I’ve had two professional pages, one for being an artist and one for being an art therapist. For some reason it works well to separate them on Facebook but not on other social media like Twitter and YouTube which I only just started using. Tweeting lends itself to unifying both parts. So a few weeks ago, I had a revelation about this blog, that I wanted it to reflect my identity as an artist too and I realized I could make it more personal as well, by simply changing the title and tag line along with the inclusive focus! I don’t know why it took so long for me to realize this, but I think my first foray into blogging just involved keeping up regular posting, and occasionally getting a guest post on my colleague’s blog about stereotypes. Now I’m in the deeper stage of blogging where I’m looking more closely at my blog.

Coincidentally I posted about the new title and focus before I found wordpress’s great Blogging 101, which I signed up for without thinking much about it.

As I was busy preparing for my altered book workshop I missed the first ten days or so of the blogging class and only recently got refocused on it; a whole new community of bloggers, which has been perhaps the most delightful part, that we all share a love of blogging and seeing and reading each other’s blogs, with very diverse topics and interests… And that everyone is very invested in helping each other to make our blogs the best they can be. It’s a very supportive environment. As an introvert who has had a wonderful journey discovering a sense of community through social media, I very moved by this diverse group of bloggers and how much we can all learn from each other, thanks to WordPress’ great “Blogging 101”!

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Daily Prompt: The Waiting Room of Life: With Photos

As I am taking the WordPress “Blogging 101” class to improve this blog and my blogging skills, I am trying out their daily prompt. I picked this one from Nov. 16, as it is very timely.

The Daily Prompt is:Waiting Room “Good things come to those who wait.” Do you agree? How long is it reasonable to wait for something you really want?

Lately, in sessions with patients, this topic comes up a lot, during transitions such as moving to a new neighborhood, job searches, a long paper, thesis or dissertation, other career issues and relationship issues, even waiting for a psychiatrist appointment.

WhenI usually bring up Dr. Seuss’s book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”, because my favorite page is his interpretation of the “Waiting Room” of Life, and you see the people waiting and his text includes “waiting for their hair to grow”.

I found a link to the exact page spread from the book!:

Everyone is just waiting for serious stuff like a Better Break, or for material things. My favorite is about the hair, as I have experienced that in the past few years. I like changing my hair a lot, and I decided to grow it long. As I have no interest in extensions, I felt like I was in that waiting room, waiting for my hair to grow. At several points in that process, I felt urges to cut all my hair into a short hair cut, and it was hard not to run to a barber and do it, very tempting, every time I saw some actress with a “Pixie” Haircut I missed having that hair cut from for me the late nineties into 2000. But I stayed put in that waiting room and my hair eventually grew to the point where I needed to trim it. then there was the urge to change it up, but I haven’t acted on it.

the other funny thing is I have never had a “waiting room” in my private practice which most therapists of all kinds tend to have. Even now in my relatively new studio, I have two rooms and could have made the first one a waiting room, but I chose instead to use both rooms for art making and art therapy and therapy. So the waiting room in my practice where patients may bump into each other is the hallway, elevator or bathroom…

Right now, I am waiting for a bunch of things alongside several patients waiting for their particular things. I started a graphic novel in the year 2000 and it is waiting patiently for me to get back to it and eventually finish it. At this point, the new pages I did last year are in some box in my apartment but I have no idea which one, so I hid the project from myself! Now I”m waiting for those pages to show up somewhere. I find that misplacing things at my house or studio involves waiting for them to suddenly appear. Whenever I am looking for something, I usually find something else I forgot…

In sessions with people who are in that waiting room, they are acompanied by me as their therapist, waiting with them, and we explore what it is like to sit with the not knowing, non clarity, no answers, no doing aspect of the waiting, which usually is what is most uncomfortable for people. Meditation in action or sitting meditation or yoga are good for this too as you notice what is going on with your breathing. Are you waiting for your next breath? Are you waiting to end the meditation if you set an amount of time?

The sentence “Wait and See” has been difficult for me throughout my life, as I am the impulsive type; I make decisions quickly and don’t like prolonging the pros and cons list or even making this list, which has gotten me into trouble, so I am working on sitting with things more and not reacting so much. “Act, don’t react” the Yogi teabag told me just this morning.

The altered book project is an interesting aspect of this waiting as I have 16 projects in various states and stages, and I’ve been fine with working on different ones and not having an urge to finish any…
These are photos of the two rooms in my studio office. (I didn’t clean up to take the photos.)

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Say Something: Commenting Etiquette

Interesting to think about the Comments more closely and the nuances, what it says about the commenter, etc.

The Daily Post

Previously, I wrote about how to drive engagement and build relationships on your blog through good comment moderation. Today, let’s talk about the other side of that: being a good commenter yourself. As Michelle pointed out, leaving comments on other people’s work is one of the best ways to lure others to interest others in your own site. But some comments are more effective at this than others. Here are some tips for how to win at commenting:

  • Read thoroughly. Before commenting, make sure you’ve read the entire post and the other comments before yours. Your comment should never make the writer (or the other readers) wonder if you actually read the material. Also, if your point is on target, it might have already been made by someone else – in which case, you can reply to that person’s comment!

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Don’t just visit the dollar store make it a habit

I love Dollar Stores! I get lots of cool art supplies at this one upstate where everything in the store is a dollar. I discovered packages of fine glitter in every color there, and all kinds of other exciting things!!!

Smart Discount Shop

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The most efficient way to eliminate major debit is to watch what you spend. Purchasing items at the Dollar Store eliminates cost. Social class does not matter in the Dollar Store because even wealthy understand the benefits to this phenomenon. At any Dollar Store individuals can find everyday items at or close to $1.00. Dollar Stores are able to keep their prices low because many of their items are substandard. As a result, careful shopping will provide benefits most customers don’t see. Purchase storage containers that are BPA-free, craft, and holiday items are usually great deals. This includes frames, poster boards, glue, pipe cleaners, crayons, wrapping paper, poster boards, markers, etc. Shopping online is actually a benefit because shoppers can see whats available at a Dollar Store, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, etc. One can find weekly specials and coupons on their websites. If the customer provides their phone…

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Cool Discover: Break/Cut Open the Book!

On Sunday I facilited a workshop on altered books and art therapy. at the Expressive Therapies Summit: Here is the descri ption:

“In this half-day workshop, illustrated by case examples, we will explore how the medium of the altered book is uniquely placed to function as a bridge in integrating all parts of the self on the path to individuation. The therapeutic process connects to the metaphor of altering and destroying a book to create a new “Self” and play with a new narrative of the self with the rebuilding of the book. The idea of “radical self-acceptance” will be defined and related to the book’s innate ability to hold different aspects of the self on different pages, and through the juxtaposition of left and right sides. Specific materials and directives to invite this kind of “parts” exploration will also be discussed. Participants will begin their own altered book in the workshop and focus on discovering parts of their shadow and other cut-off or blocked aspects of themselves through the artmaking, then dialogue with these parts within their book. Time will be allotted for sharing and processing.”

The workshop was a great experience for me and, I hope, for the participants. I got inspired at the last minute to present the goals of the workshop in a very simple way, so I wrote them down on the board as: “1. Destroy/Create 2. Play/Have fun and 3. Be Here Now/Accept Yourself” It was great to see what people managed to do with their books in only 3 hours. My bibliography for the workshop is two books: an adult book I discovered in grad school called “Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art” and a children’s pop up book called “Beautiful Oops”.

The big break through I had happened the next day. So on the next day, Monday the 10th I was working on an altered book in session with a patient. She got the idea to cut open her book at the spine of the book because it was sticking out like an accordion and she wanted to give the book more space to be able to hold all her altered pages. Usually people at the beginning of the process or later on rip out a lot of pages in the book to have more room and avoid the “accordion” look of the book spreading out way beyond it’s original distance between the two covers. You would think with all the altered books I have started and made (at least 13-15 by now) that I would have figured out this idea of making room for the altered book instead of fitting it in the original book as a big part of altering books involves making it “bigger” and “more” than the original book. However, I was not surprised as I had even told the people in the workshop that I get lots of inventive great ideas from my patients, which could be the topic of another post (copying my patients’ creative ideas and passing them to other patients!) It’s amazing, the process of taking an exacto knife and cutting down the spin of the book. You get to see the insides of the binding and really see how this particular book was actually put together. The other unexpected part of it is that suddenly you have two books. My patient considered this option but decided to keep it as one book and add cardboard to the spine to make more room for her book, so she kept it as a whole. The pictures below are from two of my books that I have split in half.

The first book I opened up and created a new spine for in my session with my patient. The one with the doll in it I did later that day on my own. It was a great feeling of inspiration to cut it open and then create a new spine out of the cardboard from a sketchbook. I ended up adding the rest of the sketchbook cover and back with the wireboand right into the book. Then there was so much room left in the book I had the inspiration to glue in my doll, which I had made on Saturday during one of the workshops I attended. Later in the week, I worked more on that book and it came apart, so right now it is two books and I’m thinking of keeping it that way rather than gluing it back together to make one!

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Links for Altered Book Workshop Participants

Thank you for coming to my Altered Books Workshop this year. If you’ve gotten here, you are in the right place, as it is much easier to follow these links directly than from a piece of paper.

Here is the info:

Natasha Shapiro, ATR-BC, LCAT
59 Franklin St., Suite 205
New York, NY 10013
(917) 374-7082
Email: natashart@yahoo.com

Link to Handout: “Altered Books and Mixed Media, Matterials”
https://natashashapiroarttherapy.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/altered-books-and-mixed-media-2/
Link to Handout: “Basic Guide to the 3 Stages of the Altered Book Process In Art Therapy”
https://natashashapiroarttherapy.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/stages-activities-directives-and-methods-of-altering-books/

Links to my work and social media, as well as videos of altered books:

Art Therapy Blog: “Musings of An Art Therapist/Artist”:
https://natashashapiroarttherapy.wordpress.com/

Art Therapy Website: http://www.tribecahealingarts.com

Artist Website: http://www.natashart.com

You are Invited to “Like” my Art Therapy Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/TribecaHealingArts
And my Public Artist Page:
https://www.facebook.com/TribecaNatashaShapiroArt

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/natashartpoodle

Please subscribe to or just check out to my You Tube Channel, which has 3 videos of altered books I have made: (I plan to add more and hope to post some of the patient art work from the workshop, as well as any participants’ altered books)
http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmOuWe2m7mWpNnbwjTbawjA

Stages, Activities, Directives and Methods of Altering Books

Stages, Activities, Directives and Methods of Altering Books:

First Stage of The Beginning: The “Invitation”!
1. Inviting your patient to do the altered book, introducing the process and choices of media as well as books to alter…
2. It is best to have a variety of choices of books that you supply so the person does not feel like they have to “ruin” a book of their own and feel that the therapist will hold the “bad” part by giving permission to destroy a public already created object…
3. Having, displaying one or more of your own altered book projects, finished or not, is a good way to show/explain the project, and make it fun, acceptable and inspiring!
4. The Big Choice: Witness the patient choose what kind of book to alter or actively help with suggestions if appropriate. See list of materials for further classifications and descriptions.

Second Stage of the Beginning: Destruction/Preparation of Book as “Ground” “Surface” for Altering: The Separation Process of Removing Former “Author”/Identity of the Book to Prepare for Creation of Your Original Artwork:
Destroy, Take apart, Eliminate, Discard, Remove, Rip, Tear, Cut, Alter surfaces, Change, Separate, Dissolve, Kill, Remove, Expell, Extract, Remove
1.Take out pages, rip off half of pages, glue together pages, rip surface off board book pages, gouge out board book pages, make holes and tears on paper pages. Cut pages, cut edges of pages, staple or attach other pages or paper materials to be inside the book or extend beyond the page, Cut deep into the book through layers of pages, poke holes, use Sandpaper to rough up surface for holding paint or to alter photos and images in the book, keep book jacket as is, cut out parts, or discard. A whole session spent altering the surface and ripping and throwing out pages can be a good way to jump right in, have fun, and avoid getting overwhelmed with ideas about content.

Third Stage of the Beginning: Start Creating, Doing, Making, Using Materials:
Look, Find, Discover, Create Space, Begin Anywhere, Open, Enter, Conceive, Start Rebirthing Process (Book as House, Body to Redecorate, Design, Embellish)
1. Choose some art materials, supplies, mixed media. See list provided.
2. Choose to jump in and explore and let the process lead you somewhere without an intention or with an intention, theme. What will this be? A Book, An Object made with the book? Note: Calling it a Self-Portrait can give permission to let the book unfold session by session. What makes this project so open, playful, fun and non threatening is often the idea of surrendering, seeing what happens, knowing you can redo pages and even rip them out, so it tends to go well with a “go with the flow” attitude which is mirrored in the improvisational aspect of the therapy session, thus, unless my patient states an intention or purpose for the book, I encourage him/her to wander, let go, play…
* Closed Flat Book versus Open “Accordion Book”: To keep the book flat if using thick or 3D media, remove pages all over the book so it can close. Otherwise, dive in and expect the book to start expanding like an accordion. (See Case Examples Presented.)
1. Locus: Decide whether to start with cover or back cover, keep book jacket to use, or start at beginning, or dive into the book and work on pages at different sections.
4. Start altering/creating, with therapist as witness, companion, container, mirror, security guard…

Second Stage after 3 Beginning Stages: Getting Into It! Down the Rabbit Hole…
Play, Connect, Attach, Add, Embellish, Dig Up, Hide, Conceal, Reveal, Layer, Build
Directives/suggestions for this stage, which is the longest part of the process:
Note: There are so many things to do with altered books, these are just a few ideas to get you started… If a patient is “stuck” with how to begin in a later session with their ongoing project, I usually suggest some new materials. Otherwise, you can ask if s/he wants a directive or choice of ideas to experiment with…
1. In individual art therapy, with the altered book project, each session begins with an invitation and choice to bring out the book and work on it or not. Some patients work on it every session, and some put it aside and get reignited at a later time. Putting the book “on the shelf” can be therapeutic in terms of the idea of letting something be unfinished, unknown, waiting for a new moment, accepting that you don’t feel like working on it. Or take out some other art work from previous sessions and consider recycling it, cutting it up, incorporating it into the book somehow.
2. Tape up or paint on page or page spread and just reveal a few words that you choose.
3. Paint/mark up one side and stick it to the other and then separate for mirror image effect/print.
4. Openings and pockets: make different kinds of windows, doors openings: holes of different sizes and shapes, windows that open and close, fold page in some way to create a pocket.
5. Experiment with unfamiliar materials from the list provided or take a familiar material and do something new (stick feathers or other objects into model magic and glue to the page…)
6. Pick a paper doll cutout and glue it on a page to create a full body self-portrait.
7. Glue an envelope to a page and hide or store things in it. Pick words from magazines, other pages of the book or a word box.
8. Yarn and fabric, sewing supplies, experiment with sewing paper and fabrics on the paper of the book or create a new page to put into the book somehow.
9. Go through the book and start creating layers by working on several pages at a time. If you wet the page you can put objects between pages to keep them from sticking together or use binder clips. Big binder clips can allow you to use wet media in different areas of the book in one session.
10. Consider the layout, you open the book and there are two sides. Are the two sides delineated and separate or do you take both sides and turn them into one continuous surface? Can each side represent opposing aspects of the Self?
11. Consciously consider the book to represent different aspects of who you are, your identity, parts of yourself that you hide or reveal, parts you want to transform.
12. Write a letter to yourself or to your future self or someone else and put it in the book.
13. If you want to consider a topic or theme, think about what part of your story to tell: Is this book about childhood, you now, the therapy process and what you are doing in therapy, or dedicated to someone else, living or dead. Is it about a loss of some kind? Or your future child/baby? Does the theme reflect an interest or passion of yours or something new to discover?
14. You can surrender to the book and let it lead you where to go and enjoy the process without having any idea what it is about or how it will turn out. Or, ask the therapist to lead the way with his/her book and copy the what s/he is doing.
15. Take a page or page spread and deliberately make it ugly, use colors you don’t like, put words you don’t like on it, make an image that you find unpleasant. Put it aside and look at it during another session to see if your attitude towards it has changed and what you learn from this Ugly Self. Keep it or rip it out and cut it up and put it throughout the book.
16. Try weaving with paper, ribbon, yarn, rubber bands…
17. Use double sided decorative paper or fabrics or foldouts to add new pages into the book.
18. Glue two books together and start from there.
19. Find words in the book to create a title…
20. Create fold out pages and add things in the hidden page.
21. Deliberately use materials that extend beyond the page, horizontally or vertically, like suspending cut fabric or thread or wire with bead on it, a painted tea bag, or a glued on book mark.
22. Use an unconventional type material: glue a teabag somewhere, make a chain of safety pins, play with aluminum foil, napkins, paper clips, coffee beans, sand, etc.
23. Add in personal objects, old photos, tickets, menus, receipts…
24. If your patient wants to, you could create two books at once, either by both working on similar or different books at the same time or even passing books back and forth.
25. Use a page spread or page in the book to process a dream.
26. Make a small doll, figure or animal to attach somewhere to the book, either to be able to move it to different parts of the book or to stay in one place with the book as environment.

Third and Last Stage: Finishing the Book!
The End, Time for Reflection on the whole process… Book as Therapeutic Object
1. How do you know it’s finished? Does the book supply the stopping point? Do you intentionally “end” it? Do you choose to finish it by stopping but considering it unfinished and that it will remain unfinished? (Accepting the unresolved parts of the Self, seeing the Book as a Book of life that you put aside or decide to end with extra pages left in unaltered.)
2. What feelings come up around finishing your book and your therapist witnessing the ending of this big Project?
3. Does the book mirror something in the therapy process? Are you feeling like you have reached a turning point in therapy and ending the book satisfies that feeling? Does the book signal that you want a break in therapy or to end therapy?
4. What else comes up around ending/finishing/completing or leaving incomplete?
5. What do you want to do with your Altered Book? Does it now have a Title? How does it feel to hold it in your hand and look through it? How does it feel to watch your therapist hold and look through it? Are there moments you remember that were important for you on certain pages? Do you have a narrative that tells a story and how did the story arise? What does it feel like to have a chaotic book with no title that was made in no particular order with many different media versus making a book where you started at the beginning and knew you were finished when you reached the last page?
6. If you and your therapist made “mirror” books together, what do you want to do with the finished books? How do they reflect your therapeutic relationship?
7. For those who started the book at the beginning of therapy with their art therapist or a few sessions after beginning and worked on the book continuously in every session, what does it reflect to you about the therapeutic relationship, the therapeutic process, trust, intimacy, vulnerability? What does it feel like to have a concrete physical record contained in a book as reflected or symbolic of the therapy?
8. Does ending this book inspire you to start another one or take a breather? Are you working on more than one book? If so what is it like to end one while continuing with one or more others?
Post-partem feelings: process any emptiness, sadness, feelings of loss about finishing, ending the book…

Altered Books and Mixed Media!

For My Altered Book Workshop on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014:

Impossible Things Before Breakfast!

This will introduce how varied altered books can be depending on choices of media, both conventional and unconventional. The form lends itself to mixed media, but some choose to use one media only…

Supplies and Materials for Altered Books:

Choices of Books:
First Important Part of Choice:
Kind of book, first choice between “Adult” books and “Children’s books
Adult Books: Hardcover is Best:
Choice of books with only words, books with words and pictures, books with only or mostly photos or pictures; Books with only writing in them…
Examples: Non-Fiction: recipe and how to DIY type books, Classification books such as dictionaries and books about birds or some other species, word origin books, non fiction, books about art supplies and art making, photography, crafts, art, artists, graphic novels
Anatomy and related type books,
Fiction of all kinds
(Notice the texture and thickness of the pages; each kind presents different challenges)

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