Re Blogging: Shanee Epstein Reflects on Becoming a Full Time Artist

Important topics are covered: Embracing your Artist Identity fully and Integrating it in your life the way you want/dream!

Source: Shanee Epstein Reflects on Becoming a Full Time Artist

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New 12 Week Wednesday Workshop: “Be With Yourself”

Hello,
I am starting a new Wednesday Workshop Series, entitled: Wednesday Workshop: “Be With Yourself”, an art therapy and mindfulness focused 12 Week Series. Mindfulness type groups have been proven to help people with healing and with feeling more awakened and in touch with themselves and the world, and more connected to their body.

The workshop will take place weekly at my studio and last about 1.5 hours on , probably from 10:30-12 pm or 11-12:30 pm, depending on members’ availability.

This mindfulness and art therapy “lab” will be structured and focused on being with yourself in the here and now. We will do mindfulness exercises, including body scan meditations and other experiences with silence using art supplies. There will be a longer time for the main art making component, and we will end with members sharing their art and their experiences during the process.

This is not a “group therapy”. It is meant for people interested in being with others while experiencing being with themselves and working on experiencing sensations and feelings during moment to moment awareness. The discussions in the group will focus around sharing what “happened” inside of your body, what it was like to make the art, and being in the here and now.

This workshop would be good for any of your patients who are in recovery from eating disorders and other issues such as depression or anxiety, OCD, etc. as it does not focus on talking about symptoms and conflicts with others, but on being in your body and becoming more awakened and aware of who you really are in a supportive atmosphere. Thus, it will be psycho educational, structured and strengths based, with focus on learning to use mindfulness in every day life. This workshop can benefit anyone 18 or older, with a curiosity and interest in these topics, whether they are recovering from something and in therapy or not.

The workshop will be a 12 week cycle, with option of continuing another cycle when the first one is over. Candidates who contact me will have a free 20 minute interview at my studio to meet me and discuss their interest in it to see if it is appropriate for them.

Please have any referrals call or email me directly.
Natasha Shapiro, ATR-BC, LCAT
917 374-7082
natashart@yahoo.com
website: http://www.tribecahealingarts.com

Art Therapy and Anger; Can Art be Used to Discharge Agression? Yes!

Inspired by a session I had today, I write this. I spent the whole day at SVA at a conference on trauma, and I even saw a presentation of a former marine who is managing her PTSD through oil painting, but what really inspired me was a session I had later with an adult who never engages with my art materials, much less, makes art.

We were talking about anger in the workplace and I started modelling ripping paper from a National Geographic. I had told this person about this app on the iphone called iShatter, which we both agreed is quite limited and not great. It does let you choose what to “shatter” and then you can “break” things on the screen with your finger, glasses, mirrors, windows, etc. Somehow after the first time you try it, it loses its fun. 

So as we were ripping the paper, I got the idea to get out oil pastels and show how to use them heavy handedly to scribble on a piece of paper and discharge excess anger. We were discussing how nothing takes the place of breaking plates, especially throwing them against the wall. I had hear from another patient that there is some place in Brooklyn you can go and actually break a lot of plates or glass. Anyway I modelled scribbling hard on the paper, I happened ironically to have a paper plate I scribbled on, so I invited my patient to try it. We did more rough scribbling, the kind that breaks the craypa, then I accidentally cut into the craypa thick marks with the edge of the paper wrapper so i got out pencils and showed how you can scratch into the craypa, then I remembered you can poke the paper hard with the pencil which we did as well. I was explaining that  it helps to pick yucky “ugly” colors and fill up the paper with them on top of each other, creating a big mess of brownish color, although we noticed with just the red that it very satisfyingly looked like blood. My patient noticed it was hard still to try not to make the picture look nice. I was using uglyer colors and encouraging more ugliness.

The main thing was the kinesthetic discharge of using the crapas and the pencil served as a knife like tool to poke with and atually attack the paper. Meanwhile I wondered aloud if I could get some cheap plates, bottles and cups and some area of the studio to actually break real plates, so we discussed that.

This week I will look for cheap china and some face or eye masks so we can actually destroy some real plates, cups and other vessels!

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Multiple Blog Topic Disorder!

I have so many ideas and so many different topics I am thinking about and wanting to blog about my head is spinning! This happens to me in other areas of life, like my art making: Suddenly presented with even 20 minutes (which is a ton of time to have to myself these days) in my studio I have to make a quick decision as to whether to start something new, work on my graphic novel, get back to my big huge project, do another weird mixed media thing that is newish, or pick up a piece and keep working on it, or just chill out and do a collage in my journal. In a case like this, luckily being alone and in my studio, I just go for it and usually just do what feels easiest. If I am at my home and have a very rare opportunity of being alone with a million choices and a few hours time, I am extra challenged. Either I try to do a little of everything, or force myself to just clean some area or do what I did yesterday: I had a book I wanted to read and just sat on the couch reading that book for several hours. That was relaxing for me. No noise whatsoever, no need to look around at the chaotic apartment or be distracted by other things, just focusing on a fascinating riveting book I was learning something every page.

So I could blog about that book or topics related to it. But I have so many topics buzzing in my brain. In no particular order:
1. choose the easy way out and find a cool cultural ritual to discuss and celebrate.
2. pick something to add to the series I’m doing on society’s view of mental illness and separating fact from fiction
3. Mindfulness and how it is used in therapy and everyday life, prescription for any human suffering from anything or avoiding suffering
4. Basic fundamental of the idea of DBT, the dialectic between acceptance and change…
5. Self worth, liking yourself, self esteem, self love, whatever you want to call it and why it is so difficult to deal with in oneself and others and as a therapist as all patients seem to share this issue…
6. Importance of validation for parents
7. Trauma, a million topics emerge from just that word!
8. A holistic view of what “Recovery” means and how it can be empowered and person centered…
9. Borderline Personality Disorder, the hush that still surrounds it, despelling myths
10. many things you might share wtih someone with Borderline Personality Disorder even though you don’t have it, so why does everyone get so angry at even the name of it and why did people argue about it not existing and not being correct to put it in the DSM5 or changing the wording…
11. 9/11 is creeping up on us downtown New Yorkers, what ghosts still lurk down here and in our psyche and collective psyche as humans?
12. All healing boils down to finding balance, following the “Middle Path”. Why is this so incredibly hard to do???
13. Body image again: how can someone say that their low self worth has nothing to do with their body. Liking yourself starts with liking the form that you are in as a person, your shape and size, the inside of your body, things your body does, things you don’t know it does, what you do to it, put in it, stimulate it with, relax it with, soothe it with etc. what is the definition of negative and positive body image? If our own culture is any sign of our relationship with our body, we Americans have a very distorted image about what a body is and a lot of preoccupation with what shape and size it is and what kind of outside appearance we have, and obsession with food, nutrition, good eating, bad eating, dieting, fasting, extremes and middle grounds, feeding our babies and kids, etc. When you think about that, you have to really look at yourself and see how much you unconsciously on a daily basis participate in these fixations…
14. making assumptions about people too quickly. Learning to go back to the child’s curiosity and scientific investigation of everything you encounter through every one of your senses…
15. I can’t end at 14 as I have a crazy preoccupation with odd numbers. For alarms to wake up I have to set the time at an odd number, 8:01, not 8 for example, so I can’t end this post with only 14 topics. I guess the 15th is also about indeciciveness and making choices.
16. Uh oh I just remembered another. Noticing in your relationships with others, do you have some conflicts that could just be reduced to having totally opposing types of coping skills? This is so common in couples as opposites do attract.
17. “Look before you leap” versus “He who hesitates is lost.” The dilemma of the extremes around decision making and reactivity, ie. the person who spends too much time with a pros and cons list versus the person who can’t tolerate being in the “I can’t decide, I don’t know” zone and goes in the direction of acting on impulses and quickly…
18. The use of dollmaking in art therapy.
19. Systems theory explained simply: we all have many parts inside ourselves and we can get to know them better to help them work together. Often extreme crisis, even psychosis happens when all your parts of your psyche are at war or shouting at you at once. Hearing voices could be related to hearing from your parts… (look at “The Beautiful Mind” as example.)

Ok. I am sure I have a hundred more topics but at least I got some of them out there as things I want to investigate. Usually I veer towards making decisions too quickly, but I guess blog writing is helping me slow down, notice my mind’s chaos and speed and curiosity, wanting to connect many ideas and actually having a hard time making a decision!

Inspiration Wall!

In my last post I mentioned having an “Inspiration Wall” in my last studio and present one. It is common for artists to have an area where they pin up little images that they love or which inspire them… In discussing Pinterest and art therapy, I was reminded of my inspiration wall which I could actually “pin” to one of my Pinterest boards!

I have used two sides of a wall in one corner. Here are some photos if the images I used thus far. The Inspiration Wall can be changed and added to as you discover different images…

Do you have an inspiration wall? You don’t need to be an artist to make one…

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Endings and Beginnings, Dealing with Change!

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”

-Joseph Campbell

I saw this quotation on Facebook and thought it was perfect for my current state of transition/transformation. I have spent the last week in a deep state of “termination” or loss of my old studio, which I made art in and spent time with others and their psyche’s and others making art for the past ten years in the building of which I had occupied 3 studios in in the past 20 years, the second third and fourth studios of my life as an artist, and of my native New York city. In this same week, I also signed the lease for my new studio, my fifth, which is luckily around the corner from my old studio, so I am not leaving this neighborhood that I have been in for the last 20 years of my life! And it represents 20 of I guess 22 years or so of my being a professional artist…

Ok, so I guess I am repeating myself as I looked at my last post of more than ten days ago, so I will try to post new info in this post!

First of all, Great News about my new studio! It is not the one I described in the last post. In a strange moment of synchronicity, just as I was on the subway reading about one of my favorite artists and her small collages and getting myself excited for a “small and intimate” new studio and imagining how I would make it very different from my old one, I got off the subway and the guy who showed the spaces had contacted me to tell me I still had the option of taking the big one I wanted in the first place, Studio 205! When he first showed me the spaces on Franklin Street, the best space was an interested space with two rooms and a lot of storage space. The wall was only half built in the second room, and he told me the owner was deciding whether to build up the wall and make that the space, in which case, I could afford it (a little more expensive than my current one but well worth it for the high ceilings I am used to and the novelty of having two rooms!), or he would knock down the wall and make a much bigger space way out of my price range. So I spent 3 days waiting nervously to find out the verdict and finally was told he was going to make the big space, so I reserved the other one. Suddenly now I got to have the one I wanted! I was very excited, as the move would be more exciting and at least I would be going a step up from my old beloved studio. This space is a little bigger but a weird shape. Anyway the ceilings are at least pretty high and I won’t have to paint over a dark color, though I will need to paint the walls eventually. Also, as they had to build the wall, I would need to do 2 moves. One was last Sunday and it went from morning until about 1 am with some great movers, friend of a friend of mine. It took forever for them to take out my 2 big flat files and all the rest of my stuff, and as they were loading the truck I was still rushing to wrap up paintings from the now destroyed painting racks. As I used to long ago make very big paintings, I had a lot of those to wrap as well as many medium to small size canvases I had totally forgotten about. Even with everything I threw out, we filled the truck up and I had to get a very large storage space which we filled up completely. Then we went back to my studio and packed about 15 boxes in the truck to take to my home. So by the time I was giving the movers a late meal at my house it was about 1am! And there still was lots of other stuff in my studio that needed to be dealt with over the week up until the last day, Thursday, Feb. 28!

I “surrendered” my studio 307 at about 3:30pm on Thursday. Luckily I did not have to paint the floor or walls and the inspection resulted in a promise (with a signed document) that I would get my entire deposit (a hefty sum of money that would come in handy for paying for two moves…) back!

That same day my new studio wall was up and I had my desk and some wood and other items stored there. I had signed the lease by then and gotten my keys, so I now had my new address, Studio 205 at 59 Franklin St. The new studio has a cool looking column in it as well as a closet and other random kinds of storage. I went there today with a bunch of boxes, a table to use until the next move and some folding chairs. I tried to mop the floor which was dusty, and it was strangely still just as dirty looking afterwards, but hey, this is an art studio and my old floor was very nicely covered in paint and ink spills! I set up the table and opened boxes of art supplies of all kinds, some client art work, and my special box of my tea boiler and my cups and many kinds of tea, so I’m ready for action starting tomorrow morning. I am excited to make something in there before my first 9am patient as I want to make sure I make something before anyone else does, just because… And I will bring my sage as I did not have time or remember today to sage the place.

Speaking of sage, I saged my old studio two times at least. One on the last day, in order to purify the space and remove all my personal energy and the collective creative energy and psychic energy that had accumulated in there over the last ten years. Even though I felt kicked in the face by not being able to choose to renew that lease, I felt a responsibility to leave in a dignified manner and to “clear” the space for the next people. Now I need to purify and sage my new space!

I took many kinds of photos of the old and new studios over the past week, and it’s quite striking how quickly it went from what it was to an empty space…

Tomorrow I will take photos of my temporary set up for this week and then next Sunday after the move the studio will be transformed again…

These are the words of Hannelore Baron, one of my favorite artists, who made very tiny intimate things, words that I identified with: (strangely my own artistic journey went from making very large oil canvases to smaller and smaller things with mixed media on all kinds of surfaces, and I repeatedly arrive at an intimate scale where I am also most comfortable:

“I don’t relate to large things. I don’t like anything large; large things sort of dwarf me… and I don’t like anything that makes me small now…” Hannelore Baron

At the same time, I do love large things and large spaces, but I don’t like the emphasis in our society on “Bigness” somehow being better. Looking up to tall people, big buildings, large art work, etc. There is plenty of beauty in the smallest tiniest spark of color…

To be continued… This will be a transition week, and it almost makes sense that my move is going in phases, as a way for me to cope with all the change better and also have that time to end one chapter and begin a new one…

Note: I will try to post more photos soon. It’s not working!

Big News: Goodbye to Studio 307 on My Tenth Anniversary!

I have not posted in here recently until tonight when I added some photos to the last post on Altered Books. Anyway, the reason is that on Wed., Feb. 7, about a week and a few days ago, with just three weeks left of February which is of course, a very short month, I got stunned with the news that my landlord of 20 years was not going to renew my lease on Studio 307, where I make my art and work as an art therapist/psychotherapist, Reiki practitioner. Since I started in that studio on March 1, 2003, I have renewed my lease annually in February. As usual, I was not thinking about the lease renewal, as I am used to getting a notice under the door telling me to go to the management office across the st. and renew my lease. So I am not being “evicted”; I am simply not given the opportunity to renew my lease after 20 years of renting studios in that building. I started in 1993 with my first NYC art studio (not my first studio, which was actually in Paris, France, a tiny studio at the top floor of a building), on the fifth floor in Room 503. In 1998, I moved to the fourth floor to a slightly bigger studio in 408. I don’t recall if there was a window in there. So I stayed in 408 until I moved down to 307, my current studio, which is the biggest studio I have ever had. It’s about 346 square feet, but feels larger as the ceilings are so high. I have to take photos of the ceilings in there as I have been taking my “last” photos of the studio in the past few weeks and I will post some at the end of this post.

This was shocking and awful news for me, to be quite honest. Over these twenty years I have seen many people come and go. I have had several different kinds of neighbors next door in 308. I have been friendly with about 5 other people on the floor. The current people I know on the third floor and in the building were also shocked by the news, as I have been a great tenant. This is a commercial building but I have seen all kinds of people rent from there, not just visual artists. I knew one musician and have had quite loud neighbors. I have always been known as quiet,except for when there are several loud children in the studio, usually on the weekends. And I know an artist on the floor who regularly brings his two young daughters to the studio. There are lots of children who come to the building. There are no pets allowed but I have seen people bring their dogs there, and on 2 occasions in my ten years in 307, I had patients bring very tiny dogs during their sessions…

Anyway, I was certainly in no way ready to move out. My practice is in fact in process of growing by the month, and I am getting ready to start my art therapy group that I have discussed in this blog, but I am postponing beginning the group until I am in my new studio.

By the end of the day after hearing this news, I had spoken to quite a few people and looked online right away for studios in the neighborhood and elsewhere. I quickly found that most of the studios are listed on Craigslist, although I looked all over the place and also contacted my connections in the neighborhood. I also got a real estate lawyer to look at my current lease and advise me. As I thought, I found out that week from her that the landlord can do whatever he wants and is not required to renew my lease at any time or give the reason why the lease will not be renewed. So I have to get all my paintings and other stuff out of my studio by 4:45 on Feb. 28, 2013. At present I have exactly 12 days left of having the studio. While looking at other spaces, I worked on figuring out how to make sure I get my large two months deposit back. All these practical matters have to be attended to as I at the same time inform my family, friends and patients and supervisees that I am leaving the studio, and most of all, get used to the idea myself.

This is a big loss for me. I have become extremely attached to this studio which is far more than just a “work space”. In another post, perhaps I will look back upon all that has happened over the ten years of being in this studio. Suffice it to say that I have shed many a tear over this big “termination”. There is nothing like being forced to move out of your space that has been your heart and soul for so many years and that has seen so much creativity of myself and countless others, adults and children, family members, many friends, colleagues, patients and supervisees. Since June of 2008 I have facilitated supervision groups in the studio that are based on art making as a major form of processing clinical work. I could go on and on about what this studio means to me, but I will continue reminiscing in another post.

The good news is that I have a new studio around the corner on Franklin St. I have not yet signed the lease, but I expect to give my deposit tomorrow and sign the lease next week. I will have to paint the walls in the new studio, as they are a dark red and blue, but it’s an opportunity to “make it my own”. I’m thinking of painting one of the walls gold, as I love gold walls, and the new studio is significantly smaller by about maybe 90 square feet or so but even more so because the ceiling is very low, so it will seem far smaller than my current one. So I must embrace the intimacy of the new space while still figuring out how to continue to have groups of 3-6 members in there, which I am determined to do.

I was going to wait to sign a lease to give the news to the people who come to my studio, especially my patients and supervisees, but I realized there is not much time left, so by mid Tuesday, I started telling people and continued through my last patient on Friday at 7pm.

More to say about the wonderful support of everyone who has walked into the studio this week as well as the many friends and family members who have been talking to me all week about this big transition.

Today marked my first day starting the big job of packing and going through the big painting racks which need to be taken apart and have so much on them as they go up to the very high ceiling. I found much old discarded art work of various people to throw out as well as other random things. Starting the process makes me realize what a big job this is going to be, even though I have good help on it. I am going to have a goodbye party and sale of art work next Saturday, so I hope to get rid of a lot of old art. Unfortunately I have a lot of very large paintings from the 1990’s to get rid of.

In addition there is the gigantic mandala, 7 feet in diameter, on the wall that my patients face, which I have to figure out how to dismantle and get out of the studio. It was that art piece, probably the biggest thing I have ever made, that symbolized for me how “married” I was to the studio. It was as though unconsciously as I created it many years ago, maybe around 2004 and 2005, that I was saying with it, I am staying here forever, as this mandala cannot fit out the door!

Never had I imagined that my leaving this studio would be not of my own free will. I am still shocked, stunned…

While many people have said how sad this is, others have commented on it being an opportunity to start anew. Alas, both are true. As Nietzsche said, “What does not kill you makes you stronger.”…

Goodbye 368 Broadway and goodbye Studio 307. Apparently I will be able to continue on without you, but I will always miss you…

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The Altered Book: A Great Project for In Session Art Therapy

When I was in graduate school for art therapy, I had never heard of an altered book or seen one, and certainly it did not come up in my “Materials” class. We did not get assigned any kind of Altered Book in any class, whereas now I am hearing from grad students that in some class or other, one of their assignments involves an altered book, which is usually assigned to do outside of class.

I think my first experience of an altered book may have been at the Outsider Art Fair. I distinctly remember going to this Fair years ago when it was always in the lovely Puck Building, which is still there, located on Lafayette near Houston St. in Soho, downtown NYC. In fact years before that, I had some of my graduate art therapy classes in the Puck Building and we organized the student art show on one of the floors of this building. It is certainly a beautiful building. The last time I was there for an art event was the comic book graphic novel fair a few years ago when I met one of my favorite graphic novel authors/artists, Lynda Barry. It must have been back in 2008 when she had just published this beautiful book about her art making process, called “What It Is”. Anyway I think I saw an altered book years before that encounter in the same building. It was made by a female outsider artist and I remember the book being very thick and beautiful and having a lot of glue on all the pages. It was very inspiring and I wish I could remember the artist and find a photo of it.

I made my first “altered book” years before that without knowing it was an “altered book”. It was not quite what we tend to think of these days when thinking of Altered Books. I took all the pages out of this strange pretty bad dramatic novel I did not read and altered the cover completely to the point where it was not recognizable as having been a book. I put a lot of plaster of paris on it and then mod podged tissue paper collage. Then I somehow found part of a cardboard box and attached the book to it so the top opened up as the cover. I think I used the pages to rip up and glue inside the box. I will take a photo of it. Strangely it was a gift for a close friend, but she was a close enough friend that she told me she found the box to be too disturbing to use or look at, so I took it to my studio, where it has been more appreciated! It inspired one person to make something like it with me, and she ended up taking a dislike to the project and left it with me when she left town after we went through her art that she had done in art therapy with me. I still have that rejeccted box in my studio as well. (It inspires me to write a whole post about “ugly” and “rejected” art work and how it is therapeutic in art therapy!)

More recently, a few years ago I stumbled on an online class about altered books, and in fact I have now taken 3 online classes about it, each class covering different aspects of the art making process involved in altering books. I have been making them with patients for a while now, and by making, I really mean inviting patients to try it out and see if they like it. The first part of the process involves the explanation of what it involves, which is, basically, you choose a book and then you can start anywhere in the book or with the cover or back cover and start picking art materials to use on the book. The first steps also often involve ripping out pages from the book, either to use in the book or to throw out. It is usually good to do this at the beginning as a way to give yourself permission to “alter” the book. We all have pretty fixed notions about the sacredness of books, which I think still exists despite the internet, reading on tablets and other devices, or perhaps, the tablets have made books seem even more precious. Jumping in to starting an altered book project requires a certain amount of adventurousness, ability to tolerate anxiety about the unkonwn and anxiety about trespassing a boundary and destroying something in some way in order to create something completely new. It also involves changing ones mind in framing the idea of that book, from something to be read and kept intact, to an object just like any other “found object” to transform and make your own through your own creative expression.

There are many different aspects to altered books as part of the art therapy session that are quite fascinating, so this post will only touch on the first part, the beginning. Once invited the interested patient will next be introduced to the random assortment of books I have to choose from and pick something that speaks to them to alter. Usually Hardback books are more inviting as it is easier to treat the cover like a canvas, but lately I have seen a few people pick soft cover books, becasue I have a few that are an interesting size, kind of square and with a lot of photos, and a cover that is more sturdy than the usual paperback. So far, nobody has decided to go home and pick out one of their own books. Part of this I think is the therapeutic value of taking a book that’s in my studio already taking up space as a book waiting to be chosen, so the process of accepting this odd art project is made easier as you are not “ruining” one of your own books. And I really have a strange random assortment of everything from dictionaries/thesauruses to cookbooks to spiritual meditation type books. Included is a thick hard back Italian novel and some other random novels as well as several books with pictures about fashion or the styles of certain decades. I have a travel guide. I had a guide for artists about materials and how to use them.

This aspect of rejection of the project that began when I made my own rejected “too intense” book box and then an “ugly” book box with a patient is a part of the altered book project. I have had a few people pick out a book and start altering it and then by the next session ask to shelve the project until “I’m in the mood for it. It’s too daunting right now.” The Altered Book will either be seen as a great container that is continually inviting or sometimes it represents being overwhelmed and unable to make any decisions about what to do, resulting in the project getting “shelved”. One of my patients started a first session very excited about all the varied materials I had, wanting to jump right into art therapy and got going very creatively with some book that she even worked on for the first few sessions. At some point I think she started cutting pieces out of the book to create a kind of box within the book, maybe even using an exacto knife. Then in the next session she declared she no longer wanted to work on it, was not in that “headspace” anymore and went to other forms of art making. She made great use of art therapy but never went back to the book until we were terminating and she fondly remembered it as her introduction to me and our work and I think decided to take it with her. The book project just functioned as a jumping in point.

Why do some people get excited to do an altered book in the first one or two sessions of trying it out and then run away from it, shelve it, reject it? Maybe when this happens it is because I, the art therapist, am actually more excited about it than the patient and have high expectations for it being a great kind of project for long term therapy. Perhaps for some people, there is too much commitment too early and they are not really ready for it.

The other interesting thing about doing Altered Books is when people do get invested in them and go back to them every session. Lately that has been happening, probably because a few people in my supervision group randomly chose to work on altered books without my prompting them. Two people have left the group with unfinished books they have taken with them. One person brought her own book to the group to alter with materials from the studio. So that energy of the altered book I really believe was “percolating” for a while in the studio. I had another rejected altered book started about a year ago in one session and then put aside. For a while I was not really focusing on altered books in the studio, just taking these classes and thinking once in a while about it, and learning more ways to approach the Altered Book.

At this moment, my studio feels filled with Altered Books! Like anything that grows in a garden on its own, it feels like this altered book contagion has just sprung up naturally. Just this week I introduced the altered book as an option to 2 patients who got excited about it, chose their books and jumped right in using different media. Last week I had started my own altered book project in the supervision group I facilitate, thinking that now that I have so many patients working on them, I want to do one at the same time. So I chose a book that is a guide to artist’s materials for artists. It was very exciting to imagine taking this book that divides up all the materials and methods and painstakingly describes how to achieve certain effects, and how to “properly” use the different materials and media and rip up the pages and paint on it and collage ripped pieces on to the pages to start the process of making it into a book I hope will be hard to guess exactly what it was even called or to have a vague sense when looking through my book that there are a lot of pictures of how to make art and art materials terms but nothing much else kept from the original book. Synchronicity abounds in doing altered books. For me it came when I opened the book and realized it had belonged to the friend who rejected my first book box project and returned the gift to me. Of course I ripped her name out of the book first.

Anyway, at this moment there are at least 8 altered book projects that have been just begun or are in the mid stages of alteration. If I actually count how many patients have started altered books recently, excluding the person from last year who has not expressed interest in going back to the project, it would be 7, so my guess was not far from wrong, as I am the 8th and then there are one or two people in supervision doing them.

The next post would raise the question: What helps a person stay with an altered book project and continue working on it regularly? and What is it about Altered Books that some people become “blocked” or lose interest after jumping in excitedly.

The one thing true of everyone is that the beginning, that first session of being invited to make one, choosing the book and jumping into it or onto the cover and starting right away to alter it is universally exciting and stimulating. I have only seen people be intrigued and excited when they begin this process. Some express having a weird feeling about “destroying” a book but when encouraged get past that feeling. The fascinating part of the Altered Book is after the initial excitement and embarking on this without a doubt long-term project, there is a moment of remaining with it and committing to it further through getting inside the book and getting going with paint, collage, mixed media, ripping out pages and getting one’s hands dirty. It seems to require about 3-4 sessions at least to determine if one is going to get “turned off” of the project and too overwhelmed, or further jumping in and committing more and more to it. Those who find it to be a kind of safe container stay with it. Leaving it with me in the studio is a big part of that process. I will hold on to their book until they come back to it, so they don’t have to see it for a week. It is very different to work on a long term art project whether it is because the work is very large and will take a long time to finish no matter what or the project by its very nature requires time invested. It is hard to work on a lot of pages at once, especially if you are using any kind of paint or ink. Anyway, leaving the book with me allows the creator to take a break from it and not have to look at it in between sessions. This seems to help the project to become a safe container and holding environment. Even with my own altered book, I decided to try out at first just working on it during the supervision group and leaving it alone, so I also take a week off from it, in order to further get into the experience of my patients and supervisees doing this kind of project…

To be continued…

Here are some photos from my own altered book which I have worked on in different situations, first started it in the supervision group I facilitate, then worked on it alongside several patients who are doing altered books as well as in my studio the other day when I added a kind if nest into the book…

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