Category Archives: collage

Doin’ the mess around

A lot of messing around gets done in art therapy sessions.

Which I love. Play is so important for children, essential to brain development, to the growth of imagination, dexterity, cognition, emotional health.

It’s important for adults too. When we’re in a state of play, we have a sense of engagement, a way to escape time, and the process itself is more important than the product.

I spend loads of time playing, with kids, with friends, and by myself. Here’s some messing around with Kwik Stix and a Sharpie marker.

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Paper chase

My Year in Paper, 2014

My Year in Paper, 2014

I have always been a maniac paper collector. I came from a printing business family, so had deep paper roots and access to an endless supply of paper, sample books, and discarded make ready sheets, which fascinated me from early childhood. I loved to make collages and I collected paper of all kinds. I began to supplement my supply with papers that I found and, as I got older, bought. Now most of my art involves found and recycled materials.

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Great paper is the easiest thing in the world to come by. Colors, designs, and textures are everywhere. My collection contains used wrapping paper and tissue paper, birch bark, New Yorker magazine pages, tie-dye-stained newspaper from camp arts & crafts. I keep cardboard, labels, old greeting cards and stationary, discarded soap wrappers, used shopping bags.

I like to find stores where I can buy interesting paper cheaply, like the tiny now-defunct Moroccan store at Broadway & 97th. Or the junky but great Pearl River Mart in lower Manhattan. Once in a while I make a trip to New York Central, the shrine of paper lovers, or to Kinokuniya, where I happily spend too much money on a beautiful piece of Japanese washi paper or a sheet or two of handmade paper from somewhere around the world .

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Dear friends have given me gifts of paper that come from places as far away as Katmandu. I spend a lot of time skulking around recycling bins. Once I gave a wrapped gift to friends who were hosting me, and later that night quietly dug my wrapping paper out of their trash can and put it back in my suitcase. You get the idea.

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The thing is, I can remember where just about every paper in my collection came from. So in that sense, the collection serves as my journal. Each one marks a place and time in my life. To me, rather than a jumble of unconnected scraps, my paper assortment seems like an autobiographical narrative. And I write and rewrite this narrative in various ways.

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My Year in Paper, detail

I save every scrap of paper, no matter how small. When the pieces get really small, they get used for something like this bottle, which is filled with tiny collage-making scraps. To me, it feels like a self-portrait.

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Recently, I spent some time trying to design a business card for myself. I was stumped for ideas for awhile. But then it came to me…

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Weaving and quilting with paper

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Weaving and quilting have been practiced throughout history. Both of these traditional arts offer the comfort of ritual and the benefits of relaxing, meditative activity. These arts have been shown to improve concentration, develop fine and gross motor skills and visual/spatial skills, and increase energy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my art therapy practice, I have often suggested weaving and quilting activities using collage. Collage doesn’t require any particular fiber arts skills, and collage materials are readily available (magazines, newspapers, photos, cards, cat food labels, etc). Paper can be cut or torn. Throw in a glue stick, maybe a ruler, and you’ve got all you need.

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All of these activities (weaving, quilting, and collage) can contribute to reduced depression. Research shows that actually just moving our hands activates areas of our brain’s frontal cortex, leading to increased pleasure.

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Weaving involves pattern, texture,  and structure. It can be a metaphor for the fabric of our lives. The process accommodates a broad range of content and style.

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IMG_4399Quilts , with their associations of sleep and comfort, are made of specific patterns that are pieced together, and thus give clients a template or structure to work within. In addition, they can be practiced as communal activities, with group members contributing squares constructed in the same pattern. These squares are all done in a nine patch pattern, and you can see the range of expression the template encourages.

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Without requiring a lot of skills, paper weaving and quilting can promote organization, self-expression, creativity, and satisfaction for clients of all ages.