Definition: ART THERAPY is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well being.
Why felting as a form of therapy?
First and foremost, I must stress that I am not an art therapist. I have not received any training in art therapy; I merely have recognized certain therapeutic benefits through my own journey in felt making as an artisan. Again, I am NOT an art therapist.
Now that we are clear on that point, I say again, why felting as a form of therapy? During the past seven years that I’ve been felting, I have taught hundreds of people how to needle felt, have taught others how to wet felt, and continue to teach classes both on my own and as a member of the Potwin Fiber Artisans (www.potwinfiber.org), and I have discovered that 99 percent of the time, students leave my classes enthused, surprised at their unknown abilities to create, and, generally speaking, much more relaxed and happy than they were when they came into class. Why?
Well, my tag line of “Stab something into existence” certainly helps a great deal, as does my KISS (keep it simple sweetie) method of teaching. In fact, I’ve borrowed a line from the great Bob Ross: There are no mistakes, only happy accidents”. But I think it is more than that. I think that we’ve become so alienated from our imagination and from our innate creative abilities through education, work, stresses of everyday life, that taking a two or three hour break to create something allows our very souls to get a breath of air. I often advise friends who are in the midst of a stressful season of their life to “Breathe-just breathe” because we ALL have a tendency to scrunch up, hold our breath, tense every part of our body in the face of stress. I can’t help but think that our souls do the very same thing when all of our life is planned and scheduled, rushing from work to home to bed to work, ad infinitum.
Felt making involves every sense-you can’t help but notice the different textures of the wools, silks, and yarns as your hands pick out the fibers you will use to create a piece of felt; and even washed wools still have the scent of the animal on them. When you’re needle felting, you hear the ‘squink-squink’ of the needle going through the fibers; when you wet felt, you hear the rubbing of your hands over the soapy wet wools. And the colors and crimps you see: so many combinations, so many ways in which to combine them. Of course, if you’re not careful, you may stab your finger while needle felting, causing you to lift the offended digit to your mouth where you’ll taste a drop of blood, or you will be rolling your wet felt project so well that a bead of sweat will run down your face to your lips. Either way, you’ll taste the saltiness, fully engaging all of your senses as you felt.
With all your senses piqued, you find a rhythm in the process, and in doing so, allow your soul, your spirit to engage in the process, letting go of thinking and becoming one with the felting. I have seen students struggle in the first 30 minutes of a class only to find their rhythm and be so completely enveloped in their project that they have to be told the 3 hour class is nearing the end. They look down, and realize that they have created something wonderful: a unicorn, a bearded lady, a platypus, a gnome, the list goes on and on. The best part? Nearly every one of my students had never felted before, yet they leave the class with a creation of their own, the satisfaction of having made it themselves, and the biggest grins!
So my question to you is this: when was the last time YOU took a creative break? If you can’t recall, then it’s overdue. Come to one of my felting classes, arrange a private class and I’ll come to you with all the supplies, or invite me to your office for a creative team building activity. Classes range from $25 to $60 per person depending upon the project, with an average cost of $35. Take a planned class, or contact me to create a custom class-I promise, you’ll be glad you did!
Until next time, go stab something into existence!