Paper dolls and miscarriage

I had 5 pregnancies and 2 live births 30 years ago. At the time I didn't really mourn my loss and I wonder if my anxiety and chronic migraines stem from the upheaval of hormones I experienced over 4 years.

Mostly I feel like have worked through my grief . However, I was knocked for six this week after reading an article in 'Therapy Today'

( Who Knew ? j.Gosney June 2017 vol 28 issue5) The article describes Gosney's work with grieving pregnancy loss. (I could have done with meeting her in the late 1980's). She talks about why there is 'such a silencing shame around miscarriage' I suspect it is because we don't want to upset or worry other newly pregnant parents.

I remember 'retreating from a world that had become a hostile environment peopled by babies, pregnant women and proud fathers' I moved my living room to the back of the house away from the twice a day school run of chatting happy Mums and buggies

I am not sure I experienced post traumatic stress but I definitely 'became vulnerable to anxieties….. and questioned my bodies ability to carry full term…. I realised I couldn't trust my body anymore.'

With my dyslexia and continuing migraines I still feel this phrase resonates strongly.

Most of my art doesn't look into this as a source of inspiration. however after the embodied reactions I keep getting to @gracemorgan's art on Instagram – I felt inspired to look at how I could explore this, using my paper doll technique.

My first go at womb mandala

Wombs with 8 week embryos( which is when the doctors thought things when things went wrong) I quite like the difference in the colours of the womb – photocopy , against the rawness of the real painted colour of the embryos

These feel a bit sanitised, I am shying away from blood. Which is ridiculous really. Though I am being a bit hypocritical because I dislike sanitary towel adverts on the TV

And another pretty one

http://www.bacp.co.uk/docs/pdf/16027_all%20editorial%20tt_jun17.pdf

Migraine mandalas

I get hemiplegic migraines ( which I am sure I must have mentioned in an earlier post) they are exacerbated by flashing lights and hormones. Most of the time they are under control with a very small dose of antidepressants. However, menopause and my irritable bowel has been fun!!! Sometimes, the migraines are brought on by flashing lights – sometimes food (if I am being sensitive). This latest episode was self inflicted really – reading a book and drawing mandalas in 4 hrs of flickering light on a car journey -was asking for trouble. 

I decided to have a go at working through my frustration and anger at my self , after several  reared their ugly heads , consecutive evenings. 

I am staying at my Dad’s house in the south of France with only my travel kit. I painted  loose ovals on lots of sheets of heavy duty cartridge paper with  very diluted acrylic. Then added swirls of neocolours, oil pastels and more paint- it’s warm and arrid here so everything dries very quickly. 


I wanted to continue working with my paper dolls. I tried a design where a female shape is curled up in painholding her head but it ended up looking like white splodges in some sort of fiery constellation. 

A head screaming (below) just looked weird( lol) and didn’t convey what I wanted to express- I like the colours , textures and patterns , so they became backgrounds. 


I needed some figures that worked in circles so I searched on line and came up with an ancient artifact from Mexico 


Practicing blind contour faces in pain ( really getting into the details 😂😂😂😂) 


The above design uses an African figurine as motif but even though it made a lovely mandala in the centre with its arms and legs I didn’t like the proportions of the head and neck. 


Nice uncomfortable screaming baby type figures are amusing me now my head is better and I like the nightmarish qualities – there is an other worldly feeling and out of body experience that I seem to have captured too , which sums up my aura stage quite nicely. Though if I think about it -I don’t experience all that colour 

More Movement Medicine dancers this time in Orange 

Over the past 6 months I have made so many different mandalas that sometimes I don’t know what to do with them. I had been wanting to work with my movement medicine dancing ladies some more. So yesterday I made loads of cut out dolls. 

I was very amused about 30 minutes in,  that I needed to make the images stand out more – the colours were too samey or the patterned mandalas meant that the dancers got lost on the similar coloured backgrounds. 

An orange frenzy ensued which was very therapeutic and got my creative juices going. I had thought I was a bit stuck because I hadn’t danced for a week. 


I made some smaller templates so that I can cut circles of joined dancers – the idea of them all being connected appeals. Catherine ( http://catherinewright.co.uk/workshops/) mentioned us all being joined by a gold thread last session – but I can’t quite get my head around how that would fit visually within this work  – there is so much colour and pattern going on- they feel more like a  ‘5 Rhythms’  Chaos session (https://www.5rhythms.com/). I think I must have had Matisse’a ‘The dance’ going on somewhere in my head too 


https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/digital-collection/01.+Paintings/28411/?lng=


I love complimentary colours and the circles of dancers fit in with my mandalas – it’s all a bit bonkers colourwise – I enjoyed scrawling in blue oil pastel over the finished collages , but I think some of the more simple ones are very effective.


I produced some single dancers for some A5 pieces I had in my stash – I think maybe I should draw these figures individually. 

Trapped 

I was flipping through my Instagram feed this morning at 4.45am ( I keep waking up early ) when I was arrested by a piece by ‘gracemorganart’.  Which showed a photograph of some gloves. These had been stitched , the fingers joined together with  many tiny stitches. White on a red background. To me the fingers looked trapped. 
I am still floored by my emotional response. Which has stayed with me and which I can’t quite place. 

An image of my free exuberant paper dancer popped into my head, with her arms and legs chopped off and bound to her body like an Egyptian mummy, cocoon or a butterfly that died emerging from its chrysalis.

 Below is an exploration of the idea – it’s not quite grim enough 

Yesterday I visited a butterfly world near Dalkeith and I was fascinated by the chrysalids hanging from bamboo canes and some pinned to a wall. Most were empty, but a few had died and dead bodies lay on the floor. I felt a great sadness disproportionately to the event. 1 in 4 don’t make it ( according to the attendant ) 


The trapped feeling is focused on my neck and shoulders and stomach. A tingling embodied response. 

I have a strong need to write I MUST SAY NO TODAY. 

The thought of not being able to move my fingers freely is terrifying- to be caught in that web. I feel trapped, but what binds me? 

The need to say ‘No’ to my self , relates to a trance like state that I can get into where I am not in control and feel in free fall. ( Tara Brach talks about it being the state you are in before you become mindful) 

gracemorganart posted that she had to make the stitches to keep sane.’little bitty stitches on little bitty gloves, these little stitches kept me sane today’  I was in a trance state this week making too many flower stickers. I feel trapped in my mandalas and doodling sometimes – sitting on the sofa not moving enough. My hands hurt with all the small details. 


Then Yesterday I had great fun splodging paint on top of my neat outlines like some kind of rebellion against ‘neat and tidy stuck me ‘ ( lol) 

 

Below is another version of trapped – it reminds me a bit of ‘Aliens’ when they are waiting to explode out of bodies ……

Below A moth chrysalis up close and a butterfly that didn’t make it . I don’t like the drawing pins . 

Movement medicine inspired artmaking 

Over the weekend I participated at a movement medicine workshop. It was called ‘This being human’ and was facilitated by Catherine Wright. 

http://catherinewright.co.uk/

During a meditation about the tree of life I had this really clear image in my head of a human figure as a tree trunk with a black heart or hole where the heart should be. I have had a tight chest recently and palpitations as menopausal symptoms. I danced the feeling out. I am aware of being in touch with my head and my stomach – but there is a numbness where my heart is. 

During the workshop we worked with a poem by  Rumi called ‘ The Guest House’ 

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 

some momentary awareness comes 

as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, 

who violently sweep your house 

empty of its furniture, 

still, treat each guest honourably. 

He may be clearing you out 

for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 

meet them at the door laughing, 

and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 

because each has been sent 

as a guide from beyond.

We did an exercise on Saturday where we welcomed a ‘guest’  and worked with a partner – talking, witnessing and using dance. I chose the idea of ‘disappointment’.  As I danced I became aware that I was relieving ‘something’  but it wasn’t disappointment. So I chose to revisit my confusion on Sunday. 

I am still unable to verbalise what is exactly present but I realised with relief that the hole is not black or vacant but a conduit that is not to be frightened or scared of. 

I needed to revisit this experience today through art making. 

Sketches for  ‘a black heart’ – I wrote in my journal ‘ figure rooted but with a hole where the heart should be’ 

 As I was dancing , holding my heart or the feeling of my hands up to my chest was important – drawing hands that don’t look like claws or sausages is always a stretch of my ability – I also needed the tree/body to be a real rounded shaped woman  

Conduit / portal heart sketch – there was such a sense of relief at the realisation that what was going on felt like a portal. As I was at a dance session it was important that I tried to convey movement. 

Black heart – in my head the tree trunk / body was red – the background is newspaper that I used as  protection paper. It is advertising a film and it has amused me that my figure could also look a bit like an ‘Oscar’ there is no way I would offer to be the mouldy for any figurine 😂😂😂😂 


Conduit/portal heart 


My mandalas seem to need to be in everything I do at the moment. The conduit doesn’t feel draining and the energy feels like it is not restricted by time and space. 

During the dance workshop we did a session where working in groups of 3 we witnessed , danced and or meditated , wrote or drew. During my first role as ‘meditator’ I doodled , the portal was very strong in my head and I produced this 

Collaborative collage conversations 

Collaborative collage conversations – I have been making collaborative letter journals for a while but most of them occur with people who are over seas, so even though they are great fun and interesting there is no sense of immediate interaction.  Like the give and take of a conversation.
I had a go working in this format at my recent training session with Jo – it didn’t really work as I expected because we were making two collages (  so that we each had one to take home) . 

I felt excited to work with Jo, we had a great conversation before the art session and bounced around lots of ideas about how to work with the participants.

When we had the collage conversation She was very strict and didn’t allow any talking throughout. I found it quite hard not to look at things to choose in advance of her input. I added text by using cut out words from magazines and circling them from the bodies of text.  I had included some of my mandalas in the bags of scraps for the main session, I found I wanted to add bits of those. Jo added a window/ hole over the top of my section excluding some of the green , it felt restricting and excluding so I added another piece further down the page . We both had soup for dinner and had talked about my obsession with circles which seemed to creep into the designs as well. 

Jo disrupted the surface in the bottom piece too by poking holes with a needle in to the red paper on the left. I am gluten free and supposedly dairy free in my diet so I reacted strongly to the ice cream being added by adding the signposted food, which just jumped out at me when I was flipping through a magazine. It was fun and interesting for me to be quiet. When Jo uses this technique with a client she said she watches body language and placement of the pieces. 


I wanted to do more. My friend Diana came around to play. We couldn’t keep quiet ( we hadn’t seen each other for about a month) we agreed not to discuss making the collage. We started of quiet tentatively 


The colour scheme was muted and the text playful ( we make each other laugh a lot) . As we worked the design  seemed to want to explode off the end. Interestingly as an aside I managed to introduce ‘dance’  to this collage and one of the first ones with Jo. ( dance had become quite large in my life at the moment at least 2hrs a week) 


The second one is much louder in comparison. Diana wanted to add the circle of rainbow watches so I added texture and colour to the background while she ‘fussily’ (technical term) cut it out the rainbow  circle. The making atmosphere was light hearted and jolly – it wasn’t as intense as working quietly. Then I found the red acrylic sheet. It was much more give and take working on one sheet

I need to do this again in silence  and just on one sheet. 
Today 

I realised , that the person I most needed to have a conversation is , with my self- I always have trouble with my irritable , migrainey bowel when I travel – but I seem incapable of staying focused and looking after it – I can see a series of conversations looming on the horizon ( lol) 

Number 1 : ‘why can’t you be kind to me?’ Some times I worry about talking to my self in the 3rd person – this time it is my stomach complaining. The waves represent the inexhaustible relentlessness of  eating – everybodies eating , it’s always about food. What can I get away with, what will not upset me today? I definitely have a disassociation with the communication between my mouth and my stomach.  W ords I added say ‘it’s all about today, excuses , bad,health, everyday, why, food, forget,snackisfaction ( because it was there ) irresistible, selective blindness, I want to be healthy. Punishment, relentless’ when I think about children been blown up by bombs it seems trivial and insignificant – but I am ground down by it everyday and up until now seem unable to be kind and break the cycle. I start and stop , but don’t get off the treadmill 

Art journalling session 2 – session outline 

Session 10am-1pm then 2pm-3.15pm 

Co -facilitated with Jo from the charity in Dunfermline- the participants were  all counsellors interested in introducing art journalling to clients ( 4 participants) Due to the small size of the group Jo and I worked together on a couple of exercises so that we gave the participants space 

Start 10-11am I demonstrated  how to make two simple journals (see previous blog post) 

 Jo suggested that we started by making a ‘safe page’ in the journals, ( one of the participants had been unable to attend the first session so we revisited magazine collages) . Some suggestions for ideas if clients don’t know where to start were – to do a page of your favourite colour, use words that suggest what your safe space might look like., use found images to create an image of your safe space 

Group discussion 11-11.20

Coffee 

Exercise 11.30-1pm 

Demonstration-  Jo and I explored how to use pastel and felt pen to express feelings – I drew whilst Jo prompted me to be reflexive about my mark making in front of the group ( at their request  10-15mins)


The group divided into pairs and had 25 mins each working as counsellor/ client in the medium of their choice- 3 used Patel and crayon, 1 person used collage. 

Jo and I did the soft eye flicking through a magazine and chose words and phrases that appealed to us – I found that I had chosen the word ‘colour’ but my words lacked colour or were in  black and white. So I added wax crayon and circled words that had more meaning to me than others 


Group discussion 

Lunch 1-2pm 

Exercise 2-245pm 

Before this session Jo and I discussed different ways that we could use collage in pairs – Jo suggested having a silent dialogue

We suggested that the participants worked in collage collaboratively in 2 journals at the same time so that they each had an example to take home – this diluted the experience a bit, some people found they had two seperate conversations. Jo has found it more intense  if you just work on one page and watch as the other person makes their part of the conversation. Looking at body language and how images and text are placed on the page 

Examples of conversations 

1. 


2.


2.45-3.15 pm Evaluation/ discussion 

Jo fancied the group producing an evaluation of the session as collage/ mixed media. So we each produced an index card that illustrated how we felt about the session- one of the participants cards was two sided. (Mine is bottom right these sessions always make me very happy)