Art Therapy Association of Vermont: Round Robin Healing Doll Project

One of the goals of the Art Therapy Association of Vermont (ATAV) is that we encourage each other to do our own artwork. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to let the messes of life get in the way of exploring your own creativity.

At our last ATAV annual meeting, we decided to do a round-robin project, using healing dolls as a theme. We were to start our own doll, thinking about an issue that we could use help with. You also had to create a story for your doll, which could be in book form. A mailing order was set for project members – you would send your doll to the next person on the list and you would in turn, receive a doll from someone else. You would have 2 weeks to work on each doll, after which you would send the doll on.

The idea is that as your doll is passed from person to person, they add to your doll to metaphorically give you what you need. Metaphors have long been used in healing and art therapy is ideal for use with this process.

I signed up, thinking that this would be easy peasy. I just finished my doll.

The doll was supposed to be done 2 months ago.


I love that smack in the face that reminds me that the creative process will do what it wants.


A few months ago, I sat down and started on my doll. It seemed to be going well. Then I saw a television program where someone used this cool wire wrapping technique to make a bendable doll. I chucked doll #1 and started cranking on doll #2.

It was not going well. It reminds me of this Simpsons episode where Lisa is trying to figure out who’s smarter – Bart or her hamster. She hooks up a cupcake to an electric shock dealie and leaves it out for Bart. He goes over to grab it and he gets shocked. “Ow!” He pauses. He grabs it again. “Ow!” And so on. This is what making a doll was like for me.

“I’m going to make a doll now.”

“I hate this doll! I’m not a doll person.”

Two days later.

“Time to work on the doll.”

“This doll sucks! I can’t make dolls.”

And so on.

In the meantime, dolls from 3 other people have come and gone. I worked on them, but never sent on a doll of my own.

Then a week ago, it hit me. I am not a doll person and that’s okay. I am a book person. As soon as I realized that my doll had to be a book, I was cruising – I didn’t stop until it was finished.

Here’s a shot of my doll:

Handmade book doll

My thoughts about what I needed to have healed involved how I build walls around myself. Perfectionism walls that tell me that everything I do has to be perfect right off the bat. Self-preservation walls that keep me from revealing too much about myself so that I won’t get hurt. I am the Queen of the Poker Face (note the lack of face) and use humor as a defense (you lift the skirt to get to the book pages).

I’m interested in how others will interact with her. Allowing others to alter my work involves an amount of trust, which I believe will be healing.

So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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