Category : Art Therapy Association of Vermont

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.

Art Therapy Association of Vermont workshop: Panel Books

This past week has been crazy busy. I somehow ended up volunteering to teach 2 bookbinding workshops within 5 days of each other. My first workshop was held this past Saturday for the Art Therapy Association of Vermont (ATAV). As I’ve mentioned before, I have a Master’s Degree in Art Therapy. I believe strongly in the value of book arts as a medium for therapeutic work. My background in art therapy clearly influenced me in my choice of creative work. Since I’m currently a non-practicing art therapist, my main tie to the field has been attending ATAV meetings.

The structure I decided to teach to the members was the Panel Book, which I had already taught once to the Book Arts Guild of Vermont back in October. There were only 4 people there, which helped relax me a bit. I was able to give folks more individual attention than I usually do.

I tried to think of reasons why the panel book in particular had possibilities for art therapists:

  1. It would be a good structure to use in a group. Each panel in the book was the size of an artist trading card (ATC). You could have group members process a particular theme in their artwork in ATC format and then swap cards with other group members. The ATC’s would then be added to the panels.
  2. You can follow progress on particular issue. The book could hold as many panels as a certain number of sessions. Have the client process a theme or issue in each session and then use the panel format as a time line to review progress.
  3. There are different ways to view content. When opened, you can read a panel book from the front or the back. When closed, you can turn the pages like a traditional book, which changes the sequence to include both front and back panels. It could help a client to literally look at something from a different point of view.

I’m sure there are other applications that I haven’t considered yet. In general, I just dig the fact that the panel book has movement. Movement is good in therapy. I went into the workshop with my usual performance anxiety. Presenting workshops does seem to be getting easier over time. I’m still waiting for the day when I can go into a workshop and not be nervous at all.

I’ll leave you with the following photo. I don’t even remember someone taking this shot and when I found it on my camera I laughed. Somehow I got glued.

Elissa Campbell getting glue on her hand

Still on the Printmaking Bus

As I discussed over the weekend, I rather impulsively (and smartly) decided to purchase a Gocco printer. At the time I didn’t quite realize that this was just the start of a longer journey back to printmaking.

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, I was a Fine Arts major – one of 5 in a class of 2,000 (yes, you read that right). Although my concentration was painting, my love was always with printmaking. I really took to etching – something about the whole burning acid thing. Ever since I left Philadelphia, I haven’t thought seriously about picking it up again. Then I got hooked on the whole Gocco concept.

This brings me to this past Saturday when I attended a workshop hosted by the Art Therapy Association of Vermont (I’m both a member of ATAV and a non-practicing art therapist). The workshop was entitled Printmaking as Therapy: Frameworks for Freedom and was presented by Lucy Mueller Young, MA, ATR-BC. If you’re interested in learning more about the use of printmaking as therapy, Lucy has written a book on the subject with the same title as her workshop (read more on Amazon).

I really enjoyed the workshop. We spent almost the entire day playing around with different techniques, some of which I hadn’t used before.

The first thing we did was make collagraphs. We took contact paper, cut shapes out of it, and then stuck them onto mat board.

Collagraphs by Elissa Campbell

When we finished our collages, we rolled ink over it, laid paper on top of it, and rubbed – instant print! In the image at right you can see my “plate” at the top.

Next we moved on to monoprints. I really got into the process – you roll ink out on plexiglass and draw right into the ink with various tools. You lay the paper on top of the inked plexi and rub to make the print.

Our room at the Comfort Inn was covered with our work. I’m not sure they would have rented the room to us if had they known what we were doing in there.

After our work dried, we dove into bookmaking. Lucy taught us about maze books – I had never heard the term used before.

Handmade Book made from monotype by Elissa Campbell

You fold your paper into eighths and then cut on selected folds in a T shape. I’m hoping you can see where the cuts are in my photos.

Handmade Book made from monotype by Elissa Campbell

We then folded the paper so that it formed the pages of a book. No sewing was needed. We had the option of leaving our covers as is or we could add mat board to them for strength. I chose the mat board option.

At lunchtime, I had a discussion with Lucy about the value of graffiti – it had a direct impact on my book because I added some line work to my print with color pencils and it had the appearance of graffiti. To finish it off, I added some text in black ink and fuzzy fibers to the top. It was so nice to spend the day making work without the goal of selling it.

Art for art’s sake. I don’t do that often enough.

Handmade Book made from monotype by Elissa Campbell

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