When people come on my Powertex workshops, I pride myself on showing, not telling. Guiding, not dictating. Children usually have a very clear idea of what they want to do, and it is often miles away from what we as adults would expect them to do. And this, in my opinion, is just as it should be.
From my experience as a therapeutic counsellor I firmly believe that art is good for our mental health. Whether we use it as a form of expression, as a means of communication or simply as a cathartic exercise. Much as I love to see the finished product. I honestly do think that the process of creating is in itself just as important
Many years ago, I was excited to take a group of students I was working with to a selection of workshops celebrating World Mental Health Day.
There were many varied and interesting activities to engage in, all designed to both challenge and inform attitudes towards mental health. The day itself was wonderfully engaging and enlightening.
However, there was one activity which I felt disappointed by. The students were invited to make a picture using scraps of material. The problem for me though, was that they were told where to place each piece of material that they had been given. The end result was a number of very impressive, but absolutely identical works of art. Each and every one looking exactly as someone else had envisaged they should look.
It may well be that I have to question myself as to why I was so disappointed by this. Why did it matter so much to me that the students weren’t given free reign to express themselves? Was it just my rebellious inner child sticking two fingers up at being told what to do.
It felt very much the equivalent of painting by numbers. And my question is, who has the right to dictate what colours go where? OK, so the end result may have been more instantly recognisable as to what it was supposed to represent. But if it didn’t represent the person who created it, I personally wonder what the point was?
Another incident sticks in my mind. I was working with a child with who had been asked by his teacher to paint some trees. After much deliberation, the child picked a colour for the bark of the tree. It happened to be a muted green. When the teacher returned, we were both left in no doubt that the tree trunk was supposed to be coloured brown. To be fair to the teacher, they had left instructions as to what colours to use. And I get that sometimes absolute clarity is needed when leaving instructions for a task. However when the child chose green instead, I was fine with that. To my mind, what mattered was that he was able to own his picture. This was a tree, as he saw it.
Out of interest, on my way home I made a point of looking at the colours on the barks of trees I passed. Guess what? that child was pretty much spot on with his choice of colour.
All of which brings me to how I prefer to run my Powertex workshops.
I always tell people, both adults and children, not to be afraid of making mistakes. The beauty of Powertex is that there are no mistakes. If you don’t like what is happening, you simply start again. I never mind if someone chooses a piece of material, covers it in Powertex fabric hardener and then changes their mind. It won’t be wasted. I simply take it home, dry it out keeping all the wonderful textures I can get from it by scrunching it up. Then take it along to my next workshop to be used as a practice piece for dry brushing. Very often it will then find a home in some sculpture that I am able to incorporate it into. Nothing ever gets wasted.
More than anything I want people to be able to express themselves fully when they come to my workshops. I am simply there to show you how to use Powertex. Where you go to from there is entirely up to you and your imagination. I will always give honest advice and guidance. But I never ever want the end result to be my vision. I want it to be yours.
I am immensely proud to be a Fellow of the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneur Scheme. I’m sure one of the reasons I was chosen for the course is my firm belief that engaging in creativity can really help promote positive mental health wellbeing.
Testimonials like this one reiterate this belief:
‘I suffer from a lack of confidence. Donna’s workshops give me an amazing sense of accomplishment. I leave them feeling incredibly proud of myself’
If you’re looking for an artistic workshop with a difference, that will encourage your individuality why not come along to a Powertex workshop.
Details of my Powertex workshops are on my website www.artandmurals.co.uk or my facebook page www.facebook.com/artmuralsbydonnamcghie Or you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to talk about arranging a one to one session.