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Earlier this year, I participated once again in art therapy and creative writing therapy sessions with Mind Australia as a participant. Our art therapist facilitator – Vicky Nicholls had us work on a project which required us to create our own special ‘altered book’. During the process of creating my ‘altered book’, I decided to add pockets that would hold a small selection of my creative writing pieces, that I particularly liked and also that held special meaning for me. These creative writing pieces I had written throughout 2015 and early 2016 during my creative writing sessions, and sometimes as part of homework we were given by our Creative Writing Facilitator – Judy Bird. These particular pieces I have included within this blog and can be found towards the end of this page.
MY ALTERED BOOK!
This is my ‘altered book’ as seen here below, which I had created during my art therapy sessions with Mind Australia 2016. I discovered during my research on ‘altered books’ that they are a form of mixed media artwork, where a book is changed from its original state – to an altered state. This can entail cuts, tears, burns, folds, paints, adds to, collages, rebinds, gold-leafs, created pop-ups, rubber-stamps, drills, bolts, and/or be ribbons. It can have pockets and niches added to hold tags, rocks, ephemera, or other three-dimensional objects. I decided to create a ‘altered book’ that was made up of materials that I had used on a painting titled Heart of Treasured Memories that I had painted during Art Therapy 2015 sessions. I wanted to achieve a marriage between these two items – as they signified to me the end of one journey and a commencement of another!
PROCESS USED TO CREATE MY ‘ALTERED BOOK’
I stripped back the book’s first layer of paper on each page and cover. Then I painted it with a creamy iridescent paint and then painted the book’s spine and page edges – in gold paint. Then I added decorated ribbons at one end of the book’s spine which I had added little wooden flowers and butterflies too, also I glued onto these items, sequins that I had left over from my Heart of Treasured Memories painting. During one of the art therapy session, I found a set of patterned decorative paper sheets which I further decorated with the wooden flowers, butterflies and sequins. I then folded these paper sheets in half and inserted then into the back of the book’s spine. When the book was closed and the book’s spine was fanned outwards, these folded paper sheets offered another visual dimension to the ‘altered book’. I then created ink drawings onto sheets of luminous creamy coloured paper that I had especially purchased for its paper weight, colour and look; and made little insert folders out of them that once glued into the ‘altered book’ itself, held my especially chosen creative writing pieces. I then purchased a cardboard box that was big enough to hold my ‘altered book’ creation in, as I wanted something that would safely store the art work itself. Like my ‘altered book’ I also altered the cardboard box and used a similar process and materials for its re-creation.
It occurred to me after completing my ‘altered book’ during a time of reflection, that the whole procedure of creating a personal ‘altered book’ through re-invention, or it could also be said, transforming it into something that represented a piece of ourselves to share with others and/or keep as a private thought book to mull over when needed – was a very therapeutic process. It proved to be a deeply personal endeavour; a quite and studious creative journey that helped us work towards a better sense of well-being. It wasn’t until I had finished my ‘altered book’ and read through my selection of creative writing pieces, that it became apparent to me that this whole process of creating a ‘altered book’ was a way of re-assessing ones self; and helped me understand just how much I had gained from having been part of these wonderful art therapy and creative writing therapy sessions since 2014 to now being early 2016. It showed me just how far I had travelled within my own personal post-traumatic growth journey.
MY ALTERED BOOK CREATIVE PROCESS SLIDESHOW
ALTERED BOOK PROJECT PROCESS – STEP BY STEP!
- Step No. 1 – “Stripping back the original book”
- Step No. 2 – “Painting the whole stripped back book cover and pages”
- Step No. 3 – “Decorating the outside cover of the altered book”
- Step No. 4 – “Decorative paper panel spinal book inserts”
- Step No. 5 – “Ink painted pocket inserts to hold the short creative writing stories”
- Step No. 6 – “Altered book keepsake box”
- Step No. 7 – “Completed altered book and keepsake altered book box”
MY ALERTED BOOK CREATIVE WRITING STORIES
- Title: “Destination – Old Age…”
My life has not been boring that is for certain! At times it has been a sweet and delicate pathway where my soul has strive to ascend to a place of beauty and peace. And at other times, my life has been painfully difficult. But now, I am at a mature age, where my youthful adventurers are in the past and I feel like the moon that is quietly shining within the lives of those nearest and dearest to me, hoping that my presence brings beauty – a presence that causes no harm. I do seek to gain knowledge of the outer world – the good, the bad, the ugly, to delve into the mysteries of others, to seek out the natural beauty of the human soul and treasure the best of us. Old age has made me become a very practical person and it has also allowed me to arrive at a place where I find myself enjoying this part of my life. It’s a time where I can also be strong and direct, where I can now share a lifetime of memories, in the hope that some good can be achieved. I am a sentimental deep thinker and determine to leave behind me, memories worthy of retelling to future generations.
Written by © Karen Robinson – April 2016
- Title: “Taking a Look Back…”
It takes me back – so far into the past as I look at the nicely framed photo of my two children when they were very little. Ben would have been about five years old, I would say, and Kelly would have been 14 months younger, making her four years old. They were both dressed in clothes that I had skilfully made for them. Ben in a grey corduroy, long sleeve jacket with three bright gold buttons at its front, and matching knee-length shorts and a white shirt with a bright aqua blue tie. Kelly dressed in a lollie pink corduroy long sleeve jacket, with three gold buttons at its front, and a matching three-quarter length skirt and a white shirt with a frilled edged collar and satin ribbon tie around the shirt collar. Both children wore long white knee-high socks and brand new shoes. Ben’s were polished leather and Kelly’s were patent leather. Both had freshly scrubbed faces and sweet-smelling clean hair. Ben’s hair was cut and groomed according to young boys of the day and Kelly’s hair had a mind of its own, as always – blond and curly! They are holding hands which would have been under my instructions for sure, knowing I would have wanted a wonderful brother/sister photo of the two of them for memory’s sake. I can see by looking at this photo that the sun was in Ben’s eyes so his face is slightly titled to the side, with his eyes squinting and a look I grew to see over many years and Kelly’s expression reflects a warm shyness. They were dressed to attend a wedding with both Mark their father and myself – their mother.
It was a country wedding of the daughter of a man I used to work for – Alf John was his name. Alf John owned a substantial company in South Melbourne and an important mentor for me. This now reminds me that Alf John was the man who had lent Mark and I the deposit for our very first home in Essendon, Melbourne. He demanded that we paid back the money with no interest and we dutifully do so with much gratitude for having given us both the opportunity to buy a home. The house was a very old Californian bungalow styled home, needed everything done to it which we did get to do over time. We spent our first 13 years of family life in this home.
I so much love this photo of the both of my children. It brings back memories of a very good time in our family’s life. Whilst bringing up a young family wasn’t always easy, it was one of the most important roles I have had in my life. I didn’t always do the best job of being a mother, but I always loved both my children with every bit of my heart and soul and still do today. Kelly has grown into just an amazing young woman, a fine human being and my son sadly…well Ben is not with us in this world but is always in my heart…my beautiful boy Ben.
Written by ©Karen Robinson – March 2016
- Title: “When I was 10…”
When I was 10 – life was difficult, but let me think more about my childhood adventures instead. I was the oldest of three children. I had a younger sister by 3 years and a young brother by 4 years. It was my job, most days, to look after us all, whilst mum worked and dad … well he would work sometimes, and mostly drink other times, and sometimes – both at the same time, but enough about dad.
The three of us children, would take ourselves off into the tropical rain forests and along the Bay’s esplanade for walkabouts. These times became the sum of our childhood adventures! We would swim in the crystal clear creeks that were refreshed daily by out bursts of torrential rain. When the creeks were still and quite, we would study the clear water and search for small fishes, tadpoles and look for tiny specks of sparkling gold dust at the bottom of creek beds. We would stalk blue mountain butterflies, as they fed on showy tropical flowers, within the neighbourhoods’ green lush gardens.
Sometimes, we would look for mango trees to climb and retrieve Mangos to help satisfy our hunger and other times, we would search for the freshest coconuts that lay at random beneath the numerous coconut palm trees within the region. It would take us hours and hours to remove the outer hard dark-brown hairy husk casing of a coconut, but all seemed to be worth the effort, once we had reached its inner sanctum of creamy white coconut flesh and opaque coconut water.
We would walk along the Bay’s esplanade and collect the sour-sweet fruit pods that had fallen from the shore line Tamarind trees, onto the ground – then sit on the wall, looking out over the bay, whilst we suck on the sour-sweet fruit seeds. At low tide, we would venture out onto the Bay’s shore edge, which did not consist of sands, but of a mud flat. Each step we would take – would have our feet and legs sinking into squishy, soft and sometimes smelly mud. Many small soldier crabs lived on these mudflats, and would run for cover, upon the sight of us three small children.
There were other times, where we would take retreat from the burning hot sun, under the shade of Frangipani trees where we cooled down and rested our tired little legs. We would collect the fallen perfumed scented Frangipani flowers that lay beneath these trees and string them together and hang them around our necks or my sister and I would place them in our long hair.
Stray dogs always seemed to become our friends and we would often have to tell them, to go back home and stop following us – perhaps they too were looking for adventures. We were always on the hunt for fresh water to drink and over time we grew to know where every fresh water tap was within our walkabout region, where every fruit tree was with available fruits to pick as needed, whether on public land or in private gardens, to us there was no difference, all land was our playground, awaiting for our arrival to explore.
These days would end in the inevitable journey back home, where our tired bodies found baths to wash away a day’s play; and with sleep ahead to prepare us for the next day’s walkabout adventures. This is how it should have been, but many times, the thought of returning home was full of trepidation, as we would never know, in what condition, we would find our father. Would he be there, better if he was not! If he was there, would he be drunk and angry; fearsome and scary? Would we be able to avoid – his tirade of imposing drunken rampage?…
As I said at the beginning of this little story, our lives as children was difficult but I do remember my childhood walkabout adventures with my younger sister and brother with much fondness. I know that these times for sure, were the birthplace of my love and respect for nature …”
Written by ©Karen Robinson – June 2015
- Title: “Laughing At Mother – A Teenager’s View Of Humour!
I remember a particular time as a teenager when my mother was having a very serious argument with me. We were screaming at each other – it was full on verbal abuse towards one another at its worst. I cannot remember the details of this tirade of back and forth abusive communication we were engaging in, but I can remember what brought it to an end. My mother was screaming furiously when all of a sudden her top false teeth came flying out of her mouth! At first we were both astonished and wondered what had just happened. Then when I realised that my mother’s false teeth had flown out of her mouth whilst she had been berating me – I just burst out laughing as it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. As a teenager this was a wonderful end to what had been a very serious encounter with my mother. My mother did not see the funny side of this event and collected her false teeth from where they had landed, but for me, as a teenager, this too just seemed to be even funnier. It was one of the very rare times when my mother seemed defeated and in some way sorrowful but my teenage sense of humour just enjoyed the event too much. One for daughter and nil for mother – a teenager’s view!
Written by © Karen Robinson – August 2015
- Title: “My Very First Memory Of Art…”
Art was a part of my childhood life and it was my father whom painted in oils. There were numerous paintings throughout our home of a nude woman whom I came to learn many years on – was my mother. These art works were never on walls, as we as a family moved many, many times up and down the eastern coast of Australia. My father used to also have a subscription to an art magazine which I enjoyed going through and examining all the difference paintings and creative works; I remember being fascinated by these art journals. There were times my mother would round us three children up and with my father, we would visit art galleries, usually not the large imposing national and state galleries but the smaller and intimate ones featuring ambitious and creative artists, hoping to make a name for themselves, hoping to pay the rent for the next month – I would think. Art represented in our lives, in my life as a child, the struggles of my father, his alcoholism, his frightening inner tumultuous self that in turn was used as a weapon upon his family. I remember a night, in a fierce rage, my father smashed all of his paintings – I don’t remember him returning back to painting after that episode. As a child, I enjoyed art and was always doodling great patterns in class and drawing whenever I had a chance. I didn’t take up art in my early adulthood but I have now found myself returning back to a joy I had experienced as a small child, art for therapy I feel…
Written by ©Karen Robinson _ August 2015
- Title: “Not A Game But A Real Necessity…”
Solitaire – it’s a card game you play alone! It’s when you have decided to be alone, the sometimes most enjoyable times when being alone can be just blissful. When there is no need to satisfy someone else’s needs or wants. When there is a silence that brings a sense of peacefulness within… and the chatter in the brain winds down to a quiet hum. It can be a time to recharge the inner child so that the adult can function properly instead of being an out of control beast. Yes, Solitaire…not a game but a real necessity! And when this Solitaire, this game of being alone comes to an end, it presents a time to reunite with daily life – refreshed, renewed and enabling oneself to throw one’s arms around life once again… with gusto!
Written by © Karen Robinson – October 2015
- Title: “Beautiful Other…”
You are long and sleek and there’s a fine wick running through your centre, holding together a delicate array of very fine feathers. You stare back at me, in a sophisticated way, dressed in blacks, dark midnight navies and soft sky blue colours. At your very tip, there is a white colour which looks like you have stopped short of being finished. I image you, in your wing, in flight, soaring up into fluffy white clouds and then gliding down, down, down towards the open field looking for pray.
I now image you heading back towards your shelter, as the dark thunderous clouds trample across the sky, in readiness to open up and let free winter rains from its pregnant clouds. It’s now midnight, and I know the darkness has caused you to rest in one of your caves of choice. Where you are safe and secure, where you rest your tired and weary wings and dream of the next day’s flying adventures.
Night has past and the sun is now raising and there is a column of sunlight reaching into your cave and alerting your awareness that it’s time to awake. You open and stretch out your wings with a vigor that signals that you are strong and ready for what is ahead in your day. A gentle breeze enters the cave, and you give flight and drift towards the cave opening and out into a chilly but beautiful dawn.
In your sight there comes another, just like you and you head towards this beautiful other with a sense of anticipation, a sense that this is the one. With little acknowledgment you fly off together out into the breathtakingly blue skies and up, up, up towards the heavens…
Written by © Karen Robinson – October 2015
- Title: “Listening To His Voice…”
As I listened to my husband’s voice over the telephone, I could sense how he was feeling. The ability to do this comes from being married to this man for over 35 years, which has given me a knowing that can only be achieved by sharing one’s life with another, in an intimate and personal way.
There is a sign of tiredness, a slow tempo in his voice that tells me, things are not good with his brother. I listen with care, waiting for the right moment to ask “and how is he” and my husband’s response is “not good”. “He got back his blood results today and it is not hopeful” he adds. My husband’s voice then trails off into a silence. It means that the chemotherapy tablets his brother was taking as a last resort, in an attempt to live – are now not working. This means that his brother, partner and doctors will need to look, to see if there is anything else his brother can take instead, that may extend his time – here in our world. Without hearing my husband say anything else, I know it means there will be little else that can be done. The cancer is at a point, where it will slowly grasp the last bit of life from his brother’s body and soul.
We tried to finish up our telephone call on a cheery note. My husband’s voice still sounding sorrowful and sad as he proceeded to tell me that – they’re off now to see his brother’s neighbours, so that they could share the lady-finger bananas that he and his brother had just the day before, cut down from the banana tree that stand tall within his brother’s beautiful tropical garden paradise. I let him go back to being with his brother, back to sharing precious moments, back to creating memories that will survive past his brother’s living presence and that would be stored away in my husband’s memory of his brother, to be hopefully shared with future generations of family to come.
I hang up the phone and are now left with the thoughts about my own journey that I had during my husband’s cancer fight. My mind meanders through memories of how hard it was during my husband’s time of chemotherapy, during his recovery – painful and distressing. I am so thankful that he survived, that he is still here with me now – my dear sweet husband.
Written by © Karen Robinson – April 2016
- Title: “Crying Roses…”
It’s raining and the roses look like they are crying,
Perhaps they know we are here amongst the ones, who were once dying,
Both my husband and I stop and sit in silence,
Thinking about our loss and leaning on one another with great reliance,
It’s been 6 years now since the passing of our son,
We often think why, why did he have to be the one,
It’s now time to stand and walk a little amongst the rain drenched roses,
And I seek my dear husband’s guide to do some poses,
For each year we make this pilgrimage to remember,
And always on the 5th of November,
A coffee and cake we share,
Where conversation is mostly spare,
Then it’s back home and a chat with our daughter,
The one we now look towards, in our family, to be the mortar…
How precious she is to us,
And our endless love will always be a must…
Written by © Karen Robinson – November 2015
- Title: “Something I Am Proud About…”
Proud – meaning ‘feeling pleased and satisfied about having done something or about owning something’!
I think one of the things in my life, that I have personally done, which makes me feel that I should be very proud of, is my volunteering with Road Trauma Support Services Victoria. Being a RTSSV volunteer speaker has helped give meaning and purpose in my life after the death of my 25-year-old son Ben, who was killed in a single vehicle car crash in 2009. Telling my family’s road trauma story to Road Trauma Awareness Seminar participants, helps to give these young and not so young people an opportunity to rethink their risky driver behaviour. It is remarkable, the impact this has on participants. And as a volunteer speaker, you know that what you have told them is going to save lives, help reduce serious injury and lessen the ripple effect of road trauma on family, friends and the wider community. It’s something I don’t do for me, but I have definitely benefited from, in ways I wouldn’t have anticipated when I first started volunteer speaking back in March 2011. It’s important, it has helped me reconnect with the wider world, it has added value to my daily life and it has made me a better person. It is also an act of courage, it is humbling, it is sometimes very sad and sometimes difficult, but most of all, it’s the most, worthy task that I do right now in my life.
Written by ©Karen Robinson – November 2015
Looking back from where I began in 2014 to now, I am so grateful for all that I have been able to learn about myself and learn about how to take care of me, so in turn I can take care of those whom are nearest and dearest to me…
My Art Therapy and Creative Writing Therapy Sessions have now come to an end with Mind Australia. I have been so fortunate to have had this opportunity to be part of these two therapy groups and have been able to meet an amazing group of people whom I have grown to admire and respect. But is time for me now to leave the security of this group to take on new adventures. Thank you Gillian Scaduto for extending to me the invitation to do art therapy and creative writing with Mind Australia and thank you to our two facilitators Vicky Nicholls and Judy Bird whom have been just so supportive within their facilitation roles. I will not forget my time with you all…
© Karen Robinson – May 2016
Whilst you are here – please check out my home page! Post-traumatic Growth – My Art Therapy Journey – A window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytelling…by Karen Robinson
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I am in love. Thank you for sharing. ❤
Wow, Karen – thank you for taking the time to put the whole process up so that we can see just what went into this work of heart and art. Hope I get to see the real thing…
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Hi Judy…I have enjoyed writing about my creative writing and art therapy efforts and how they have been such an important part of my own post-traumatic growth journey. In the process I have also met some amazing people. Thank you once again for making the creative writing sessions process such a rewarding experience Judy…sincerely Karen