It’s been several months since I began this journey (yes it sounds hokey, live with it) re-conceptualizing my (much loved) mandalas. As a recap, in the last post I talked about the various surfaces onto which I could see myself extending the visual explorations I am accustomed to. I have never been much of a sculptor and I didn’t plan on working 3D back in January when I started this, but things always have a way of turning out differently when you stop trying to control everything and give-in to the art process.
|The outer sphere being sewn.|
What attracts me to visual expression and in particular mandalas is their innate ability to provide containment through their properties and the act of making them. In true art therapy fashion I stand by the process. The repetitious nature of applying media to a surface when developing an image or building a shape processes the experience in question. Rhythmic gestures allowing for the distressful event to be slowly worked-through in spite of the final appearance. In time, purposeful art making becomes an un-named maybe even unconscious, ritual. An often quite predictable pattern of working -- of moving, that gives the maker a sense of comfort through control of media & process.
In making, even when exploring new things we take this control with us. The way in which we approach new problems extend from methods previously used and building on these prior experiences can lead the maker to new discoveries. When I undertook this task I wanted to expand on the control and comfort that I found in regularly working on mandalas as a means of processing my work as an art therapist.
In Process Oriented Round(s) - Part 1 I spoke about the various endeavors undertaken towards finding the methods that made sense. It was an exploratory process which brought with it a variety of “not what I was looking for” moments. Some procedures were so involved that I found no room for processing events. I was making a surface on which to work versus having the artifact be the expression in itself. While neither the final artifact nor the process was portable, in the end the most inviting process required a fresh start from (almost) scratch.
|Self-symbol using a Polymita shell from Cuba, gold thread, gold dust, a seed, nacre ('nacar') slivers, and paper pulp.|
The final version of the paper sphere artifact utilized paper-pulp from the previous processes and odds and ends. Working from the inside out I first created a self-symbol that would be contained within the subsequent 5-layers of the piece. From the center each section of sphere is layered with fragments from the previous. In the outward progression of layers there is a cumulative darkening from intentional inclusions (ie. strands of cotton, yarn, tea, etc). All layers are incomplete leaving enough space to fit within each other and be seen. While it’s fragility is evident this artifact is meant to be touched, handled, and moved; each interaction leaving traces on the piece.
We are changed by that which we experience, and likewise we can create change through these experiences.
A few notes on the process(s):
- The paper used in the pulp of all the paper experiments was recycled from old notes, bills, discarded artwork, etc. The paper was ran thru a diamond-cut paper shredder, soaked in water for over 24hrs and pulped in an old blender in small batches (separated into color families). While not in use the moist paper pulp was kept in sealed containers separated by cling wrap. Before molding, each batch was re-hydrated and mixed with methyl cellulose and PVA glue (rest 30min) then drained until achieving a clay-like consistency. It is at the point of re-hydration that any inclusions were added to the mix.
- To create the spheres I used smooth bouncy balls and plastic ornaments of varying sizes. These were wrapped in cling wrap and meticulously coated in the prepared pulp then allowed to dry (yes, a fan helps).
a smooth edge is preferred as with my first set of spheres it helps to
create a midline marker by carefully placing a thick rubber-band or
heavy string and proceeding to apply the pulp as usual (over the
marker). This creates an indentation on the inside that leaves a
A few notes on inclusion(s):
- String/yarn: can be cut into small pieces, strands…separated into fibers, etc. *Never put long strands into the blender.
- Tea bags: can be cut into small pieces or hand shredded and added (but tend to disappear into the mix. If you want them seen add them as a last layer once piece is complete with matte medium or Elmer’s glue.
- Tea: depending on the type & amount the tea tannins may change the color of the pulp as it dries. The change is not consistent as it reacts to the mix, the ambient humidity, and the drying process.
- Black teas – tend to leave a light brown stain
- Mate & Green teas – have more of a light green to yellow stain
- Thai Tea & Rooibos teas – have an orange stain
as a means to change the color of the pulp this can work, but it isn’t
as strong as you expect and it may fade with time.
All in all – try it out, once you make the first mess and can’t find half your house under all the preparations you’ll figure out how to cut corners and make it work for you (and in your space). While there is plenty of prep work a simpler adaptation can be made for work with clients under time constraints. On a personal note, after all I found the tactile involvement to be meditative and involved. It served as an outlet in a way I was not expecting and in the same fashion I will not be abandoning my tried and true methods of processing my work stressors; this process just gives me another tool (and excuse to make a creative mess).