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OR, HOW ART THERAPY TAUGHT ME THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DO IT YOURSELF AND DO IT TOGETHER. BECAUSE WHAT WOULD WINTER BE WITHOUT A LITTLE ARTS AND CRAFTS?

I thought therapy was going well. This was a few years ago, after some heavy life stuff went down, and I was learning how to cope with my life and getting back on track. I think my therapist saw this too.

As a fat woman with chronic illness, I’ve spent my life being ignored, mistreated, misdiagnosed, and abused by a healthcare system that assumes I am probably not as sick as I say, sees me as undeserving of the resources needed to diagnose (let alone treat) me, and says it’s all my fault regardless and thus my duty to fix. Now someone deemed me worthy of care. She listened to me, and believed what I said. This alone helped begin healing. One day, she suggested that I participate in some groups. I was into it. I was relishing taking control of my life and getting “better,” but I was also enamored of being in care.

I was skeptical about being shunted into a program of do-it-yourself mental health care. I worried that my therapist was trying to dump me, but let me down gently (yes, I’ve got some abandonment issues, too). I knew I’d have to be discharged eventually, but I wasn’t ready yet. So, I signed up for tons of groups, partly to prove that I was a good and compliant patient who shouldn’t be fired for getting better, and partly because I just wanted more care, in whatever form.

I went into art therapy feeling cocky. As a Professional Artist, I was going to show these people How It’s Done. One key concept you’re meant to learn is that it’s not about being perfect — that, I already knew. For me, the lessons varied: I’m not All That, for one. Two, there are plenty of talented and amazing people in art therapy, and some have skills that are different or stronger than mine — skills I may be asked to use. Art therapy is not a competition (unlike the contemporary art world). And importantly, health is not a hierarchy, and “getting better” does not follow a linear trajectory.

One day, we were given what seemed like the world’s easiest project: make paper balls out of three strips of paper. But each of us struggled, getting frustrated that the project was not as simple as it looked. Turning paper into such eerily beautiful orbs seemed more like sorcery with each step. It turns out scoring paper along a curve is surprisingly hard! Then, our adhesive, white glue, took forever to dry, and we were all stuck holding the ends of our loops together, impatiently tinkering with our drying project while trying to finish it with the other hand. We began amassing a pile: not of finished balls, but crumpled paper.

Finally, someone offered to hold the ends of their neighbour’s strip, so they had hands fold the scored edges into place. Someone else began using tape instead of the default glue. Suddenly, it all came together — we’d revealed the magic hiding inside. More balls formed as we shared tips for scoring, looping, and folding. Soon we were all proud creators of these mystic ornaments. They were amulets, reminding us that as we all learn to be strong, resilient, self-sufficient individuals, collectively we are much more than the sum of our parts — much like a stack of paper strips.


INSTRUCTIONS 

Cut out the three strips of paper below.

  • Score the template along the curved lines. These will fold inwards towards the non-patterned side.
  • Use tape or glue to adhere the ends of one strip together, as marked. Repeat with a second strip. Place one loop perpendicularly inside the other loop, so that it already starts to look like a ball.
  • Weave the third strip of paper into the other two, going outside the exterior loop and inside the interior loop. Tape or glue the ends of the third strip together, then slide the taped end inside the ball so it’s no longer visible. You’ll probably have to shimmy each loop around to make sure the scored sections are positioned evenly on the ball’s outside
  • Fold the scored bits of each loop inwards. You’re done!
  • Google “triskele balls” to see what they look like, then Youtube “click ornaments” if you’re still not sure what you’re doing.
  • Make 100 more because once you get the hang of it, it’s hard to stop!

DOWNLOADS 

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