As long as there have been humans, there has been art. Cultures and religions around the world have used art as a form of self-expression, healing, interaction and conflict resolution throughout history. Stemming from a base in psychotherapy and psychoanalytic theory, art as therapy embodies the belief that when we are allowed to express ourselves creatively, healing can take place through the symbolic expression of state of mind combined with the cognitive and verbal aspects of experience. Individual expression and healing are both given space to occur organically through the articulation of art as therapy.
“Making A Mess started with the idea that we wanted to facilitate spaces for any person to make art in their community..."
It’s this essence of artistic expression as a facilitator of growth and healing that led Krissy, Julia and Charlotte to create Making A Mess. After being friends for years; having both travelled and lived together, they brought their shared passion for art as therapy as a joint venture. In their words, “Making A Mess started with the idea that we wanted to facilitate spaces for any person to make art in their community. The three of us have our own personal journeys that have led us to arrive at this project, but we collectively share the desire to provide opportunities for people to explore their creative capacities”.
Charlotte, Krissy and Julia all come from individual art backgrounds and practices which explore their inner worlds. Charlotte is both an artist and is studying a master’s in art therapy. For her, art therapy is both something she believes in and is also a pivotal lived experience. As Charlotte says, “I was drawn to art therapy through my own experiences through developing my practice, and through my own therapeutic experience in my practice”. Similarly, Krissy has experienced art as a way of caring for her mental health, well-being and understanding her identity. She teaches in an alternative arts-based setting, and in her words “ creative expression and exploration is the underpinning of my practice”. The deeply personal connection with the practice of art as a means of self-understanding and healing is core to their lives, and Krissy sums this up perfectly when she says “art as therapy is daily practice for me”.
“I have learnt a lot about how I work, how I teach, how I learn, how I create through observing and working with these two absolute dreams. I also love how we bring really unique contributions to Making A Mess that make it what it is, and only as it is, when we are all together.”
This shared love and passion for art and their combined experiences of the ways in which art can be a vehicle for expression, self-understanding and healing is the soul of Making a Mess. It’s also what binds their love of working together so strongly. As Krissy beautifully summarises, “working creatively and collaboratively with your best friends within [a] community is soul work - we are the lucky ones!” Moreover, they are driven and inspired by each other's enthusiasm. As Julia says of her collaborators “Krissy and Char are do-ers, I love their motivation and the way they still make everything we do fun and playful”. Working together has provided a mirror; it has allowed them to grow and learn from each other through shaping their own creativity and communication styles. Charlotte sees this as the duality of a joint collective based on the unique attributes that each person brings to Making A Mess. She encapsulates this when she says, “I have learnt a lot about how I work, how I teach, how I learn, how I create through observing and working with these two absolute dreams. I also love how we bring really unique contributions to Making A Mess that make it what it is, and only as it is, when we are all together.”
When asked what about their individual creative methods of expression is most therapeutic for personally, there is the common understanding of art as its own language of communication. Their practices allow them to connect to both their minds and bodies in ways that writing or talking cannot. As Julia says, “Experimenting with different forms of creative expression allows me to let go of expectations or an end goal. I enjoy the process more and it allows me to be present in both my mind and body”. This sentiment is mirrored by Charlotte, who says “making art creates space for me to tease out my thoughts and feelings in a visually tangible way that helps me to understand myself”. Moreover, the physicality of the practice is unique and enriching in its own right. As Charlotte joyfully notes, “there is also no other feeling quite like finger painting, pushing your finger around into paint and just focusing deeply on exploring - 3 hours go by without you realising!”
“my personal recommendation would be to put on some music that resonates with you, and just play with materials... notice how you are feeling before and after, and build on your own relationship with your practice from here”.
It’s clear to see that for Making A Mess, the expression of creativity is so much more than the final product that you are left with. Given the current state of restrictions that most of us are facing, Charlotte, Julia and Krissy view this as the perfect time to explore art as therapy. When asked how people can tap into their creativity and remain inspired during times of restrictions and social isolation, Krissy suggests the comfort of a simple routine, “incorporating a creative exercise as consistent daily practise has helped keep me together, even if it's a 2 minute commitment.” When asked what this commitment could look like, Charlotte has this advice: “my personal recommendation would be to put on some music that resonates with you, and just play with materials... notice how you are feeling before and after, and build on your own relationship with your practice from here”.
Ultimately, Krissy, Julia and Charlotte want to facilitate people giving themselves permission to play without expectation or outcomes. It’s in this self-allowance that they have grown as individuals and healed, and they want to share this with a broader community. Although Making A Mess is a relatively new project, born out of individual passion and collective drive, their dream for the program is both simple and exciting. In Charlotte’s words, “[our] dream is that we become a full time operating entity where we facilitate spaces for the community to explore creative projects and practices”.
They often hear that people find the idea of creating and practicing art quite daunting, and it’s something that they themselves understand. But, it’s this focus on outcomes or aesthetics that they want to help people loosen themselves from and let go of. In Charlotte’s words, “go in with no intention of aesthetic outcome, just trying to play and see how it feels and just focus on the processes and materials rather than create something. I think people often go into art thinking in this way, wanting to make something ‘beautiful’. That’s not to say that’s not ok, but I think in this context, it doesn’t serve people to have aesthetic intentions and outcomes”. Krissy mirrors this sentiment by affirming that you should “give yourself permission, even rebrand it as creative license, to make fugly art. Nobody will see it unless you want them to. Make the process about feeling good in your body and mind, focus less on the aesthetic outcomes!”
In fact, when people have come to their workshops and have let themselves play and create without intention or judgement, they have seen surprising and beautiful results. As Charlotte says, “you think that you might have an idea about how people might play with materials, but I have been so pleasantly surprised and intrigued by the way in which others play that is utterly inspiring and exciting to witness”. For them all, it goes beyond the outcomes of their play but into the spirit and mood of those participating. Krissy excellently describes this when she says “the facial expressions and body language that participants have displayed after making a mess for three hours is, for me, the inspiration that drives this project.”
Although physical Making A Mess workshops have been postponed for now, you can follow them on Instagram where they share wonderful resources and inspiration to start your own journey of art as therapy, or keep an eye on their website to see when workshops become available again.