Supporting people through art making

From October 2012 to Dec 2013 I was fortunate to be offered work as a Creative Arts Therapist as part of the practical placement I was required to do as part of my Masters in art therapy at the MIECAT institute.

I travelled twice a week to Ringwood and Ferntree Gully to facilitate art therapy groups in three different Supported Residential Services (SRS.) SRS’ provide “accommodation and support for people who need support in everyday life, for example, people who are frail or have a disability” ( They are privately operated services and do not receive funding from the government but must be registered with the State Government and are monitored to ensure they provide certain standards of personal support and accommodation. One of the programs I ran was for Eastern Access Community Health (EACH) and the other two I was employed privately by the SRS’.

The people who I worked with who lived in the SRS’ come from all walks of life. There were people experiencing mental unwellness, acquired brain injury, intellectual and physical disability from ages 20 to 80 years. It was an amazing experience to work in the homes of such diverse groups of individuals. The focus of the art therapy groups was on setting up a ‘pop up studio’ to provide participants with the materials for individual art making. Initially as I settled in I offered more structured sessions in which I demonstrated certain processes e.g. handmade book making, hand paper making and silkscreen printing onto paper and t-shirts. During these activities I would invite participants to focus on a theme (e.g. transforming thoughts they wanted to ‘let go’ of into the paper and then create something new, asking ‘how do you want to be seen?’ and then creating a design based on this to print onto a t-shirt).


One of the participants Jim Hannaford used acrylic paint to work back into his silkscreen print on canvas. This artwork was accepted in the 2013 State Trustees Connected Exhibition which was exhibited at Federation Square,


In the third term the focus was on painting and drawing so that the participants could develop their individual style. This required me to get really savvy at bringing a range of materials, ideas and inspiration in my portable studio. By this stage I had invested in a red tool box.


This became my saviour after lugging individual boxes too and from my car. A back injury at the start of the year made this task unbearable.

One of the participants regularly commented how I was a “girl scout” when I asked why he said that I was always “prepared for anything.” It has become important for me to have my kit prepared and well stocked. This means I know what i have on hand and am organised, which is really helpful when I would arrive at the sessions to be met by a group of enthusiastic participants. Working with people with different needs meant that firstly I could find what they needed with ease and secondly that the participants knew where the art materials were and could access them, thus the participants became more independent with their art making.

The toolbox is made up of two different sized toolboxes which clip together. The smaller tool box has an organiser that clips off which I store pencil sharpeners, erasers, permanent markers, measuring tape, clips in:


A tray with paint brushes, bamboo skewers for mark making, plastic knives and spoons for mixing paints:DSCF4088Paint in small craft containers and watercolour discs:

DSCF4087In the second toolbox there is another tray which comes out which has “stationary stuff” glue sticks, rulers, scissors, grey lead pencils, hole punch, sticky tape, masking tape, stapler, blue tac and stencils:
DSCF4089 In the main compartment there are felt tip pens, pencils (stored in old cans for easy access), pastels, PVA glue, carbon paper, tracing paper, overhead transparencies, drawing and mixed media paper,DSCF4090

In addition to my toolbox I also have zipped up bags which have tablecloths, aprons, cleaning equipment (cloths, rags), containers for water and palettes. An art folder which has people’s works in progress and an array of coloured paper and cards. Postcards for inspiration and collage materials. Stored in my studio are many, many other “kits” for specific activities including mosaic, printmaking, sculpture, doll making and so on and so on. The toolbox always comes with me though as my “staple” art supplies. Why am I telling you all this? Perhaps to give you an overview of the kind of “portable studio” that I haven been operating for the last two years. In addition to the SRS work I have done I also facilitate community art programs in community houses. Working in many locations and with such a vast range of people has meant that I have needed to become organised!
This year my partner and I have relocated to Castlemaine, in western regional Victoria, so I had to let my work at the Eastern SRS’ go. Fortunately I was able to recommend a friend who has taken over as EACH’s art therapist. It is lovely to pass the work on to another artist.
Arts Access Victoria
I have recently started a new position as Support Artist for Arts Access Victoria in their SRS studio program in Melton. I am assisting the Lead Artist Fiona Halse in facilitating two programs in Melton. After running art programs solo for the last two years it is a real pleasure to work with another artist to deliver these programs and also for an amazing organisation. To read more about the programs see the SRS Studios blog.
The business of Masters
I am currently in the process of rebranding my business including coming up with a new business name. I am starting to investigate some possibilities for facilitation up in the Castlemaine area. I am just about to finish my Masters degree! My thesis is at the binders and I am working on a PDF version that will be available on-line. The title of my thesis is Life After Art School: Visual & Fine Art Graduates’ Experiences of “Creative Stuckness.” I will be working to offer some workshops which follow on from my research into this topic both in Melbourne and the Castlemaine area. I am also in the process of applying for professional membership with ANZATA (Australian & New Zealand Art Therapy Association) and will be offering my services as a Creative Arts Therapist soon.
Well thanks for hanging in there while I reflect on the past, update you on the present and share my plans for the future. And of course…keep creating!

One thought on “Supporting people through art making

  1. Hey Natty,
    Ounce again it has been an absolute pleasure to glimpse inside your world.
    Thank you for sharing.

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