Art Therapists Speak Materials

Art Therapists Speak Materials

This week in Israel, art therapists held a conference dedicated to materials. 

A lecture, a panel, workshops, and an installation of materials remarkably expressed our deep longing to make materials more central to art therapy.

We aimed to grant a vast presence and stage to materials as our deepest allies in our work. We thought it would impact our colleagues more if they were involved in the installation when they read the invitation. 

If choices are textile, intuitive, and based on the senses rather than cognitive, the impact of the learning process is more meaningful.

Thus, they were asked to choose and bring a small amount of material that represents them in an accurate container. Moreover, they knew they would share it with others and take something else instead. 

When they arrived, they encountered a large table.

In the center was a raised shelf displaying symbols of prima materia: water, earth, wood, and air. We added reinforcing images such as archivists from the Library of Alexandria who still copy scrolls, a million-year-old fossil, a small pool of water, chrysanthemum flowers, and frogs.



Each participant placed their material through an intuitive choice, neighboring other materials. Neighborhoods were growing organically.  


Then, they photographed it and wrote their feelings and thoughts.


One hundred forty people created a communal table with abundant materials, objects, and items from nature and industry.






A large installation accumulated and transformed throughout the day as it became crowded and objects moved and shared the space with newcomers.

Dozens of participants created a generous and inspiring installation of a group portrait.


At the end of the day, each participant collected materials to use in their own studios as a giveaway. They also took a worksheet with points to think about and process. It contained an e-mail to gather their knowledge and contemplations.


Their texts will be a part of an art therapy library we are planning.

As art therapists, we know that everything begins in the body. We hope this experience will enhance the need for more accurate working space. We must be more refined in our choice of materials and vessels and, most of all, write about it.

In the panel, three prominent art theorists discussed their childhood memories of materials that shaped them as artists. Thus, the participants were encouraged to find their memories so the tree they are will acknowledge its roots.

We look forward to seeing what they take from this experience and what they send to our mailbox.


Photography: Adee Golan Kroizer, Galia, Elad, Nona Orbach

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