Starting a new project is a bit like planning a trip – you prepare for a long time, decide on a direction to go, choose your companions and pack your suitcases. For this project, the suitcases contained sewing machines, fabrics, yarns, paints, brushes and various tools. The phase of preparation turned out to be quite long and extensive. Applications had to be made, funds requested and a suitable room found. When the journey – the project – really begins, good preparation is very helpful, but the most important thing is to get involved and trust the process. Because the creative process output is always uncertain.
We knew who had signed up, but who would actually come remained a surprise. On the first weekend, fewer participants came than planned, but it turned out that this was more of an advantage, as it proved to be more of a challenge to explain the content and goal of the project. The questions that were provided on the website as an orientation helped to approach the topic, even if it was not easy to work on them due to the language barrier. Over time, however, we found a good way to communicate with each other and the first drafts emerged. Shopping together at the fabric store rounded off the first day and allowed us to get really active the next day. While we were working together, interesting conversations kept arising, as far as it was linguistically possible, and we learned something about the history of the women, to the extent that they were willing to open up, and one could perceive a first tender feeling of trust.
On the second weekend of the project, we already met with a greater familiarity and began with a comfortable round of talks. Due to the train strike, we were again fewer participants than expected, but this allowed us to turn more extensively to those present, and we found that this was useful and also necessary. We talked with them about their current situation, support possibilities, but also about how to deal with racism, rejection and fears. The group had already grown together noticeably and we could perceive that this gave the participants support and security. The artwork progressed and at the end of the weekend we were very proud of the exhibits we had created.
Now we have one last deadline coming up, and we’re looking forward to seeing the participants again and finishing the artwork. Looking back, I can say for myself that I am very happy to have gotten involved in this project. Through which medium one makes use of the creative forces within is perhaps not so important – through the one that was given, it worked very well in my perception. By working on the artworks, we were able to give the participants a way to gently approach their inner themes and express them in their own way. It is not excluded that this also reveals and awakens painful parts, but we had the impression that we were able to catch these dark moments well and support the participants in their processes in such a way that it became a positive experience for everyone. A central moment in dealing with the issue of “flight” is loneliness, and the experience of an attuned, benevolent group can alleviate this, at least for a while.
Personally, I take away from this project a deep reverence for these women who, with incredible courage and perseverance, hold their own in a world that is often not kind to them. And also for those who never tire of supporting all those who need help. There is a special magic when people begin to communicate with each other without language, on a level before words come into being. Since the creation of art is also on this level, I found the project to be very coherent and well-functioning, and we received exactly this feedback from the participants – coupled with the desire to repeat or continue it.
Sarah Mast, art therapist, Stuttgart