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Armature in Art Therapy: Building Strength and Symbolism Through Sculpture

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC


Sculpting offers a unique avenue for individuals to channel their emotions and experiences into tangible forms. Central to this transformative process is the armature—a framework that not only lends structural support to the sculpture but also carries profound symbolism in the therapeutic journey. Understanding the symbolism behind an armature in the context of art therapy can be a powerful way to explore the themes of support and foundation in an individual's life.


What are Armatures?

In sculpting, an armature is a structural framework or skeleton that provides support to the sculpting material, such as clay, wax, or plaster. Armatures are used to give shape, structure, and stability to the sculpture during the sculpting process and to prevent the sculpture from collapsing or deforming as the artist works on it. They are particularly important when working with heavy or malleable sculpting materials.


Sculpting Materials

Sculpting materials like clay can be heavy, and over time, gravity can cause them to deform or collapse if not properly supported. Armatures help distribute the weight of the material evenly, preventing such issues. Armatures are essential when working on larger sculptures, as they provide the necessary support for the increased weight and size of the materials used. Without an armature, larger sculptures would be much more challenging to create and maintain.


Similarly, in life, individuals seek stability and structure to navigate challenges and maintain a sense of balance. Clients may reflect on the armature as a metaphor for the support systems and coping mechanisms they rely on to maintain their emotional well-being and sense of self.


How are they used in Art Therapy?

In art therapy, clients may work with various sculpting materials, such as clay, wooden dowels, recycled materials, or wire. Armatures can provide the necessary support and structure for clients to create their sculptures. This support can be especially helpful for individuals with fine motor skill challenges or those who need assistance in maintaining the form of their artwork.


Symbolism

The process of constructing an armature and sculpting around it can be symbolic in art therapy. This process can provide a valuable metaphor for clients working through issues related to stability, self-esteem, or personal growth. The process of constructing an armature before sculpting, for instance, can be seen as akin to building a foundation in one's life. Just as a building needs a strong and stable foundation to stand tall, individuals often require a solid foundation to support their emotional well-being and personal growth. In art therapy, clients can also contemplate the idea that the armature represents the foundational elements in their lives, such as family, relationships, values, or personal strengths.


In going further into the symbolism, armature is often hidden beneath the surface of the sculpture, much like the internal support systems and vulnerabilities that may not always be visible to others. In art therapy, clients can explore the idea that strength can be found in acknowledging and working with one's vulnerabilities, just as the armature provides strength to the sculpture.


Armatures can also be adjusted and modified to suit the needs of the sculpture, reflecting the idea that individuals can adapt and be resilient in the face of life's challenges. Clients may discuss how they have adapted their support systems and coping strategies over time to meet changing circumstances.


Creating and discussing the symbolism of the armature can encourage self-reflection in art therapy. Clients may consider questions such as: What supports me in my life? What elements provide me with stability and strength? Are there areas where I need to reinforce my "emotional armature"? These inquiries can lead to deeper self-awareness and insights.


Art Therapy & Sculpting with Armatures

In art therapy, the armature becomes a tangible representation of the individual's journey and experiences. By exploring the symbolism of the armature and its connection to support and foundation, clients can gain a deeper understanding of their own lives, challenges, and sources of strength, ultimately contributing to their therapeutic process and personal growth.


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Armatures, Sculpting, Art Therapy


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