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Art Therapy: Three- Dimensional Sculpting Materials by Lauren Fallat, MA LPC ATR-BC

Art Therapy: Three- Dimensional Sculpting Materials

One might be inclined to explore the dynamic process of sculpting in an art therapy session- the sculpting process allows for a unique sensory experience in which one is incorporating touch, smell, sight, and sometimes sound along with intentional movements. Sculpting materials are often used to create 3-dimensional works of art through the processes of carving, casting, smushing, molding, compressing, pinching, kneading, rolling, connecting, manipulating, attaching, adhering, constructing and deconstructing, and/or other shaping techniques. The acting of sculpting provides the artist a kinesthetic experience in which one can use their body to physically shape, create and alter a 3-dimensional form. Sculptures can be created using traditional and non-traditional materials and often in an art therapy setting, you may come across a variety of objects that can be incorporated into your 3-D creation.

Traditional sculpting materials that are typically offered in an art therapy session may include wet-clay, polymer clay (Sculpey), plasticine, cellulose or PaperClay, plaster and plaster cloth rolls, wire, and cardboard. These different materials vary in their textures, consistencies and ways of attaching as well as drying methods and fragility. For children, often wet-clay, model magic, play doh, plasticine and polymer clay are used in addition to pipe cleaners, paper, foam and felt pieces. For younger children, it is possible to create a non-toxic, edible dough that is safe for handling. There are a variety of ways to adhere different objects together- often the learning process fosters problem-solving skills, patience and perseverance, which can be incorporated as part of the therapeutic properties of the construction.

When engaging with clay materials, often it is important to ensure that the workspace is cleared of objects that one does not want to be incorporated into the project. Often it is helpful to lay out a mat to protect the surface underneath and to ensure an easier clean-up. One may also be interested in utilizing clay tools to practice creating different markings and imprints or different ways of carving the clay. One of the best ways to incorporate grounding and mindfulness into the artmaking process is to use one's hands to mold and shape the clay freely and spontaneously, without any particular expectations for how the clay will look or form. Questions that may become helpful as one is working with the clay might include:

How does this feel in my hands? What are the qualities of the clay? (stiff, sticky, soft, wet, pliable, flexible, messy, mushy, dry)

What is the weight of the clay? Heavy or light?

How comfortable am I with having this clay in my hands? What am I uncomfortable with?

What are different ways I can shape this clay with and without tools available to me?

What energy can I use to shape this clay?

Do I want to create something permanent?

What do I like or dislike about the process of just molding the clay?

If you are interested in incorporating the use of clay or other 3-dimensional materials into your therapy sessions or wanting to learn more about how this material could be useful to your own self-expression, please outreach the Holistic Health Counseling Center to connect with an Art Therapist at the link below:


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