Keepsake Plaster Handprints with Hope Home

Hello again!

This week I held my first workshop with Hope Home, an organization for children with disabilities. I decided to plan an activity to create Keepsake Plaster Handprints. In previous years, I had implemented this same workshop with another organization for people with disabilities back at home and it was a huge hit! The adults with disabilities enjoyed the sensation of plaster between their fingers and loved being able to paint and keep their decorations afterwards. I thought it would be a great idea to try it again!

This, however, was a much harder task for the children at Hope Home to complete independently. Plaster is a very time sensitive material. As Titania and I poured out plaster onto plates, we had to wait just the right amount of time before allowing the kids to print their hands and feet. Too early, and the mold was mush, too late, and the the plaster would harden; both of which happened at the workshop. I felt bad for letting the molds go to waste and felt even worse at the thought of my first workshop being a failure. But I didn't let a few mistakes ruin the fun. We had prepared extra packs of plaster for this exact purpose anyway!

Pepo helped me mix another batch and then, the workshop was back in session. All of the volunteers paired with one of the kids and together, we created beautiful prints for each kid at Hope Home.
When the plaster prints were dry, we brought out the paint so they could decorate them. Bow was enthralled by her own creation and even took the liberty to paint Sam's and Sainam's! What an artist!
I held Joy's plaster handprint up to her face so she could see it and it seemed to spark her curiosity.  Pepo came over, held the paintbrush in Joy's hand, and tapped the red paint on the mold decorating it with cherry polkadot patterns. She loved it.

Yim was in a great mood and responded very well to the whole workshop. Seeing her laugh and giggle while we sang songs to her brightened all of our moods. Last but not least, Data was happy and lively as usual. 

Towards the end of the workshop, we cleaned up together and helped feed the kids their lunch. It wasn't the most perfect workshop. The prints were muddy, leftover paint dripped along the edges, plaster found ways to hide under fingernails and even toenails, but nothing is perfect. Nothing except for the moments of smiles on their faces. And I think it's safe to say, today's workshop achieved that.
Best wishes,

Creating Self-Portraits using Words with the boys at Juvenile Detention Centre

This week Jordan and I had the pleasure of sharing a workshop in the Juvenile detention centre. This is an area of huge interest for me so I was really excited to be going and I jumped at the chance to lead the workshop but since I had not been there before I offered to share the workshop and Jordan agreed to do so.

We went off to research some ideas. Firstly we were going to make plaster face masks and have the boys write words on different parts of the face expressing emotions they were feeling. After much research we decided against this idea as the plaster may not have dried quick enough and we would not have been able to work on the face mask straight away. It would have needed to be a split workshop.

We liked the concept we had for expressing emotions so we decided to draw Self-portraits using words. We had the boys draw a rough stencil of their face, they could sit at the mirror for this part. Then the boys could erase the outline, filling in words instead of the stencil to describe themselves: their characteristics, qualities, attributes and things about themselves.

The boys seemed to be really focused on the activity. They were hard at work for the time and it was a really relaxed and chilled environment.  Each person’s self-portrait turned out different which was really fun to see. Everyone seemed to take a very individual approach to their portrait, some using only drawing pencils others using colouring pencils and some using coloured markers. The boys deliberately chose words they felt represented their personalities, physical attributes, and interests. The goal was to self -reflect and find things that made them special and uniquely them.

We felt it was a successful workshop with some minor improvements needed if it was to be run again and we're looking forward to returning here already!

Speak soon. J and

Ojos de Dios at Wat Muen Nung Kong

You can travel around the world in 80 days, but what about in 80 minutes? On Thursday at Wat Muen Nung Kong, we took a trip to a different continent to explore a new culture, all while never leaving school! As a part of the Global Travelers series, the students explore art from all around the world, and this time we went all the way to Mexico to make Ojos de Dios or “Eyes of God,” a typical craft made to celebrate the birth of a child and to encourage his or her wellbeing throughout youth. Made simply using popsicle sticks, yarn, and some paper for feathery adornments, I knew they would be a perfect activity for the Wat Muen Nung Kong students to explore world travel.

We started out with a quick presentation around my computer to show the kids where Mexico is and to explain the story behind what they would be creating. Their “oohs” and “ahs” told me they couldn’t wait to get weaving, so I gave them a quick demonstration about how to wrap the yarn to make intricate and multicolor designs. Next I split them into groups and passed out the popsicle sticks and the yarn, giving each group many colors and lengths to choose from so no two Ojos de Dios would look the same!

The volunteers all agreed that managing the kids’ excitement and enthusiasm was certainly a handful; when five or six kids were anxiously awaiting one of us to help them tie their knots, there was never a moment’s rest! But it was definitely worth it to see the students engrossed in their art, mixing yarn colors and lengths to make something unique to them. They picked up the weaving process almost instantly and had a blast comparing their art with one another and helping out their friends who seemed stuck. Watching the kids flip over their completed weavings to reveal the finished product was by far the best part, as they could really see the fruits of their labor right before their eyes.

But we weren’t done there. Often authentic Mexican Ojos de Dios are adorned with feathers, so I thought that if we couldn’t have the real things, we could at least imitate them! I gave the kids paper and scissors, and they really flew through the feather-cutting process, making them look just like they had come from a real, majestic bird. We glued our feathers onto the ends of the popsicle sticks, and voila! Our masterpieces were complete! It was a joy to watch how the students reacted to their Ojos. Some tossed them like ninja stars, some wore them like necklaces, and there was no stop to their creative ideas. What fun to be able to travel the world and never leave Chiang Mai!


Hope Home Ice Chalk

Our morning at Hope Home this week did not begin auspiciously. The sky was cloudy and dark, and every one of the four children was sobbing when we walked into the play area. Somehow I had chosen the one overcast day we’ve ever had at Home Home to have the kids play with ice chalk, a homemade, refreshing version of the normal sidewalk variety.

At first, the kids were not in a very playful mood. As we tried to coax them into shaking rattles and coloring in activity books, I glanced over at the Styrofoam cooler sitting out on the patio, where the colorful ice cubes I had made the night before languished in the heat. Oh well, maybe another day, I thought.

But just before we left for the day, the sun started peeking out from the clouds, and we brought two of the kids out to play with the chalk. I watched with amusement as one of them picked up a cube, carefully contemplating the cool, smooth shape before dragging it across the pavement, where it left a liquid trail that quickly dried to a chalk line. She quickly abandoned the drawing though, preferring instead to throw the cubes on the ground and watch them burst into pieces.

But the most exciting moment came when we used the chalk with one of the kids with cerebral palsy. Carefully, we pressed the cold chalk to her hands and feet, searching her face for a reaction—negative or positive. Almost instantly, her legs started twitching and a tentative smile broke across her face. As we rubbed the ice over her arms and legs, we could see her trying to figure out what this cold, wet sensation was. It was an unexpected success, especially after such a rough start, and it reminded me just how rewarding it is to work with these kids, for whom victories are infrequent and always hard-won.


Negative Space Printing at Healing Family Foundation

If there’s one thing I know about the lovely adults at Healing Family Foundation, it’s that their creativity has no bounds. I wanted to design a workshop for them that would give them plenty of creative liberty to express themselves but would also teach them something new, and that’s why on Friday I brought them the materials to explore negative space printing, a workshop that allows participants to experiment with printing around a stencil of a certain shape to leave behind a white form that represents some sort of shape. I knew that everyone at Healing Family would do amazing things with different colors and stencils shapes, but I figured that I didn’t want to stop the flow of their creative juices, so I threw in an extra factor—different printing materials! By using sponges, crumpled up toilet paper, pencil erasers, and strings wrapped around wooden blocks to stamp paint onto the page around the stencil, the participants, I knew, would be able to create something magical.

The first step was cutting out stencils, the shapes that would leave behind white space when the paint was stamped around it. I made a geometric triangle pattern, but the designs of others were even cooler—stars, people, a house, a water buffalo, even. The participants really took my instructions to heart to have fun and be silly with the stencils! After that part of the process was all said and done, it was time for printing, so the volunteers and I set up six different colors of paint around the circle and passed out the sponges, toilet paper, pencil erasers, and wooden blocks and yarn. The adults of Healing Family had white pieces of paper divided into fourths, but creating four different designs with the same stencil was their only restriction. At this point, I wanted to turn over the freedom to them to make whatever they wanted!

As soon as everything had been distributed, the participants excitedly reached for anything and everything; some grabbed the sponges and began stamping orange paint around their stencils, and others dipped their erasers in red paint and made polka dots. Layers of color stained the page, with participants mixing blues, yellows, greens, and more to add depth and dimension to their prints. With all the bright colors forming a stark contrast with the white negative space left behind by the stencil, the pieces popped.

At the end of the workshop the floor was lathered in paint, and the used materials lay all around us, but what’s a fun and expressive workshop without a little mess? I could tell that the adults of Healing Family really enjoyed themselves, and that’s what mattered most to me. After cleaning up, we had a dance party, and everyone got a chance to show off some moves. It was a stellar way to close up a stellar workshop!



The Young Lions make Sock Puppets

On Tuesday, I lead my first workshop, which was the Young Lions. The Young Lions are children from the local community.  I had a few ideas of art activities I was interested in doing with the Young Lions but I decided to make sock puppets with them this week.

I set up the table for the activity along with some games to play with the children who arrived first. I had been feeling nervous in the days leading up to the workshop, however strangely enough once I had my box of materials organised I felt somewhat calm!

It was a slow start to the afternoon with turn out being lower than the previous week. We played snakes and ladders for a little while then decided to hatch on and start the sock puppets. Once I told the children the activity they seemed really excited and got straight to it: cutting up materials and their sock to put a mouth onto it. As we were carrying out the activity some more children arrived and got stuck into making a sock puppet as well.

The Young Lions got creative making aliens with one eye, aliens with two eyes, monsters and some other crazy animals! I had opted to use staples rather than glue for sticking pieces to the sock so that they could play with their puppets straight away. This turned into somewhat of a challenge as the staples were falling off and some of the paper was too thick for the staple to go into so in future I would use glue or maybe stitch the pieces onto the sock.  All in all though, it was a great afternoon and everyone seemed to have enjoyed the workshop!


Hello from Haley!

Hi everyone, my name is Haley. I am originally from the United States and have lived in New Jersey and Washington state! I arrived in Chiang Mai a little over a week ago, and I love it here - time is flying. I had originally planned to stay and work with Art Relief International for only one week, but after meeting the team, visitng the project sites, and having an amazing time, looks like I will be here for three!

I have been traveling for about a year now, funded as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. During this year, I have been conducting an independent research project that (broadly) looks at the relationship between trauma and creative expression in different cultures. I have worked with art therapists, artist collectives, community organizations, human rights advocates, and other art relief organizations like ARI in Bolivia, England, Tanzania, Japan, and now Thailand! It's been an amazing adventure and I have no words to describe how much I have learned and grown. I'm so thankful that ARI, the volunteers, and all the people we get to work with are apart of this journey!

I've always loved art - I majored in Studio Art at university, and focused in painting. When I am not doing something art-related, I love drinking coffee with friends, writing, camping, and watching (and occasionally playing) sports! So excited and thankful to be here in wonderful Chiang Mai!!

Urban Light Fractured Portraits

For me, some of the most difficult workshops we run are at Urban Light, a center for boys in the sex trafficking trade here in Chiang Mai. As a teenage American woman, I find it hard to interact with these young men, many of whom speak no English—and all of whom have experienced things I could never dream of. So when I signed up to lead the workshop there this week, I knew it would be a challenge.

Deciding what project to do with them proved to be the first hurdle. Everything I found online seemed inappropriate for this group—either too juvenile, too girly, or just plain boring. Finally, I found something I thought the boys would like: “haunted mirror” photo collages inspired by the work of California artist Allison Diaz. Entrancing (and sometimes disturbing), the collages offer a unique take on photography—obscuring instead of revealing reality.

I thought that this notion of obfuscation would particularly resonate with the boys, who might feel uncomfortable showcasing their identity. This project would give them the chance to make self-portraits without the risk of recognition. As I’d hoped, the boys were very taken with the idea, and all of them enjoyed cutting up and reassembling the photographs we had taken of them. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t take the concept as far as they could have, but I tried to be understanding of their position. They know better than I do how hard it is to pick up the pieces and put them back together again.



Hi from Lynnie! ^_^

Hello, body-every! =)

My name is Lynne Yang. I am a Hmong-American from Kansas. This past spring semester 2015, I graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's in East Asian Language and Culture. I am fluent in Hmong and English, low-advanced in Mandarin Chinese, and currently studying Thai. I've been blessed with another opportunity to go abroad! Last summer, I studied Mandarin in Taiwan and now this summer I'm studying the Thai language and doing an internship in Thailand!

*Doi Suthep Temple*

My internship is with Art Relief International (ARI). This week I will be shadowing and starting next week I will be conducting my own workshop! Excited! ^-^ I hope to gain a lot of experience and meet new people while I'm still here! :) So far, I love Thailand and will definitely miss it when my time's up! T^T

*My host mom at Baan Ton Chok Village*

Thank you for welcoming me to Thailand, everyone!
Smiles! ^_______^
Teehee! XD


Imagination and Laughter: Drawing Exquisite Corpses at Wat Kuang Singha

This week we had SO MUCH FUN at the Wat Kuang Singha School making exquisite corpses. The term "Exquisite Corpses" comes from a parlor or bar game French surrealist artists would play in the early part of the 20th century. Instead of sitting around playing cards, these artists made jokes and passed the time doing what they loved: drawing!! Our project took inspiration from this historical game.

Each student was given a piece of paper, folded into thirds - sectioning off the "head and neck", "torso and arms" and "legs and feet". We explained that we would be making "bodies", but encouraged everyone to be imaginative and to draw inanimate objects, creatures, shapes, food, whatever!! The kids had no trouble coming up with some really creative "body parts".

The trick (and fun) to this game, is that you have no idea what the person before you drew. Before passing along the drawings each student had worked on, we folded over the paper, hiding whatever crazy, cool thing was underneath. The only clue the next person gets are two small lines extending down from the previous section, letting you know where the last artist left off. Another element to this game is that you have to think quickly!! Everyone had five minutes to complete each drawing. We did this for all three sections, and then SURPRISE! We opened our exquisite corpses!

The pure joy and laughter that erupted from the students as they revealed the wacky monsters was priceless. There was endless giggling and pointing, sharing with each other the fun and interesting creatures we had all created together. This project was a great reminder that even in today's technology saturated world, all you need to have fun is some paper, markers, your friends, and your imagination!