peace and love and gratitude

 So here I am, back in Chiang Mai. It's finally resonating that this is my new home! After being quite the gypsy for the past few years, I've let opportunity arise in being free. So now that I have found purpose, I'm really happy to have landed here where it feels so true. When I came to volunteer last year with Art Relief International I was really impacted by the supportive and loving team that works together to bring art to so many marginalized groups around this beautiful Thai city. This program has opened my eyes and my heart to providing art as therapy. There is something truly amazing about being able to communicate in a visually creative sense, without using words, without hiding anything, and in just trusting the open environment that is created for all to share and to express.

Sometimes it feels like my soul is on fire. I feel so honoured to be able to be an integral part of this organization! I get to work with such amazing people who fully commit to creating art workshops for the specific needs of each group (and the participants really appreciate what we do). I also feel like there is so much to learn about being a leader: patience, understanding, earning respect, looking out for everyone's best interest, giving praise and criticism in balance... It's an amazing learning process and a great challenge. I've been so lucky in the support I've gotten from friends, family, the Cultural Canvas Thailand team, and volunteers. Each day is different in so many regards, presenting new challenges and rewards.

I also get the chance to focus on my own creativity and return to being a productive artist again, which I've been longing to do for sooooooooooo long! Chiang Mai is the perfect place to renew my creative senses. Everywhere I turn there is inspiration: in the streets, in nature, in the food, in the people. There is abundant life. I'm so thankful that life has brought me here again and look forward to what the future holds. With each passing moment I am grateful for this position, and humbled by its challenges. I couldn't be happier to be the new Art Director. Thanks to everyone for the support along the way, specifically to Sarah Lovett who has inspired and pushed me to get here and helped me integrate into living and working here. I'll miss you, you rock.
Peace and love and so much gratitude!


Squishy fun at Hope Home

Starting the day with a stop at Hope Home is a sure way to lift up your tired self! Today's aim was to stimulate the childrens' tactile senses by having them play with play dough. A previous encounter with the children demonstrated their tendency to put objects in their mouths (i.e., eating paint), thus I wanted to create something non-toxic and even edible. So, I present to you ladies and gentlemen- EDIBLE PLAY DOUGH! 

The mixture only takes three ingredients: cornstarch, whipped cream and a little bit of oil (you can also add a bit of food colouring for different colours if desired). Finding a good consistency is important, so if the dough is too crumbly, add more oil and if it's too oily or soft, you may want to add a bit more corn starch. 

However, there are many other online recipes you can use for play dough, slush, or slime that are safe for children. Here are some alternatives for edible playdough if you are interested: 


The volunteers introduced the edible play dough to the children by squeezing small balls of dough onto their hands. Some of them responded well by holding or squeezing the dough on their own. Sam actually held the play dough for some time and even squeezed a couple of times.


Joy seemed to respond while the dough was squished into her hands. She started to look around more, as if to acknowledge this new substance in her hands. 

Namchook was fairly engaged! He took interest in the dough and then started to pull it apart into pieces - this seemed to amuse him!

Working with this group can be challenging since most of the children have very limited motor skills and so most of them need to be carried all the time. Thus, it is important to provide activities to try to stimulate their senses. Of course, it is difficult to evaluate and fully understand whether or not these activities truly help. But perhaps the best way to measure this is simply through their smiles, laughter and overall energy. 

Hopefully, such art activities can provide different experiences which will help them build up their physical and mental strength as well. 


Paper inspired earrings

This was the first workshop that I would be leading and I was fairly nervous about it. However, I was immediately at ease once I arrived to the Wildflower Home (WFH). The environment was so tranquil and peaceful; I could not picture a better place for the women here with their children. 

The WFH women enjoy jewelry making and so I wanted to introduce a material that they could mix in with the regular beads and string they are used to. I have always enjoyed paper folding crafts and wanted to take advantage of a skill that I knew fairly well. Two of my favourites are 3-D star folding and paper cranes. At first glance, the finished product looks complicated to make, however they are actually fairly easy to make.

The WFH women enjoy jewelry making and so I wanted to introduce a material that they could mix in with the regular beads and string they are used to. I have always enjoyed paper folding crafts and wanted to take advantage of a skill that I knew fairly well. Two of my favourites are 3-D star folding and paper cranes. At first glance, the finished product looks complicated to make, however they are actually fairly easy to make.

The first step of the workshop was to ensure that all the women knew how to fold the 3-D stars. The most difficult part was at the beginning since forming the basic pentagon star shape involves tying a knot with the strip of paper. You have to be quite careful not to rip the paper and to not press down the star shape too soon, otherwise the shape might not form properly. Once the base star shape is completed, then you simply fold the long strip over and over the side of the star and gently squeeze the corners to pop up the star so it becomes 3-D! For detailed instructions on how to fold lucky stars see: 
and make your own!

It was interesting to see how engaged the women were. Despite the language barrier, I found that simple gestures and demonstrations helped the participants learn how to better their technique. I felt like this truly demonstrated the power of visuals and captured the essence of communicating through art. 

The participants got extremely creative! Some of them were even showing me a thing or two on how to place beads into a nice flower pattern. The women were learning so fast that we even had time to go over paper folding cranes (which was not going to be taught at first because I was not sure how long it would take to do the 3D star folding). A few of the women who came in later were so eager to learn, they kept calling me over to teach them how to fold 3D stars and cranes. All in all, it was such a rewarding experience to witness such enthusiasm and persistence to learn during my workshop. What a success!



Messy Melting Fun at Juvenile Detention Center

  Hello all!

After a two month break it was time again for Juvenile Detention Centre. JDC houses boys (10 -17 years old) all awaiting their sentencing for various crimes. The facility gives the boys the opportunity to participate in different classes including art, music, and sports as well as the chance to practice their religion.Today was my last time at JDC, but I was happy that I got the chance to lead the workshop!

After we played ChilliChilli (a warmup game) with them, which they seem to really enjoy, I explained the concept of my workshop:

I wanted to teach them the technique of melting crayons. To do this you just need a hair dryer to melt the crayons which are glued on to a piece of paper. When the crayons melt and flow down the paper, a form is created which looks like a little growing plant. So my idea was to see these forms as plants for the future! After the crayons dried the idea was to get the participants to think about what goals and dreams they have for the future and then draw it around the little plants.
Everything went a little different, but we got great outcomes and the boys enjoyed it anyway.

We had a big box of good crayons that would melt very good and fast, but the big box went missing! I had to change the concept of melting. The boys had to cut crayons very small and add some glue to them so that the bits would stick on the paper and not blow away when we put the heat of the hairdryer on it. But with too much glue it doesn’t work, because the glue stops the melting process. So we had to find the middle way, which took some time. But it seemed to me, that the boys enjoyed cutting crayons, getting messy and experimenting with it.

 All the melting stuff took longer than I planned. Because of that they didn’t have that much time to draw their dreams around the plants. So they mostly just drew something that they liked! But there were great outcomes. Some of the boys are amazing artists! They used the forms of the melting crayons very creatively and included them as a part of a picture, like a fire or a waterfall.

 In the end I was happy the way everything went. It just reminded me once more “just go with the flow”! I was a little bit sad that it was my last time in this great institution because each time I feel that I know how to interact with the participants better and enjoy it more!

All the best,
Hanna :)

Playing at Hope Home

On January 7th we visited Hope Home again for the first time since the Holidays. We all missed the lovely kids from Hope Home a lot and were very excited to see them again!
Hope Home is a place for children with disabilities whom are abandoned or orphaned.

In December little Yoot passed away and we all missed him a lot!

For today we prepared some different materials to paint. Of course we brought our big instrument box and played a lot!

DtaDta woke up at 5am this morning and so he got quite tiered after a while and went to bed.

Sam and Joy were very happy and smiely today.
We had a great time at Hope Home!
Hannah :) 

Spinning Pinwheels

On January 9th it was time to visit Healing Family and all of us were very excited to see them again!

For the activity I planned to do Pinwheels with them.
Everybody got a piece of paper and we decorated it on both sides.

Everybody drew colourful and beautiful pictures which they proudly showed to us.
After we finished colouring the paper, we cut from the corners to the middle and folded them to the middle. That was a little tricky, but in the end, everybody got it and was able to attached their pinwheel to a straw.

In the End, we all blew and tried to get the Pinwheels to spin around.

Nearly all of them spun really well with our simulated wind as we said goodbye.
Hannah :)


Facing Fears

The theme of the workshop this time at Urban Light was fear.

At first I was a bit afraid that none of the boys would take part in the art making, like the last couple of times that I had the chance to do a workshop here. When I saw the first boys I was so happy, but then the second fear was how they would react to my workshop with them.

After a very yummy lunch we started with four boys and I explained my concept:
The first step was to draw on a black piece of cardboard one of our fears. They could draw it in a realistic or an abstract way. 

Then we cut the black cardboard with our fear on it into geometric shapes. I hoped that this step would show the boys that they are stronger than their fears and that they can handle it. We then used the geometric shapes to create a new figure. As examples I brought some tangram pictures, which showed different animals, but we allowed them the freedom of placing the pieces randomly, just how they like. 

  We glued the pieces onto paper and painted around the figure! 

The finished artworks of the boys:

I hope this workshop helps the boys a little bit to see their fear from a different perspective and it maybe become less scary! All the boys got really into it, which surprised me! I had the fear that they didn’t want to think of or talk about their fear, but all the boys did it and even shared their artwork with us.

This was so nice to see. It made me really happy!
All the best,
Hanna :)