The Arts Response to the Personal Story

We make Art in order not to die from the truth.   Nietzsche 

 Expressive Arts have always been a focus of our work, we now give them their own place in recognition that working  with art materials extends language in ways different, often better and more appropriate than writing or telling. Using art materials also transcends cultural difference and works so well with non-literate people, with those not ready to speak and with children.

 Using arts materials will ground the artist in the body.  The artist also learns to take care of her/himself in a process that  empowers. This engenders a sense of independence.

Access to arts processes and materials and using them over time can strengthen the part of the brain/nervous system that provides calming hormones. It is the part of the brain that has been silenced/weakened by the flight, fight,hide or freeze response to Adverse Experience. Under the conditions of a body living constantly in survival, one can only find that calm place through drugs, alcohol and high risk behaviors -- which means when you severely stress the system, the body will kick out that little bit of calming hormone -- imagine: intense  experiences produces a kind of push that will push inner resources. Our goal at Ashlar is to resolve toxic stress symptoms and provide a Self-Care program that strengthens the ability to calm oneself naturally and achieve dramatic reduction of symptoms.  These  Self-Care arts processes when practiced regularly, create resilience.  It must be a practice and in that way when adversity strikes, the person can bounce back.  

We use whichever materials allow maximum expression for the artist/ story teller in developing the personal narrative. We use the Shoe String Story:a necklace or hanging piece you will make. It comes in a pouch filled with beads, feathers, ribbons, knots and miscellaneous small objects. And you will create your story by tying, beading and gluing -- building a coherent story of your life.  Arts materials are threaded on a thong -- stones, feathers, yarn, bullets and beads, fetishes and fringes and things you will bring yourself. As the artist, the creator of your life story,  you can use any number of materials; feathers and paint, nuts, bolts, screws, yarn and sticks, beads and bone, glue and goo, Sculpy clay -- make your own beads, use found objects and those things that are hammered, chewed,  tossed and shaped by hand and baked, found, made, cycled and recycled. You can bring and use things we haven't even thought of.  We have our own materials that come in the small Shoe String Story bag. Every one is different.  This process does the heavy lifting for the arts narrative and we are inspired by many non-literate cultures that use some of these methods to create a personal, family or community history.  The Life Line when complete is your story.  

We have created an emergency art bag with some of these magical things inside. Arts materials are threaded on a thong, a shoe string -- stones with holes or glue, feathers, yarn, bullets and beads, fetishes and fringes and things students bring themselves. These materials come in a small bag. Every one is different.

We will help you wrap and bead a talking stick, or  create in images and words, a pillar or a tiled wall (we have the equipment to make and bake tiles), or a mural with which to develop your story. we'll help you until you get the hang of it and then, off you go. The objects you create work hard -- they are not just decorative --  though they are that too.  We will teach you how to use your piece beyond the making of it and you can teach others.  We hope you will teach others.  In fact, we  hope to see Shoe String Story groups popping up everywhere like mushrooms after a warm spring rain. YAY!  So this is healing and it a whole lot of fun. 

We deal with themes of Redemption, Reclamation and Memorializing.

Our work with Spirit Houses or Tiny Houses offer a place for restless spirits to dwell -- those whose lives were cut short, those who died as a result of a military act or states of being.  One of our young soldier students created a spirit house for the loss of his innocence and trust as he discovered his own dark potential. The list goes on.  

We use cross-cultural art-making rituals for peace-making in the individual and for the community  -- see Community Building.  

One of our people completed a personal and community memorial project.  Jim Famalaro's  pillar (see front page) is called The Healing Pillar of Wham, Bam, Pow and illustrates the story of his war experiences in Afghanistan. Just about any material goes on Jim's pillar and begins with his handmade tiles.


We would like to make this Life Line work available in our communities to anyone who wants to create one.  

We are available to teach classes for those interested in becoming narrative arts facilitators who will teach about the role of unresolved traumatic stress in our individuals, families and communities, and how to use the Life Line work to resolve or greatly diminish symptoms of traumatic stress.

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