What a scary mess!
I need to re- frame that statement: what a PERFECT mess!
I know that our 'product' doesn't always come out exactly as we envision it- if we even HAVE a preconceived idea. Case in point, I was working from a pretty good understanding of art materials, therapeutic process, etc. And still, I was flummoxed at every step of this piece. So, no, this is not as I envisioned, but it IS perfect for reasons that go far beyond appearance.  
After my last 'exploration in clay' piece, I had a felt sense of the direction this process was going. Right from my 'aha' moment, back in Floyd's office,  when I saw with my internal eyes the path my art- making must take, I knew that this would be an exploration in three parts. I already know what kind of work I would like to do next. Taken together, the three pieces in this 'trilogy' that I am in the midst of creating will be transformative in some way that I can't yet see. TRIlogy- there had to be a third piece. Just as I puzzled over how to get from A- to B- to C, my friend, talented artist- soon to be art therapist, Lenore Walker (www.lenorewalker.com) posted an art invitation on the use of 'altered puzzles'. "Altered books' are a mainstay in the practice of art therapy. They are the transformation of discarded books into a story that tells us how an individual has experienced the events of their life. It is a rich and beautiful manner of expression that can provide a legacy for people who are old or ill, can be a voice for someone who has felt silenced, and is accessible to almost anybody as a way to record their creative energy. I was intrigued then, by the idea of altered puzzles and the layers of meaning that occurred to me even as I turned the idea around in the moments after I read Lenore's post.
As an art therapist, I am aware that it is imperative that we have experience with an art invitation before we offer it to our clients. There is a need to be comfortable with the materials, and to understand the ways in which they may potentially affect an individual. And so, the learning began. 
I began with a simple children's puzzle. This was easiest, and turns out, the best decision I made regarding materials. 
Then I spent a long time choosing images that spoke to me. In some cases I created the images by printing photographs of my own artwork or things that I have in my life that are important to me (the Buddha in the upper right hand corner, the star of David- top middle). It was important to me to use images that I felt a connection to. As in the example above, I chose to use the photo of the star of David that I wear almost all the time because it feels like it is 'of me'. Some who know me also know that my name, Yona, means dove in Hebrew. I have had a life- long affinity for doves and the meanings the images of them carry for me. I have always imagined that I must strive to embody some of the traits the dove represents to me: emissary of peace, the capacity to soar but having the ability to seek groundedness. Sadly there is also the 'wounded dove', though not sought, that seems applicable to many aspects of my life.
There are many steps in collage making, and I savoured the time I took with each. 
When I do collage work, I usually like to tear my pictures out of the magazine, paper... I feel like I am more engaged with the image that way, as I tear carefully along the edges. I also like the effect of frayed edges. In this case, I did some of that and also cut some pieces into desired shape.  
I arranged the images in such a way that they said in pictures, what needed to be seen and heard. 
And then I glued them...
To the wrong material. 
By the time I realized that corrugated cardboard would be a very difficult choice of material to work with, it was really too late to change my mind. I would have ruined the images if I tried to move them to thinner, but stiff cardboard that would be easy to cut. I had a decision to make: I could either choose new images, remembering that I had put much heart into my choices, or, I could carry on and learn what there was to learn. 
I decided to carry on, struggle through the project, and to notice whatever came up. 

I have recently been told by someone I am close to, that they don't believe the adage I live by: "how we do anything is how we do everything". I feel like this particular piece of work demonstrates that philosophy beautifully. It is about noticing- noticing the patterns that we have adopted in our lives, and seeing the levels that they dictate our 'automatics'. I persevere- that's what I do. I look for the meaning in the manner in which things happen- not to say that there is a divine message, but there are lessons to learn from my actions. This also clarified the notion for me that ACTION doesn't have to be a move across the world to make changes in how we are in our lives. ACTION can be the little things we do and notice in our everyday lives that bring us closer to our own centre, and enrich our lives and those of the people around us. 

My next faux pas was to outline the puzzle pieces on the face up side of the collage- wrong again. So I repeated the tracing on the back side of the collage, knowing that there could well be discrepancies between the lines on the front and those on the back.
Oh well. I'm not demanding perfection, right? 
Difficult to say: it doesn't need to be perfect, it needs to be what it is. Remind myself that this isn't a commissioned piece of art, this is a process. 
Cutting out the puzzle pieces was anything but perfect. I struggled to make this as smooth, and without errors as I possibly could. (And how is THAT like my life?) This step took quite a long time, owing mostly to my first mistake in using corrugated cardboard. 
I enjoyed gluing the collage puzzle pieces to the original puzzle. It felt like I was giving structure to what I was creating. 
I sealed the puzzle pieces, let them dry, and then assemble my altered puzzle. Though not 'pretty', the effect was profound.
The first thing I noticed was that there were definite cracks, so there would never be a seamless appearance. I thought of Leonard Cohen's "Anthem": "There is a crack in everything
                                                                      That's how the light gets in"
The many layers of metaphor began to drop into place, as though they were a puzzle of their own that fit together as I gave myself this unique perspective of my experience. Perhaps they are the lines of a poem waiting to be written. 
There is definite movement from the left hand side filled with darkness and scary monsters to the right, where there are images of the tools that support the bridge building of the center: spirituality, creativity, abundance and family. Central is also my star of David, with my dove winging her way above all. There is also a quote that will probably speak to many: "A broken heart is not just sad. Such a heart carries wounds that alter normal functioning on every level..." These elements reflect my own movement from the dark towards the light. Even the recyclable symbol on the back of the cardboard holds its metaphor. It seems to be saying to me that we are always capable of transformation. The fact that this is a puzzle that fits together with difficulty is one more metaphor of how I have struggled in my life. It takes huge effort on my part (and sometimes on the part of the loved ones and supports around me) to keep working at putting the pieces of my life puzzle together. 
And I persevere, believing that this is the ACTION I need to take in my life. It feels right to stay grounded in my role as mother. From this grounded place, I move my feet with knowledge that I can feel the earth beneath me, and the dove above me, as I walk on this path.

When I began this puzzle collage, I had no idea where it would lead me- we cannot demand that the art gives us a personal message. Rather staying with the process took me to deeper levels of awareness, and allowed release of things that needed letting go.

In my first post I said that my purpose here is to "chronicle my healing journey through art". 
I would like to come back to that now. 
I'm still not 'cured'.
Is there a cure for broken hearts, trauma and all the methods we employ to bandage, 'forget' or otherwise cope?
The cure is any action that propels us forward, insists that we see ourselves and does not permit us to run away. It is a way of living. I believe that I am doing just that here. 
Still I can't live with an eating disorder- certainly not fully or healthfully. As I have engaged in this project, I notice that I am calmer, and I have a gentler energy that has allowed me to see myself more clearly. These are important markers that guide me back to a more balanced lifestyle that will allow me to release yet another level of pain and re- engage in the larger world outside me. 

As always, I invite comments and encourage you to share this with anyone who couild benefit.


01/07/2014 3:19pm

I'm really enjoying following this process. I love the puzzle as a metaphor. We all have many pieces of personality and experience that come together to form the whole picture of ourselves. I don't think I would have the patience for this kind of project though.

02/01/2017 7:49pm

What an incredible way to recycle old puzzle pieces! My kids loves to play puzzles. There was a point when I became overwhelmed to the mountains of puzzle pieces scattered on our living room every time I get home from buying groceries. You gave me an idea on how to recycle some of it. Thanks so much!

01/07/2014 4:42pm

Just so, Charlotte. We are all made up of pieces thar sometimes, don't seem to fit until we take the time to figure it out. A metaphor for your impatience? :-)

02/12/2016 8:19pm

I'm pretty pleased to discover this site. I wanted to thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!! I definitely loved every part of it and I have you saved as a favorite to check out new information on your blog.

04/21/2016 1:46pm

This is a beautiful chaos you have made! Share the experience!


Wow, that's incredible! I like that.


Do you really like to do collage work? Because I don't like that at all


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