During the winter of 2018, Blue Line Arts hosted two sessions of Clay Mask Making Workshops for Women Veterans. Over the course of each weekend, local veteran women learned essential sculpting techniques and were able to construct, glaze, and fire their own clay masks.
Each session incorporated elements of Expressive Art Therapy led by LMFT Gloria Rill. Participants were encouraged to explore emotions related to their time in service, and express themselves through their creative project.
"Art helps silence the voices in my head," one participant commented.
Blue Line's Clay Mask Making for Veterans began with a 2018 pilot program in partnership with the Women Veteran's Alliance. Feedback from the pilot reinforced the idea that art classes can serve as a valuable tool to help veterans connect with their thoughts and feelings in a safe space, and also to form meaningful connections with their peer group.
Mask making as an art therapy method for veterans has gained national attention since the Healing Arts program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) incorporated mask-making into its program around 2010.
The workshops were designed to be accessible to beginners, and for many participants, it was their first time creating with clay. Trying something new can be an opportunity for growth or self- acceptance, as seen in the feedback from one participant:
"I did not like my work and almost didn't come back the second day. Then I almost didn't even pick up my finished mask.
However, I picked it up this week, and I am stunned. It's art! You said at one point I seemed to be upset it wasn't perfect, and I think that's true. But now I can see there is art in imperfection. I've been attempting other art projects and was frustrated with their flaws, but now I'm sort of going with it. The mask has given me confidence to carry on."
This program was offered completely free of charge and was made possible by a grant from the California Arts Council, and donations from individuals. Special thanks to photographer James Morrison for the amazing shots of our veterans programs, veteran artist Diedre Trudeau, and the Women Veteran's Alliance for connecting participants to our program!
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