Sunday, August 28, 2011

Everyday Opinion: legacy, the good and the bad.

Legacy, the Good and the Bad by Morag Noffke.

You might have wondered why I said, “My legacy is emotional, physical and psycho-spiritual” if you read about me in my profile. A legacy is either: money or property left in a will or something handed down by a predecessor to us. Our parents pass on their behaviours, habits, and family patterns. Some things are continually passed from one generation to the next. And as parents we will pass them on too. We accept these things without much thought.  

Sometimes we only think about the negative things that we endured and which were passed down. My question is: “what about the good things which you have inherited?” and “What are these good things?” My mother and father were both artistic, enjoying creativity and crafts. These are some examples passed onto others which are of value: love of words, love of knowledge, abilities and talents, values, beliefs, love and affection etc. It is encouraging, enlightening, insightful, giving direction and appreciation for oneself, to think of the legacy.

Think about the things you have inherited. Let go of the negative and hold onto the good. This is like eating an apple which has a rotten spot. You have a choice: either you can throw the apple away, missing out on the sweetness it has to offer you; you can eat the bad spot as well, running the risk of the rottenness upset you or you can spit the rottenness out and eat the rest.

Your legacy is just like that. You need to identify the rottenness, spit it out and eat the sweetness passed down to you. What have you inherited? What do you choose to pass on to your children?

This poem is by an Irish poet born just after the civil war was terminated (1923). Guns were part of his legacy; as was the struggle of the civil war of which his parents were part. It is difficult to break away from the cultural effects and influences which become ones legacy too.    

Son of a Gun by Padriac Fiacc (1924b)

Between the year of the slump and the sell out, I
The third child, am the first born alive…

My father is a Free Stater ‘Cavan Buck’.
My mother is a Belfast Factory worker. Both

Carry guns, and the grandmother with a gun
In her apron, making the military wipe

Their boots before they rape the house. (These
Civil wars are only ever over on paper!)

Armed police are still raping my dreams
Thump-thud, Thump-thud. I go on mightmaring

Dear father running. There is a bull
In the field. Is father, am I, running away

From the bull to it? Is this the reason why
I steal
time, things, places, people?

Bar-man father, sleeping with a gun under
Your pillow, does the gun help you that much
I wonder

For the gun has made you all only the one
in of sex with me the two sexed son (or three

Or none?) you bequeathed the gun to
still cannot make it so. I can

Never become your he-man: shot
Down born as I was, sure I thought

And thought and thought but blood ran… 

Counselling can help identify your legacy and it's affects it has on you. It can also help you break away from influences and effects which are not serving you well and find new ways of living.

Art Facilitation 02.8

In this post I will show you about:
Making fantasy animals: make-believe animals, monsters or dinosaurs.

'Unspoken fears'

  • To explore the subject “what is scary?”
  • To develop fantasy/imagination and to express it in three dimensional terms
  • Stimulate discussion about imaginary or pretend creatures; although we know that they are not real we can make believe that they are real.  Talking about scary animals or people gives them an opportunity to speak about fears in a safe place.

Anything can be used. I used recycled material: the top of the milk bottle + handle as the head and a sturdy cardboard box was used as the body. The head and body are joined together by making a hole in the appropriate places and using a toilet roll to link the two pieces. We added string tails as well. My only cost was the glue, glitter glue and paint.

  • Milk bottles,
  •  boxes, 
  • toilet rolls, 
  • egg boxes,
  • string, 
  • wool, 
  • fluffy material, 
  • magazines, 
  • paint, glitter glue
  • glue.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Art Facilitation 02.7

This is a cropped example of the process of making the "family tree".
In order to protect the identity of the individual and their family I have cropped  the page.

My potato print family tree.

Who is my family?

This next exercise is not purely an art & craft exercise. I modified it from a genogram, which is usually used by doctors, social workers and counsellors, making it a fun exercise for them.

A genogram looks a bit like a family tree. I think the children understand this explanation better and so this is why I called it a family tree. Genograms are used to show familial patterns and trends of addictions (alcohol and drugs) and abusive relationships; as well as physical problems and illnesses such as heart, cancer, diabetes etc.

  • Through potato prints make a basic fun ‘family tree’ which will indicate the dynamics in a similar way that a genogram would.
  • To explore and indicate the family dynamics e.g. who they live with, who they like relating to, the feelings in the family and who is deceased. In this way they discover more about who they are. In the group they can develop an appreciation for each other through discussion.
  • The discussion facilitates appreciation and understanding of how they might be going through similar situations. In this way it develops a bond and support in the group.

I will explain step by step how I managed to involve the children in documenting their family system.

  1. Draw two horizontal lines across the page, dividing the page into three in this way making a three tiered ‘graph’ showing the family: (1) children: brothers, sisters and cousins; ( 2) parents: moms, dads and aunts and uncles; and (3) grandparents.
  2.  In the middle of tier (1) make a potato print symbolizing themselves.
  3. Then print all their brothers, sisters and cousins who might be living with them, in the same row.
  4. After that move to tier (2) showing mother/father/ aunt/ uncle with whom they live.
  5. Next show in tier (3) their grandparents.             
  6. Once this is done the first tier should be dry and they can add limbs and faces. In this way they can work their way back up the tiers doing the same for the rest of their extended family.
  7. I then asked them to draw a line from them to the person they enjoy talking to (there could be more than person). This is to help them identify for themselves who they most trust.
  8. Lastly I said they could indicate if someone had died in the family by putting a cross through them.

They can decorate the family drawing with glitter glue and foam shapes.
Informal discussion can evolve into sharing what they have in common with the other members of the group, e.g. what happens in the family, who looks after them, who has to look after themselves, who has experienced loss of a parent or grandparent.

Glitter glue and potatoes.

  • Paper, 
  • paint, 
  • potatoes, 
  • pencils
  • crayons, 
  • foamtastic shapes
  • glitter glue.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Everyday Opinions: sucking the nectar.

Photo taken by Siobhan Noffke. You can see her work here at

Bees suck the nectar out of flowers to make their honey. We should suck the goodness from our lives. Just as bees are helped by the worker bees to make the honey so we need to help each other turn our ‘nectar’ into ‘honey.’  Making the time and consistent effort gets us the best results. Valuing and using our talents, skills, and motivation, and being encouragement and compassionately viewed are some of the nectar ingredients for making our ‘honey’.

My honey provides me with nourishment for myself, my family, friends, work and the wider circle of people with whom I come in contact.It is also for healing and riotous joy; and the outpouring productivity and sweet enjoyment. What does your honey provide?

Just as a bee needs the rest of the colony we too need each other in order to encourage and bring the best out of each other. This interconnectivity helps us live our best lives. I want to suck the nectar and live my best life.

A warm smile,

If you want more information about bees, here are three links 1, 2, and 3.:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Art Facilitation 2.06

Bee by girl aged 8 years.

Egg box animals

Finding common ground in the group. (As drawing was more anxiety provoking for this group I planned the construction for them. They all participated enthusiastically and created very individual looking bees.)

Planning and creating.

  • By using construction skills which were similar in ability bring a feeling of artistic equality within the group
  • Develop dexterity in construction.
  • Develop imagination and fantasy. 

Further construction

Activity and instructions:
Have some egg boxes prepared (cut into strips) and demonstrate: I showed them models of insects (ladybird, worm, dragonfly and bee). Encourage them to make their own creatures. It is best to construct the whole insect first and then paint as the cardboard gets soft and mushy. It becomes dissatisfying for them when their creations fall apart while under construction. Masking tape, staplers and split pins are a good option if you or the children are looking for speedy results. Once the paint is dry you can glue on the other decorations.

  • Egg boxes, 
  • boxes, 
  • split pins, 
  • masking tape, 
  • glue, stapler, 
  • pom-poms, 
  • eyes, 
  • wire, 
  • pipe cleaners,
  • beads, 
  • paint, 
  • pencils,
  • pastels. 

Bee by boy aged 12 year.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Everyday Opinions: ups and downs of life

Photo taken by Siobhan Noffke. You can see her work here.

Swings: the ups and downs of life
I have never quite lost the enjoyment I had as a child, when playing in the park.
I still like to swing on the swings.
I also dabble in photography.
One time,
as I was swinging,
I was observing which view point
would be the best vantage for a photo: high up, then low down, high up again…close up, then far away, then close up again;
this is what I observed
as I swung. 
Then I realised that this is just like life. My life is held up by the branch which is firm and steadfast
but the cycles of ups and downs
are like the swinging
to and fro.
Some aspects are worthy of taking a photo,
others are not noteworthy, while still others are just plain ugly.
But I know,
just as the swing swings, that life will change
and become better again,
of the photo shot.
while I chatted to a friend of mine about these ups and downs of life,
I used this analogy to explain how I cope when things get tough.
Such it is:
the swings of ups and downs in life.

: ) M

Art Facilitation 02.5

Example 1 boy age 11 years old

A mixed media / collage: my fantasy tree-house


‘The home or space where I feel safe’
Exploring which spaces or places feel safe and who would they like to have close to them in these places.

  • Is to explore and identify the ‘safe’ people in their lives; with whom they feel comfortable and making space for them.
  • Develop imagination and fantasy.
  • Have exposure to different artistic materials by making a mixed-media picture; using pencil, pastel, ink, paint and collage thereby continuing to develop their artistic ability.

Discussion: talk about the habitats where different animals live e.g., forest; what it looks like and what animals live in the forest. Then get them to imagine a magic forest and where or what their special place was. They can imagine living in a magic tree or in a magic tree house. Once they have their imaginary living area they can choose anyone to live with them: animals, friends, teachers, mom, dad, brothers, and sisters, whoever they want. They can also decide who they don’t want living with them. You can ask: “what happens in your magic home? What do you feel?”

  • Leaves – pre-collected
  • Paper
  • Ink
  • Pencils
  • Glue 
  • Paint 
  • Oil or chalk pastels
  • Magazines for collage

Example 2 boy age 12 years old; pre-plan

The children can design their tree-houses using pencil and pastel, thinking of the people and objects they want to include with them. I gave the children the option of using paper from magazines or tracing the leaves to cut out and collage or collaging the leaves straight on to the tree. They could find people and animals from magazines to paste in or draw as the chosen people. These are the only guide lines I gave my children as I was happy for them to design and construct it how they wanted to, using the materials however they wanted; this encourages them to think for themselves.      

Example 3 girls age 9 years old

Here is a tip:
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan.
Try not to worry about it and go with the flow.
These types of exercises often have a life of their own;
I believe that people will normally create the experiences they most need.
 Just stay attentive and notice what they need from your leadership.

In this particular group of mine they wanted to rather paint and draw with minimal collaging. Paint is a wonderful messy medium which allows emotions to be expressed. It is better to accept that things are not going according to plan and that it will turn out for the best anyway.

This exercise was adapted from the book: Art therapy for Groups (a handbook of themes, games and exercises) by Marian Liebmann (1986).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Everyday Opinions: my invitation to you

Photo taken by Siobhan Noffke
You can see her work here at

Everyday opinions’ will be a post about my observations, reflections and opinions. It will be on anything to do with life, human behaviour, relationships, families, self-esteem, emotional vocabulary, identifying ones need and voicing it, and motivation etc. I don’t consider myself the expert or the guru but, having lived life successfully, and studied psychology & communication, I feel I am entitled to reflect on my opinions and experience here and share them with you.  

Metamorphosis speaks of change but at the same time it also entails staying the path and persevering through the growth until change occurs. My hope is that as I write about different topics it would inspire you or be of benefit to you. This is my invitation to you: if this is the type of post you think you might like to read then look out for future posts by visiting my site again.   

A warm smile 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Art Facilitation 02.4

Making masks

Theme: ‘My feelings’
This gives opportunity to explore feelings in the individual and the family.

  • To informally explore and identify feelings: sad, happy, angry, fear, and surprise.
  • To develop a vocabulary, visually and verbally (feeling words and feeling colours), for feelings through discussion.
  • To have an opportunity to express feelings by making a mask; showing emotion through colour and line.

  • You can give each child a mirror and ask them to pull faces at themselves, making the different expressions of feelings such as sad, happy, angry, fear and surprise. You can also ask them “what does your mother/ brother/ father etc. look like when they are feeling (fill in the gap)…?”
  • Discussion can also involve other questions like: “what happens when (fill in the gap)….what do you feel?”
  • Using paper plates, they can draw a face, theirs of someone else’s. They can fill the colour in with paint or collage or oil / chalk pastels    

  • paper plates
  • pencils
  • paint 
  • oil or chalk pastels
  • magazines for collage
  • string

You can prepare an example of the different facial expressions beforehand to inspire the children but the main aim is to get them expressing themselves. This is why I like to give them mirrors. Those who are developing an appreciation for realism might prefer to have some reference from which to work. The wide range of materials gives them variety and choice to express freely and uniquely.

When drawing the face the eyes need to be positioned according to the child’s eye position. After the face has been finished eye holes need to be cut, holes at the temples are cut for attaching the string which is tied behind. A third string can be attached from the top at the forehead for more stability. A hole can be cut for the mouth too if so desired.

When the masks are finished they can be used in role play or free play. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Art Facilitation 02.3

Paper bag Puppets  

As I mentioned before, I developed the themes appropriate to their reality. The general theme for this term: the roles we play and the first day’s theme: who am I the cultural context e.g. in my family and school? The age range from 8 - 12 years old.

·         To explore and appreciate their roles in the family, school and extra-murals; thus discovering more about their identity, individually and in the group.
·         Make a puppet out of recycled materials, showing who they are.
·         Through having fun, develop skill at using art materials for emotional expression, building self-esteem & self-confidence                                                        

· Discuss examples of roles – mother, father, grandparents, siblings etc., and how the different roles play out in family, school and community. They can role-play aspects of their roles within the group.
·  After the puppets are made they can also use the puppets for role play.

Recycled materials keeps the cost down and fosters creative thinking:
·         (Paper) sugar bags turned inside out,
·         glue,
·         crayons,
·         wool,
·         bottle tops,
·         buttons,
·         material,
·         feathers,
·         felt etc.

The children can do preliminary drawings to plan the puppet or they can engage in puppet making spontaneously. Basic drawing, cutting and gluing skills are needed and/or developed. Adult help is minimal. Allow the children to express their unique individuality by planning and choosing their own materials.
The face is drawn on the bottom of the paper bag, which can flap up and down when held upside-down. (See photo). The mouth is drawn over the flap so that it can be manipulated to “speak”. The rest is up to their imaginations.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Art Facilitation 02.2

Since I was dealing with children from broken homes, suffering from abuse of various types, (e.g. verbal, physical, and sexual; and neglect) I planned to develop the themes appropriate to their reality.

Some of the factors that impact these families are drug and alcohol related incidents, violence and loss of parents and/or siblings. Many emotions are unattended; to name just a few, they suffer from: fear, anxiety, sadness, confusion, loneliness, and insecurity so I decided to explore ‘the roles we play’ which would cover these themes in an unobtrusive manner.
As this was my first interaction with this group of children my aim was to get to know their artistic capabilities and their needs. They ranged in age developmentally so I tried to establish common ground and trust. I was given 7 weeks to facilitate these art workshops thus I decided not to address any of these issues directly but rather to pave the way for work in the future; work that would explore issues at a deeper and more personal level. 
The purpose of the first session was for introductions, helping me get to know them better, while the last session was a way of saying good bye. And in termination, to create expectancy of what good care is; how they can look out for care and ask for it in the future.  
Here is a table of my weekly plan:
'who I am?'
exploring their cultural context
'my feelings'
exploring feelings, feeling words and feeling colours  
'the home or space where I feel safe'
exploring which spaces or places feel safe and who would they like to have close to them in these places
a fantasy tree house
finding common ground in the group
a creative exercise that availed upon their similar dexterity so as to even out any feelings of performance anxiety or competition.
egg box animals
'who is my family?'
they drew their family members with whom they lived, using the idea of a family tree or genogram
'family tree’
'my fears'
making monsters, dinosaurs or fantacy animals
scary animals
'the umbrella of love'
parents , teachers and other adults who are caring or look out for them

Next time I will show you the children’s art with a short explanation of the materials and how they made their creations.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Art Facilitation 02.1

Using Recyclable goods.
Collecting Goods:
I save up many items and I ask friends and family to do the same. Old age homes and other community organisations can also be approached as they often buy in bulk and have lots to throw away. Artists have been labelled as hoarders or collectors as they can always find new uses for things; this is part of their creative gifting.  I try to balance this “gifting” with organisation so I plan ahead of time and save goods for specific projects in order not to be inundated with “junk”.
Here is a list of goods that I have commonly used for my workshops:
·         Toilet rolls
·         Milk cartons (with handles)
·         Boxes of different shapes
·         Cardboard egg boxes
·         Brown paper packets
·         Bottle caps
·         Buttons
·         Wool
·         String
·         Material scraps
·         Newspaper
·         Wooden pegs
·         Tea bags
·         Tins
Some tips:
As soon as I have used something recyclable I clean it, e.g. tins and milk bottles, so that they are ready for use for my workshops.
Glue does not always work so well because if you use it on non-porous objects it will take a long time to dry. Children especially are impatient to move onto the next step. You must also be careful of toxic glues when working with children. Always read the label.  Other options, apart from glue, are masking tape, staples and split pins. For younger ages it’s much more gratifying to finish the activity in one session rather than dragging it over the next week which is why I suggest the other options.
As children love to use paint liberally it is best to paint and decorate after constructing 3D models because paint makes cardboard soggy and it falls apart while you are still constructing it. It is also important to be willing and ready to take part in the activities.  This is not so much as to take over or do the difficult parts for the children but to encourage and give ideas on problem solving or how to cope as their designs are often quite ambitious. It is lovely to see their creative minds abuzz when they are given recycled materials and a little inspiration.