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Image:  Improvised Performance by Bbeyond, part of the Household: Contemporary Art in Domestic Spaces Festival in Belfast, August 2013. 

The interior and exterior of domestic spaces are compelling areas to produce and display art. Creating art in living rooms, bedrooms, gardens, yards, foothpaths, and within the architecture of domestic buildings mingles the everyday with the capacity for transformation. Domestic furniture and soft furnishings can also be used for generating art: cabinet drawers, dinner tables, dressers, curtains, stairwells, display cabinets, shelves, tablecloths, cushions, blankets, etc. can be developed as places for both making and displaying art. Traditional crafts such as knitting, sewing, crocheting, quilting, etc. also evoke memories, and infuse the home environment with personal symbolic content. Equally domestic artifacts, heirlooms, family photographs, and souvenirs are all poignant personal symbols, which can be explored within art therapy. The idea is to assemble personal objects with newly made artworks in order to create interactions, or situations, which inspire reflection and kick start communication.

The domestic space can mean many things to different people – it can be cosy or confining, relaxing or impoverished, stressful or ambiguous. The domestic space is private, but is placed within a neighbourhood, village, city or rural context which gives it another context, public meaning and identification.

Photos of people’s homes and communities can be the basis for a documentary of their lives. Within art therapy they become their everyday environments, the map of people’s habitats, their everyday context, which can be often taken for granted. Photography can accompany walking, collecting (natural materials and found objects), journal writing, sketching, and creating hand held sculptures made from collected items along the way. Therapeutically accompanying people on their daily journeys allows them to revision their life spaces, interactions with the world around them and to reflect upon the resources and deprivations of their personal environments. Art therapy is about how to make-over our world, with new ideas, influences and ways to invigorate new ways of sensory engagement. Walking and art making could be part of the therapeutic encounter, with art therapy participants creating visual maps of their daily pathways.


Image: Garlic Sculpture, Vancouver Island School of Art, Canada

“Art therapy has approached visual images as narratives which say things about the people who make them. We have been so concerned with the psychological conditions of the maker of the image that we have overlooked explorations of how art making and engagements with images affect people energetically. How can we explore and understand the different energeies and therapeutic properties of different ‘kinds’ of art making activities; of different media? How do we access the particular energetic qualities of an artwork when we work with it after it has been produced?

(Quotation, Shaun McNiff, Art Based Research)

Tracking art therapy affects, can provide a vital tool for developing ways in which art can benefit domestic spaces. Art therapy artworks can energise during difficult times. They can  become a visual remedy, a supportive companion, and a reminder of the therapeutic process. The artwork takes on a new role in the home, as a new family member or room mate. In essence the therapeutic relationship also enters the home encompassed in the artwork. The artwork can be a reminder to create the home as a studio environment, where every aspect of the dwelling space can be an opportunity for enlivening creativity.


Art Based Research by Shaun McNiff


1. Inga Hamilton’s Website, Fibre Artist living in Bangor County Down who creates fibre art installations, home made gifts to strangers, performance art pieces and sculptures.

2.  Stephany Lantham’s Website, American Art Therapist and Artist, Natural Dyes and Fiber Arts in Art Therapy

3. Erika Molina, MA Art Therapy Student, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Thesis Presentation Video, You Tube

(Search Erika Molina Thesis Presentation Video)

4. Household Festival Belfast