Tissue Paper 

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the playing of imagination is incalculable.” ~ Carl Jung

pre school 🎨🎨🎨

Elementary 🎨🎨🎨🎨

Middle school 🎨🎨🎨🎨🎨

High School 🎨🎨🎨🎨🎨

In our class we used tissue paper to make collages. We ripped, cut, painted, and crumpled – basically did anything we felt like doing to the tissue paper. We played.  And then we used this to create art. We were free to collage in any way.We mixed equal parts water and elmers glue to glue the tissue paper to heaver paper – often the colours would bleed in a most intriguing effect. We would also paint the tissue paper. Basically, the first days working on this project we went crazy. I ended up getting pulled into the process of layering the tissue paper in various ways with blue paint and blue tissue paper and white paper. This led to the waves or mountainous terrain looking piece in an image below. I also created a series of Matryoshka (Russian nesting) dolls. I chose matryoshka dolls mainly because I am a complete xenophile and one of the cultures that I am particularly interested in is Russian and Ukranian. I love matryoshka dolls and think that they are works of art that represent this culture.  I was also thinking of my pre-school students at the time. Imagining them playing with the dolls to help them learn how to place objects in order of size. There would also be help with learning numbers and counting as each doll had flowers on it with number of flowers corresponding to what number in the stacking order they were. In our class we were inspired by the artist (famous for his children’s books like the hungry hungry caterpillar and brown bear brown bear).  Eric Carle’s website. The Carle Museum.


I really enjoyed this process. But as I am interested in art therapy, I wondered how this could be used in a therapeutic setting. I found an article that used tissue paper collage making in active imagination. The concept and principle of active imagination was first established by Carl Jung – a founding father of psychology, a contemporary (although admittedly less well known) of Sigmund Freud. “In active imagination, the individual works in a medium to give rise to forms, images, metaphors and so on that can reflect unconscious content back to her.”  (Stefano & Blake, 2003). Dr. Edith Wallace applied Jung’s principle in a method using tissue paper collage in order to enable one to access unconscious material, acquire new insight and direction, as well as promote healing of the psyche. In this process, the media of expression serves to both distance the individual from the content of her concerns, desires, searchings, relationships, and inner promptings and also to make it visible in a form that can be processed and understood.
The process used by Dr. Wallace was very similar to that which we did in our own class of media exploration. The process involved selecting tissue papers of various colors (whatever drew the attention of the artist), tearing off pieces (using whatever shapes happen to arise), gluing them on white cards with a gloss medium, and continuing to build up the collage until it felt “finished.”
The individual was advised to: not think about what they were doing (in the sense of planning what they do, they were encouraged to be mindful of how they felt during the task, observing and not judging their own responses), not to use known forms, not to use scissors or any other mechanical device, not to interpret what they are producing, not to copy the work of others, and to do all of this in silence. The individual was then encouraged to spend time reflecting on the images created, their feelings experienced when making and when viewing the pieces, and to contemplate what the meaning of the piece and experience was.

The following is straight from the article as I felt that my attempt at summarizing the content seemed counter-intuitive as I am trying to capture everything said without saying it the exact same way it was written. It seemed more logical just to allow you to read what the author thought of the process and the experience of tissue paper collage as a means of active imaginative play.

The Experience
For most people the method is a developing process that takes time to assimilate and respond to. It serves to provide a ‘language’ for elements of experience that may not have been accessible before. Initially, ‘masculine’ analytical people may find the method difficult to deal with but most can rapidly find it ‘doable’. Because of the very medium of expression, there are strong associations with early childhood experiences and some tendency to regress. This liberates a childlike feeling and innocence and Dr Wallace herself insists on calling her programs playshops as opposed to workshops. The nature of the process is creative. Many of the collages produced – by people who have had no artistic practice before – are of great beauty. The sheer experience of color and form is itself therapeutic. The experience of allowing meaning to emerge and show itself is the very core of active imagination. People can feel very supported in this ‘work’. First of all, it is not possible to make a mistake! Secondly, the group process is constructed so as to enhance empathy and the 5 sharing of meaning – the dialogue between the members of the group is most important. Thirdly, the facilitator acts ‘to contain’ the group and mediate transitions taking place within people. This includes a sensitive amplification of the tentative insights individuals are making into themselves. The process and content of the tissue paper collage method is very akin to dreaming and the processing of dream experience through free association and the amplification of associations.
In general, the method:
-Builds self-esteem
-Activates the imagination
-Enables healing
-Inspires a link to the trans-personal
-Gives confidence in the meaningfulness of emotions
-Maximizes the mutual benefit of the individual and others (the more any one person discovers, the more everyone learns)
-Promotes understanding, activates consciousness, encourages growth and transformation

There is a need to trust the self regulating function of the psyche, or what Jung calls the ‘self’, which Dr Wallace refers to as ‘the creative source’ or the ‘inner guide’.

This article is a good example in my opinion of an art therapy technique that uses the artistic process as a base to interact with emotions and experiences and to then deal with what comes up. The author in the article refers to this as a non-threatening method to uncover information about an individual. And while I understand the point that she is trying to make, I do not necessarily agree with her. While the technique may be “non-threatening” the potential issues brought up could be very threatening. As the whole concept is to consider what is going on underneath the surface, if someone has turmoil “under the suface” than this may seem threatening and it is the art therapists job to be there with the individual through that process and ensure that they are in a safe environment although the content of what is brought up may not necessarily be “safe.”


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