Wednesday Evening Open House for Individuals or Group Studio Visits

Dr. Irving Has Pioneered the Use of Art and Writing
for Healing and Creative Expressing
Quilt Square HandPrints and Poetry Writing
Poetry to Accompany the Quilt Squares
The Quilt Square HandPrint Writing is Inward and Outward
Getting a Hand From the Hand
Banishing the Gray Cloud of Education
Letting Go of the Restriction of Rhyming
Clustering, Branching, Focusing and HandPrints
Focusing is Complex and Simple
Opening the Creative Centre
Supplies Needed for a Quilt Square HandPrint
Draw a Hand on the Paper
Relax and Ground
Centre on the Meaning of the Quilt Square Body Consciousness
Listening to a Felt Sense in the Writing Hand The Non-Verbal Realm
Write the Touchstone Focus Word in the Palm Discoveries in the Non-Verbal Realm
Discover Branch Words for the Fingers Individual Variations

Poetry to Accompany the Quilt Squares

In a Quilt Square HandPrint vignette, participants drew an outline of their hand on a page and wrote spontaneously overtop of it. Workshop participants used these Quilt Square HandPrints to inspire poetry which accompanies their quilt squares. The Quilt Square HandPrint exercise was designed to allow natural and spontaneous writing. As in developing the sculpture, participants did not have to worry about the finished product of the writing. One workshop participant said, “You just draw your hand and the words flow.” Another quilt square artist said, “Once you trace your hand and look at it, it makes it more real, like making the wax hand.” The writer could trust the flow of inner wisdom and the extraordinary power of the creative voice. Like the distinctive nature of everyone’s hand, there was no right way for a Quilt Square HandPrint to take form. Every hand print was individual. The lines of the Quilt Square HandPrint poem cast a mark as unique as the fingerprints and lifelines recorded on every artist’s hand.

The poems created in the Quilt Square HandPrint vignette accompany the quilt squares in the travelling art and educational exhibition. In the exhibitions, poems displayed in Poetry Quilts are grouped together with prints of quilt squares on 4 feet by 8 feet quilt square/poetry display panels.  Poems may also be placed with quilt squares in a book about the project. The quilt square greatly influenced the content of the poem. There was an inspiring enchantment in the realization that they would be displayed and viewed together. The poem and quilt square are partners that can stand strong and independent of each other, but when viewed together enrich the meaning, splendor and power of both.

Poetry helps make the largely visual and nonverbal sculpture more broadly accessible to people visiting the work. For viewers, the poems shed light on the mysteries of the art and provide a greater context for their messages and meaning. People often understand more when they have some cognitive appreciation of what an artwork is about. The poems are in no way a direct explanation of the quilt square. They are a bridge for the viewer’s cognitive mind to meet the realm of nonverbal feelings and thoughts shared through the art.


As parents you kept your
children safe from the evil
that haunted your own lives.
Dad and mom thank you
for teaching me to love.





My father was abused and
I wasn't the cycle stopped.
The dawn of a new
generation, the dawn of
new hope, let tommorow's
sun set on an era of peace.
































Quilt Square HandPrint Writing is Inward and Outward

The Quilt Square HandPrint writing will be externally influenced by the wax hand, the content on the quilt square and the hand outlined on the writing paper. The other inspiration for the Quilt Square HandPrint writing is the inner wisdom and passion of the writer. Divina said, “The writing exercise was moving and powerful for getting in touch with feelings.” Like the sculptures, the poems are personal and social. They have roots in an intimate connection with the personal and they reach out further to communicate concerns that are universal and highly meaningful to others.

The primary initiative directing the writing will be the physical felt sense of the inner self. This means that the writer strives to set aside the critical mind and to allow spontaneous urges to unravel an important story from within. The structure of the Quilt Square HandPrint vignette greatly encourages natural spontaneity and at the same time provides the vulnerable creative self the safety of structure. The stories arising from the Quilt Square HandPrint vignette are both uniquely individual and totally universal.

The Quilt Square HandPrint Vignettes are a powerful form of writing. People are repeatedly surprised by the exceptional quality of the finished poems that are created through this process. The wisdom of the inner voice finds a kindred harbour in the unencumbered flow of Quilt Square HandPrints. The Quilt Square HandPrint can reach out with the voice of the creative centre. The process of the Quilt Square HandPrint exercise hooks into the beginning ruminations of inner wisdom and develops and reveals them though external expression.

Getting a Hand From the Hand

A blank piece of paper waiting for a poem can be intimidating. When the writer looks at the Quilt Square HandPrint paper they do not see a barren chasm but rather an outline of part of the self. One quilt square sculptor stated “With the hand, there is something on the page that takes away some of the white void of a blank piece of paper.” Another writer/artist found “The hand makes it easier to get into the writing of a poem” and another confirmed “The hand helps to keep you on track.” The Quilt Square HandPrint exercises are designed to help artists find the poem in the quilt square.

Each person’s sculpture holds a wealth of poems. Thoughts, feelings and experiences present while sculpting the wax quilt square that held another image of the hand become closely associated with the hand on the paper. Viewing the quilt square while doing the Quilt Square HandPrint vignette gives the writer ample material that has powerful meaning and energy. Writing down the impressions of the quilt square creates a cascade of imagery, ideas and reflections for the Quilt Square HandPrint.

The quilt square was made with the creative self and is connected to the knowledge of the inner mind. Important and meaningful inner material surfaced while sculpting quilt squares. These core thoughts and feelings are reconnected with by touching and viewing the quilt square while writing. The region of the brain and body consciousness that hold these significant concerns are also accessed when re-engaging the quilt square hand and imagery.

Viewing the visual material of the sculpture evokes the imagistic thought processes fundamental to producing strong creative writing. The hand on the quilt square and the paper encourages the representation of thoughts, ideas and feelings in images, metaphors and symbols.


The Hand as Support

Some people report that the outlined hand on the paper or wax hand in the palette provides a form or support while writing the Quilt Square HandPrint. Leandra said, “It felt supportive when I touched the hand. It was like a friend. I felt kind of alone when was not touching it.” Leandra went on to say, “The hand reaching down from the page was like reaching down to the child.” The sense of the hand supporting and mediating painful feelings was also felt by Jim who found, “It is kind of like holding hands with yourself. The despair was there behind a curtain, but with this process I could stick my tongue out at it.” The hand on the paper having a quality of reaching was also experienced by Jim, but a little differently than Leandra, “The hand was reaching down in to where my feelings are.” Lori concurs, “Tracing out the outline of my hand and having the core words in the centre and the words around the fingers was very empowering and encompassing. It felt like containment and safety. It was like my hand was cradling my feelings.” Making visual or physical contact with the supportive and containing qualities of the paper or cast hand can assist with managing the difficult feelings that happen when writing or sculpting.

Writing Can Be Intuitive and Natural

Banishing the Grey Cloud of Education

The idea of writing poetry draws apprehension and paralyzes many. In the workshops, writing poetry can be more terrifying than sculpting, which most people have never done before. Criticism of writing in school crushed the natural expression for many children. All children are born with a desire to express and innately have a unique personal voice. The wisdom that children hold can be invalidated and cast aside when the regurgitation of facts is given precedence.  The quill of creativity is relegated to a shelf when grammar and spelling are given more importance than the content of what is being said.

The Quilt Square HandPrint process spontaneously and non-judgmentally lays out much of the substance and meaning for a poem, before the poem is even written.  This significant foundation can ease some of the fear of writing and being creative. Quilt Square HandPrints do not begin with rules of grammar or structured sentences. They use the natural unfolding of free association and the intuitive felt sense. Quilt Square HandPrints avert the criticism associated with being drilled on how to write properly. The poems do not need to rhyme. Their structure does not need to be known before words have filled a page. Their content doesn’t have to be facts as known and espoused by others. The Quilt Square HandPrint can lift the burden of trying to follow the lessons of antiquated educational systems and can help to restore writing to a unique expression of each person’s wisdom.

Letting Go of the Restriction of Rhyming

When rhyming is focused on in writing it can inhibit spontaneous creativity for many. Poems do not need to rhyme to be good. For some, rhyming, rhythm and cadence are natural and can be employed. Some people hear rhythms or rhymes while writing. These people have a particular creative voice that has either been developed or is natural. We all speak, and therefore, everyone has a natural writing voice. Each person’s voice is unique and is accessed and developed by saying what is inside. The inner words may rhyme or they may not — both are OK.
Clustering, Branching, Focusing and Quilt Square HandPrints

Michael has been using this type of creative writing vignette process in sculpting workshops since the mid 1980's. He has found that writing combined with artistic imagery is a powerful technique. The writing vignette exercises have been developed and modified over time to their present state. The concept of Quilt Square HandPrints has been influenced by Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing; Gabriele Rico’s “Clustering” found in Writing the Natural Way; Hariett Klauser’s “Branching” in Writing with the Right Side of the Brain and Joyce Wycoff’s Mindmapping.
Focusing, Clustering , Branching and Mindmapping all employ strategies to encourage the use of intuition and the felt sense of the body. In creative expression, these techniques bypass the critical mind that often stifles creativity and access to knowing. After the initial stage of generating words, these approaches allow for eventual formal structure and critical review that refines and polishes writing. Critique and editing are an important part of writing, but the real power of Clustering, Branching or Quilt Square HandPrints is not in a focus on critique and refinement: rather, the techniques’ exceptional ability to connect with and express core experience and deeply meaningful material is where the real power lies. The books mentioned above do not need to be read to participate in the workshops; but if anyone wants to explore this type of felt sense writing or problem solving, these books can be found at many bookstores.

Focusing is Complex and Simple 

Quilt Square HandPrints, like all of these approaches, draw upon some form of focusing and responding to a felt sense. Genlin’s book, Focusing, states, “Focusing is at once richly complex and surprisingly simple. It is mental and kinesthetic, mysterious in its capacity to summon buried wisdom, holistic in its respect for the “felt sense” of a problem.” In a felt sense shift there may be a twinge, like a gut feeling, an “ah ha”, urge to speak, or actual physical sense of knowing.

Opening the Creative Centre

Artists and writers become adept at respecting the creative flow. A state of being and even corresponding physical sensations are associated with creative activity. The artist is in touch with these experiences so frequently that they are familiar. When needing to be creative the artist does certain activities, often unconsciously, to connect with the creative “juices.” A wide array of the elements of Quilt Square HandPrint vignettes have been specifically incorporated to facilitate movement into the “creative centre” or state of consciousness associated with creative inspiration and production.

In Quilt Square HandPrints these techniques are directed towards creating a poem, but also will have a dramatic influence on sculpting the quilt squares. Leandra said, “The writing process felt like a first step that can lead to more and more. It began to lead me to a deeper place.” Opening to core material and the creative centre can enhance connection with the creative spirit in other areas. People who have taken Michael’s other combined writing and art workshops have reported  experiencing long term impacts on their creativity in ways they never expected or intended.

Supplies Needed for a Quilt Square HandPrint
Three pieces of unlined paper and a pencil are needed to do a Quilt Square HandPrint.  The wax quilt square palette should be open and sitting on the table to the side of the paper. Placing the palette within reaching distance allows the writer to rest a hand on the wax hand at various times during the exercise.

Draw a Hand on the Paper
The Quilt Square HandPrint begins by placing a hand on a blank piece of paper. An outline is drawn around the hand that is opposite to the hand used in the quilt square. An outline is drawn that matches the hand positioning. If the right hand is facing up on the quilt square, then an outline of the left hand resting palm down on a paper will match the quilt square form. After the hand is outlined, the paper is turned if necessary so that the wrist opening is at the top of the paper. The image of the fingers below the palm allows writing to more naturally flow down from the palm and  fingers during the Quilt Square HandPrint exercise.


Relax and Ground
The writing exercise starts underway by taking time to relax and ground. Being aware of the breath, the feet on the floor and the legs resting on the chair helps with becoming centred and connected with inner resources. Becoming centred in the body can be assisted by tightening all the muscles in the hands and forearms and letting them go; tensing the legs and feet and relaxing them; doing the same with the abdomen, back, shoulders and face. If a person knows other relaxation, grounding or centering techniques, these are OK to use.


Centre on the Meaning of the Quilt Square
The poem unraveling through the hand print serves to help tell the story of the square on the monument. The creative energy and source for one is inseparable from the other. A period of relaxed meditation connects the key themes of the poem and sculpture for the artist/writer. When the artist has become relaxed and centred, the eyes can close and one hand can rest gently on the paper hand outline. The other hand will be resting on the hand of the sculpture. Tracing the outline of the hand can be a powerful experience. As Lori found, “Tracing my hand was as powerful as placing my hand on the wax hand. It connected me to my feelings and core energy.” Connecting with the potential power and creative force of the hand is one of the goals of the Quilt Square HandPrint exercises.
The artist can visualize or feel the energy in the sculpted wax hand moving up through the hand and arm, across the chest and down the other arm and hand where the energy can move into the hand outlined on the paper. This visualization can also be done in the other direction from paper hand to wax hand.
While centering the artist can think about key messages that the quilt square is trying to help others understand. The quilt square artist may reflect on images found on the square, what brought them to the Monument Project, thoughts or feelings that have transpired over the sculpting period, or what one might think or feel after the Monument is unveiled.
Quilt squares are powerful social tools whose voice will make an impression on others. Visualizing the future event of a person reading the poem in an art exhibit can help stimulate free associations. Picturing the monument site can further trigger words for the Quilt Square HandPrint. Some people say they picture being at the Monument with their grandchildren or some other significant person. These thoughts and images can be great inspiration for a Quilt Square HandPrint.


Listening to a Felt Sense in the Writing Hand
The wisdom of the body can communicate in powerful felt thoughts. Relaxation and meditative reflection can assist in connecting with inner knowing. Much of the inspiration for art and the creative muse of writing take place when a person is responding to felt impressions.
Gut feelings are often noticed in the abdomen or chest, but these physical impressions may be experienced in other regions of the body. During creative writing the hand can be a locus of the felt sense response. The person Quilt Square HandPrinting listens for a focus word to appear through a felt sense in the hand. This will be a single word that might express an idea or a feeling. It is not forced into consciousness, it is allowed to appear.

Write the Touchstone Focus Word in the Palm
After doing the relaxing and centering techniques and spending time with the eyes closed and a hand on the sculpture, the artist can again scan the imagery of the sculpture. During this period of reflection the writer listens to the urges of the hand holding the pencil or the felt sense of the body. Initially the writer is looking in the felt sense of the writing hand for the Touchstone word that guides the Quilt Square HandPrint. The Touchstone word provides a central theme for the Quilt Square HandPrint exercise. A dominant impression, primary feeling, focal theme, key topic, nucleus idea or central image may be represented by the Touchstone word.
When the Touchstone Quilt Square HandPrint word has shown itself, it can be noted in normal size printing in the palm area of the outlined hand. It is suggested to use printed, rather than written, words because they are easier to see and the mind links connections with them more quickly during free association. A circle is drawn around the Touchstone word. This initial Touchstone word will be scanned many times as the writer follows the creative flow of the Quilt Square HandPrint.

Discover Branch Words for the Fingers
Words that branch off the palm’s Touchstone are looked for in the same way that the writer discovered the Touchstone word. Branch words that emerge from the core palm word can find a place on one of the fingers. These are also printed in normal sized lettering and circled. A line is drawn from the Touchstone circle in the palm to the Branch circle on the finger. This is the lifeline.
The process of intuitive reflection is continued. Observation of the sculpture, awareness of feelings and thoughts about the words gathering on the Quilt Square HandPrint occurs, all without criticism or pressure. Repeatedly, the hand that holds the pencil listens for felt sense urges.
New words that emerge from the Touchstone word can be printed on other fingers and additional lifelines can be drawn to connect the Branch and Touchstone circles. If more Branch circles are needed than there are fingers, the circled Branch words can be drawn anywhere on the paper. The Branch words may inspire ideas, feelings or images.

Let FingerPrints Descend Down From the Branches
Words that emanate from a Branch word can be written as a FingerPrint list below the Branch circle. FingerPrint words gathering under a Branch word often describe, illuminate or define the Branch word.

Placing one word by itself allows more freedom of association and connection to other words. The single words are easier to scan with the visual and creative mind. Preconscious material moves easily to the surface in representation by a single word. Strong focus words are often nouns or verbs, and they assist the writing mind in visually experiencing language.

Scanning the Landscape While Reflecting

The Quilt Square HandPrint writer keeps connected to the creative flow. When no words are coming, sitting in reflection while scanning words or imagery keeps the process engaged. A word will eventually appear in the felt sense of the hand or somewhere else in the body. As words are revealed they can continue to be written in a FingerPrint list or as a circled Branch word. The mind thinks more quickly and with greater fluidity in images than words. At times, scanning the images of the square can trigger associated words with greater ease.

There is much that is powerfully said in the quilt square that the conscious mind may not have been aware of. The Handprint and the poem mediates the non-verbal wisdom of the quilt square art into the verbal realm. To assist with this bridge it is fine to sketch or doodle quilt square images around the edge of the Quilt Square HandPrint paper. This can trigger word associations related to the quilt square material.


Stream-of -Consciousness Unraveling

In employing the stream-of-consciousness technique, words fall out like a cascade or they may come slowly, punctuated with pauses between bursts. The play between the inner and external mind can work like a returning spiral. When a word is revealed, other seemingly unrelated thoughts or feelings may need to be seen. Processing and expression may be necessary before associations to a particular concern can continue to unravel. In Quilt Square HandPrints this means a FingerPrint list may not be ready to generate felt sense responses until another list goes further or a new Branch is started. Quilt Square HandPrints is an organic process. The felt sense urges to write, pause, change impulses or return to earlier impulses needing to be followed. When impulses for new words are no longer occurring, the Quilt Square HandPrint is done.

The Quilt Square HandPrint Becomes a Poem

The words from the Quilt Square HandPrints can become the content for a poem. This writing does not need to be forced. Poems naturally unfold from the Quilt Square HandPrint word collage. Participants need not be concerned about what the poem will say or how it will sound. The creative self and inner wisdom can be trusted to bring about what needs to be said. The poems that emerge from the Quilt Square HandPrints are powerful.

To create the poem, a fresh piece of paper is placed in front of the writer with the Quilt Square HandPrint sheet beside it. The wax quilt palette can stay where it was for the Quilt Square HandPrint writing. Going through the Quilt Square HandPrint process prepares both words and the creative centre for writing a poem, as Leandra found: “The HandPrint got me into the lucid space to write the poem.” The content of the Quilt Square HandPrint will be used to varying degrees by each writer. Leandra says, “ I did not use all the words and I did not feel I needed to. What I wanted was there in the Quilt Square HandPrint.” Lori confirms, “I did not have to add a lot of outside words to make my poetry piece.”  Lori went on to say, “Having the focus words of the HandPrint inhibits the excess words that I often have to discard when I try to write poetry. It gets to the point and eliminates the muddiness.”

Lines for a poem fall together from viewing words resting in the outlined hand. Quite organically, several words from one FingerPrint form a sentence. Each  line leads to another and another. Lori says, “The words of the HandPrint were like building blocks. It was obvious how they went together, like each one had their particular place to go. They just fit together. In turning a Quilt Square HandPrint into a poem the writer just allows the creative process to carry them along.

Nouns and verbs mix the FingerPrint words of one Branch with a sprinkling of words from other FingerPrint clusters. The Touchstone word that started off the Quilt Square HandPrint finds a place in several stanzas. Quite similar to the unraveling of the Quilt Square HandPrint, the lines of the poem cascade down the page. Pauses and interruption are natural elements of the flow of writing as creative rumination swirls around in the gentle whirlpool of artistic germination.

A Quilt Square HandPrint and Poem that Obviously Flow From One to the Other

Giving and Receiving Feedback

Writing poetry through this process feels so easy and natural that the writer is often not aware of how impressive the writing is. Jenette introduced her poem with, “It is not a very nice poem.” She proceeded to read a striking poem. When she was finished reading, immediately another participant emphasized, “It was very nice,” and everyone around the table voiced and nodded agreement. The quality of the poem is more likely to be realized and appreciated when it is read aloud and feedback is given by others. Like the sculpted squares it is often easier to see the power and effectiveness in works other than one’s own.

It is important to hear and believe the positive feedback. Accepting feedback inspires the creative centre and improves artistic creations. Letting authentic appreciations in also has a deeper impact. Lori found, “Getting feedback about my writing was very validating. It was like honouring and respecting my feelings. It was accepting me for who I am and the feelings I have.” It is important that the group provides a safe container when the type of writing produced in the workshops is shared. Lori experienced, “There was not any criticism or judgment when I read my poem. It was allowed to be what it was in that moment. The writing is a vulnerable place. It is like my core is facing every one. I felt safe. To do that in front of other people and to receive their experience is very empowering.”

When reading a poem aloud go slowly and let each word stand on its own. Words of the poem can each be felt in the mouth as the writer gives the written word the voice it deserves. If it is too difficult to read a poem it can be given to Michael or another workshop participant to read.
Three Quilt Square HandPrint Vignettes

Over the workshop series there are three Quilt Square HandPrint exercises. The writing exercise is a process of creative unfolding and development. Unconscious material and inspiration flourish through listening to the inner voice.  The artwork, the artist and the writing are all changed by the Quilt Square HandPrint experience.  In the period following a Quilt Square HandPrint exercise there are often sudden and dramatic changes in the quilt square content.

Each Quilt Square HandPrint exercise is unique in itself. Quite often, participants find that the first Quilt Square HandPrint vignette influences the development of the quilt square imagery. In the second Quilt Square HandPrint exercise the writing and art seem to mutually influence each other. The essence and message of the quilt square and its  imagery are often the powerful expressive force dominating  the final Quilt Square HandPrint and poem.


Find Outside Time for Polishing

The workshop writing time only provides a chance to create a Quilt Square HandPrint and write the first draft of a poem. A lot of activities are done in the particular sculpting and writing sessions in which poems are written. There clearly is not time for the degree of polishing that the first draft of the poems deserve. It is always impressive how exceptional these first drafts are and they shine more with some polishing. The nature of poetry is that poets work and rework a piece. The poems can be further worked on at home for additional editing and rewriting. Special care is taken with the particular poem that is chosen for the art and educational exhibition. This poem carries important messages that will no doubt have an impact on others.

The final editing of a poem is where the non-dominant brain’s critical thinking can prevail. In poetry, words can tell rather than explain. Explaining words can be omitted altogether or substituted with inference and metaphor. The order of lines can be moved around. A thesaurus can be used to nit pick the right word. The dynamics of a poem can be experimented with. For example, a past tense poem rewritten to the present tense often draws the reader further into it; or changing from first person to third person may create a certain distance that actually allows more self identification in the reader. Reading aloud a poem, or reading a line aloud several times is an effective technique to assist in polishing poetry. Indeed poems are meant to be felt in the mouth and read aloud.

When Less is More

Compressing and tightening a poem will make the words that remain even stronger. Words that are not absolutely needed can be cut. After writing each draft where the poem is reduced, read it aloud. Poets will refer to the editing process as Slash, Slash, Slash. It can be very hard to take away what may feel like precious and important words that were so hard to find in the first place.

Fortunately the Quilt Square HandPrint is almost poetry writing in reverse.

The writer starts with the powerful and expressive words and builds out from there. The cutting process in editing a Quilt Square HandPrint poem may not be as significant as is needed in free style poetry writing, but in poetry less is more. Mary and Matthew write crisp and poignant poems that highlight their quilt squares.

Look, Friend.
That was me,
bent in sorrow
locked in shame,
lost in fear.

See how I’ve grown.
I can hold my self
in the palm of my hand

Tree and flower
honour their felled
with life,
and so can I.

Hand in Hand,
we touch the sky.


Cold and Dead.
Unwanted, Discarded
Unable to Speak
Alone in the World
Alive with the Spirit of the Raven
I will Survive
Soaring with Self-esteem
Having a voice

Matthew F. Hinton


Reconciling with the Artistic Striving for Excellence

It is valuable for the critical self to be demanding with the quality of the poem. It is not OK to be critical and demanding of the creative muses or in particular, the vulnerable inner self. One of the challenges of the artist is to strive for excellence in creative work and meet the challenges of refining, polishing and detail, while not being self-effacing or destructive towards the creative force.


Whole Brain Process

The overall Quilt Square HandPrint exercise is a whole brain process. The Quilt Square HandPrint vignette works with the right brain and left brain; with the inner mind and external consciousness; with nonverbal and verbal thought; and with felt impressions and critical analysis. The right side of the brain is creative, spacial, non-judgmental and deals with the realm of emotions. The left side is rational, linear, and critical.



Following the random cascade of words that fall down the outlined hand allows written expression for the non-linear, open ended and metaphorical elements of the right brain. The words randomly laid out in the Quilt Square HandPrint can be stated without the demanding linear structure of the left brain. The spontaneous flow-of-consciousness leaves room for right-brain expression of images, metaphors and impressions that are so effective in poetry. The right brain is visual and spacial and thinks in larger wholes and connections. Writing with the image of the hand presents these elements, as Jenette confirms, ”Seeing the hand on the paper presented a connectedness to the words. The palm and fingers and words flowed together. It made them all whole.”

Many things I did not have

Many things I do

Many things I give myself

I did not get from you

All the words that should be true

Are twisted, gnarled, and changed

Love, respect, support were lacking

And holding and caring too

I longed for warmth and stability

How I longed to trust and hope

You dropped me instead of holding me

My fragile trust broke

I no longer depend on you

Ruler by fear and wrath

I repaired my shattered self

And burned my invisible wrap

No thanks to you

No thanks to you

Who was meant to protect me

I see the child

Whether you can or not

And that’s all that matters anyway. TO BE OPEN




with JOY.


Body Consciousness

Throughout the Quilt Square HandPrint process the writer is asked to repeatedly be aware of felt sense knowings. Acknowledging and responding to the “thoughts” of the body employs right-brain activity, as well as body consciousness. The awarenesses of the body are a form of tactile, somatic and kinesthetic knowledge -- they carry the strength of our gut feelings. 

The sculpting of the quilt square has a large contribution from the body consciousness through both imagery and the use of physical movement for artistic creation. The Quilt Square HandPrint elements of scanning the images and touching the sculpture while writing provide a further means to bridge somatic thought and language consciousness. Lori said, “When I did the writing I had a hand on my wax hand and it was like connecting with and gathering my energy. It is like an attunement with my energy and through that it helps connect my thoughts to my experience of abuse.” Deep in the body is where some of our knowledge resides. Speaking from the voice of core material provides powerful content for a poem.

The Non-Verbal Realm

A large degree of thought process and communication can exist outside of the actual words of language. At times the realm without words gets communicated and processed in the non-verbal components of conversation. It is estimated that up to 90% of what is said in normal conversation is expressed outside of the words that are spoken. Shocking traumatic material is largely initially registered, and then processed and stored in non-verbal areas of the hind brain. That is one reason why in a crisis words and language thinking may be totally unavailable for coping with or even explaining the nature of the stress.

The activity of sculpting is highly adept at accessing and working with these nonverbal concerns. The Quilt Square HandPrint vignette assists the inner material present in the sculpture and in the body psyche while actually sculpting, to become finally transformed into words. Having cognitive expression for deep experiences that had been verbally inaccessible is one of the reasons people find the Quilt Square HandPrint process so powerful and the poems so remarkable.

Discoveries in the Non-Verbal Realm 

Making the quilt square had broad and dramatic impacts on Maureen. The sculpting process tapped into deep nonverbal material.  In the quilt square on the right, the energy of her sculpted forms and textures speak powerfully with a voice that is beyond the verbal realm.  She continues to use the intense emotional material and experiences from her sculpting activities in her personal work of unraveling the effects of her childhood trauma.

A year and half after finishing her quilt square Maureen participated in a workshop where she made a Quilt Square HandPrint and wrote a poem that further explored the issues related to her quilt square.  They were written more for discovery than for creating a poem for the exhibition.

For Maureen the quilt square and Quilt Square HandPrint experiences were neither a beginning nor an end.  She describes them as, “Putting in place a bridge of discovery and healing.”  Below is her poem made from a Quilt Square HandPrint and it is followed by her sharing of her experience of sculpting, Quilt Square HandPrinting and writing poetry.

I am building a bridge

I am building a bridge
to my heart to my soul

I am honouring myself,

my little one

by listening to her

by telling her story

and making it mine

in the doing.

It is hard scary work

I am overwhelmed by feeling

I need to cry my tears

to come alive.

I am building a bridge

I am building a bridge

to my heart to my soul

I am honouring myself,

by listening to me

I am healing the split

by telling my story

and making it mine

in the doing.

It is hard scary work

I am overwhelmed by feeling

I need to cry my tears

to come alive.

“In the HandPrint I was naming what I was doing on my healing Journey. I was honouring myself. The poem was a vision and a map for learning how to get better and how to live well with my wounding. I felt calm inside while making the HandPrint and the poem. However, when I began to talk about it with Michael I felt anything but calm. I asked him whether I looked calm.  He nodded and smiled, and then I remember telling him that I felt sad and vulnerable, and that my gut was feeling woozy.  Maybe it was naming what was happening inside that helped me cry the tears that poured down my cheeks as I continued to talk with Michael about my experience of making the HandPrint.

“I was engaged and interested in the process as I drew the outline of my hand and dead calm.  I was surprised that the first word that came to me was “bridge.”  When I read my poem I was satisfied with it and when asked about the experience of doing poetry in my hand outline I said that it had no special impact.  However, when I came to writing the final copy of the poem I realized that it had to be in my hand’s outline.  On some unconscious level the effect of using my hand’s outline was very important.

“In my personal art work I have used my hands and my wax imprint a lot.  It is a metaphor for my child, my self. It is an important identifier between the adult me that is trying to heal and the child who is wounded. My art and my hand are the bridge by which I meet a child so traumatized that her story and my story were lost for 48 years.  I am spanning the years between us through art. I do not have visual memories of my abuse; they are all felt and kinesthetic. My body and my hand are vitally important. They hold my story. Both of them create the bridge that I traverse as I go from the present to the past and back again. Therefore, having the word ‘bridge’ in the palm of my hand felt good.

“The wax impression of my hand is very different from the outline I drew on paper.  The energy that emanates from the wax is very young. While sculpting the hand I was caught in the terror that registered in my body and I felt like I did not have a bridge. I felt powerless.  As a therapist, the feeling that I could not help myself intensified the terror. It was like the original infant state of helplessness, of falling into a black hole from which there was no escape. I think that the sculpting process created an internal bridge that I was not aware of. The wax hand is an automatic bridge into the area of my brain that encoded the trauma and the subsequent horror and terror. That is why I was so helpless while sculpting and for a long period of time afterwards. The art is telling her story to me.

“To my astonishment the HandPrint was also a bridge to my body. It does not have the same energy as my wax impression; it is more like an imprint of my hand. It is like a photocopy or a dilution of myself. It is a metaphor for how I feel. I feel like I have lost a part of myself, that I am a dilution of all that I was born to be. The bridging that occurs through my art helps me get back into my skin and to understand what happened to her so that she can come back.  It is my hope that this process will shift the feelings of sadness and numbness that have haunted me all my life.  I have a gut feeling that I have a natural exuberance and playfulness that was nearly extinguished as a result of my abuse.  

“When I go into my studio every week and create an art form I know from experience that it leaves me feeling very young, vulnerable, and in various states of anxiety and panic.  I now know that I can get out of the terror through the art process and through the love of my husband and friends.  The feeling states usually don’t occur until I am in the process of reflecting and writing poetry about my work.  Sometimes I create an art form to express an experience and the feelings associated with it.

“In drawing the HandPrint and in writing the poem I thought I was more in touch with my adult self. I used my adult observer self to put the process I was in into poetry. The poem articulates my vision for the future and my hope of coming alive and getting my total soul back.

“I experience a lot of self empathy in this process because I am bringing our stories together into one. It is an enormous effort to heal the split between my little one and my adult self. My empathy has emerged as a result of many factors - my education and my therapeutic journey, for example.  However, it is the art process itself and the making of my quilt square that reconnected me to the unspeakable feelings lodged in my body that helped me empathize with my child. It was like being pregnant and carrying around this terror stricken child in my body.

“I became aware that I went through this hell. If a two year old was feeling that way, it is no wonder that she jumped out of her skin. I feel like I left my body as a baby and my soul hovers around outside. The essence of who I am escaped and I became this acquiescent little girl and young woman.

“I felt very grown up and cognitively aware while making the HandPrint. Moreover,  I was amazed at how hopeful my poem was. I wrote words like ‘Coming Alive, Shaking Loose, and Being Present.’   In this poem there is a significant shift, a potential for becoming fully alive and for being in touch with my full self and my natural exuberance.”

Individual Variations

The Quilt Square HandPrint exercise provides a framework in which to allow and encourage spontaneous expression. The exercise is not a rigid format, and participants can feel free to individualize the process in whatever way is suitable. The above illustrated how Maureen varied the approach to writing a poem by putting it inside the outline of the hand. She also drew lines that connected each word in her Quilt Square HandPrint and included finger print lines above and below her FingerPrint words.

The Quilt Square HandPrints lend themselves to being adapted to suit other needs. The Quilt Square HandPrint and poetry process can be used for many forms of expression, for personal self exploration, and for problem solving and other writing activities.


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*All Rights Reserved
copyright (1991-2012)

*All Rights Reserved
copyright (1991-2012)