On Wednesday 5th October 2022, our volunteers and Creative Arts Team held an Art of Remembering workshop. Harriet Steele, our new Communications Officer, joined the session to learn more about how art can help people facing advancing illness and how our memories can be transformed into tangible pieces of work.
How do we remember people, our lives, and our sentiments? It can often be very challenging to navigate and represent our memories in a more tangible form than simply the verbal. As someone who has only recently become involved in the hospice world, this is something that I am learning about: what it means to remember your own life, the lives of your loved ones, and passing on these memories both to the current generation and generations to come. Recently, I attended our Art of Remembering creative workshop to really understand the role that memory plays in hospice care.
This was a lovely workshop, run by the Michael Sobell Hospice’s Creative Arts Team, which introduced people living with advancing illness to a different form of memory-making and creative expression. Learning about the technique of decoupage, we spent the two-and-a-half-hour workshop creating tangible pieces of memory in whatever form we wished for them to take. Decoupage is the technique of cutting out of pictures, gluing them to an object (in our case paper) and varnishing them. As I write this, my creation (by far not the prettiest creation from the workshop!), hangs on the ‘in-construction’ art wall in my flat – both a reminder of my participation in the workshop itself and of everything new that I have learnt about hospice care so far.
“Not only a chance to learn new creative techniques, all the sessions also aim to aid relaxation and enhance self-esteem.”
Before I started working here I, like many others, believed that hospices were simply end-of-life places. A space where people went just before they died where they could be taken care of and die in comfort. I have since come to learn that this is not the case. ‘Hospice care’ can take many forms. The Michael Sobell Hospice’s team do focus on pain and symptom management. However, their work also extends beyond the physical and includes the emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing of people living alongside life-limiting illness. This was certainly the role that the Art of Remembering workshop played. Not only a chance to learn new creative techniques, all the sessions also aim to aid relaxation and enhance self-esteem.
The significant benefits of the creative arts have long been recognised. They are associated with the reduction of stress and depression and “can serve as a vehicle for alleviating the burden” of life-limiting illness (Stuckley and Nobel 2010). As well as workshops, our Creative Arts Team also run weekly group and one-to-one sessions, introducing people to a range of artistic techniques and pursuits such as encaustic art and watercolour painting. Their workshops and sessions are calming experiences for those who attend and teach expressive skills that can be built upon. One person who attended the Art of Remembering said they were going to use the techniques they learnt in a larger art project they are working on.
“This workshop taught me that a piece of art can even become the memory itself.”
A collage or painting made by a loved one holds within it the memory of that person’s existence, a recognition of intention and a thought which could be left unsaid or un-noted in conversation. This workshop taught me that a piece of art can even become the memory itself.