European Federation of Art Therapy Conference 2023, Coalescence: Art Therapy and Material Culture

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


The word coalescence refers to the merging of materials to form new compositions. Its association with production contributes to the profession of art therapy by featuring the significance of material culture within both the theory and practice of art therapy. The term materialisation (the process of coming into being) will be introduced in relation to art therapy's contribution to contemporary material and visual culture scholarship related to textiles. The workshop will offer participants an opportunity to work with cloth and fibre arts materials to make sense of materialisation as both a symbolic and productive enterprise for the art therapy profession coming into new forms of being. The workshop will combine references to textiles as a way to make with materials that are intrinsically worn and lived with as the physical surroundings of our lives. As a profession art therapy can align with the relevance of textiles as correspondences to piecing together and mending. The workshop will involve making with cloth as a symbolic act of performing theoretical and methodological approaches related to material becoming within the profession of art therapy. The experience will combine a presentation, a collective making, and a performance.

Within a sewing circle participants will work collectively on a piece of 20 metre long fabric. The fabric will be divided into one metre sections so that each participant will have a one metre section of their own to work on. There will be a circular hole cut into the middle of each one metre section. Each participant will work on their piece of fabric through a process of drawing as stitching. There will be embellishments (tassels, buttons, beads, trinkets, etc.) available to add to the sewing as additional forms of mark making. In the middle of the sewing circle there will photographs of contemporary textile arts, textile articles and the embellishments to add to the social fabric (the 20 metre long piece of material). At the end of the workshop participants will collectively wear the social fabric by walking in a line placing their heads through the holes within each of their one metre sections. The participants will walk together down a main thoroughfare of the conference. Participants can choose to use singular words or phrases during the performance to line up associations to materialisation within art therapy—becoming through the material awareness of textiles. Participants can choose a word or phrase to express their associations to the words: material, fabric, and cloth. The goal of the performance is to align theoretical and experiential correspondences to the significance of material culture within art therapy as a signature form of professional becoming.

There are many associations derived from textiles that reflect personal experience, such as: spinning a tale, piecing things together, hanging by a thread, being on pins and needles, the wear and tear of existence, feeling at loose ends, weaving things together, patching up relationships, having something all sewn up, recognising the ties that bind, and being on the mend. The stories of people’s lives are implicated within the threads that compose the intimate surroundings of body and home. Textiles portray a sense of ritual, making special everyday places through a quality of adornment and presence. Cloth enriches people, architecture, furniture, and objects with significance. Binding, stitching, knotting, and layering thoughts into a weave of cloth, conjures memory and the passage of time. The drawing of threads through cloth, the mending of frayed edges, and the matting together of fibres are all physical experiences that translate a narrative into material form. Cloth is intimate, another skin, a boundary and a caress. It designates function and also entwines a story. Encouraging the inclusion of fabric and fibre arts within art therapy offers new ways of exploring stories as they are told not only through words, but through the rhythm of going in and out of strands of meaning.
Period16 Jun 2023
Event titleEuropean Federation of Art Therapy Conference 2023: Growing Together
Event typeConference
LocationRiga, LatviaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Art Therapy
  • Textiles
  • Story Cloths
  • Latin American Women Artists
  • Reflective Practice
  • Material Culture