Art Teaches Social and Emotional Skills


I recently read an article by Molly Sprayregen about learning how to manage frustration through the trial and error of creating a work of art. Creating a piece helps the maker connect to emotions that may not be engaged in other activities.

As I work with both adults and children, I see this pattern more and more. Some artists need more control, and they get stuck because their perfectionism is telling them there is only one right way to do something and they can’t figure out how to make it happen with the materials at hand. Rather than dive in and risk a mistake, they feel paralyzed and have difficulty switching their thinking from their original idea. Sometimes 1:1 interaction with me or one of my assistants can loosen those bonds, but sometimes the “yes, but…..” bug is too strong and the artist remains frustrated for the entire art-making session.

In my continuing work with the inpatients at our local hospital’s Mental Health Unit, I see folks who have been beaten down and told they can’t do anything right. I try to encourage them to turn off that tape in their brain and explore something new, knowing that there is no right or wrong way to create in my group with FLOOF-on-the-GO. The professional staff there and I create an atmosphere of exploration, where the process is just as important as the product, and things can be changed around, redirected, reformed, torn up and made again in a different way that works better for the artist. No judgements, no criticism. no boundaries other than safety. We don’t care about messes, spills, or something trashed and begun again. Creativity grows from freedom, problem solving, flexibility, and a supportive community, where empathy is key.



Art Saves Lives

Art Saves Lives

Today I was at a neighborhood farmer’s market vending my FLOOF Maker Paks. A new-to-the-area couple were at nearby picnic tables with hand-made signs that said “Art Hive”. They had brought plastic bins of art-making materials very similar to mine and were helping the dozen or so children whose parents were shopping at the market to make various fun things, like dream catchers. One of the templates that they made available to the children for painting or coloring said “Art Saves Lives”.

I was happy to see others who appreciate the value of art-making in maintaining mental health and stability in the face of a confusing and troubled world. Recently I have begin to explore those avenues myself. This Fall I plan to teach three consecutive workshops on “The Value of Art-Making as a Vehicle for Healing from Loss”, whether it be loss of a job, loss of status, loss of a friend or loved one, loss of one’s home, or loss of a relationship.

During the 9 years since my studio opened, I have noticed that many customers have working with their hands to distract, or to work through, difficult times.  One example was a middle-aged woman with a drug-addicted son who came once a week for almost a year “just to be able to take my mind off him for two hours”.

I have recently applied to be a volunteer at our local hospital to help inpatients in the newly expanding Behavioral Health Unit make art. Folks there are hospitalized for any number of psychological reasons which render them a danger to themselves or others, or require a new life plan to sustain their mental health. Once I am established there, I would also like to work with their Teen Unit.

Certainly I have seen that for folks making any kind of art project, the process is often as important as the product. That fact has resulted in many exciting examples of art being gifted to FLOOF Collage pARTy! as demo pieces to show prospective art-makers what the possibilities are for their creativity.




Bins by ColorBins by color

For 3 years, I have been doing ”FLOOF-on-the-GO”. I take 4 different workshops on the road by request, and if you’d like to suggest another project, I’m totally open to other ideas.I bring my 700 sq. ft. studio to you on a smaller scale!

If you have affiliations with a prison, halfway house, group home, mental health center, or drug and alcohol recovery center, please contact me. I would love to come to you. Morning, afternoon, evening, 7 days a week. 

If you belong to a club, such as the Red Hat Society, Scouts, men’s or women’s groups, you can use FCp! as a fund-raiser, for networking, or just for fun. Corporations can conduct team-building exercises using my art supplies and guidance. Or have a social TGIFLOOF Collage pARTy! on your site. BYOB!

Here are some of your choices if you want FLOOF Collage pARTy! to come to you. Or create your own category. Any age or ability welcomed, 2-102. No “talent” required. Just bravery and an open mind:

1. Landscapes and Likenesses with Leather
2. Faces and Fantasies with Fabric
3. Portraits and Paintings with Paper
4. Miscellaneous Multicolor Madness

Pick one, or suggest your own, and I will bring rolling bins to your location – home, group home, business, club, halfway house, hospice, school, after-school, rehab, hospital, prison, or any other place you can think of where art might be healing or just plain fun. 

You choose the time and place, and you get artistic guidance, 7 d. a week, AM or PM, to guide your creativity. 279-3512 to set it up.

Ready, Set, CREATE!

Artistically yours,


How Art Changes Lives


I recently had a visit from a Mom who wanted to schedule a birthday party for her 6- year-old at FLOOF Collage pARTy! She had seen the sign on my front lawn but had never stopped in before.

Since she was moving during the month of her daughter’s birthday, she wanted to do a party where she wouldn’t have to organize it or clean up afterwards. That’s a big plus for what I do – all the mess happens in my studio and most of the cleanup is done by me.

There is a website called Ithaca Family Fun where activities for families and children are listed. That’s what prompted her to call me.

After showing her two children what I do at FCp!, she hugged me and said “Where have you been all my life?!” In the eight years that my studio has been open, I have been the beneficiary of much gratitude, but never quite on that level! She was very sad that she would be leaving town shortly after her daughter’s birthday.

I’m glad I can provide respite for busy families who want to give their child a memorable birthday party without doing much work, and without breaking the bank.


Art = Science + Math + Architecture

Art = Science + Math + Architecture

The more I have birthday parties or individual sessions @ FLOOF Collage pARTy!, the more I become aware of how much the kids are learning while having so much fun. Not only do they go through a process of creativity which may or may not end up in a project that they take home, but also their work is very multidisciplinary.

Because the materials in my shop are 80% recycled/reused, there is a lot of curiosity about their origins. “Where did you get THAT!?” is a frequent question. Even for myself, there is a lot of exploration to be done, as I dismantle a piece of hardware, or a computer game, or a garment to add it to the bins of assemblage parts. There’s often a discussion of history that accompanies this question. “How did people use that tool in the past?”

Talking about my culture can involve archeology and sociology. Mentioning that my Mom (may she rest in peace) was a hoarder often results in a psychology lesson.

My materials are sorted mostly by color, although in the last two years I have loaded up several bins that I call “Miscellaneous Madness”. When I am done with a group session, I don’t always have time to resort everything, so in it goes to the MM box.

In order to make a piece of work at FCp!, clients are given a basket in which they can gather their materials from all over the shop. The color wheel gets used then to help them define how they might use complimentary or contrasting colors, primary or pastel hues.

Making a three-dimensional work moves into the area of physics – balance, proportion, weight. Math gets involved with measuring how to cut something or how a smaller piece can fit within a larger base. Symmetry is more important to some than to others. Science talk results when glue or paint is involved. “Will this stand up with white glue?” “How does hot glue work?” “What will happen if I mix acrylics with tempera?”

I love listening to people figure out how to make their dreams happen, and helping them if they get stuck. Watching collaborations happen is also very rewarding, whether it is sharing knowledge about how something works, giving support when someone gets frustrated, or making a suggestion when a friend is stuck. I point out that teamwork is sociology at work.

Recently I have been selling Maker Paks in five shops in Ithaca, NY and party-goers have been buying them as favors for their guests. These paks are comprised of several ounces of a variety of textures, colors, shapes, and materials for use in making art, in a cellophane bag. Inside is an instruction card with suggestions on what to make, and my business card is tied to the top with a colorful ribbon.

I hope that the users of these Paks can spread the fun around and continue their educations even outside of a school setting. They might not even be aware of how much they are learning!





My Mom, God love her, was a hoarder and a shopaholic, like the ones you see on TV. When I was growing up, we had no table or counter that was not covered with “tchotchkes”, junk, clutter, unopened shopping bags and other useless items. We could never find a working pen or a sharp pencil, despite cups full of them everywhere. And there was nowhere to sit, study, cook, or eat without piling  up out of the way, moving clothing papers to another room, or shoving newspapers onto the floor.

There were piles of styrofoam and old magazines in the basement. Our kitchen junk drawer was stuffed with wads of string of every hue and texture, and rubber bands of every thickness and color.

My Dad did his own type of collecting. On his walks to and from the hospital to his pediatric office, he would pick up random pieces of dismembered earrings, bracelets and necklaces from every sidewalk and each parking lot. He had a little workshop in the basement with some small tools where he would “potschke”  in an attempt to make workable jewelry. In the basement there was a cute little anteroom with french cabinet doors where he kept his samples. It was full of empty pill, tincture and lotion bottles of every color, shape, and size, and oh, the lids!

To this day, in reaction to growing up in such a household, I react very viscerally to physical chaos, feeling anxious and claustrophobic. Sometimes I feel like screaming “I can’t stand it! I need space!” When I am eating at our breakfast bar, if the salt and pepper shaker or the napkin holder are too close to my plate, I have to move them to the back of the counter.

In 2009, I decided to move my art supplies from a 120 sq. ft. room upstairs to a 500 sq. ft. studio downstairs next to my garage, and to open my studio to the public. I vowed that it would stay organized. Of course, it’s a known principle of physics that stuff expands to fill the existing space. What was initially a dozen baskets of materials sorted by category soon became 50 plastic bins sorted by color. I had ribbons, lace, paper, yarn, buttons, beads, shells, fabric, feathers, netting, faux fur, and wood, many of the things my parents collected when I was a child.

My son Ethan is a glass artist who lives in Seattle. On one visit to Ithaca, he looked at my new location and said: “Mom, I know you love baskets. They’re beautiful and very country chic, but they’re not efficient. Give me $50, go have coffee with your friends, and I’ll set you up.” Three hours later he had completely reorganized my supplies by color into the first dozen of what would later become 50 plastic drawers.

I’m a sublimated hoarder – I just hate to throw away something that could be used again for art. There is a counter at the top of my staircase where daily, a few everyday items appear which would otherwise be discarded. If something is texturally interesting, colorful, or if I can envision that someone could make something clever out of it, down it goes into FCp!

Then the fun begins for me. I love deconstructing things to morph them into art supplies. Computer parts become fascinating bits for assemblage. High heeled shoes disassembled yield beautiful pieces of leather, much gorgeous bling, zippers and velcro straps, ribbons and gilded insoles. My hammer, pliers, tin snips,  and wire cutters get quite a workout. And the heels can make functional or fun sculpture. Containers of all sorts, lids, broken electrical parts – all fair game for art.

Recently I came upon a piano that was about to be relegated to the dump. Instead, I took the hammers, keys and all those cool kinetic spring-loaded pieces to my art-making shop. I spent hours yanking out hundreds of steel pins from the sound board. There are now buckets and drawers full of felt, wood and metal springs in my studio, and my upper body strength has been enhanced.

It’s as therapeutic for me to acquire and remake the supplies for my shop as it is for art-makers who frequent FCp! to create there! Come see for yourself.

The pleasure of working with people who have disabilities

The pleasure of working with people who have disabilities

My original educational background was at Washington University in St. Louis, where I studied in an oral/aural program to become a teacher of preschool deaf children. After I graduated, I taught for four years in Nashville at the Bill Wilkerson Hearing and Speech Center, also in an oral/aural program.

I distinctly remember two special students, Mike and Samantha, who were the smartest in the class, were class leaders, and yet possessed what we then called “The X Factor”, which somehow prevented them from learning speech. They understood everything I said, were quick to respond, and yet, unlike some who were ready to be mainstreamed by age 5, were still severely delayed in expressive language.

There are so many causes of deafness – genetics, prenatal viruses, viruses in young children which affect hearing or speech, and syndromes which involve multiple systems. These days, so much more is known about the autism spectrum than was known in the 1970’s.

When I moved to Ithaca, my husband and I had decided to start our family, so it was not a good time to return to school for a Master’s, required for Special Education in NYS. So I worked part-time when my children were younger and at the age of 38 went to Nursing School at TC3.  I worked as a nurse for 16 years before starting my art career after the death of my first husband (Bob1) and before my marriage to my second (Bob2).

My work with special kids and the medical community piqued my interest in the therapeutic value of making art. There is no better way to zone out and forget your troubles while making use of your brain (art involves lots of math, mechanics and physics, I tell my students). And in my studio, if you need help with the physical stuff, we have plenty of assistance and adaptive devices to make your creative visions into tangible objects, whether functional, expressive, or decorative.

I love helping senior adults with multiple disabilities realize their dreams and wishes to make whatever pops into their minds. Sometimes they come into my studio with a fixed idea of something they want to execute. Most of the time, the goal is relaxation and enjoyment, and the ideas arise from the materials that they have free reign to choose, based on texture, color, shape or function. I get great satisfaction watching the joy on these artists’ faces when they finish a project and show it off to their friends or the staff member who accompanied them to FCp!  Sometimes the process is more important than the product, and the piece is left for me as a “sample” for my next party.

Because the supplies in my studio are so varied, kids and adults on the autism spectrum love the tactile aspect of working with FLOOF materials. Sometimes, more time is spent in exploring the feel or sound of the stuff, or trying to guess the origin of something recycled or reused, than is spent in the construction. Many of my clients bring me gifts of objects that would otherwise have ended up in the dump, because they understand the beauty and possibilities of everyday objects to make something wonderful.

I look forward to working more and more with agencies, clubs, or groups whose clients have special needs, to bring the amazing world of art to everyday folk who might not otherwise get to experience it.