Sculpture Therapy

Sculpture and Modelling

The focus here is on direct manual work on three-dimensional objects. Through shaping, carving, squeezing or cutting, removing and adding material, we are in touch with the physical world, so to speak. With our own hands we transform substance and witness this process first-hand. In contrast to painting or drawing, we touch and hold something and react to it immediately. We can feel that we can make an impact with our own hands. It is an empowering experience that generates insights and experiences that are not only palpable on a visual and imaginative level, but are more embodied. On the one hand, we experience this work on a very concrete level, on the other hand in a deep, unconscious part of ourselves.

In the sculpting arts, we are closer to both, the realm of life forces and to the earthly, physical sphere. When forming physical material, we work with gravity, levity and spatial directions, up and down, front and back, left and right and varying proportions and balance. Here we instantly encounter forces, movements and counter-movements and thus cause and effect. In doing so, we experience qualities of heaviness and lightness, narrowness and openness, we feel the different shapes, such as sharp, round, convex, concave, rough and smooth. Thereby we encounter the same natural forces at work that also work within us. At the same time, our inner frame of mind, how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally and how we relate to ourselves is reflected in the modelling process. The therapist is trained to perceive these expressions and to support the client in working with these forces and aspects that are revealed in the creative process.

In sculpting and modelling the whole body becomes an organ of perception, of which our sense of touch is an important one, but also our sense of balance and vitality as well as movement and proprioception are activated. It requires courage and a certain amount of determination as we meet resistance in the material that needs to be overcome, while we have to continuously make choices within the creative process. A dialogue with the material unfolds and an exchange of energy that feels stimulating, energising, freeing and clarifying. We witness growth and transformation, that can be deeply centring.

Soap stone carving

Working with stone or wood, is physically more challenging and requires tools. The experience of resistance is more pronounced, which increases our focus. This in turn helps us to feel more grounded as well as building confidence and self-reliance. It is a slower process, which feels like a breathing out in time. Whereas when we work with clay we are connected to the elements of earth and water through its cold shapeless malleable texture, which can awaken a childlike desire to play and discover. This motivates us to explore the material, to shape and change it again and again, until we achieve a sense of coherence in our creative process. In both sculpting and modelling we are bound by the laws of nature and at the same time we are driven by a longing to find an individual expression, where we feel free and creative.

Mixtures of clay and beeswax offer a warmer material, as there’s no water involved. It is also more durable and can be reworked and transformed later. This offers a wide range of applications.

All images courtesy of Maria Albiez,
anthroposophic art therapist specialised on sculpture therapy

Working on the clay field
courtesy of Ali Rabjohns, transpersonal arts counsellor