The stars–or was it my busy schedule?–finally aligned in such a way that I was able to get to one of Nicola Ryrie‘s story and art workshops at the Salisbury Centre. February’s story was The Tiger Bride from Angela Carter‘s collection, The Bloody Chamber. The experience of working with this story through art in the company of a group of people willing to go deeply into it, once more reconfirmed for me the power of story to connect us to each other and to the more-than-human world.
The format of the workshop was deceptively simple. Nicola, an art therapist, read the first third of the story out loud and then gave us 20 minutes to make something in response to what we’d heard. She’d brought a treasure trove of supplies: paint, felt, paper, sequins, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, glue, markers, pencil crayons, charcoals etc. We then displayed and discussed what we’d made. Though everyone had used different media and chosen to illustrate different elements or scenes, themes connected our artwork–not themes in the literary sense, themes in the depths of human experience sense.
We did this two more times: Nicola read, we responded through art, and then we discussed our responses. Nicola further thickened our understandings by bringing in insights from Jungian and shamanistic traditions. We stayed on an hour after the workshop was supposed to end, too engrossed in our discussion to even think about leaving.
If you know the story, you’ll understand why our conversation turned to environmental matters–to our animal selves and to our relationships with the wild. If you’re not familiar with the story, go out, find a copy of the book and read it. There are some things, deep things, that can only be conveyed in a well told story.