1. Please share who you are, and the name of your art studio/expressive art program. Please include pictures of yourself, your studio, or your art group in action. Please also send examples of art created in your art program.
I am Kassi Martin a Counsellor and Expressive Arts Facilitator based in Scotland, UK. I provide expressive Arts adventures online and in my studio. My business name is www.kassimartin.com
2. What population do you serve and why do you enjoy working with this demographic?
I provide Expressive Arts for everyone however, the majority who attend and sign up online are Caring Professionals.
Predominantly Teachers, Counsellors, Nurses, Artists & Art Therapists.
Being a Counsellor and Expressive Arts Facilitator I fully understand the demands and stress of providing Caring Services to the general public.
I worked for our government Health organisation for 12 years and also in Higher Education for 9 years. There are pressures from all angles; management, time constraints, the referrers are overwhelmed by demand and need, and then juggling which needs are priorities and which will have to wait when everyone’s needs are equally important.
The stresses and strains of providing services within these demanding systems create distress and dis-ease for Caring Professionals on the front line.
I know so well the healing value in making art and so inviting caring professionals to come and take care of themselves for a change, offers them insight and much needed Self Care tools.
Gradually they begin to let go of taking responsibility for others and putting themselves further up their list of priorities.
3. Please share a descriptive “snapshot” of one of your art sessions, your studio/workspace, and describe the emotional “atmosphere” of your sessions.
My studio is a tidy unruliness and full of abundance there for everyone to use as required. I want painters to feel at ease. The first thing they notice is the amazing outpouring of colour and texture hanging around the walls ...and then they see the floor!
My studio floor is a witness to “everything!” The floor has held tears and spills, glitter and splatters where “something” missed the substrate but luckily is acknowledged as it hits the floor.
I doubt I will ever paint over my studio floor. It’s so beautiful. It speaks of loss, grief, anger, joy and wounding. I wonder if one day it will be uncovered 100 years from now when a new family lives here and they decide to refurbish my garden studio.
The emotional atmosphere in my studio and online groups is one of connection and reaching out. There is a willingness to accept, hear and know The Other. There is also a nervousness to share and yet an excitement and great release in sharing.
When we share our art we are sharing aspects of ourselves. The painter is aware of the vulnerability in opening up by sharing our images and paintings. The group holds each of us with empathy and acceptance as we share and delve into our creations.
There is always music although sometimes we choose silence. There is often singing and movement too. We have times of grief and seriousness and times of fun and laughter.
4. How do you make people feel at ease so that they can more comfortably express themselves?
First and foremost by being Real and Authentic myself. I never “play the expert”. I am always simply a Human “warts and all” and invite their humanness into the studio or online group.
I also invite their Inner Toddler into the space to explore and play. I suggest that we behave as if we have just landed on earth, we know nothing and everything can be explored as if totally new to the participants.
The only rule I have is :- “Don’t eat the paint products” which makes people laugh and relax but also they receive the message that anything goes in this space.
5. Could you share an example of an art directive or an art theme that you might typically use in your art program?
“Letting Go” is a very big theme that emerges time and again whether in studio or online courses.
I believe many of us cling on tightly, trying to control our environment and this emerges in our painting process too.
Letting Go sounds so simple and yet can be very difficult to do. Once we Let Go we begin to break down various constructs within but with letting go, we gain so much.
We gain a confidence we may never have experienced before. Our self esteem rises. We accept ourselves and others more fully for who we really are behind the masks. We gain release and freedom.
Letting Go has huge health benefits, relaxing our nervous system and freeing the tight, control we have been living with often for many years. With this letting go comes better sleep, lower blood pressure, improved relationships and more.
Letting Go helps us to grieve for how things could have been and we make new choices for today and the rest of our lives.
6. What touches you most about the art groups that you facilitate?
The thing that most touches me is when everyone shares together. We sit around as equals with a warm drink and share openly how the experience is going and what we are discovering. The level of connection is so real, loving and supportive. This extends into my online groups too.
Connection seems to be a very important word for me, connection to each other but connection to our selves is really vital for me.
7. Could you share a story about how art making has facilitated change, deeper connection, or emotional or psychological healing for an individual member of your art group?
Anita, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner attended a number of my “What Kind of Tree are You” courses both online and in my studio.
She began with a sense of needing to be liked. She was very polite, very pleasant and really helpful in the work place. Always smiling, Mother to everyone, seeing their Needs and ensuring they were taken care of. Generally Anita was the person who had the most experience and knowledge wherever she worked, with almost 40 years experience.
However, because of her need to be liked, she tended to play small and found it almost impossible to say “No” even when she really needed to. By saying “yes” Anita suffered in many ways.
She suffered physically because she was exhausted and drained. She suffered emotionally because everyone dumped all of their unhappiness and stress on her.
Her Nervous System was stretched to its limit with no flexibility left to serve her body and mind well, especially in the emergency situations often presented to her at work.
Anita worked through all of these issues whilst she painted her Trees with me. Each Tree painting helped her through Dialogue to make sense of what was happening, why it was happening and supported her to make changes, step by step. Each step leading her to empowerment and freedom to be Authentic.
Eventually Anita had reached a place where she could say No and didn’t care much if people liked her or not. She could speak out and ask questions where before she never rocked the boat.
Anita decided she was going to Shine Brightly instead of playing it small. She changed jobs and asked for better pay and conditions. She took her self care seriously and removed herself from the building to have breaks from the phone, patients, doctors and other constant demands. She was going against the culture in her job however in the process she was saving herself from Burnout which she had been dangerously close to for years.
She realised that by giving the way in which she had, without question or care for her self simply reduced her Self Esteem and was disrespected by those around her, both “above” and “below” within the hierarchy at work. They saw her as a “yes” person. A pushover.
Anita went on to model these new ways of being to her daughters now young adults and beginning to be treated badly in the world by men and in their workplaces.
Anita’s strength and determination has rubbed off on her daughters who are now gracious, intelligent and most importantly, won’t accept anything other than respect for themselves because they respect others.
Anita continues to use all the tools she has learned through painting Trees to maintain her self esteem and self respect. She finally chose to retire which brought with it new challenges.
First and foremost being overly responsible and excessively hard working. Anita creates expressive art most days and is determined to keep moving forward. She is learning to Play and has discovered her passion for music and singing.
8. Could you share a story or anecdote about something that is challenging about running your art program?
My Inner Critic otherwise known as My Super Ego. This is a parallel process. It is a large part of what I work with online and in studio. It is a Theme in every single course I run. I have a particular approach to working with our Inner Critic.
Whenever I am about to facilitate my groups in studio or create a new online process my Inner Critic pops out!
“Who do you think you are! Getting too big for your Boots Kassi Martin!”
And I hear my amazing Mentor & Supervisor say “Well Kassi, I think it’s time to buy bigger boots” with her glorious, warm smile
Even though my Critic can be vicious with me I still go out there and create, share and provide. If I’m wobbly with anxiety I simply share this aloud with my group and keep going. This gives the painters permission to be wobbly and real. It relaxes us all deeply.
This is one of the things that helps us all connect. We all say “me too!” acknowledging our Inner Critic and smile as we get back to the important business of expressing ourselves through colour and texture.
9. What personally motivates you to facilitate art in the way that you do? Who are you as a creator and a teacher? What makes your art program unique?
My love of finding my self and developing myself through art motivates me to facilitate art for others. Whilst Training in Psychotherapy I undertook 6 years of personal therapy. It was great. Exciting. Meaningful. However, making art my way has been incredible! The personal growth is hard to measure. I know without doubt what I offer is powerful and effective from the feedback and my own experience of changing.
When I first set out with my earliest art group “What Kind Of Tree Are You?” I was overjoyed and amazed to discover all that those participants gained through the process. I can’t describe the joy and excitement inside my chest hoping that this would continue - and it has, thankfully, consistently over many years and for this I am so grateful.
As a Facilitator, I am Me, Kassi. I am informed by all that I have learned as a Counsellor with 20 years experience & knowledge and my love & trust in how Art heals us, always.
I believe I am gentle and loving as a facilitator. I value empathy, listening, acceptance, transparency, equality. I respect and trust our Body Wisdom and Unconscious Process.
I quietly believe I am brave. Even though I am often scared. I push onwards and keep sharing in my own way.
So I can only say it is me and my own ways and creative ideas that makes what I offer unique.
10. How can people reading this article support your work in the world? How can people find out more about you?
They can share my free ecourse and website. My website is www.kassimartin.com
I have a blog on the website.
The link to my free ecourse, a lovely gentle introduction to Expressive Art for stress reduction is:
My FB page:
They can email me to connect. I love to “meet” people in person and online and find out what they are doing.