THE WAY THE ROOM FEELS
I enter your room with my paper, inks and mobile Pressing Session trolley.
We've met before, I introduced myself earlier that day or the day before. I invited you to go on the Session journey with me. To share stories, to have an artwork created in response. You said "yes, that sounds like something I'd like to do". Here we are, ready to begin.
You're in bed. You don't need to do anything. Just relax, reflect, share. Perhaps your family is in the room too, perhaps it's just you. You know what feels right for this experience.
We both settle in. A bit small talk. I ask you how you are. I get some sense of where your physical and emotional health is at today, in this moment.
I place a 'Session in Progress' sign on the door. It's just our space now. Undisturbed. Private. Safe.
I set-up the recording device in a discreet way, so you forget that its even there during the Session.
I invite you to take a handful of colourful hand-cut confetti. This is what will transform the space from a hospital room into a sacred space of captivation and memory.
We both hold the confetti in our open palms and I say the Pressing Session Blessing:
"A moment in time is a pool in your hand;
And that moment is as deep and as wide as you choose to swim.
We are here to feel the feelings there are to feel,
To experience the sensations there are to be had'
And to share the stories there are to tell.
We are safe, we are connected, here, alive, together.
We release the confetti high into the air and flutters down around us, softly floating onto you, your bed, the floor. The room has changed in its feeling. It's amazing what some small pieces of gentle tissue paper can do. There is now softness, colour, energy in the room.
I introduce the materials - the French cotton paper, the ink-filled syringe, a little bit about the birth of the Ink-Pressing artform 10 years ago.
We take a deep breath together. We make eye contact. We are present. Two humans in a room, with full presence, vulnerability and courage.
I ask the first question - "Tell me about a time in your life you have felt pure joy"
You ponder for a moment. You might look out the window, at your partner, at your child, at your mother.
You start to unfold your story.
I listen. I have no expectations. I am simply there to hold space while you open up and share.
At a certain point in your story a pinnacle moment will become apparent that needs to be the first symbolic line of the Ink-Pressing.
I say "Okay, right there, that moment, shall we press that?" I could be a lovely curvaceous row of hearts, lung-type shapes to represent breath, architectural lines to represent family connections or a love story.
I illustrate just one side of the shape to the right hand side of the paper crease, then 'press' the paper together to create a striking symmetrical form.
We continue on with the next question, which is often "Tell me about a time in your life when you felt absolute freedom"
And so on - question, story, press; question story, press.
I ask you questions about moments in your life that have taken courage, moments of love, moments of growing in strength, moments of beauty and wonder.
If it feels right, I'll ask you some gentle questions about how it feels to be living with your illness. If there's anything you'd like to get off your chest, to share with an artist - who is there specifically to record your human stories without judgement or a desire to fix or solves things. The medical and allied health team are there for those things.
My role is to be your mirror, your echo chamber of reflection. Whatever you have to say is right and true for you in that moment in time. That is where the deep inspiration for the artwork is found, that's where connection, acceptance and potent nature of honesty resides.
I take notice of your physical wellness throughout the Session. Your breathing, your facial expressions, alarm monitors. I always make it okay to speak slowly, to take time between answers, to have a break if needed. Sessions run for an hour but we have no real deadline. This is your time. I am there to capture what you'd like to share.
If you find it hard to answer the questions (not everyone is a natural storyteller and that's okay, I can work around that) then move into some Imagination Exercises. They're easy and fun and can often engage the whole room. They also bring out some wonderful insights into a person's sense of identity.
So "Today, if you were a flower, what flower would you be?" or "If you were a sound, what sound would you be?"
You'll often be surprised by your answers. Your sensory memory will become engaged and a sense of nostalgia and richer reflections becomes apparent.
These answers also help to inform the linework and colours of the piece.
By now, it's been about an hour. You're probably a little bit tired and it might be time for a visit from your doctor or pain medication.
I explain that I'm going to take the piece with me and finish it while I listen to the sound recording.
I'll return with your artwork complete and framed in the next couple of days.
I thank you for your time. I congratulate you on going on the journey with me.
It is a courageous thing to meet a stranger and share your inner most stories, ideas, emotions and fears with them. It is a deeply connected experience between human beings - patient and artist.
There is alchemy there - risk brings about beauty, vulnerability brings about access to a place of release and catharsis that perhaps nothing else could.
This is what the room feels like. This is what happens in the room. This is a Reflected Legacy Pressing Session.