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Daily Art Practice Photo by Shelley Klammer
2011 Interviews : Shelley Klammer

Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

Expressive Art Facilitator and Counselor Shelley Klammer

By Molly Anderson-Childers

Shelley KlammerShelley Klammer is a Registered Professional Counselor and an Expressive Art Facilitator. She offers an array of online expressive art courses that explore the melding of art, psychology and spirituality.

Welcome to Creativity Portal, Shelley! I understand you're in the midst of some pretty important changes, including updating your website. How exciting. Thanks for taking the time to chat.

Q: What started you on the path to expressive art?

A: I was a gallery artist in my twenties and felt very unsatisfied at the level of depth at which I was creating. My paintings were very composed and well thought out. My life felt shallow at the time and I felt like I was trying to live out an ideal idea of who I should be. I felt some deep inner rumblings that there was more to me than I thought and I began to paint and draw spontaneously. Even though my drawings and paintings were no longer gallery material, I started to feel better. It was an intriguing process to feel so lost to myself and then to have this whole cast of inner sub-selves come to the fore to communicate with me through my art and my writing.

Q: Who were your early creative influences and mentors?

A: Twenty years ago, I was first influenced most by Michele Cassou, author of Life, Paint and Passion, a book on spontaneous painting. I was eager to step out of the gallery scene and explore painting as a route to well-being and authentic self-connection. I also began to write every day and was influenced by Natalie Goldberg's books on honest and spontaneous writing. Now my 16-year-old daughter is a writer and she reads Natalie's books.

I fell in love with expressing everything — good, bad, beautiful, and ugly. Since those early influences, I have explored psychology and spirituality in depth, and how it relates to imagery and self-expression — especially through the work of Carl Jung and Robert Johnson. The combination of spirituality, psychology and creativity is compelling for me.

Q: What is the most difficult aspect of bringing your work into the public eye?

A: The rawness and the honesty of my personal expression still feels hard sometimes, because I do not know why I am compelled to express some of the things that I do. I feel the urge to express and I try to honor it even if it feels hard. Usually when something repressed comes up to be integrated and accepted, fear arises. To share my humanness feels both loving and humbling and also terrifying. My goal is personal integration, and sharing this process with others is a good and human teaching tool. I show myself as a work in process.

Q: When you're creatively blocked, what are your favorite ways to get un-stuck and feel inspired again?

A: I used to create more to try to get "un-stuck" but now I just relax and create nothing at all, and wait until the urge to create comes back. I used to impose daily creativity practices on myself but found myself writing and drawing the same things over and over again. Usually when I wait and honor the urge to create, something new is ready to come out to be witnessed. I feel inspired when I am relaxed and in deep connection with my core self.

Q: What are some upcoming projects/events you have coming up?

A: I am ready and eager to take a break for the summer. I have just finished three years of training as a counselor — attending classes in the evenings and on weekends, all the while working full time in a therapeutic art studio. All I can imagine doing this summer is being very quiet and still and getting back into my feeling and intuitive body and out of my "learning brain."

I will however be considering what specific counseling practice I want to offer. I have the honor of meeting people from all over the world though my online collage courses and online collage forum, and I will be expanding in the near future to offer emotional and psychological support through Skype, email and phone counseling. Many things come up for people that need to be integrated when they engage the spontaneous art process, such as submerged memories, revelations, confusion, fear, anger, and sadness.

Q: Why did you choose to train as a counselor?

A: I had an art therapist attend one of my collage workshops and I told her I was considering going for formal training in art therapy. She suggested I take the psychology/counseling route- and am I ever glad I did. I eat, live and breathe art therapy. I work full time in the field, and I create spontaneously almost every day — even if it's just a small sketch or a bit of writing. When I went to an intro session for an art therapy program at my local college I felt frustrated. I felt like I should have been teaching the workshop. By training as a counselor, I learned all kinds of wonderful therapies that are expressive in their own right — such as Gestalt and Focusing and Family Systems therapy — that have all expanded my therapeutic perspective immeasurably.

Q: How do you balance professional responsibilities with your personal life?

A: It is very challenging. For the past three years I have not been home much. My partner has also finished her counseling designation and we will be setting up a practice together in the fall. I started my online business as a means of teaching from my home computer because I got tired of running out after working at my job all day to teach classes at night. My intention is to create a home business that involves more connection with my family.

Q: Sounds like you're a busy gal! We'd love to know — what's your favorite way to unwind after a long day at work?

A: When I am too busy, it feels as though all of my pieces are scattered out in the world. Because my life this past while has felt quite "head" and overly structured and practical, I crave pleasure, sensuality, naps, and lots of loose laughter and fun to consolidate me and get me back into one whole piece inside. Getting into my body through dance and exercise, and moving into my heart, engaging and connecting with my loved ones from a place of depth is the best medicine for me.

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Updated 1/10/14