Final Major Project – Who was Edith Kramer?

Edith Kramer

I am nearing the end of my final year at University, which means it is now time for my Final Major Project! Despite the setbacks caused by the pandemic, I have been excited to start researching and making the last model for my degree.

I have chosen to make a wax bust of the late artist and pioneer of the Art Therapy movement, Edith Kramer. I was first introduced to Kramer during my dissertation research, and really admire her approach to creativity and people.

Edith Kramer was born in 1916 in Vienna and became involved with art early on in her life. Her childhood learning happened in one of Vienna’s progressive and liberal school, with her first art teacher being Trudl Hammerschlag. Later, she studied under the inspiration of the artist Friedl Dickers, who has been stated as a notable influence on Kramer’s later work.

Frederika “Friedl” Dicker-Brandeis (30 July 1898 Vienna – 9 October 1944 Auschwitz-Birkenau)

In the 1930s, Kramer came to America as a political refugee, where she got involved with teaching, and later worked as a mechanic during the second world war. It was in the latter that we saw her interest in social realism art, in particular her interest in people.

The first time Kramer officially worked as an art therapist, was at the Wiltwyck School for Boys in 1950. She continued to run therapeutically oriented art programmes at Leak and Watts Children’s Home from 1960 – 1963, and later worked with the Guild School of the Jewish Guild for the Blind from 1964 – 1974. She was officially given the title of art therapist some time into her career and dedicated a large percentage of her working life to research and setting up training programmes at various universities around the US.

She worked predominantly with a psychoanalytical approach, influenced by Freudian theories of sublimation and the unconscious. However, she was not simply a Freudian copycat and merged both psychoanalysis and art together. This was influenced through her early education by Hammerschlag who introduced her to the ‘free and unconventional expression of unconscious feelings’ in art and later, by Dickers’ teachings which showed her practical ways in which art can be used by children and adolescents to process traumatic experiences. These educational experiences build Kramer’s knowledge about both art and psychoanalysis, from which the term ‘art therapist’ was coined for her.

There were multiple ideas and theories that Kramer contributed to the field of art therapy that are still used by practitioners today to make a real difference in people’s lives, just as she did. Particularly, the art therapists’ ‘Third Hand’ – a way of supporting a child’s creative process so that they may use it to accept their inner conflict and feelings. She saw a great power in the creative process that artists cultivate in helping others to make sense of their own experiences.

Kramer, E. (1977). Art therapy in a children’s community.
Kramer, R. (1978). Art as therapy with children.
Kramer, E. (2001). Art as therapy: collected papers.

Her unconventional approaches have made a lasting impact on the field of art therapy, and subsequently, on so many people in the past and future. Personally, I have been really encouraged by her ideas – I have been studying a creative degree for nearly three years and have experienced an inkling of the power of that process that she writes about so eloquently. It seems quite fitting then, that I end my undergraduate university studies by commemorating Kramer’s significance, and relating it to my own experience of creativity.


Strategic Action Plan

Building on my last blog post in which I identified aspects of my future career pathway I am anxious about, I wanted to develop more of a strategic action plan to provide structure for myself after graduation.

I started by using SWOT analysis to identify my strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities. This was helpful in identifying objectives that I wanted to focus on further in the remainder of this year, and beyond.

I used this analysis to set up my nine main objectives that will give me structure for the development of my career in art therapy. I set these out alongside my Career Path Diagram, which describes a far more general yet necessary path to become registered with HCPC and BAAT, and practise as an art therapist.

These nine objectives are as follows:

  1. I need to graduate to have a better chance of getting a job.
  2. It is difficult getting to job opportunities without a car. I need to pass my driving test in July.
  3. I do not have enough clinical work experience. I will contact Occupational/Art Therapy teams at hospitals to ask for shadowing opportunities, and also look for volunteering roles.
  4. I need a job after graduation. I would like this to be in the healthcare industry because it will help me gain more clinical experience to apply for the Masters programme.
  5. I need/would like more training in the mental health field.
  6. I would like more experience in organising art workshops. I will set up ‘Sunday Workshops’
  7. I need to establish my personal brand online.
  8. I need to plan how I will manage if I get a job in the healthcare industry.
  9. I need formal postgrad training and accreditation to have enough knowledge to practise as an effective art therapist. I will apply for a postgrad Masters programme, and get accredited with the HCPC and BAAT.

I broke down these objectives into smaller steps to form my Action Plan for my career. Next I will show you an example of how I broke down one of these objectives into further action points. If you are my tutor reading this, please refer to my ‘LaunchPad Supporting Documents’ file for my full Action Plan!

Objective 3 – Gain more clinical work experience.

This objective is one of my most important ones that I will focus on in the foreseeable future – I would like to have a deeper understanding of working with vulnerable people to explore how I can use art and creativity to support them. This was part of the feedback I got back from my interviewers’ for the job I recently applied for – although they were pleased with my enthusiasm for the role and the potential benefit of harnessing my creativity, they informed me that I would have had a greater chance of success if I had more experience working with mental health. Therefore, a large part of my Action Plan is focused on this.

Additionally, an equivalent of one year’s full-time experience in the healthcare industry is important to get accepted into a Masters programme so I can receive formal training in art therapy and have the opportunity to register with the HCPC and BAAT.

In my Career Path Diagram I show that this equivalates to roughly 2,080 hours of work experience. However, after attending the virtual Open Day for Roehampton University MA Art Psychotherapy course, I have learnt that a lot of the times, these courses aren’t looking for that exact number of work experience hours. It is a rough estimate they use to judge whether you have an existing knowledge of mental health and healthcare. Saying this, I have chosen to keep the qualitative amount in my Career Path Diagram because it will give me structure and motivation.

When I am applying for the Masters course, I can also look to the BAAT organisation for training in preparing portfolios. They also offer additional training courses such as introductions to art therapy that I could consider taking part in the future.

Additionally, there are also further training opportunities (not including MA courses) which I could make use in the future before applying for the Masters course, such as Foundation courses from colleges and universities. Below are some of these:

SMART Goals and Timeframe Planning

After establishing my Action Plan by breaking down each objective into smaller steps, I used the SMART method of setting goals to apply timeframes to my objectives. Afterwards, I could use these timeframes to organise my action plan further into a six-monthly plan.

This is my action plan for the next 6 months. I am fully aware that this will probably change and have prepared to amend this.

After 6 months, it becomes a little difficult to predict and plan what objectives will become important to me. Therefore, for my 1 year timeframe goals, I have picked two of the most important ones for me: more clinical experience and further training. The latter is my main goal for my 1 year timeframe – I would like to save up enough money to apply for a Foundation or introductory course in art therapy. This will give me more of an idea of whether I would like to pursue art therapy as a career and prepare for postgraduate study. In terms of my long-terms goals, I would like to apply for a Masters course within the next 5 years.

I will make a new action plan yearly to clarify my main objectives for the upcoming year.

Sunday Workshops

An important aspect of my action plan are my ‘Sunday Workshops’ that I would like to set up. At the start, these would be workshops I would lead with friends and family to practise organising art activities.

Have a look at Art Therapy Resources for their tips and guidance on organising workshops!

These will be a chance for me to experiment, and later develop my skills to increase my confidence in leading these types of activities. I would like to develop this idea further in the next six months by contacting local museums and asking whether I would be able to set up and lead some art workshops with them.

I will also be able to use the footage of these workshops with permission of the participants on my Instagram to advertise myself and my aspirations. Combine this with my plan to do the #100daysofmeotionalliteracy challenge, I will be able to set up my online brand more effectively.

There is only one thing left to do – let’s get working!

Anxious about the future? So am I!

Feeling a little suffocated by anxiety and excitement about the future? Time to find solutions. In this illustration I was getting overwhelmed by my itchy sweater, and my solution was to draw it!

Exciting news!

I have been exploring the job market for a role that I could apply to that would give me the opportunity to use my experience with creativity and passion for care together to help people. After applying to one of the advertisements, I was shortlisted for an interview! It was incredibly motivating to speak to people who work in the healthcare industry and to have the opportunity to introduce myself to them.

While this has increased my enthusiasm for entering this field and developing a career in art therapy, it showed me that I have some anxieties about the future. They are mainly centred around the fact that I do not have as much clinical experience as I would like to have. While I have been working at a care home as a Receptionist since 2017, and before volunteered as a Teaching Assistant at a Polish Language School, I think I would need some support in the workplace with medical terminology.

This makes me anxious as to whether I would be able to find future jobs in the wellbeing sector, as there are always other candidates who would have had more experience in the field than me. Why should the employers choose me?

During the interview, I wanted to settle the interviewers’ hesitance on my experience by acknowledging this limitation, while showing that I am already working on developing my technical knowledge. I really enjoy learning about the connection between creativity and wellbeing through peer-reviewed journals, and published books written by past pioneers of art therapy such as Edith Kramer, and contemporary practitioners. I also have yearly training from my workplace in safeguarding vulnerable adults, and the ‘Mind the Gap’ programme which has been wonderful at teaching me the challenges of dementia.

At the same time, I have also been looking at further training opportunities I could get involved with to develop my knowledge of the mental health field. I have found a Mental Health First Aid training course that I would really love to do one day. The course costs £300 per person, so I am going to save up and plan to book a place on the course within the next 6 months.

There are also further courses I could get involved with, through the Future Learn website to get more of an understanding on mental health or save up further and complete an accredited course through the Open University. Eventually, I am really motivated to complete a postgraduate degree in Art Therapy.

Mental Health First Aid Training
Open University offers different accreditation from certificates, to diplomas, and degrees.

Moreover, I could also network with local hospitals, to enquire whether their Occupational Therapists or Art Therapists might be available to answer some questions for me, and perhaps even allow me to shadow them for a day!

Lastly, I could also get involved with volunteering opportunities with local and nationwide charities, such as the Mind charity, to gain further experience and become more confident in my skills. I am anxious of making a mistake in the future during care, which is why I am so passionate about becoming more confident in myself, and the best way to do that in my opinion is to increase my knowledge and gain some first-hand experience.

Some of my other worries, involved more practical issues. For instance, I still don’t have a driving license! While I have a test booked for July, I am frustrated that I am finding it less accessible to travel for job opportunities.

Furthermore, I am also wondering whether my passion for getting involved with work and people, will make it more difficult for me to keep developing my identity as an artist due to less time or motivation. I think it is important to keep working on your relationship with creativity if you are using this medium to connect with and facilitate the wellbeing of others.

I will work on setting up a structure for myself after graduation to make sure I do not let my tasks and responsibilities take charge of me. I value my organisational abilities and will capitalise on these to provide myself with a structure I will be able to rely in times of stress, making sure I also make time for exploring my artist identity and fluidity.

In a nutshell, I am anxiously-excited to get started!

Building My Professional Brand

As a graduating modelmaker, I am finishing my course with a wide range of transferable skills and knowledge. I have come to understand myself as a versatile maker, curious to explore all kinds of art and craft activities, that I would like to continue to develop as part of my professional brand.

At the same time, I do not want to make and create for commercial purposes – I want to work closely with people, and use my passion for art to help them. Therefore, I would like to start gaining more experience in clinical settings, using my knowledge of visual arts as a helping tool. To do this, I need to define a personal professional brand that I can use to explain myself to potential future employers quickly and effectively.

To help figure this out, I started out by defining my Points of Parity (POP) that I have, and need to gain, and my Points of Difference (POD). I used my previous research into art therapy as a career, and also attended some Open Days (digital of course!) for various Art Psychotherapy Master’s degree courses. This has been really helpful in gaining a deeper understanding into what is expected from someone working with art in a clinical setting, and has made me even more excited and determined to do this.

Through defining my POP and POD, I was able to write a personal statement that I can use to introduce my professional brand to others. I used this statement as the basis for writing and designing all of my other professional documentation such as my portfolio and business cards.

There is a few ways I have worked to show what I mention in my personal statement in all my other professional documents. For instance, I have shown my versatility as a maker in my portfolio, through my selection of images. Each model and artwork I have chosen for my portfolio, has been significant for my identity as a maker, but also could be used by others to facilitate their wellbeing.

I have also chosen to use an outline of one of my models, as part of my brand. These are my little frog candles, which I started making first as stress management, and later turned into a small side-business. They are important to me, because they are made using the same mould from one of my earlier models, which showed me that I would like to work closely with people in the future. Other design choices include my muted colour palette, which considers the viewer and whether they have any sensory sensitivities.

Note – you can also find little illustrations of the frog candles on this page! Hint, they are used as bullet points.

Overall, I would like to portray my personal professional brand as a curious artist, maker, and facilitator.

Professional Skills and Attributes – What next?

Researching further into art therapy as a field has really inspired me to consider my own personal skills and attributes, and what I could focus on improving to help my professional personality.

I considered my time at University and what attributes I have learned about myself, and what skills I have developed. I have split up the skills into two categories – technical and personal. I have highlighted skills and attributes which I think could be particularly transferable to art therapy as a career.

Studying modelmaking at University has highlighted some of my personal attributes, such as creativity and curiosity. This has been really helpful during projects, as I naturally tended to delve a little deeper into the research which informed my making, and my understanding of the world around me. I have noticed I am very curious about many art processes, and have build up a familiarity with numerous materials and techniques.

My studies have also taught me to develop my problem-solving skills, while emphasising the advantage of building an adaptable mindset. It’s been really useful during moments when my projects went wrong, and I had to use my initiative to find alternative ways of completing my models. I believe this has also been really important in helping me develop resilience and resourcefulness.

At the same time, I have been working in a nursing home for over three years since I’ve turned 18 years old. I also volunteered with children in a school for a number of years before that. I have learnt that I have a really big passion for people from these experiences. I think my listening skills are a strong attribute – in both guiding the students during activities and when talking with the residents. During my time at the nursing home, I quickly learned that people communicate in very different ways, and some may struggle more than others. It has really helped me be more openminded and to find alternative ways of communicating when needed.

My work and studies have also shown me my weaknesses and what I could work on. For instance, I can find time management to be a bit of a struggle sometimes and will need to learn to remind myself of the bigger picture and not hyper-focus on the small details of a task or project. I believe working on effective goal setting might be helpful with this. Additionally, emotional stability is an incredibly important skill for someone working in therapeutic/clinical situations – I would really like to develop this area more in order to be a more active listener.

Moreover, my University studies have also shown me that I often feel uncomfortable working in larger groups. This is something that I would really like to work on, as art therapists often have to work with many other colleagues from different professions. They also often have to present themselves to potential employers, raising awareness of the benefits of art therapy. I would like to focus on expanding my overall business and entrepreneurship skills in general – I already have experience in administration so I think a viable next step is to expand my knowledge and confidence in these areas.

Overall, I believe my experiences have helped me to build a self-awareness of myself and shown me areas that I could focus on more to develop myself as an artist, creator, and facilitator.

Preparing for Graduation – Future Career Aspirations

For a while now I have been becoming more interested in Art Therapy as a field. After completing my dissertation, I have been even more inspired to pursue this as a future career. From my experiences working with both children and the elderly, I have become really passionate about supporting people through art.

Art therapist work with a wide variety of people to help them use art media as a mode for expression and communication. In the UK, they may work in many sectors, such as the NHS, private practise, schools, charities, prisons, social services etc. There are also rising opportunities in mainstream education, and museums and galleries. Most art therapists start up their careers on a self-employed basis and will often work with other professionals. BAAT (British Association of Art Therapists) explains that most art therapists are currently employed in the south of England and London. Important to note, sometimes there are generic and related jobs advertised on the market that may be suitable for an art therapist to apply for. For instance, ‘Officers’ in Social Services. These are great opportunities for the applicant to convince the organisation that they would benefit from an art therapist.

Practitioners in the field must first have the appropriate training and qualifications before they can start working as art therapists. While this differs in each country, in the UK they must complete a postgraduate diploma in art therapy or psychotherapy. This degree must be recognised by the HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council). To apply for this degree, applicants require an undergraduate degree in an art-based subject, although other relevant degrees might also be considered.

These postgraduate courses require applicants to have at least an equivalent of a years full-time work experience working with vulnerable people. This can be done by volunteering and shadowing staff members in environments such as schools, hospitals, and other related areas that focus on supporting the welfare of an individual. Work experience can be particularly difficult to obtain for this career, as the nature of the work deals with sensitive information.

After qualifying and registering with the HCPC, an art therapist must continually further and develop their knowledge and skills.

Some of the important qualities of an art therapist include interpersonal and listening skills, imagination and enthusiasm, and ability to create a non-judgemental space to encourage trust and participation for the client. Entrepreneurial skills are also important – many art therapists will be networking with other health professionals, writing business proposals, and presenting to potential employers.

At the time of writing this post, there are several charities in Bournemouth which are looking for volunteers – although this has been affected by the pandemic restricting face-to-face meetings. Both the Dorset Mind charity, and the Space Youth Project are currently looking for Support Worker volunteers. After reading their relevant job descriptions, I think both would be amazing opportunities to learn more about the work both charities do and to learn how to work as part of a team to support young people through informal education and art.