Making a mosaic

Chris Shoulder is Group Facilitator for the Peer Support Art Group at Lambeth Integrated Psychological Therapy Team (IPTT). Here he writes about how the group designed and created a mosaic, which was unveiled in December.

Mosaic Image

The peer support groups bring people together who know what it's like to experience mental health issues. They can get involved in a range of social activities and events to promote recovery and maintain wellbeing.

Our idea was to produce an uplifting work of art, that visually represented how it feels to be in recovery and what maintaining a healthy mental wellbeing might look like. Of course, being in recovery does not mean recovered. We are all ongoing works in progress.

We began by drawing, painting and sketching our own interpretations of how feeling mentally well might look. There was a lot of discussion and more than a little anxiety about "getting it right". I explained that there is no definitive image of how mental health may appear. It's a personal thing; it may be a flower, music, the sea, something completely abstract. This was somewhat encouraging and, after several sessions we had produced some strikingly unique and fabulous pictures. The explanations behind the designs were also special.

It wasn't always plain sailing. There were disagreements and one or two incidents that needed immediate attention. Yet we were able to reach compromises that suited us all. Once we were all happy with our designs, Gareth photocopied them and blew them up. Each design was cut into four sections and placed in a particular order onto the MDF. Once drawn up, Katrina (also a Group Facilitator) and I, along with a bit of help from one or two group members, jigsawed round the edges and created a few holes to give the piece some movement.

Rather foolishly, because I've been glass cutting for over 20 years, I assumed people would pick it up with no bother! As to be expected it didn't quite work out like that. Understandably, the main worry was about cutting themselves - which over the 18 months we worked on the mosaic, rarely happened.

With a bit of perseverance and a lot of encouragement, after a few sessions, everyone started to get the knack of using the glass cutters. Obviously, some people picked it up quicker than others. However, that worked out well, because they were able to assist those who were finding it a bit tricky. Eventually everyone was up and running.

It was very satisfying to see the confidence growing within the group. It was always exciting to see the progress. Each part segued into the next, connecting everyone's designs, eventually producing one glorious dazzling image.

The mosaic project has turned our group into a very eccentric and rather fabulous little family. It has been a wonderful learning process, empowering and confidence-building, for individual members and as a team. There is a great sense of achievement and pride in the massive task we committed to. I am completely overwhelmed with pride at the amount of effort put in by group members, and how they have flourished throughout the project.

At the unveiling on Monday 11 December, we were joined by therapists, members of other peer groups, facilitators and my lovely boss, Sheila, from Lambeth hospital.

Marilyn, who I work with at PICuP, (Psychological Interventions Clinic for Outpatients with Psychosis), based at the Maudsley, came to show her support, which was greatly appreciated. There was a great mix of people in attendance. Several people from the Peer Writing Group had been inspired to write something by the mosaic. Their readings were very moving and poignant. It was a very memorable occasion.

Thank you to Katrina, my fellow group facilitator, who was always there with an encouraging word and loads of support.

We're already onto our next project, 'Memory Boxes', Katrina's idea.

Feedback from group participants

"At the beginning…my anxiety level was through the roof. I was very doubtful I would see this project through but with the assurance of the facilitators I became less worried and more comfortable with the process."

"The collaborative mosaic project we have been working on has been a brilliant experience that has brought me out of my shell a little bit and helped me gain more confidence in my own artwork. The project helps with focus, experimenting with new ways of working. For example, my work has become less rigid and more spontaneous as I watched and learned from others in the group. And that has carried through into my interactions with people helping with my feelings of isolation and shyness."

"It was amazing, confidence building. Mood improvement."

"Felt so proud. I wanted to shout from the rooftop. What an amazing feat we have achieved."

"I hope we have made a work of art that will be displayed and hopefully brings happiness to others."

"On reflection of the mosaic project I found it to be a very positive experience working as a team member, working on my own individual design, learning and achieving how to create a mosaic piece and I would recommend it to anyone, if asked."

"It made me happy and calm".

Written by Chris Shoulder, Group Facilitator for the Peer Support Art Group at Lambeth IPTT and Peer Recovery Officer at Psychological Interventions Clinic (Outpatients) at the Maudsley Hospital

With thanks to

Peer Support Coordinators, Gianni Crotti and Theresa Ryan-Enright
Group Facilitator, Katrina Desportes

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