New to Art Relief International

Hi! I'm Sophie and I'm from Brighton in England. I'm really excited to be working with ARI for the next three months.

My background is in printed textile design, which I studied at Leeds College of Art, graduating in 2010. For the last 2 years I've been based in Yorkshire designing for a womenswear retailer.

I've always wanted to travel and experience different cultures but it's taken me until now to find the right purpose. It was important to me to combine travelling with some sort of volunteering work as, I not only wanted to broaden my own horizons, I wanted to give something back.

I feel really passionately about the benefits of art and being creative, especially for people going through challenging times, whether it's dealing with neglect, bereavement or mental health issues. Art, in any form, is a way for people to express themselves and also offers a certain amount of escapism from whatever their problems may be. As someone who has had to deal with their own issues, I've always found being creative hugely beneficial. I believe everyone has it in them to be creative, they just maybe haven't discovered it yet!

Finding Art Relief International was a real light bulb moment for me. It combined the opportunity to visit Thailand, a country and culture that appealed greatly to me, with the chance to use my skills to benefit others. I've been here a couple of weeks now and so far it's been great. The team is wonderful and so dedicated to what they do. Chiang Mai is a beautiful city too, with so much to see and do. I'm constantly finding out about new places to visit.
Let the adventure continue!
Sophie x

Magical Chinese Flowers

This time at Wat Muen Nuen Kong we continued our global traveler's program and traveled to China and did little water lilies out of paper. 

After we unpacked our big world map, taught them some English vocabulary and explained that China isn't in North America but in Asia, quite close to Thailand. We decorated the flowers with colored pencils and crayons. 

Afterwards we folded each petal to the centre, which hid our decoration as the flowers were closed.

The last time there were a lot of preschool kids who joined our workshops and they really concentrated on their work today. It was very quiet and unusual with less action during the work period. When everyone finished, we had built a little pond where we placed our closed flowers. 

Very excited, we watched the flowers and when they open almost magically, the kids seemed quite amazed! 

Some kids were a little impatient and we had to tell them that they have to wait a few seconds until the flowers begin to open. Other kids tried to let their flower open a second time, but it wouldn't work while the paper was still wet. Once the paper becomes saturated by the water, the paper expands and needs more space, so the petals are pushed open.

I was very happy when most of the kids asked for some plain templates to take home. It was a fun workshop and it seems as if the children enjoyed it as much as I did.
Hannah :)


Self Portrait Collagraph Prints at Urban Light

This was my first time leading a workshop so I was really excited to be going to Urban Light today. Urban light offers support, including social and health care, education and housing, to boys and young men who are victims of trafficking and exploitation.
We were only expecting maybe five or six boys but I was really happy to see that we had so many more.

The concept of the workshop was to create self portrait collagraph prints using various colour combinations. Collagraph is a type of printing that uses collage to create a printing plate that can be used multiple times.
We started by getting the boys to draw themselves on their cardboard plates. They really enjoyed this part of the workshop.

Next they started collaging with different materials such as string, card, tin foil and different papers. This creates the relief and texture that will be printed. The next step was to paint their paper backgrounds in different colours while their plates dried in the sun.

After this was done they could begin rolling paint onto their card plates before printing them onto the painted paper. When choosing their colour combinations the boys had to think about what colour would print well on top of the other one. For example, they found that the darker colours, like the purple and brown, printed well on the lighter backgrounds.

The final prints came out really well and I think the boys really enjoyed themselves as well as learning a new technique. They were really engaged in the task and created some really great work!

- Sophie


peace and love and gratitude

 So here I am, back in Chiang Mai. It's finally resonating that this is my new home! After being quite the gypsy for the past few years, I've let opportunity arise in being free. So now that I have found purpose, I'm really happy to have landed here where it feels so true. When I came to volunteer last year with Art Relief International I was really impacted by the supportive and loving team that works together to bring art to so many marginalized groups around this beautiful Thai city. This program has opened my eyes and my heart to providing art as therapy. There is something truly amazing about being able to communicate in a visually creative sense, without using words, without hiding anything, and in just trusting the open environment that is created for all to share and to express.

Sometimes it feels like my soul is on fire. I feel so honoured to be able to be an integral part of this organization! I get to work with such amazing people who fully commit to creating art workshops for the specific needs of each group (and the participants really appreciate what we do). I also feel like there is so much to learn about being a leader: patience, understanding, earning respect, looking out for everyone's best interest, giving praise and criticism in balance... It's an amazing learning process and a great challenge. I've been so lucky in the support I've gotten from friends, family, the Cultural Canvas Thailand team, and volunteers. Each day is different in so many regards, presenting new challenges and rewards.

I also get the chance to focus on my own creativity and return to being a productive artist again, which I've been longing to do for sooooooooooo long! Chiang Mai is the perfect place to renew my creative senses. Everywhere I turn there is inspiration: in the streets, in nature, in the food, in the people. There is abundant life. I'm so thankful that life has brought me here again and look forward to what the future holds. With each passing moment I am grateful for this position, and humbled by its challenges. I couldn't be happier to be the new Art Director. Thanks to everyone for the support along the way, specifically to Sarah Lovett who has inspired and pushed me to get here and helped me integrate into living and working here. I'll miss you, you rock.
Peace and love and so much gratitude!


Squishy fun at Hope Home

Starting the day with a stop at Hope Home is a sure way to lift up your tired self! Today's aim was to stimulate the childrens' tactile senses by having them play with play dough. A previous encounter with the children demonstrated their tendency to put objects in their mouths (i.e., eating paint), thus I wanted to create something non-toxic and even edible. So, I present to you ladies and gentlemen- EDIBLE PLAY DOUGH! 

The mixture only takes three ingredients: cornstarch, whipped cream and a little bit of oil (you can also add a bit of food colouring for different colours if desired). Finding a good consistency is important, so if the dough is too crumbly, add more oil and if it's too oily or soft, you may want to add a bit more corn starch. 

However, there are many other online recipes you can use for play dough, slush, or slime that are safe for children. Here are some alternatives for edible playdough if you are interested: 


The volunteers introduced the edible play dough to the children by squeezing small balls of dough onto their hands. Some of them responded well by holding or squeezing the dough on their own. Sam actually held the play dough for some time and even squeezed a couple of times.


Joy seemed to respond while the dough was squished into her hands. She started to look around more, as if to acknowledge this new substance in her hands. 

Namchook was fairly engaged! He took interest in the dough and then started to pull it apart into pieces - this seemed to amuse him!

Working with this group can be challenging since most of the children have very limited motor skills and so most of them need to be carried all the time. Thus, it is important to provide activities to try to stimulate their senses. Of course, it is difficult to evaluate and fully understand whether or not these activities truly help. But perhaps the best way to measure this is simply through their smiles, laughter and overall energy. 

Hopefully, such art activities can provide different experiences which will help them build up their physical and mental strength as well. 


Paper inspired earrings

This was the first workshop that I would be leading and I was fairly nervous about it. However, I was immediately at ease once I arrived to the Wildflower Home (WFH). The environment was so tranquil and peaceful; I could not picture a better place for the women here with their children. 

The WFH women enjoy jewelry making and so I wanted to introduce a material that they could mix in with the regular beads and string they are used to. I have always enjoyed paper folding crafts and wanted to take advantage of a skill that I knew fairly well. Two of my favourites are 3-D star folding and paper cranes. At first glance, the finished product looks complicated to make, however they are actually fairly easy to make.

The WFH women enjoy jewelry making and so I wanted to introduce a material that they could mix in with the regular beads and string they are used to. I have always enjoyed paper folding crafts and wanted to take advantage of a skill that I knew fairly well. Two of my favourites are 3-D star folding and paper cranes. At first glance, the finished product looks complicated to make, however they are actually fairly easy to make.

The first step of the workshop was to ensure that all the women knew how to fold the 3-D stars. The most difficult part was at the beginning since forming the basic pentagon star shape involves tying a knot with the strip of paper. You have to be quite careful not to rip the paper and to not press down the star shape too soon, otherwise the shape might not form properly. Once the base star shape is completed, then you simply fold the long strip over and over the side of the star and gently squeeze the corners to pop up the star so it becomes 3-D! For detailed instructions on how to fold lucky stars see: 
and make your own!

It was interesting to see how engaged the women were. Despite the language barrier, I found that simple gestures and demonstrations helped the participants learn how to better their technique. I felt like this truly demonstrated the power of visuals and captured the essence of communicating through art. 

The participants got extremely creative! Some of them were even showing me a thing or two on how to place beads into a nice flower pattern. The women were learning so fast that we even had time to go over paper folding cranes (which was not going to be taught at first because I was not sure how long it would take to do the 3D star folding). A few of the women who came in later were so eager to learn, they kept calling me over to teach them how to fold 3D stars and cranes. All in all, it was such a rewarding experience to witness such enthusiasm and persistence to learn during my workshop. What a success!



Messy Melting Fun at Juvenile Detention Center

  Hello all!

After a two month break it was time again for Juvenile Detention Centre. JDC houses boys (10 -17 years old) all awaiting their sentencing for various crimes. The facility gives the boys the opportunity to participate in different classes including art, music, and sports as well as the chance to practice their religion.Today was my last time at JDC, but I was happy that I got the chance to lead the workshop!

After we played ChilliChilli (a warmup game) with them, which they seem to really enjoy, I explained the concept of my workshop:

I wanted to teach them the technique of melting crayons. To do this you just need a hair dryer to melt the crayons which are glued on to a piece of paper. When the crayons melt and flow down the paper, a form is created which looks like a little growing plant. So my idea was to see these forms as plants for the future! After the crayons dried the idea was to get the participants to think about what goals and dreams they have for the future and then draw it around the little plants.
Everything went a little different, but we got great outcomes and the boys enjoyed it anyway.

We had a big box of good crayons that would melt very good and fast, but the big box went missing! I had to change the concept of melting. The boys had to cut crayons very small and add some glue to them so that the bits would stick on the paper and not blow away when we put the heat of the hairdryer on it. But with too much glue it doesn’t work, because the glue stops the melting process. So we had to find the middle way, which took some time. But it seemed to me, that the boys enjoyed cutting crayons, getting messy and experimenting with it.

 All the melting stuff took longer than I planned. Because of that they didn’t have that much time to draw their dreams around the plants. So they mostly just drew something that they liked! But there were great outcomes. Some of the boys are amazing artists! They used the forms of the melting crayons very creatively and included them as a part of a picture, like a fire or a waterfall.

 In the end I was happy the way everything went. It just reminded me once more “just go with the flow”! I was a little bit sad that it was my last time in this great institution because each time I feel that I know how to interact with the participants better and enjoy it more!

All the best,
Hanna :)