Dough Workshops, Ayr 2021

Notes on Dough Workshop Sessions at Narture  W/B 8th November 2021

F  at Narture, one to one, 09/11/21

An easy going session . I suggested a slot each and she launched very quicky into something very personal and painful.   I asked generally what she thought about  using dough for special needs and she talked about a blind boy she had worked with and thought this medium would be good for the blind/partially sighted. She was easy to open up and so the dough didn’t really play a part in her conversation. She was comfortable with it but there was nothing really specific going on.  But she acknowledged it is easier to talk while your hands are doing something.  

My own process was very much wanting to make F feel comfortable and listened to, to try to put her at her ease because I could tell she was feeling a bit unsure about this process.   She homed in on being adventurous and when we made the fists hers was very shy and unformed compared to mine.   A kind of nice analogy of her character she thought .  Checking out about giving people time to listen to me, whether people like this or not. I think that they actually feel valued by me talking about something significant and it gives them self esteem about being a good listener.  

One to one with J. 09/11/ 21   

Watching him play with the dough was fascinating. It never got past the sticky stage. We swapped in the end but funnily enough even the dough I left him became sticky.  Very gentle almost caress type movements on the two  pieces of dough that eventually came together as one.  It just stayed as a wall. It didn’t go anywhere. His whole dough play was sticky, his fingers sticky and he was stuck behind a wall.

I let him listen to me for a while and the more I think about this, me doing this  first seems to be productive. It gives them time to think about something to say but  more than this it lets them see it is a safe space to talk to me as I am telling them something that is relevant  and personal to me. 

My response to listenting to J was a very long rolled out piece of dough which eventually I pulled a piece off and made a  closed circle to show where he was stuck and not willing to sort out or explore. I put two bits of dough inside ,these got wound up and knurled just like his feelings inside. 

Session with I and A. 09/11/21

Two artists both very comfortable straight away with the dough, playing with the flour and appreciating  the texture of the flour.  A rolled the dough into a big long piece that she then very carefully  and methodically starting folding  at one end til she got half way. This was while she was talking about how  frustrated she feels about an issue in her life.   I loved the way only half of it was worked on and the other  remained untouched.  Potential? Artwork for the future?  How to get inspired??

Similarly I rolled out a long piece as well and made it very smooth then proceeded to ignore it and work on only two small pieces.. one was like a wee hat or he saw it as a nipple. The other was a tiny pizza. But his whole actions were very fine just pressing the edges and flattening the piece . really paying attention to fine detail not the bigger picture.   concentrating on this very small piece. His issues were similar to A with self doubt and being scared.   

My shape was a long dug out canoe with me paddling it into retirement  with a few wee people in the canoe to help me. I also had to repair some on the cracks to keep it afloat.  

Session with J 10/11/21

We had a long chat before playing,  about whether this type of activity would be suitable for her clients.  Her concerns are whether her clients would feel they are expected to ‘make’ something?   I assured her there is no agenda at all, clients can do whatever they feel like with the flour and dough.   She sounded very positive and this was further enhanced when she played with the dough herself. She found it quite liberating, relaxing and loved the unconscious outcome at the end!!

Session with G and A from a local school. 11/11/21

It took a while for them to get into playing with the flour.   This is really common as peopledon’t know what to do or what is expected of them.    But once they got going it was great to see them play. A  was interested in changing the consistency in her play,  adding  water and making it really squishy, listening to the noise and enjoying feeling the texture stickiness and wetness on her fingers.  She was making wet flour traces on the table and and also had a session of slapping it off the table. G started out like she was making scones and went through a stage of really enjoying hitting and thumping it. They had a dough interaction which was good and unusual with A often wanting to poke and interfere with G’s dough.   This reflected what a great relationship they have with each other.  

I have been thinking about my roll as facilitator. How much I get involved and interfere myself!  About what I make at my session, how I handle the dough. I think I will start using less flour for both me and ppt’s.  Today I didn’t have an agenda  and I was just about to then I decided just to let them get on and play. That was the right decision.  So with the group tonight I will do the same. Look for more spontaneous play and possible interaction.  So I guess its about tailoring the session to the clients needs. Its not always going to be about meaningful conversation in fact that brings in the cognitive side and maybe we are interested in just letting people play sometimes. 

Session 11/11/21.  C and her two teenage children C and S

The older child was a bit resistant to play, but after a wee while he certainly came round and became chatty.    The play went from being controlled and making shapes like their mother  was doing to then getting more flour and just making a mess. The young one really enjoyed this stage and spent a lot of time just enjoying making a mess, he really got absorbed  just in the medium. The older one was more suspicious of the dough to start but then some interesting characters  started appearing  and he started telling  stories about who they were and what their outcome might be.  

Working with different types of clients  can be challenging yet rewarding.   Getting as much as experience as possible with a whole spectrum of different clients with varying needs

Summary and Bullet Points

The client base this week was quite varied and with different needs.  Some sessions were about personal issues and became ‘soft’  counselling sessions.  Others were people from caring organisations and  a school where it was more about a leader experiencing a bit of dough work  and seeing whether it would benefit their client base.  A session with a family  that gave their children a different type of activity to explore.  

  • Beneficial to blind/ partially sighted
  • Easier to talk while hands are doing something
  • Telling the client something relevant and personal to the artist, lets them see it is a safe space to talk
  • Concerns are whether her clients would feel they are expected to ‘make’ something?   There is no agenda.
  • To start with clients don’t know what to do or what is expected of them.   
  • Sometimes its about allowing spontaneous play and possible interaction and about tailoring the session to the clients needs.
  • Getting as much as experience as possible with a whole spectrum of different clients with varying needs.


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