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The Berlin Method of Self-Narration for Artisans

By Elisabetta Abbondanza

 

In my workshops for creative and autobiographical writing as well as self-narration courses my goal is to consolidate the identity and self-awareness of the participants by writing about themselves, their memories, feelings and desires. The concentration on their own life events, transitions, paths, hurdles and victories, gains, is important to recollect past emotions and intensity they may have forgotten.

Also doing exercises about their present lives give them a security leash so not to get lost in the past memories and emotions.

In the seminar of creative writing and Self-Narration with artisans I teach artisans how to tell, write, narrate about living, working and communicating their art. The main problem here is that artisans already have a way to express their creativity, and are somehow not always ready to narrate their story and art by writing or speaking.   

So I agree that handicraft is the first self-narration form of an artisan, but I move beyond that and focus attention on the process of how they became an artisan, thereby finding their own identity and improving their skills in transferring their profound knowledge in an understandable and pleasant way (exercises on practice, material, efforts and success). 

Throughout various exercises of different duration the artisan participants are given an opportunity to write, to learn how to tell their stories, to decide what they really want to narrate, to put intensity in their narration, giving and making interviews, showing their working-process through drawings and sketches, film and photographs. 

The participants continue working on their self-narration-projects at home.

 

Curriculum 

1. I begin with a short warm up or preparatory exercise on the feelings of the present. In this case the goal is to open the creative flow (with writing about oneself, material, feelings of now). 

The participants write in their own language and read their texts, with a short translation for the other language speakers. 

I also demonstrate the daily “morning-pages-exercise”.

2. (LIFE) At first participants are asked to write a creative curriculum about their life as artisans. 

The curriculum should show in different steps their life as artisans (such as Self-portrait as a boy/girl, first work, first lesson, first exhibition etc.)

3. (MATERIAL) Afterwards I offer short concentration and speaking exercises. 

The participants have to think about the material they are working with in their handicraft - they discuss and decide in this moment if they want to write, paint, take photographs, make collages (or the form they want to narrate about the material they are working with). 

In the following three meetings they will implement their visual representation of the material. 

Afterwards I offer exercises about needs and wishes connected with the material.  

4. (GOOD MEMORY) In this exercise the students write (or draw, paint, give interviews) 15 to 20 minutes about a life-related subject, such about childhood, their family, best friends the time at school, the time at the artisans school, the teachers and about one or two important life-journeys (good memories + moment of glory).

With this exercise I would like to have them deeply reflect about memories, occurrences, the relationship between the past and the present. We want to recover the personal stories, the identity (or soul) lost on the road, left maybe at home or who knows where. It is a transition that creates bridges and identity through understanding and reconciliation with your own destiny.

5. (CRISIS) In the next exercise the participants write (or draw, paint, give interviews) about crisis and difficulties in their life and work.

6. (WISH & DREAM) In the sixth exercise the participants write or paint a dream.

The participants write or paint or make a sculpture of a wish, a desire, maybe an imaginary conversation with some friendly creature about their future. This helps them focus on their present wishes and needs as well on unconscious ones, which also flow into their in activities. 

7. At home participants have to fulfill a little wish and then describe in little steps how they did it.

In writing about themselves, their dreams and their view of the world participants may find a fresh take on their own life and their “inner voices”. 

This provides them with a base to communicate with, which is very important in order to work and let society participate in their handicraft.

I have also had the experience, that artisans often do not feel comfortable sharing too much of themselves with each other. Their handicraft is their language, so they are very fixated on what they do, and do not communicate so much about it. In fact some participants need to work for a while, alone or in groups simply about communication (speaking, writing, reading, giving and taking interviews, explaining a vision or decision). It’s necessary to let the participants find their own rhythm.

The participants have also to find the right approach to get in touch with their own singular experiences. This is the main objective of the exercise.  

The authenticity of narration is of the utmost significance, because in fair-mindedness and honesty participants see the power, forces and problems in a conscious way. In the aftermath the mind finds and develops remedies (solutions) for challenges that arise.

When participants have the chance to let their creativity flow, especially in open dreaming, wishing, imaginative actions and visions, they feel free. This freedom shows them new ways and paths to develop their art as well as to find more self-confidence in what they do and to communicate with the external world and transfer their knowledge.  

After doing an exercise all participants are allowed to take part in the conversation about it, to ask questions about it, without judgement or advice. This, of course, must be done in a supportive manner. 

In writing about their past and present experiences, activity about their relationships, art, difficulties, competitors or helpers, obstacles and aspirations, participants relive many emotions. A form is necessary in order to give them a control or a security line. It can also happen that someone is blocked. I give suggestions and offer exercises to help overcome these blockades. 

The communication that takes place between the different persons in the Self-Narration-Artisan-Group - narrating and listening is enriching and helps them understand others points of view and emotions (as well as solutions to problems).

Reflecting on different perspectives of the artisans is very important. Mingling, meeting, exchanging points of view on what we observe is an extraordinary enrichment (closing yourself off is an illusion, a display of weakness, a defeat). 

There is a need to recover personal stories, paths and identities that might have been lost along the way of the Artisan work. Parts of the soul which might have remained at home, or slipped away, when one went off to find work, fled or simply looked for a new form of subsistence. These lost parts need to be reintegrated and when they are they give new energy and endurance to the creative process.

The Berlin Method of Self-Narration for Artisans

By Elisabetta Abbondanza

 

In my workshops for creative and autobiographical writing as well as self-narration courses my goal is to consolidate the identity and self-awareness of the participants by writing about themselves, their memories, feelings and desires. The concentration on their own life events, transitions, paths, hurdles and victories, gains, is important to recollect past emotions and intensity they may have forgotten.

Also doing exercises about their present lives give them a security leash so not to get lost in the past memories and emotions.

In the seminar of creative writing and Self-Narration with artisans I teach artisans how to tell, write, narrate about living, working and communicating their art. The main problem here is that artisans already have a way to express their creativity, and are somehow not always ready to narrate their story and art by writing or speaking.   

So I agree that handicraft is the first self-narration form of an artisan, but I move beyond that and focus attention on the process of how they became an artisan, thereby finding their own identity and improving their skills in transferring their profound knowledge in an understandable and pleasant way (exercises on practice, material, efforts and success). 

Throughout various exercises of different duration the artisan participants are given an opportunity to write, to learn how to tell their stories, to decide what they really want to narrate, to put intensity in their narration, giving and making interviews, showing their working-process through drawings and sketches, film and photographs. 

The participants continue working on their self-narration-projects at home.

 

Curriculum 

1. I begin with a short warm up or preparatory exercise on the feelings of the present. In this case the goal is to open the creative flow (with writing about oneself, material, feelings of now). 

The participants write in their own language and read their texts, with a short translation for the other language speakers. 

I also demonstrate the daily “morning-pages-exercise”.

2. (LIFE) At first participants are asked to write a creative curriculum about their life as artisans. 

The curriculum should show in different steps their life as artisans (such as Self-portrait as a boy/girl, first work, first lesson, first exhibition etc.)

3. (MATERIAL) Afterwards I offer short concentration and speaking exercises. 

The participants have to think about the material they are working with in their handicraft - they discuss and decide in this moment if they want to write, paint, take photographs, make collages (or the form they want to narrate about the material they are working with). 

In the following three meetings they will implement their visual representation of the material. 

Afterwards I offer exercises about needs and wishes connected with the material.  

4. (GOOD MEMORY) In this exercise the students write (or draw, paint, give interviews) 15 to 20 minutes about a life-related subject, such about childhood, their family, best friends the time at school, the time at the artisans school, the teachers and about one or two important life-journeys (good memories + moment of glory).

With this exercise I would like to have them deeply reflect about memories, occurrences, the relationship between the past and the present. We want to recover the personal stories, the identity (or soul) lost on the road, left maybe at home or who knows where. It is a transition that creates bridges and identity through understanding and reconciliation with your own destiny.

5. (CRISIS) In the next exercise the participants write (or draw, paint, give interviews) about crisis and difficulties in their life and work.

6. (WISH & DREAM) In the sixth exercise the participants write or paint a dream.

The participants write or paint or make a sculpture of a wish, a desire, maybe an imaginary conversation with some friendly creature about their future. This helps them focus on their present wishes and needs as well on unconscious ones, which also flow into their in activities. 

7. At home participants have to fulfill a little wish and then describe in little steps how they did it.

In writing about themselves, their dreams and their view of the world participants may find a fresh take on their own life and their “inner voices”. 

This provides them with a base to communicate with, which is very important in order to work and let society participate in their handicraft.

I have also had the experience, that artisans often do not feel comfortable sharing too much of themselves with each other. Their handicraft is their language, so they are very fixated on what they do, and do not communicate so much about it. In fact some participants need to work for a while, alone or in groups simply about communication (speaking, writing, reading, giving and taking interviews, explaining a vision or decision). It’s necessary to let the participants find their own rhythm.

The participants have also to find the right approach to get in touch with their own singular experiences. This is the main objective of the exercise.  

The authenticity of narration is of the utmost significance, because in fair-mindedness and honesty participants see the power, forces and problems in a conscious way. In the aftermath the mind finds and develops remedies (solutions) for challenges that arise.

When participants have the chance to let their creativity flow, especially in open dreaming, wishing, imaginative actions and visions, they feel free. This freedom shows them new ways and paths to develop their art as well as to find more self-confidence in what they do and to communicate with the external world and transfer their knowledge.  

After doing an exercise all participants are allowed to take part in the conversation about it, to ask questions about it, without judgement or advice. This, of course, must be done in a supportive manner. 

In writing about their past and present experiences, activity about their relationships, art, difficulties, competitors or helpers, obstacles and aspirations, participants relive many emotions. A form is necessary in order to give them a control or a security line. It can also happen that someone is blocked. I give suggestions and offer exercises to help overcome these blockades. 

The communication that takes place between the different persons in the Self-Narration-Artisan-Group - narrating and listening is enriching and helps them understand others points of view and emotions (as well as solutions to problems).

Reflecting on different perspectives of the artisans is very important. Mingling, meeting, exchanging points of view on what we observe is an extraordinary enrichment (closing yourself off is an illusion, a display of weakness, a defeat). 

There is a need to recover personal stories, paths and identities that might have been lost along the way of the Artisan work. Parts of the soul which might have remained at home, or slipped away, when one went off to find work, fled or simply looked for a new form of subsistence. These lost parts need to be reintegrated and when they are they give new energy and endurance to the creative process.


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