Katie Conducts Art Workshops Focused on Well-being and Creative Self-care
What’s your story?
I am an art therapist, an art educator, and an artist. My Wild at Art Studio, in Central, is where I offer art workshops with a focus on emotional health, well being, and creative self-care.
When I arrived in Hong Kong thirty years ago, as an International School art teacher, I had no idea of the journey ahead! My path has always involved a passion for fostering creativity in others, in schools and in community settings. In the 90’s, I facilitated visual art projects for many local populations as part of the fledgling Youth Arts Festival. Working with environmental groups, I went on to create art projects to build connections with nature, so that people could experience the local Hong Kong environment, prompting them to discover a reason to protect it.
Arts facilitation work, in varied settings, has enabled me to observe the powerful creative life force that resides within everyone. Witnessing the profound healing and change that can result from making art, and reconnecting with one’s creativity, is what started me on the journey to become an Art Therapist. I have remained an independent artist throughout and continue to make art daily, in the shape of mixed media, handmade journals, and Mandala paintings.
What excites you most about your industry?
The driving need to create and to share that creative passion with others has inspired me to blend my roles as an art educator and art therapist. We were all born creative beings. As young children, we knew how to express ourselves as we discovered how to dance, make pictures, sing, and respond to music. What excites me is working with adults on a return journey to that primal creative self that has often remained dormant for many years. Helping people to find and access the voice that leads them to deeper discoveries, profound insights, and self-knowledge, is my passion. I know that art making helps people to build self-expressive tools which can enable growth, connection, and healing, throughout times of crisis, illness, stress, transition and challenges.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I came to Hong Kong for 2 years, and have stayed 30 years, so I have lived in Asia half my life! It’s my home. My son and my partner were both born here and I have extensive family ties along with many “framily” ties that have developed over the years. I live with my family on a small island in Hong Kong, and this is where I make art everyday.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love so many Asian cities for their myriad idiosyncrasies, yet Hong Kong is my much loved home where I have always felt that I could do or be whatever I wish. People here are extremely agile in their responses to growth and change, they are exceptionally adaptable and that suits my work ethic and nature. Hong Kong people have a deeply ingrained resilience.
I also love the extreme contrasts of pristine high-rise buildings alongside gritty, grimy alleyways. The dense urban streets set against a backdrop of dramatic mountains and the ever-changing ocean provide unending inspiration.
The dichotomy and fascination of Hong Kong is that art is everywhere and often exists in highly unexpected contexts such as temples, galleries, and factory units, as well as on outlying islands! Surprisingly, artists and art communities can be found co-existing with manufacturing businesses in factory buildings on industrial estates across Hong Kong.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“This too shall pass” is a Persian adage, translated, and used in multiple languages. It reflects on the temporary nature of the human condition. It is powerful in its simple message that we live a cyclical life, where everything is in motion, and we are really never actually still, or even stuck. It’s a potent mental health reminder in times of distress or trouble that there is always an end in sight, and it gives me a sense of hopefulness and consolation.
Who inspires you?
My wise teacher, Cathy Malchiodi, is a tireless champion who has gone on to bring the ancient, yet lesser known, health care practice of Art Therapy into a more mainstream environment. She effectively communicates that art has been used in healing for thousands of years, as a way to communicate and express, not only celebration and beauty, but also the emotions of struggle, crisis and trauma. She is truly a beacon of light.
From my perspective, I feel that the Wild at Art community of creatives who truly light up my life, are rather like my garden. I love to tend and water the garden, as I watch the budding and blossoming of people as they make their way towards self-discovery through their art. This sustains me and I am truly grateful and inspired every day.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
How profoundly powerful our deep yearning for community and connection is, at a time when isolating and distancing has forced people to stay home and “socially distance” themselves. People are taking extraordinary steps towards innovation and invention in order to find new ways to meet, collaborate, and share online. Now, more than ever, we need to stay connected with others and with ourselves.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I loved working for a big and progressive school, so it was difficult to leave! I know I could have launched my Wild at Art Studio years earlier, but I had to lay the foundations, over time, for transitioning from the world of art education. I qualified as an Art Therapist along the way, while building up the courage to spread my wings and trust myself to become an entrepreneur!
How do you unwind?
By travelling to my island home on an open air ferry. I feel close to the elements and can watch the sea as I transition from city to village life. I walk everywhere on my island and am lucky enough to have a home art studio where I spend a great deal of time working on my own artworks.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Koh Ngai, in the Mu Ko Lanta National Park of Thailand, because it is a complete world away. It is only accessible by boat, so it feels like a real retreat. My family loves to spend holidays underwater and the waters are pristine, with utterly fascinating marine life. Also, the colours of Thailand are calming and healing, it feels like home. This is my happy place.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“The Right-Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success,” by Jennifer Lee.
This book helps entrepreneurs, like me, to access tools to imagine and create a business plan when left-brain thinking is not familiar territory! As someone who has moved from the world of art education to art business, this book felt like a comfortable fit and helped me to create a vision for Wild at Art Studio using visual tools that are familiar, comfortable and practical to use.
Shameless plug for your business:
Wild at Art Studio is unique to Hong Kong in bringing art for self-care to many diverse populations. Businesses today are seeking cost-effective ways to reduce workplace stress. Wild at Art offers a range of ways to use art making as preventative health care for employees through stress relieving techniques, such as mindfulness art activities. The blend of my training in both art education and art therapy enables me to deliver workshops that are highly targeted to each audience, specifically focused on emotional health, well-being and creative self-care.
Workshops are now being widely taken up, in many spheres, as a way to offer employees some breathing space, a way to think and perceive through a new lens, and as a method of developing creative problem solving skills. Insight is gained through fostering personal creativity as a way to relieve tension.
I work with various companies and schools in Hong Kong to develop bespoke programmes for wellness opportunities. Themes include personal growth, insight, self awareness, stress management, anxiety management, living with depression, body image, and building community.
Let’s meet and create a program for your specific needs.
How can people connect with you?
Wild at Art Studio
2-4 Elgin Street, Central,
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.