I recently received an email from Kasia Tekielska, a Polish artist who used art making to help her heal during a recent lung surgery. After corresponding with her, I asked if I could share her story on my blog. I have posted my interview below.
My friend and mentor, Patricia Madson, introduced me to Kasia. Patricia wrote the book, Improv Wisdom, one of the best guides I know of for embracing a life filled with purpose driven action. Patricia is also a visual artist. She met Kasia through the Etegami Fun Club group on Facebook. When she introduced us by email, Patricia pointed out that there were many positive things about Kasia’s approach to her hospitalization. I agree.
Dylan Klempner: I’m so glad you wrote. How did you hear about me?
Kasia Tekielska: I’m Patricia’s etegami friend. It was nice to hear from Patricia about your work – Art in healing and in hospitals.
Dylan: Patricia told me that making art helped you cope with a recent hospitalization. What happened?
Kasia: I had to hear a very serious and horrible diagnosis. Painting etegami helped me survive it. First, a lung x-ray alarmed a physician and I had to face the diagnosis of malignant neoplasm. I was shocked not only by the news but by the way the doctor announced it to me. I had to go to a hospital to have biopsy. The date of my hospital admission was 26th December—Christmas time.
Dylan: How did you prepare for your hospitalization?
Kasia: I packed necessary things before Christmas and a small suitcase was ready. Guess what I began my packing with? A small bag with my art stuff. I must have felt subconsciously that I would need art.
Dylan: What did you do when you got to the hospital?
Kasia: No sooner had I entered the hospital then I started to paint etegami. I kept my two roommates busy thinking about what I was doing. I concentrated on designs and on the words, which I would like to write on the card. My roommates stopped talking about diseases and the hospital and started to ask me questions about my cards.
Dylan: Did you make only cards? What other items did you make?
After biopsy surgery I had to lie for two hours on my back. My art bag was in the drawer so I reached it, took an erasers out of it and my tiny little penknife and lying on my back I carved a seal for me – a flying crane. The idea for the cranes came from my friends who sent me good wishes when they heard about my health problems. Some of them were with cranes images- the bird of hope, longevity, happiness, loyalty, piety, beauty and love. While carving, the two hours I spent on my back passed unnoticed. Again my roommates were interested in my work, and when the seal was ready they asked me to seal their books, a sheet of paper, and even the cover of a prayer book. All in all, etegami helped my roommates, my family, and me. When they visited me or telephoned we could talk about art instead of our fears.
Dylan: Did you continue making art after you left the hospital?
Kasia: After I left the hospital I was in pain but again art helped me fight it. I focused my mind on sending my hospital etegami, going through cards, and thinking about new projects. Then, after a month I came back to my work. Art helped me again in the recovering period, when I had to struggle with side effects of my surgery, bad medical service, and pain.
Dylan: Do you have advice for people who are hospitalized or dealing with illnesses? Can art help them with the healing process?
Kasia: Focus on art, browse through art albums, or Google images. If you were involved in art before being hospitalized, think about new projects. Etegami artists can think about words to write on cards, optimistic quotations and ways to depict them. Art will let you gather your thoughts around different matters besides illness. Art will give you the joy that comes after finishing an art piece—especially if there is a recipient of your art.