The Art Cabriolet


FEATHER SENSE - The Seen Unseen

by Svetlana Bykovec (CATA Senior Art Therapist) AThR; BA(Psych);B.Hol.Couns; Dip.TAT

My art therapy practice has me working in a space with children with absolutely no verbal and often no mobile capacity. These sessions are engaged in complete silence and it is only through attunement to micro movements, muscles flexes or facial expression, that I am able to gauge whether the child is wanting to proceed with art making or stop. I attempt to tune into the invisible, the unsaid, using my own embodied, felt sense as a way of attuning to micro movements.

This idea of Feather Sense became fully realised in the work I was doing with these children, because in this space of creative collaboration, something was being communicated; something was happening. I would at times feel an emotion that, after checking-in, was not mine. Or an image would be so strong that I could see that image in the abstract forms we had painted together. Many times images had a profound significance with a particular child –a favourite toy, or a pet at home. From staff and family feedback, I learnt that these powerful moments were not originating from me but from the silent, immobile child I was collaboratively creating with. And it happens too many times to overlook.

To enter another’s imagery is to get to know the feel of their world, to sense them much more fully than we can in everyday life. And we discover a world that is shared, no longer simply inside ourselves, but coming alive and growing between ourselves and another. (Tufnell & Crickmay, 2004. p.42)

My curiosity around this unspoken, unseen space began to deepen as I began immersing myself into this inquiry and spent time in dwelling after the process. Using keywords and capturing what was left in the palette, I could feel the power of this space and simultaneously, its ambiguity. It was so hard to conceptualize, and in some ways as I write this, it still is. It has to be experienced and seen without seeing.  What Goddard (2006) refers to as peripheral seeing; where space is a non-place and where inside and outside are the same. This is the essence of what I experience in this space between myself and the child. There is a kind of merging and communicating beyond the usual connections. It is the realm of hands and colour, of textures and micro movements. A space of embodied relating and imagination where connection flows as easily as the paint.

Whenever I step into the space with a child, I come with an intention of curiosity and openness. I sit with the child attuning with my Feather Sense, picking up on all the subtleties both within and without where space becomes a part of the therapeutic journey. “Place exists on many different scales, however small it may be, it starts to become somewhere…things could happen here.” (Tuffnel & Crickmay, 2004. p.226) And things do happen. These children transform and transcend their conditions. There is something captured of their personalities, their identity and their uniqueness. It is a moment by moment checking in with my embodied experiencing as their paint laden hand slides down the canvas, or their fingers slightly move, or there is a smile in their eyes. These were the micro moments of lived experience during the art making, combined with micro movements (physical form or muscle tensions or relaxation), that informed me and enabled a collaborative, authentic expression.

Jung (in Raff, 2000), believed that there is an alchemy in the imaginal that plays a central role in spiritual growth. This resonates with me and why I will continue to witness and validate the children I am companioning, beyond words, with soul to soul connecting and creativity through my Feather Sense.

Invisible made visible



Ever present


Close your eyes and see



Raff, J. (2000). Jung and the alchemical imagination. Lake Worth, FL: Nicolas-Hays, Inc.

Goddard, H. (2006). Interview with Hubert Goddard in Contact Quarterly. Summer 2006 Vol 31, Number 2 pp. 32-38

Tufnell, M. & Crickmay, C. (2004) A widening field: journeys in body and imagination. Hampshire: Dance Books Ltd.

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