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Creativity has a healing effect on your soul

Bracha Fischel draws with her mouth – and the help of dog Dona

Bracha Fischel draws with her mouth – and the help of dog Dona

Leave aside boredom for a while and enjoy the change of scenery – being allowed to do everything but not having to do anything. Those who are spending time at the Studio for Creativity at Swiss Paraplegic Centre immerse into a different world. “Patients can access this oasis any time and distract themselves from the daily chores”, explains Iris Marti, who provides support for the inpatients here.

Drawing mandala, working with clay or rock, making jewelry, carving wood, dying silk or mouth painting: Here everyone can do what they like and what’s possible. “Being creative lets you forget your body for a moment and has a healing effect on the soul”, knows Iris Marti from experience. Even though many – especially men – think they are not talented enough.

Two hands work on a ball of clay on a wood board.

Bowls or also shapes can be made from clay. At the Studio for Creativity patients can simply try what they enjoy.

This type of activity is closely connected to the processing during rehabilitation: What do I need to let go of? What might I enjoy? How do I find new ways to spend my leisure time?

At the same time, your own body is not the focus but the subject of a picture or the idea for a wood figure. “As a result, you create a gift that you can give to a loved one – and you experience a small success story”.

The head can set the limits – and push them

Sitting in a corner crying – or finding new ways and keep going? Also Bracha Fischel had to ask herself this question 15 years ago. The woman from Zurich emigrated to Israel when she was a young woman in 1991, lived in Kibbutz, met her husband, had three daughters and worked as a nurse.

Then she became ill from rheumatoid arthritis which also affected her spine. After a surgery she was unable to move her arms and legs; the result was a tetraplegia with myelopathy.

Live on like this? “At first, I was only crying”, Bracha explains. During rehabilitation she learned how to write using her mouth. And then she met this young guy who painted despite being tetraplegic – with the paintbrush between his teeth. He said to her: You can grieve. Or you can change your life and do something. “He was right. It’s all in your head; since then I have freed myself from all limits.”

Bracha Fischel holds the brush in her mouth and paints. The easel is attached to the backrest of the wheelchair.

Concentrating on painting. The artist can no longer imagine living without paint and brush. She sits in front of her easel every day.

“Painting is everything for me. It replaces my legs and arms, reflects my soul.”

Bracha Fischel

Dog Dona helps her with painting

Already before her illness she used to paint in her house in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Often, however, there was not enough time. Bit by bit, after she became sick, Bracha learned how to hold the paintbrush or pen in hear mouth and how to move it with her tongue. She attended the distance learning course «Creative Painting» at the Hamburg Academy, being the only mouth painter. For the last two years, she has been sharing her life with a loyal companion: Dona, a female black Labrador/golden retriever dog.

Dog Dona holds the paintbrush in her snout and gives it to painter Bracha Fischel. On the left is a canvas with a started landscape painting.

Bracha and Dona are a well-coordinated team. The dog is able to give her the paintbrush, to move the canvas, open the paint tube and much more.

Students in Tel Aviv like to tinker with devices and mechanisms that make life and work easier for Bracha. Her easel can be shifted left and right, up and down using a button. As shown in the following video, dog Dona is able to easily operate it on command.

Dona and Bracha from behind how they are looking at the colorful canvas side by side.

Going into a huddle: Bracha and Dona looking at a recently painted picture.

The artist is passionate about paintings showing landscapes, flowers and animals. “Friends are sending me their favorite photos from all over the world which I re-interpret and paint.” Sometimes it only takes her a day; if the subject is more complex, it can also take a week – “and some paintings never get finished”.

Three paintings by Bracha Fischel: a fall landscape with colorful deciduous trees, two geese in nature and a flower meadow.

Landscapes, animals, flowers – these are Bracha Fischel’ s favorite subjects.

Returning to Switzerland regularly

The artist is visiting Switzerland regularly – either for exhibitions or talks. Her message is clear: Every human matters, everyone can pass something on. She herself has experienced much solidarity and support in Israel from family and friends. “And I myself volunteer for a network that supports lonely people.” By phoning them, listening to them and helping them reflect on things.

There is the opportunity to meet Bracha Fischel in person on October 25th, 2022 at 7:30 pm. This is when she will be visiting the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists at the vernissage of Kulturzyklus Kontrast at the Eastern Switzerland University in St. Gallen. Of course, dog Dona will come along as well.

By the way: Also at the Studio for Creativity at Swiss Paraplegic Centre a four-legged friend comes visiting every two weeks. Not only creativity but also the visits from the dogs create “small moments of joy”, explains Iris Marti.

How do you express your creativity? We are looking forward to reading about your experiences.

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