Some time ago we got into contact with Stephanie Bolton of Incense who told us that, not only do the teens in her art/dance mentoring program use Paperblanks journals for their art projects – they also use them for balancing on their heads as they learn dance moves!

Incense is a S.E.E.D. program for teens that promotes Self-Esteem, Empowerment, and Education through Dance. There are now several S.E.E.D. programs in operation in the United States, but Stephanie’s, based in Hawaii, is called Incense. Her’s is unique, she explained to us, because “as a professional mixed media artist I’ve also included visual art journaling in the program which helps the girls express themselves through images and words.”

We asked Stephanie to explain a little more about the program, including how the activity of art journaling can help promote self-esteem and empowerment:

Girls are encouraged to keep a journal to help them learn to hear their own voice.  Journals are a safe space to explore the vast array of strange and new emotions each teen encounters as they begin to develop into adults.  Things they are afraid to say can be expressed in their journals without judgement or outside opinion.

After every lesson, girls are asked a provocative question. They then have to write non-stop in their journal for 3-5 minutes on that topic.  Sharing some of these thoughts in our talking circle helps the girls learn to articulate these thoughts and be considerate of others as they share their sometimes opposing ideas.

As I’m a professional mixed media artist Incense allows the girls to get a special journaling experience unique from any other S.E.E.D. program. They are taught the art of not just writing but visual journaling. Girls  learn some interesting artistic techniques to help them express themselves through image as well as written words, combining text and image to create rich and creative explorations of self-discovery.  These journals become a treasured keepsake of their experience & journey through this program.

We’ve all heard the saying that a picture is worth 1000 words – well, practicing communication through images, color, movement, and costuming helps girls understand others and how to effectively project their interior selves.  They begin to make the connection between what their posture and the little subtleties of their unspoken mannerisms is communicating and this helps them learn to be conscious, intentional, and confident in their daily interactions with others.

We talk about line, contrast, embellishing, color, texture, and several other tools that can be used visually to communicate abstract ideas like love, fear, pain, hope, strength, etc.  They begin to understand that it is not our words alone but our actions that define us.  These visual art and writing exercises work hand in hand with their dance training to give these girls an opportunity to blossom into strong, motivated, sensitive women.  The act of creating beauty in art, writing, or dance also gives girls the power to be in control of something: their thoughts, ideas, and bodies – this is very empowering.

The program is one of those rare rites of passage that prepare girls for adulthood and the process gets fully documented in their journals: something they can keep forever.

To learn more about Incense and S.E.E.D. go to their website at!


About Paperblanks®: We have been producing superb writing journals for twenty years. We are book people, and we believe that the written word matters and that our blank books have a critical role to play in the art and continued practice of writing itself. For more about Paperblanks®, go to our website at


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