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“Pottery, and other ancient practices such as mindfulness and yoga, while therapeutic, are not therapy. Still, many who have worked with clay have long extolled the restorative benefits of creating with clay. So what is therapeutic about working/playing with clay?

1. Tactile gratification

Instead of brushes for painting and pencils for drawing, we use our hands

for clay. Tactile contact — the first form of communication we learn as infants

— is a very primal mode of expression. Even a light touch on a lump of clay

leaves an imprint. Our ability to make an impact — to transform something

— is unmistakable while working with clay. Perhaps in that transformation,

we are reshaping grief, guilt, and memories.

2. Holistic experience

Creating with clay is a physical-sensual-mental experience. The physicality

and limitless potential for creativity engage our muscles, fine motor skills,

vision, and imagination. In short, we are more alive and present when

working with clay.

3. Conscious and unconscious expression

Making art is an extension of ourselves. Through it, both our conscious and

unconscious ideas and desires are expressed.

Clay is tangible, changeable, and under our control in a world that often feels

out of our control. We choose what bowl we want to throw or what body we

want to sculpt. Through trial and error, we get to know ourselves as an

artist and a person.

4. An antidote to the culture

We live in a culture that idealizes fast, easy, and convenient. With the

distractions of our devices and running from work to soccer games to

meetings and dinners, we’re chronically harried. We wonder why

we’re anxious and then seek out quick-fix therapies that often don’t



Working with clay means taking your time because the process can’t be rushed. There are about ten steps between preparing the clay and the glaze firing, some of which require hours or days in between. If you try to rush it, the clay will make its resentment known by cracking, exploding, or rebelling in some other way. Pottery makes us step away from the need for instant gratification because there’s a lot of waiting for completion.

With clay, we also don’t always get what we want despite the hours of love and labor. We groom and beautify our pieces and pick colors that speak to us, hoping they look as we imagine after firing. And for the lucky or talented, they do. But the rest of us must learn to let go of control and accept imperfection.

5. Meditation

Many artists describe clay work as a way to get out of their heads and into their bodies, much like meditation. Most people work alone on a project and there’s a kind of quiet, or flow-state, that comes over the artist as they allow themselves to join the clay. Working with clay stretches us in different ways…It's an extremely Zen and meditative experience.”


Image by Deniz Altindas
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