Whoever thought moulding a lump of clay and creating beauty from it could be manna for the soul? Apparently, our ancestors did! Pottery is an age-old practice, with some great healing properties. A well-crafted piece conveys a visual message via its shape and colour. “Though pottery was initially identified as a means to make utensils and decorative items, over a period of time the meaning attached to it has become more therapeutic in nature,” confirms psychiatrist Dr Anjali Chhabria.
Wheels of change
In recent decades, the medical community has recognised the transformative potential of art. Pottery is a uniquely powerful artistic avenue that can serve as a deeply beneficial therapeutic model for people suffering from mental health disorders. “Although pottery is not a scientific-evidence-based therapy, it can be called art-based therapy and it is grounded on awakening creativity,” says psychiatrist Dr Chinmay Kulkarni.
Activities that include art often help build focus and concentration, resulting in blocking distractions and reducing stress. “Pottery can be termed therapeutic and relaxing as the mere act of connecting with natural elements has a soothing impact. The synchrony created by the wheel’s movement helps create focus on the task at hand,” explains Dr Chhabria. This healthy distraction and the sense of accomplishment at the end of the activity is rewarding.
Often, one’s professional life is not as rewarding as expected. A certain lack of fulfillment is experienced after a while. This is where an activity or hobby like pottery can help. “Many technology companies have projects that go on for months and every single person contributes a little to that whole project. Hence, the positive reinforcement that comes from a sense of achievement is limited, but as far as pottery is concerned it gives immediate reinforcement,” establishes Dr Kulkarni.
Moulding a mindset
While molding clay, your mind and body are in natural synergy, wrapped around your creative ambitions and goals. This thoughtful, artistic activity gives the mind an opportunity to expand, beyond the daily stresses and trigger points. “Focus, reduction of stress and anxiety, leading to the development of social relations while attending the sessions are a few mental health benefits. Pottery has also proven to be beneficial to patients with arthritis, as it helps in pain management and reduces discomfort,” adds Dr Chhabria.
Typically, a person struggles with over thinking, negative feelings and immense stress while going through depression and anxiety. Pottery helps in reduction of excessive thinking, as it demands involvement, both mental and physical. “It has also been observed that creative people regularly engage themselves in activities that are not a part of their work domain. Some researchers think that such creative activities outside their expertise activate those parts of the brain which were minimally used by them, as their work domain didn’t demand that,” explains Dr Kulkarni.
As these parts are activated and new connections are formed between different areas of our brain, the innovative ideas that follow often spill over to the work domain as well. The other benefits include positive mood, sense of self-efficacy, confidence and achievement.
“Pottery connects you with the mother earth and when you work with it, it also helps in releasing stress while unleashing creativity within yourself. When you work with clay, you realise how powerful it is and how it takes shapes according to your will, and how elegantly you can bend, fold and mould it,” states pottery artist Khushboo Saraogi.
Clay that connects
It is also said that pottery helps in self-discovery. “Art is a useful medium of expression and creation. One can invest one’s self into creating something meaningful, which can help enhance self-discovery. The entire cycle of creation can be emulated in a real-life scenario, helping knowing one’s worth,” explains Dr Chhabria.
Basically, the elements used in pottery denote organic and natural properties. The clay used is malleable and can be given a shape as per an individual’s choice, thus helping one feel connected with nature. “Humans invented pottery more than 25,000 years ago. So evolutionarily, it is a very ancient activity that we have been engaged in. It means we have been getting positive psychological benefits from pottery since thousands of years, which is far ancient than our latest inventions! This might be one of the reasons pottery feels so real and natural,” points out Dr Kulkarni.
Pottery artist Priyansha Jaggi echoes the sentiment and adds, “Working on the wheel or moulding a creation is an immense pleasure. But being a potter comes with a glitch as you have so many responsibilities and after-work to do! However, the end result is so beautiful that the whole process is worth it. From a porous body to a vitrified one — it’s like magic. And if nothing else, pottery definitely teaches you patience, which is a great lesson for life as well.”
It looks like pottery is the next big mindfulness trend, and I am ready to lay my hands on the wheels, are you?