The first time I tried pottery was at the St Pancras day hospital where I spent 9 months in the immediate aftermath of my breakdown. Most weeks I would sit in the group and do nothing. Sometimes I poked some clay grumpily. For a few weeks I passive-aggressively made marbles, in case anybody there had lost any. Pottery group was the highlight of my week – the therapist was one of those people who is kind with an iron will behind her kindness. She would look you in the eye at the end of the group and say “See you next week,” but she’d say it so you knew what she meant was, “I’d bloody better see you next week.” Sometimes I would find myself thinking, “I can’t kill myself before Thursday, I promised Carolyne I’d go to pottery.”
Clay works magic with mental health. Put a lump of it in front of someone and once they start touching it, something just shifts. I’ve seen people so depressed they can barely move, people so deep in their psychosis they barely know were they are, people so anxious they do nothing but pace round in circles, come to life, come back into the room, and be still, when they start to work with clay. It takes time, and they might squash their wobbly teapots back into a ball after ten minutes, but it brings people back. It’s such a deeply, humanly satisfying thing, to make objects out of mud, to watch a mug or a bowl or a tiny figure, lumpy but recognisable, form in your hands. To allow all the chaos in your head to exist alongside the texture beneath your fingers.
I’ve been working with clay a lot recently. My last crisis left me pretty stuck art-wise, so I wanted to do something I felt free to screw up, and something I could lose myself in.
I have, indeed, been both screwing it up and losing myself in it.
Does anybody want any lumpy pottery?