Whenever pottery is mentioned what usually comes to mind is dishes, plates, cups, cooking pots, and storage jars made out of clay. However, there is more to this thoughtful, artistic activity. Research has proved that pottery can open up the mind and relieve one of their outside worries. The art of pottery is oftentimes described as therapeutic and relaxing. While spinning clay, the mind and body stay in natural synergy, wrapped around their creative ambitions and goals.
The Chairperson of the Potters Association of Namibia, Izaan Pauw affirms to this saying that although most people see pottery as a hobby it helps with relaxation as well. Like any other hobby helps people to relax, the therapeutic part of pottery also catches on especially with the working class people who do pottery.
“You will find that a lot of potters are engineers, doctors, architects and professional people who work from eight to five and I think that’s because they realised that there is a stress relief benefit and obviously have fallen in love with the craft as well,” she says.
Izaan who is an architect by profession says that she has been doing pottery for five years now. “I started doing it to relieve stress from a hard day’s work, working hard on deadlines and projects, sometimes you need to do something that is rewarding in a shorter period of time, so with ceramics you make a bowl in one evening and you get a product much quicker than architecture which takes years to complete.
I love pottery because it relaxes me and it’s an outlet for me to be able to produce something in a shorter amount of time. There is great satisfaction when you have completed something, when you started with nothing and at the end of the day you have a bowl, a cup or something that you can physically use, see and touch,” she expresses.
Izaan says that pottery relaxes people’s minds because when one is busy making something they forget about everything around them, they stay focused on taking a ball of clay and throwing it on the wheel. They concentrate so hard to get the shape to form that they forget about everything else and that’s mostly how one relaxes.
“You forget about all your troubles, worries and everything else that is causing you stress. Just like exercising, during exercise we only think about what we are doing at that moment. After you have had some exercise you feel better about yourself because you have given your brain a chance to relax, it’s the same with pottery you will feel better for a day of two and then you need to do it again to keep that stress relief process going.
It is rewarding to start with a ball of clay which is dirt out of the earth, decide on the shape you want it to be, whether you want to throw it on the wheel or whether you want to hand build it and after you have shaped it you then decide how you want to decorate it, so that’s like painting on the canvas,” she explains.
Shaun Whittaker, a psychologist says that pottery is not different from any other art therapy or extra mural activities which in general help’s people to defocus. He says that it helps people not to be preoccupied with their emotions or with thinking and perhaps give them a sense of relief. “They will not be worried all the time and it reduces the feeling of depression because they are engaged in something constructive and something creative.
And like I said, it would help them to defocus from the sense of depression or anxiety about their life. Therefore in that sense I would imagine that, especially pottery since you are using your hands and you can see the final product obviously it gives you a sense of reward because there is a real concrete outcome that you can touch, you can show to others and you relief some of these emotions and transform them into something more constructive,” he explains.
Whittaker says that he has a strong belief that the so called extra mural activities are crucial in terms of giving people a sense of purpose in life.
“They give us a sense of fulfillment and in many ways we really should not call them extra mural activities any longer because I really think that they should be central to providing people with a sense of satisfaction,” he says.
According to Whittaker, art therapy is very important for children and strongly recommended it as a way of helping them to release energy. However, he adds that it is also important to grown-ups who feel a sense of emptiness in their lives. “I think art can play a really crucial role in that sense as it allows people to express themselves emotionally. Also when people have to make huge adjustments in their lives especially when a loved one dies, it’s obviously going to be depressing.
The same applies to other people’s areas of life, for example having to move to another town or starting a new job or a relationship, whatever the case it might be, you of course have to make adjustments and it could lead to depression and in that sense finding a constructive outlet like pottery can be helpful to people,” says Whittaker.
Art is a good hobby for self-expression. It is a better way to connect with oneself by expanding their body and mind.
Embarking on new creations, learning new techniques and finishing creations can be quite rewarding. “A lot of people are starting to do art in whatever art form to try to relax, to break away a little bit from thier busy lifestyles,” concludes Izaan.