How Pottery Helped My PTSD

Potter working on pottery wheel

I have a confession to make.  This blog is, after all, Confessions of a Pot-a-holic.

This is a case where I have given everything away in the headline.  I mean why not?  I am going to get a little vulnerable here.

My confession is that I have PTSD.

Now my intention is not to get into the reasons behind this, or how much PTSD sucks sometimes.  I want to talk about the one thing that has made the biggest difference in helping my journey of healing.

Throwing pottery on a wheel.

Potter making a raku vase on the pottery wheel.
Putting the finishing touches on a vase.

Probably not the answer you were expecting.  And I stumbled upon this quite by accident.

It was never my intention to learn to throw on a potter’s wheel to help my PTSD.  In fact, learning how to center clay on a potter’s wheel may have made it slightly worse some days!  But yet there was something about it that kept me coming back.

Was I under the spell of the clay?  Or was I looking to create some order inside me?

It took me awhile to find out.  I was not a natural.  To be honest, I kind of sucked.  I was also not in a place of order.

Like the un-centered clay I was slightly off kilter.  Some days, more so than others.  But, I was determined.

I would center that clay.  And one day I did.  Perfectly.

And beyond my joy at actually doing it I felt something else.  A calmness.  A peace.  And maybe a little bit of serenity.

And also fear.  The fear that I would never be able to do it again.  That maybe it was just a fluke.  That maybe it was just a lucky coincidence.

But it wasn’t.  I may have not centered the clay every time perfectly.  But that became a more frequent occurrence.  And then it became easier and easier, until eventually I could center the clay perfectly.  Every time.  And it became easy.

And as I progressed, I also felt a lot more centered.  It felt like being in the flow, going with the tide, floating down a gentle stream.

Raku pottery vase levitating in the air
I have yet to master the art of levitation, but have some pretty zen days!

Was the clay a metaphor for my own journey?

I believe it was more than that.

There is a moment, just before centering clay on a potters wheel, where everything goes from chaos to order.  Where the clay glides effortlessly through your hands.  There is a certain stillness in that moment.  Not only for the hands, but also for the mind.

There is a stillness in the clay once it is centered.  And for some reason it cultivates a stillness within me and as I open up the pot, raise the walls and shape it, I am in the flow.

Things don’t always go how I plan.  Sometimes I pull the walls too thin.  Sometimes I react too quickly and the pot gets bumped.  Sometimes I stretch the clay too much when shaping it.  Sometimes the pot collapses.

But do you know what the beautiful thing about clay is?

You can wedge it back together.  And get it back on the wheel.

The wheel still moves, but eventually, the clay is centered.

And somehow, so am I.

Wishing you all inner peace,

The Alchemist

**Photo Credit:  Peter Reid Photography**

 

 

49 Comments

    1. Pain can be a great spark for creativity and self discovery. Thank you for reading and sharing and wishing you much joy and happiness.

  1. Hi, thank you for liking my post! Your blog post helped me. I’m recovering from PTSD myself and I find myself in a place where I’ve left my career to pursue the arts. I’m learning exactly what you explained here in your blog, that I’m off kilter, but I’m determined to get better. Art keeps calling me back…and I’m learning to have grace for myself in the process of my learning.

    1. I am so glad that this post was to help you! For that reason alone it was worth writing. Your determination will not only pay off in addressing your PTSD, but also with refining your art! Thank you for such a meaningful and thoughtful comment!

  2. I enjoyed this blog and following your journey to wellness. Your creations are brilliant and I particularly love your owls. How long does it take you to make one of them. I just love how you showed that with practice a skill can be learned. I also found your blog informative, well written and entertaining You have a great writing style This is something I have been thinking about taking up as a hobby but memories of how my pots turned out in school held me back haha however you have inspired me to give it another go. Thank you

    1. Thank you so much for your very kind words and for such a thoughtful comment! It is hard to put a time on how long it takes to make one piece, as there are usually multiple stages in the process and time in between for the clay to dry. The beautiful thing about clay is that if something is not working, you can always squish it back into a ball and start over! I am sure that whatever you make, with some practise will turn out great, and then those pots you made in school will take on a whole new meaning! Thank you again!

      1. You are very welcome I am glad that you thought so much of my comment. Yes that is the great thing about clay You can reuse it Thank you for your encouragement. I will have a look for some classes

      2. Anytime! I am excited to see what you will make! I hope you find as much joy in it as I do 😉 I hope you have a great day!

      3. Thank you Well I when I make it I will be sure to publish a blog on the process so you can see it. Yes I am sure I will love it. Thank you. Have a great day too! 🙂

    1. I had a little hesitation to share this, but I am really happy I did. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comment.

  3. This applies to whatever we do in life. We take small steps, fall, stand up, walk and then learn to run. I am glad the entire process helped you to concentrate more on your craft and helped you mentally and physically.

  4. Creating art is a great way to work through emotional turmoil. Choreography does that for me because I am so in the moment when I’m working that there is no room for anything else. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your journey. Your work is beautiful.

    1. Thank you for your kind words! Your description of how you describe choreography for you is very similar for how it is for me. It is like the act of creating helps one focus on beauty. How long have you been doing choreography! That sounds like an intense, but fun way to create! Wishing you the best for 2019!

  5. Really beautiful pots, and I’m so glad that making pots has such a positive impact on your health. I originally trained in ceramics at college, many years ago now, and just recently got back into throwing having not been on a wheel for over 30 years. I was really nervous, expecting not to be able to throw anything, but hey, up they went! I was totally amazed that after so much time away from it, the skills were still there. Such a calming meditative process, and certainly with me it’s more about process than product – as you say, if it all goes a bit wobbly, you just re-wedge and start again 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I am glad to hear that you still have your throwing skills after so many years. It is a secret fear of mine that one day I will forget how to throw if I take a break from it, which I guess makes me throw pretty regularly! I would love to see some of the pieces that you are making! What kind of pieces are you throwing on the wheel? I love how calm and meditative throwing is and being in the zen of the moment. I hope you have a great week!

      1. If you do write one, I would love to read it! I hope you are having a great week!

    1. Thanks for your kind words! Clay is fun to play with, and it is worth a try! I hope you have a great day!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. That makes me happy I shared the post! I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week 😉

    1. I can relate to that too! I took two lessons in a small group and then I just started learning on my own. Maybe that is an option for you as well?

      1. Nice! I took one lesson on the wheel that was one on one and hopefully you find an option like that. I hope you are having a beautiful weekend!

  6. Meaningful, beautiful post and your pottery is gorgeous. I agree creating art is therapeutic, something our souls need, especially after trauma. It’s spiritual and magical to refocus on creating beauty I think.

    1. I absolutely agree, Judy. It is something so much deeper than what is seen, and I am grateful for the lessons it has taught/is teaching me.

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