I was recently leading one of our Creative Remedies courses with adult participants, making clay artworks inspired by ‘wellbeing’ for an exhibition in our lodge. One session, they were giggling about what to name the exhibition ‘The Power of Clay, ‘POWERFUL CLAY’, ‘The Spirit of Clay’, ‘Healing Clay’, ’The Mud and Us’, ‘Lurking in the Mud. Eventually, someone made an executive decision on ‘Calming Clay: Personal Stories of Wellbeing using Clay’. An interesting conversation arose about how the process of working with clay mirrors the process of healing. 

Thoughts were exchanged about how clay begins as a raw, messy material that can transform into something inspiring. The group discussed that artists must accept that, in clay work, their piece goes through a process of change, often with elements that are out of their control; from the movement of the clay as you mould, the way gravity shifts its’ weight, the shrinking of the bisque fire, or the melting and merging of the colours in the glaze fire. The group came up with phrases about wellbeing, which perhaps this analogy explores: ‘Vulnerability is ok’, ‘Control can be difficult and that’s ok’, ‘Accepting change’, ‘Give and Take’, ‘Letting Go’, ‘Balancing’. 

As Lucy wrote in her previous blog post; creating can be powerful. But what is it about ‘Lurking in the mud’ that can be so therapeutic? I’m currently training as a Drama and Movement Therapist (a type of psychotherapy that uses creativity alongside talking), and it’s given me some suggestions about how we could answer this question. 

Clay work can be very physical. It offers a textural sensory experience that can be mentally stimulating. It requires movement and physical actions, asking us to embody change, practising what it’s like push, pull, move, smooth, squash and mould something new for ourselves, challenging habitual responses of ‘stuckness’ or passivity. It gives us a practical experience of what it’s like to explore and accept change. 

Clay allows us to experiment with moulding metaphors! Dramatherapy loves symbols, suggesting they help people navigate their inner world. We can engage in ‘Projective Play’. This means attributing memories, relationships, thoughts and feelings onto an object – like a ball of clay – so that we can process them, cherish them, experiment with changing them or simply be with them at a distance. 

These are just a few ideas inspired by Dramatherapy. What are your thoughts on playing with clay?


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