Why pottery is therapeutic
Safeera Sarjoo

Why pottery is therapeutic

Why pottery is therapeutic

First published date May 03 2017 Amended date May 03 2017

Pottery has experienced a surge of popularity of late. Not only has the recent series of The Great Pottery Throw Down urged people to snap up courses in this hands-on pastime, talk about its health benefits has helped bring a sense of calm to people suffering from traumatic experiences, and has gone down a treat with the elderly and those that are handicapped.

So how does pottery promote relaxation and a form of therapy?

The process itself is an outlet for creativity and engages your sense of touch according to Health Fitness Revolution. Creating your work of art naturally requires heightened concentration, which allows you to block out external distractions and reduces stress. 

According to Vogue’s Senior Editor, Lauren Mechling, pottery is taking yoga’s place as a mind-clearing activity, which is more than just a hobby.

‘Amid our can’t-stop-won’t-stop tech-addicted culture, it connects us to the earth when the world might as well be coming undone,’ she wrote.

Mechling also spoke to former Wall Street Journal design John Sheppard, who left his job to focus his attention on his sculptural ceramics line. He described pottery as being very meditative.

‘It turns off a higher level of thinking. You have to let go and give in to the unpredictability of it,’ he said.

This actually helps to boost your sense of self-worth as there is no right or wrong when it comes to the final product.

Jessica Joslin, a potter and ceramist agrees with pottery’s therapeutic value.

‘Pottery is my happy place. Even if I'm doing my accounts or something a little mundane I'm still in a place I love, doing what I enjoy. I've been making for 15 years now and so when I'm at the wheel it’s my time to zone out, relax and let my mind wander,’ she explained.

Having been exposed to pottery practically all her life, it seemed a natural step for Joslin to take in establishing her own space.

‘I've never not been involved in it really. My parents are potters and despite their best efforts they couldn’t keep me away. I used to help out in school holidays and after an A level and later a degree in Ceramics I was off setting up my own studio.’

The interest in pottery continues to rise, which is incredible to see given its beginnings and where it was most popular.

Where did pottery come from and why was it so important in ancient Greece?

We can actually trace the origins of pottery back to 29,000 – 25,000 BC in the Czech Republic where ceramic objects like the Venus of Dolni Vestonice was discovered. The earliest known ceramic vessels however, date back to Jiangxi, China, where these vessels were used for storing water and food.  Civilisations in ancient Egypt and the Middle East used clay for building purposes.

For Ancient Greece, pottery was widely used across a number of ways. This included storage and transport vessels, mixing vessels, jugs and cups and vases for oils, perfumes and cosmetics. Food storage was particularly important for the ancient Greeks, such as wheat and wine. It’s also particularly important for modern day archaeologists who discover pottery when excavating sites. The images that artists painted on these vessels have aided our ability to understand life in ancient Greece.

Pottery – how to get started

Pottery has made a comeback and is a skill that many young and even famous individuals are taking up as a way to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of life. When asking Joslin what it is about pottery that retains its appeal she says, ‘There is something very familiar about pottery. Most people made at least one thing from clay at school and has a fond memory of it. Unlike say for example painting to drawing which people often say they can't do. Attitudes are different towards pottery and people are more willing to just give it a go and see what happens. The Great Pottery Throw Down has been a good reminder and a great educational program. It’s reminded people how cool pottery is and also what great fun it can be, especially when you are learning, as when things go wrong it’s normally quite funny.’ – which is where the idea of going with the flow reinforces that therapeutic notion.  

A beginner’s class is always the best way to dip your fingers into the craft. Find a course that suits you and prepare to marvel at what you’re capable of creating.  

Safeera Sarjoo

Safeera is Editor of Whatuni and a journalist from Kingston University. Always the inquisitive, her writing spans across a number of areas such as sustainability, fashion, lifestyle and now education. Her belief that you never stop learning and passionate nature has taken her to New York City as part of her degree and across the airwaves on national radio talking about the issues that matter to her.