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Pottery, shaping form out of clay, starts with the simplest of pinch pots creating a small rounded vessel with the thumb pressed into a ball of clay. More complex pots emerge from the ancient craft of spiraling and joining coils of clay to form classic bowls or gourds to hold water or food evidenced in archaeological shards as being formed at the dawn of human history and still today as functional pots in Africa and elsewhere. The technique of throwing, shaping with the hands a mound of clay on a moving wheel powered by foot or electricity, to create sophisticated pots both functional and for beauty’s sake, is the discipline at the heart of Studio Pottery London.
Whilst we encourage hand-building as another facet of ceramic art, the learning and practice of throwing holds a special place in our community of makers. Grounded in sound teaching and technique, our pupils and members explore the repertoire of pots made on the wheel. From a shapeless lump of clay rise cylinders and curvaceous bowls or vases with flared rims, mugs and jugs, plates and vessels just to delight. The associated arts of turning, attaching elements such as handles, creating lids and spouts, lead to the kiln and the magical transformations wrought through heat on clay. Porous frangible pieces become hard and through the surface fusion of liquid glass in the form of glazes, ceramic vessels and objects emerge able to contain liquids, to function in the home, or adorn an environment as a self-sufficient artwork.
The pleasure for the amateur of making the humblest mug to drink from is shared with the professional repeat thrower producing multiples of the same pots for sale. A pot is always rooted in function and contains its own beauty according to the skill and intention of the maker. As a three-dimensional object, a pot has presence and personality.
The beauty of a beginner working in clay is the assurance that something will result given patience, practice, and love for the art and craft of pottery.
Are you in London? Check out our open pottery classes.
More than ever since the pandemic has forced us all to reevaluate what is important in our daily lives as humans, pottery stands out for its groundedness, its tradition and history, its perennial invitation to the individual to reconnect with the gift of our hands. Making pots with our hands revives hidden or even lost talents and renews contact with wells of interior creativity.
The enforced isolation of lockdown, with the mental and physical stresses which has accompanied it, and the often imposed work from home online, gives the outlet of working in clay an added attraction.
How better to escape the demands of online technology than to switch off one part of the brain and turn towards another creative side of our being?
Physical stress as well as mental tensions are soothed and rechannelled in the practice of pottery: to make a pot one has to set aside all stresses and lose oneself in the almost contemplative act of making in the present moment.
As we emerge battered from the pandemic, pottery can be a means of recovery, of escape, of reconfiguration, of alchemy transforming negativity into the quiet beauty of a well-crafted and realized ceramic vessel. Therapy and practical creativity combined.
The very art of pottery requires a mental reset as it were, a shift of gear, a step away from stress and tension into a practice which in itself invites and teaches an almost contemplative communion between matter, the clay, and the mind, heart, spirit of the maker. A beginner is taught by a good teacher to release tensions within their body as they learn sound techniques at the wheel and beyond. Attention to matter is paramount: learning to feel the clay, wedge it to prepare it for use, to coax shape and form out of clay using the tools of hand and wheel, or other shaping devices. The apprentice potter learns to love the medium and respect the pace of pottery: to learn to become a potter requires patience, good humour, and practice. No quick fix. Everything is slowed down, every step has to be gradually mastered; there are no short cuts.
The focus of the maker working on the wheel allows for an escape into a different mindset. One forgets one’s woes and starts to enjoy the challenge of working with the healing medium of clay. Everyone who has experienced an inspiring pottery class or session of making can attest to the accompanying sense of well-being and satisfaction. The joy of finally achieving one’s first finished pot is in itself a therapeutic experience. The process of making in clay requires negative thoughts and emotions to be left behind or put aside; in fact the very act of making in clay also facilitates this therapeutic effect of shaping positives out negatives. From a shapeless piece of earth emerges through the alchemy of pottery in the physical engagement of the potter’s hands, a pot, a form with meaning and character. The pots become almost like children for the maker; they speak of attentive creative work attaining the satisfaction of the finished piece. People with depression referred to try their hand at pottery experience the healing aspects of this craft.
Those who are sad or in mourning can, with the help of an inspired teacher, regain inner peace through the practice of making in clay. Given the almost universal trauma caused by the pandemic, the healing therapeutic dimensions to pottery seem all the more precious and of value in these troubled times as a means to find inner equilibrium and meaning.
When you think of self-love what do you think of? Bubble baths, walks on the beach, facemasks, or what? Self-love can mean so many different things but when we think about self-love, we have to acknowledge loving ourselves both on the outside and on the inside. The way that we show ourselves love is one of the most important things we will ever do.
How do we treat ourselves? How do we talk to ourselves? What foods are we putting into our bodies? How are we thinking about our overall well-being when practicing self-love?
As self-love defines and redefined itself for you over the years, here are a few foundational tips to think about when easing into your self-love journey.
Don’t we love this one? Loving ourselves has a lot to do with the boundaries that we have for ourselves, with others, and for others. Take time to think about your own emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs when setting boundaries that reflect your personal needs. Boundaries don’t have to be big and scary; they are here to remind us that you get to have your lived experience and still have expectations about how you’d like to be treated and what you’d like to feel.
When thinking about your boundaries, ask yourself:
In a world where perfectionism and curated existences have been rewarded, begin to cultivate compassion for yourself. You are a soul having a human experience and it’s totally okay if things are not perfect.
Mindfulness exercises such as Breathwork, self-care activities, and self-compassion, all help train the mind, emotions, and even the body’s stress chemicals to be able to deal with undesired situations. Self-compassion means, can you be nice to yourself? Can you find empathy and kindness for yourself in the middle of what feels chaotic, stressful, or unwanted? Self-compassion means that we get to make mistakes, have our plans not work out the way that we wanted, and we still get to celebrate that we are doing the best that we can and it is enough.
When thinking about self-compassion, ask yourself:
In every sense of the word “nourishment”, begin to learn what nourishes you and what depletes you. Nourishment doesn’t just mean food for yourself; it means that whatever you are consuming whether it be media, podcasts, people, energy, information, etc. all impact the way that we think, feel, and experience life.
Nourishing yourself definitely goes right along the lines of having your boundaries intact and practicing self-compassion.
When thinking about nourishment, ask yourself:
That’s it. Those are the foundational steps to cultivating a self-love practice that you can ease into your daily routine. Come back to these questions often, because like anything else, self-love is a practice and it takes effort, time, and intention to maintain.