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  • Writer's pictureMicky

Mental Health Benefits of Crafts


It was reported by WHO (World Health Organisation) that in the first year of the pandemic there was a 25% increase of anxiety and depression globally. That's a pretty grim figure to be faced with, and one of a few reasons that encouraged both Rae and I to take part in a mental health first aid course (something we would be highly recommend people do, if they feel able to). We had already discussed the benefits we had both personally felt when taking part in creative activities, but during this course it became apparent that there really is a need for the arts when it comes to maintaining and building-up good mental health. You can read more about Rae's journey on the main website under "Rae's Story".


A week after the course Rae and I went for a walk (a rather muddy one!) where we chatted more about this topic. Below is the resulting discussion, and themes that emerged:


Personally...

From a personal perspective, I have experienced the benefits of arts and crafts. Recently I received a late diagnosis of ADHD (I am in my 20s), but at the age of 17 this lack of knowledge meant that I worked 15-hours days for months on end, just to be equal in grades with my peers. As you can imagine my mental health took a hit. Thankfully my mum had always encouraged me to be creative; this push towards the arts, and the relief it provided was one of the only reasons I got through that period. So when I learnt that there is more research and funding being put towards artistic therapies it really made me feel relieved that the benefits are understood!


Tangible Emotions

Pottery is such an incredible way to process your emotions and reconnect with just been a human. It's a tangible substance, that can literally take a hit. If you're in a gentle mood, you can be gentle with clay. If you need to release emotion in a few hard throws, clay will be your best friend! The malleability of clay means that when it goes wrong you can 'squidge it back together', as Rae says. Everyone who does pottery has made the same mistakes, so there is no judgement- it's a very encouraging community and perfect place to explore emotions that might be hard to face otherwise.


Escapism in the Arts

Facing those difficult emotions in a safe place really helps make pottery into an art form that regenerates people mentally. In studies that I've read there seems to be the suggestion that focusing on something like pottery has a similar effect to mindfulness. There is less distraction around you, and it becomes easier to focus your thoughts on the task at hand. This is such a valuable respite for so many, and it really does provide the opportunity to mentally 'power-up'.

So many colours!

Rae and I discussed the boundaries within pottery, and that having technical necessities ensured that there was freedom, but with limits- meaning that the art form doesn't get too overwhelming with the amount of options. An example would be making a mug. The mug has to be water tight, and ideally with a handle. However, the creativity comes with the shape, the glaze colour and the patterns carved into the mug. It's creative freedom with imposed limits- something that personally I find comforting.


During our chat, Rae mentioned that for any class she does she always comes prepared with suggestions of what to make. Therefore, if someone came along and had no clue what to make, or had a creativity block, she can suggest projects!


Pottery can't always be controlled

When making ceramics you have to hand over the perfectionist in you. Here's a little exert from our conversation:


Rae: It [clay] goes wrong and you squidge it back together, there's a crack and you can fix it [...] everybody has made those mistakes. The creative or aesthetic side is up to you. It's a really open community in that way, there's so many different things you can do with ceramics!

Me: Are you meaning there's no one style?

Rae: Yes, exactly that!

Me: When you glaze things, like this morning. You have absolutely no clue how they're going to turn out until they're out of the kiln. There's almost an element that the perfectionism is taken away from you because it's out of your control.

Rae: You can learn how to manage the glaze. You can do a lot of chemistry. The glazes that I often reach for are a little temperamental, and I like that: It's like there's a conversation between you and the fire I guess. At the end of the day, I can make it a bit thicker and it'll be like this, or when I put it on a bit thinner, it'll be like that. Outside of those perimeters there's a degree of the kiln gods deciding. For me, it's all about acceptance, letting go, and enjoying the unexpected.


Not just pottery

Mental heath benefits are not just restricted to pottery, but the advantages can be found with all art forms. Any art form that helps you to tune out of daily stressors, and find a mental break is incredible! Find which ever one you prefer, and have a go at it. Check out local artists and their classes in your area for inspiration.


If you are inspired to give pottery a go, why not check out Rae's workshops on her website. There are classes for all ages and abilities, and a guaranteed encouraging environment!

 

Helpful Resources

If you, or someone you know, are in a difficult place mentally I've included some organisations that can provide support:


Samaritans: 116 123 (a 24/7 freephone number)


CALM (campaign against living miserably): 0800 85 58 58 (5pm until midnight every night)

They also have a web chat on their website


Papyrus HOPELINEUK: 0800 068 4141 (phone) (9am-midnights every day)

07860039967 (text)


Your GP is also a great option to chat to and gain advice.

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