Meditation, mindfulness, and slow-living; why pottery ticks them all

Pottery and the slow-living movement

These days more and more people are moving towards, or thinking about, a more slow-living lifestyle and pottery fits in with this perfectly. Many feel the need to go back to basics and better connect with the things that make up our everyday lives; like buying our bread from a bakery or having a milkman again, instead of getting everything from the supermarket. It’s becoming more important for us to see where our food is coming from.

This slow-living philosophy is also spilling over to pottery; moving away from somewhat soulless mass-production and towards being more mindful, and making pottery by hand. When you make a ceramic mug yourself you can revisit that creative place you were at, every day when you pour yourself a cup of coffee or brew a tea.

Pottery forces you to slow down as the act of making cannot be rushed. There are actually a lot of things that can go wrong when making pottery, and by no means is there any instant gratification, something that we have come to expect in our fast-paced and technology-driven world. I don't say this to put you off, quite the opposite in fact, as the satisfaction and joy you feel when you see your handmade piece of pottery successfully emerge from the kiln is pure happiness. It’s evidence that taking life slowly and focusing on making properly will reward you in the long run.

Pottery as a form of meditation

The reason why pottery is such a great form of meditation for combating stress in our fast-paced lives is the same as why adult colouring books have become so popular in recent years. You get so focused on the creative act of making that there’s no room for your other thoughts or worries; it provides your mind with a much-needed rest from these areas of your life. Before I found pottery I would regularly attend life-drawing because it helped relieve the stresses of my everyday life. I believe this form of meditation can be achieved with any creative activity, but I think pottery is a particularly great one, as you get to make an item that you will use every day. When you use a pottery cup you made yourself it will remind you of how you felt when making it and hopefully bring you some calm every time you drink from it.

Something else I love about pottery is that it is so messy; as adults, we hardly ever get really messy as we did as kids. The messiness of making is another reason why pottery is great for slowing-down in our smartphone-driven ages, the clay provides a physical barrier to you picking up your phone - unless you want it covered in the stuff!

Easy ways to begin your pottery mindfulness journey

I think hand-building pottery is perfect for beginners and an easy way to get into pottery at home without the cost of wheel throwing classes or buying a wheel. I particularly love the Japanese art of kurinuki - the process of carving from a single block of clay (see picture below). This method takes time but the beauty of your piece in the end makes your time truly worth it. I will be sharing the process of kurinuki in my next blog post so stay tuned for that! You can use stoneware clay if you have a local school or pottery studio with a kiln that will fire your pieces for you. Another option would be to use air-dry clay that doesn’t need firing, the only problem being that it cannot be used for items you want to drink or eat from, but it’s perfect for making a trinket holder, for example. There are many YouTube videos on pottery, my favourites are Ingleton Pottery for wheel-throwing videos and Ceramic Arts Network for all types of pottery tutorials such as wedging clay, making pinch pots, and slab-building.

Kurinuki Yunomi made from carving a single block of clay

Pottery is also a low waste activity while you’re learning because you can reuse the clay over and over again. Make a bowl you don't like? reclaim the clay and make something else. You can go on like this until you’ve honed your skills and made something you’re truly happy to bring into the world. Once fired, your pot will stay around much longer than you, so you better be happy with it!

Clay as a medium is so versatile and can adapt to you and your interests. Whether that’s sculpture, building vessels coil by coil, throwing on the wheel, creating surface decoration or carving patterns. People like to think there are ways you should make in ceramics but I think it’s best to try it all, learn from your mistakes, and find out what is right for you.

I hope you found this helpful and I would love to hear about your pottery journey - come and find me on Instagram @blankearth. You can view my work in the gallery and my shop - the shop gets updated with new pots a few times a year so please sign up to my mailing list if you want to get early access and be notified when the shop opens.

Happy Pottering!