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Real Handmade Pottery
Has Therapeutic Effect On Some

Written by Molly Dillman
A special thank you for permission to use this article to Neil Heinen,
Editorial Director for Madison Magazine,
Madison, Wisconsin.

A mother gently blowing the steam away from her child’s bowl of chicken noodle soup. A man cupping a mug of coffee as he casts his first line into the clear waters of Lake Mendota. An elegantly wrapped handmade pottery casserole dish, perfect for the newlyweds who seem to have everything.

Whether it is a wood-fired mug brimming with hot tea or an impressive display piece, handmade pottery has begun to charm chow time into a therapeutic, uplifting experience.

Pottery junkies recently flocked to the 15th annual Pottery Festival in Cambridge, Wis., looking for a unique pick-me-up of their own. Attendees reveled in tent after tent of earthy goodness, buying everything from olive trays to water pitchers with the time-honored marking of its maker etched on the bottom.

Over the years, handmade pottery has begun to turn up more frequently in cabinets alongside its reliable cousins like Pyrex and Chinet. Earthy textures and vibrant glazes not only give collectors a one-of-a-kind piece, but are giving everyday people peace of mind.

Before Styrofoam, there was clay. Handmade pottery gave people time to share their lives and stories, be it during the wedging of clay or enjoying a good meal. It was presented as gifts, used for recording events and served families from every century. Many crucial decisions and family meetings were, and still are, conducted in the presence of a piece of handmade pottery.

Gail Henslin, owner of Firefly Coffeehouse in Oregon, appreciates pottery and passes its virtues on to her customers. Rather than offer a morning cup of joe in a dreary, recycled paper cup, Henslin uses handmade mugs from area artists.

“I wanted something that was unusual,” said Henslin. “I also wanted to support local artists.”

Now, customers’ long to-do lists seem to evaporate with the steam that billows out of their handmade mugs. Henslin believes that in the crux of a handmade handle, everyone finds a feeling of home.

“When I accidentally think someone is taking their drink to go, and I give them a paper cup, people will stop and specifically ask for the ceramic mug,” Henslin said.

The calming feeling of throwing pottery is what appeals to ceramicist Chris Matti of Peeling Ceiling, a pottery studio in Stoughton, Wis. Matti started throwing his freshman year at Madison West High School.

“It is watching something handmade form from nothing in a short amount of time,” said Matti. “It’s like watching a tree grow in high-speed.” Simply Pottery Magic.

While kneading and throwing clay, Matti described the pottery process as extremely relaxing.

"My mind is at its clearest when that wheel is spinning," he said.

Eric Van Zon, a Madison chiropractor, explained how the act of throwing pottery can be beneficial not only for the mind, but for one’s physical well-being.

“The hands are connected to every part of the body,” said Van Zon, referring to reflexology, a practice that links pressure points on the body with specific organs.

Reflexology can be traced as far back as 4,000 B.C. and is rooted in the belief that healthier organs and joints are produced when pressure is applied to areas of the body. The hands, in particular, house points for major muscles and contain correlations for every organ in the body, explained Van Zon. When worked properly, such as on a potter’s wheel, pressure points in the hands can stimulate breathing, along with muscles in your knees, hips and hamstrings.

“You are benefiting your whole body as a result of working on the reflexes,” said Van Zon.

Registered pottery art therapist Molly Tomony uses clay with terminally ill and grieving children at HospiceCare, Inc.

“Clay is great for intense feelings,” said Tomony, “The kids can pound and kick the clay to release feelings and, in the end, be productive.”

Tomony remembers one boy in particular who benefited from working with clay. Angry over his father’s terminal illness, the boy was lashing out with his fists. But Tomony put his hands to good use, punching the clay into formation and eventually a solution to the boy’s outbursts.

Never just archaic Tupperware, handmade pottery and ceramic offers well-being in a way that standard dining dishes can’t match. Even the creation of pottery can be therapeutic -- for those who are courageous enough to try.

Don't fly into a rage unless you are prepared for a rough landing.

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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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