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,
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
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
“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,”
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
"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
“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
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
“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.
More About Pottery