Blog Post

Wednesday, 10 January, 2024

A Little F’d Up, Just Like Us, and Other Lessons I’ve Learned Through Pottery.

Last year, I started attending pottery classes. It had been on my to-do list for a few years, but multiple obstacles – time, adulting, and a lack of a suitable class location – got in the way. Over the past few years, I made strides toward overcoming these challenges and achieving a better work-life balance, and finally, the missing piece fell into place when a studio opened up close by. Big up to MUD Clay Studios, I started taking classes the moment it opened and I’ve been hooked ever since!

I’m going to be very honest, I am not a great potter (yet)… some days I am a good potter, other days I am a crap potter, and occasionally I feel like I created a f’ing masterpiece. I remind myself regularly: I'm not here to be perfect; I'm here to be present, to play, create, and connect with the joy of it. It’s a mantra I preach and know I need to embrace for myself.

Seriously though, not being good at something has been one of the best gifts I have given myself.

So after a few months of learning and getting familiar with the basics of throwing, I started to challenge myself with harder projects. I made a lidded pot that I absolutely loved. I was going to give it to my friend as a gift and was so excited to show them. I put it in a box with a few other pieces I made and took them from the studio to my house. On the car ride home I heard a crack. One of the other pieces fell over and landed on the one I loved. I was so upset… not just for the accident but for my failure to protect my creations adequately. I no longer could gift this flawed piece to my friend.

When I got home, I told my partner what had happened and showed them the piece. Their response was not expected. They looked at it and said it's beautiful, a little fucked up just like us. I was taken aback… it made me think about how much a small chip changed my perception of the piece. A few days later my friend stopped by and I told them the story of the pot. When my friend heard the story, they still wanted it, chip and all! Embracing its imperfection, they found beauty in the flaw, a sentiment reminiscent of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold to create a stronger, more beautiful piece. This pot helped me practice embracing not only the flaws in my pot but also the flaws I perceive in myself.

Other lessons I’ve learned from pottery:

  • Find your people and surround yourself with them.
    This is the thing, people who love me think I’m an amazing potter! In the studio, it's easy to compare myself to others. But when I took my first mug home everyone was like WOW!! My teenagers were like "You’re really good at this" Then as time went on and I brought more work home, they were like "WOW you’re getting even better, you could sell this stuff!" Damn right, I could! And then the next week I went in and couldn’t center my clay for shit…
  • Bad days don’t mean you’re bad, it just means you’re having a bad day…
    I did not lose all my skills in a few days. Nope. Just having an off day. Everyone has off days. Acknowledge them, show yourself compassion, and keep showing up.
  • The beauty is in the process of creating.
    We all need the freedom to prioritize creativity over comparison and let go of expectations in order to create for the sole sake of creating. If you are anything like me, your hyper-analytical, non-stop critical brain can often get in the way. When I prioritize the creative process and let go of expectations I can be guided by my values. In this case the value of creativity for the sake of creativity.
  • When you let go of superficial expectations and cultivate the intention behind the outcome, it’s a lot easier to move through hard things.
    I think disappointment is a pretty powerful thing. We all know the way things are “supposed to be” and how it “should turn out” and having an idea of the outcome you want can be very helpful... until it's not. What may be more helpful is being able to identify the feelings you want to evoke, rather than fixating on a specific outcome. At the end of this day/event/ experience/ interaction, how do I want to feel? For example, do I want to feel connected/loved/creative/free?
  • Pottery enhances cognitive function (lots of cool nooks and crannies in this one)
    And it’s all because of our brain's neuroplasticity, which enables us to adapt to new experiences, acquire new skills, and recover from damage, with remarkable flexibility and adaptability.

    • How and why does pottery help with neuroplasticity?
      Hand building and throwing calls on multiple parts of the brain at once. We use the center of our brains to process the physical sensation of working with the clay, motor control and visual parts of the brain to give it shape, and the prefrontal cortex to think and adjust our plan as we go.
    • Pottery teaches techniques and strategies that encourage learning by trial and error-- literally learning from our mistakes. Mistakes are a natural part of the process.
    • Making pottery integrates both hemispheres of the brain. The left side (sequential thinking, problem-solving, and logic) and the right brain (emotions and creative thinking).

 

  • The clay remembers.
    Even though it’s not always showing us, it remembers if you overworked it, it remembers when and where you put too much pressure, or not enough, and it remembers if you set it to dry on an angle. They often describe clay as having plasticity; not too different than the neuroplasticity in our human brains. Our nervous systems don't forget either. It stores memories even when we can not recall it into our working memory. So treat clay, and yourself, with kindness, intention, and awareness.
  • Nonverbal outlets support mental wellness.
    Pottery offers a mindful escape, helping to regulate the nervous system. When I feel overwhelmed, I need to stop and rest, but stopping for me doesn’t always mean physically stopping everything. What I need to stop is the over-thinking, hype-critical, and anxious part of my mind. What I need to do is be more present and mindful.

 
So this post was supposed to be an introduction to my new Blog which I am calling "A Little F’ed Up, Just Like Us” but my ADHD brain used a pottery tangent to introduce major ideas and practices that I am thinking a lot about right now. Nevertheless, I think it all comes back together, even if I took you the long way around. Welcome to my brain. I have been working on loving the parts of me I don’t always like, accepting my awkward uniqueness, and showing my sometimes hypercritical brain some compassion. However, I think it's very important to clarify, that these tendencies are not being used as excuses to not show up, or push through hard things. In fact, they do the opposite for me. They push me to be the best version of myself and hold myself responsible for living with intention and accountability.

I have always seen the beauty in others' awkwardness. I have always been attracted to weirdos and free spirits. Those are my people. Now I challenge myself to see the same beauty within my own mind, and will support the people around me to do the same.

My intention in creating this blog is just that: to invite you to join me in embracing your whole self, exploring and getting curious about the why's and what’s, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, and showing the F**K up!

I'm Stasia Romano, and I am a psychotherapist and the founder of Mandala Wellness. I am probably not that different from you, just a human trying to live their best life, trying to show up and kick ass and be a positive light in the world. You know just your typical awkward, neurodiverse magic conjuring physiotherapist. I help adults figure this adulting shit out so they can let go of all the people pleasing, perfectionism and anxiety of trying to make it all look easy, cause it's not. If this is something you could use some help on, hit me up. I'd love to work with you.