The Soothing Properties of Clay

When have you last potted plants, or worked in the garden without wearing gloves, or sculpted with clay? If you haven’t done it for a while, chances are you might be “hungry” for it. We usually don’t know that we are “hungry for dirt,” especially since most of us are getting annoyed by the undesirable side effects, grimy black lines under the fingernails, dry and cracked skin, etc. It’s not exactly what we find in the latest edition of a beauty and fashion magazine. But just like we often feel hungry when in fact what we feel is thirst, we often feel agitated and anxious when we have a need for grounding – or the calming effect of dirt.

As a child I remember asking my dad, why I would get electrocuted when I touched a overhead high voltage power line but birds could sit there without harm. He explained to me, that birds touched only one wire and at that moment weren’t connected to the ground, therefore the electrons wouldn’t bother flowing through the bird’s body and therefore not harm it. As long as I would only hang on one wire, he said, without being connected to the ground or another wire, I would be safe as well. He warned me not to try it though. For a more complex article on why birds can sit on power lines, please click HERE.

In my child’s mind I was still concerned about the birds and asked my dad, what would happen if the bird had mud on his feet. To me, the mud might still connect the bird to the ground. My dad assured me that the bird with mud on its feet would still be safe, as some mud was just not the same as having one leg on the ground and one on the wire, which would be dangerous as it would complete the electric circle, which in turn would result in the bird -or me – being electrocuted.

Growing up I had my share of unpleasant experiences with electric wire, but while the mud  on a bird’s foot might not be enough to ground the bird sitting on a hot wire, I found mud being wonderfully effective when grounding ourselves to Mother Earth to get rid of all the energies that surround us on a daily basis often resulting in our being agitated and anxious.

In my art classes, whether I teach children, teenagers or adults, I find sculpting with clay soothes everyone into a peaceful and relaxed state. At local festivals, the artist Andrea Zimmer uses clay tables for children to play with, but the people who usually end up playing with the clay and modelling for hours at a time, are not the little people but their parents. Clay might dry out your skin and leave lines under your fingernails, but the effect it has on your emotions should be reason enough to give it a try, or better, make it a weekly or monthly routine. Why do you think potters seem to be a different kind of breed with their contagious calmness?

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