Saturday afternoons are often times of insight and growth for our members in the residential treatment phase at Aurora. Many are outside undergoing the cleansing and re-birth process in the Sweat Lodge. Others opt to participate in creative activities facilitated by various staff members, and this story focuses on the pottery work graciously led by John Atchison.
Pottery Classes Led by John Atchison
The word “gracious” comes to mind when I observe John performing his tasks as a Member Care Specialist. Sitting in on a pottery session, I learned more about John and how he shares his creative gifts.
I asked John if he would share his thoughts on clay work with us: “ I began making clay pots attending classes in Winnipeg at various community clubs, the WAG and Canador College in North Bay Ont.
Clay can be fashioned into many types of objects: non-functional sculptures, plaques, functional items, smudge bowls and mugs etc. It is a natural material from the earth, “mud”. Members enjoy making objects for souvenirs or gifts which can be made with whimsical or inspirational messages if desired. The process lends itself to creating a meditational and social experience. Because clay can be reconstituted and fashioned into another project if the desired result isn’t achieved. I say it is only mud you can start over. I have had several members say to me they are not artists, by the time the session is over they have created a work of art usually surprising them. A great boost to their self-esteem.”
Boundaries Soften and Understanding Emerges Among Members
John revealed his generous nature when he shared that he often donates his own finished pieces to places such as the Gimli Art Club store, an act which helps fund volunteer and social agencies continue to provide services.
As I sat with the pottery group on a recent Saturday, there was lighthearted yet focused energy amongst the participants. It is a real blessing to observe boundaries soften and understanding emerge amongst people in such early recovery phases. Fear and defensiveness are normal in the first few weeks of residential treatment, and John creates a welcoming environment where the creative spirit can be revealed and accessed.
Creativity Equals Recovery
Our member Dylan created a mug during the session. It is currently in its raw state and drying out prior to being fired. It is an object of beauty. Dylan was in agreement when I stated that the process of creating is as important or more important than the finished product, especially in a group setting. Dylan shared that his usual creative outlet is his guitar, and he was initially hesitant to do any crafting, but expressed gratitude that he joined in. The mug is beautiful and will be a permanent representation of his treatment experience.
He also agreed with a statement I made during the group, “creativity equals recovery.” To me, the creative impulse is an expression of our life force; it is deadened and extinguished as active addiction progresses. To find joy in creating is turning back to our true self, and back to a “child-like” state of awe and happiness. Dylan said that he had not “done any pottery since grade 6 or 7, and it is nice to revisit it.”
Pottery Works of Art Inspire Generosity
Christina received her piece “wolf clan” back in its finished, glazed state. It is another work of great beauty and spiritual significance. She shared that the spirit of generosity inspired her to want to gift her work to a recovery sister.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to join the group for a brief time, and I am wishing that I can use the inspiration I feel to nurture my own creative spirit and enhance my life and recovery.