I discovered the wonderful world of ceramics whilst I was in my final year at university. I was looking for something to distract me from the intensity of preparing for finals and it was the perfect antidote. I could go on to write a book about the wonders of clay, but what I love most is that it is such a primitive and tactile art form. Methods of making have hardly changed in thousands of years and I find this immensely comforting in a world where it is hard to keep up with the pace of the digital information age. It is a wonderful thing to really focus on using your hands – worries, thoughts and words can just slip away. You can get totally lost in the moment but at the same time be intensely focused on the present.
The idea to make these Christmas decorations came to me the year before lock-down. Even in normal circumstances, Christmas can be a funny one – I know that family gatherings can sometimes be anything but joyous and I thought perhaps at Christmas time more than ever it is important to remember that it is good to talk and listen! This past year has of course been extraordinary. With the world as we know it turned upside down, it has laid bare our relationships with others, for better or for worse, but also our relationships with ourselves, with very little to distract us.
The Christmas decorations are intended to be little suggestive signposts and reminders about the small things we can do to help ourselves as well as others, through talking, listening, being kind to ourselves and keeping the faith!
I was recently introduced to the work of The Listening Place through a wonderful person who volunteers there and it made perfect sense to help raise money for TLP through the sales of the decorations. I couldn’t think of a better place to support and a more worthy cause during this time that is incredibly difficult for so many.
I was lucky enough to take advantage of the easing of lock-down in the months before Christmas by joining up with some potter friends on a stall at St Albans Market. It was a wonderful experience and although the main purpose was to raise funds for TLP, it was also about raising awareness of the amazing work that they do. Members of the public often took a TLP leaflet after having a browse and on more than one occasion it would start a conversation about someone who was in desperate need of help. If by talking and spreading the word about TLP has indirectly helped save a life, then for me that is job done.
I am not a key-worker, I am not a hero, I am not an expert, I am not an adventurer, I am not a politician (thank the Lord!), I am not rich, I am not poor, I am not grieving, I am not ill, but I really do know what it’s like to struggle sometimes. This is just my little way of helping somebody, to help somebody help somebody etc etc. I hope. And also to share the amazing wonders and healing qualities of clay. I recommend everyone to give it a go – all you need is a ball of clay and your hands!
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