June 23, 2017 Flourishing Lives No comments exist

'Many Old Hands Make Great Work'

Last week I took part in Creativity and Wellbeing Week curating an exhibition of pottery called 'Many Old Hands Make Great Work'. It showcased the talents of my pottery students who I teach from 4 residential and care homes in London and Surrey; they are all aged between 60-105 years old.

I feel that no matter how old you are creativity is an important form of expression, a tool to communicate. Whether that's making a simple mark on a page, digging a nail into clay or creating an art piece, making with our hands is both enjoyable and entertaining.

It is often said that art is ‘good for the brain’ because it connects you physically and mentally to something, and as such makes for a rewarding and therapeutic exercise. Since 2011 I have been working with care homes in London, to share my love for ceramics and my belief that creativity is an integral part of human wellbeing.

I love my job and am proud and privileged to offer my pottery classes to our elderly population with the support of wonderful care teams who value the benefits it can offer. This exhibition was a chance to promote the power of pottery and celebrate the stories behind the pieces. It has been so nice to stop and reflect on the work they have made and hear the feedback from people who have admired and delighted in the pieces. I would like to share a few of these stories with you.

This piece made by Joy sums up the atmosphere I like to create in class; it is as much about the social engagement as creative.  Somehow there is a song to connect to every mood, every colour, whatever we’re making it can spark a sing a long, and of course the sherry does help!

This little poppy in this picture was made by Doug who is 99 and since making them is now known as the "Poppy Man". He loves giving them as gifts to friends and relatives and even sent one to Dame Vera Lynn for her 100th birthday!

We should really patent Pauline's beautiful technique of bleeding colours down her pots;  she has the use of only one hand after having a stroke but she makes the most of what she can do.

Equally Stella's abstract technique of flicking paint across the clay Jackson Pollock style. She has a lot of fun making a lot of mess and produces such vibrant work.

Then there is Jimmy who might be 94 but has the steadiest hands you've ever known and makes good use of them with his intricate spotty bowls.

We make use of all sorts of objects to make imprints and stencils; leaves and plants from the garden, lace, old buttons, the bottoms of pen lids, hair rollers.

Walter loves to sculpt these little faces. He has dementia so doesn’t often remember making them but his hands certainly do because they often end up looking them the same. I have asked him who it might be, maybe his younger self or a friend from his past but he just says a man from his imagination. 

I’m grateful to all who came and enjoyed the exhibition and was delighted that some of the potters themselves were able to attend to proudly view their work on display. Here I am with my group from the Royal Hospital Chelsea in their resplendent scarlet coats! They pulled in quite a crowd on our event evening!


This guest blog was kindly written by Emily Hall. Emily is a ceramicist and basketweaver from London. She graduated from Brighton University in 2010 with a first class degree in 3D Materials Practice, specialising in ceramics and wood. She works as Ceramics Activities Lead at Nightingale House Residential Home in Wandsworth, London. Emily also set up a pottery department at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 2013 which continues to steadily grow. 

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