I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to apprentice at the DMAC ceramic studio and I wanted to find a way to share this gift with others. My personal story inspired me to start a pilot program called Clay for Recovery. For me, working with clay is about more than artistic expression. It’s about healing. I have been in recovery from trauma and addiction since 2016. In sobriety, clay became a positive outlet for me to process emotions and reconnect with myself after over fifteen years of being out of my body.
Through my recovery journey, I got to know the Bridge House, a sober living home, which happens to be located directly mauka of the Donkey Mill Art Center. One day, while working in the studio, an idea came to me: what if I could bring residents of Bridge House to the DMAC ceramics studio?
In September 2022, with the support of Jake, Miho, and Bridge House staff, we launched a three week pilot program. The program began with me visiting the Bridge House and sharing my recovery story. I brought some clay with me, and as I talked, we all worked on our own little lump of clay.
Over the next three weeks, Bridge House residents came to the ceramics studio where I led them in creating decorative clay masks. The residents dove into the project, creating masks that brought their emotions and personalities to the surface. Many of them chose to depict what they considered the face of their disease. One resident made a mask that looked like an erupting volcano. I remember her telling us, “everytime I make art with a volcano in it, Pele wakes up.” When Mauna Loa started erupting less than two months later, I got chicken skin.
The experience was extremely moving for all of us. The Bridge House staff conducted written surveys with the residents before and after the sessions and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. They couldn’t wait to come back and keep creating. It illuminated this incredible hunger for a creative outlet amongst people in early recovery. They told me how they liked working with clay because they could just be present, and forget about life’s stresses. I think there is great potential in using clay arts as a tool for people trying to recover from trauma and addiction. I am hopeful to be able to continue this program in 2023.
Masks made by Bridge House residents in the Clay for Recovery Pilot Program.