Clay in Art Therapy

Amongst the handful of books that were required for me when I entered the art therapy program was Susan I. Buchalter’s Art Therapy Techniques and Applications. As the title says, the book explained different kinds of mediums that could be used in art therapy sessions, and examples of activities or facilitations using a specific media. What really spoke to me was her chapter on the clay medium: 

“Clay work promotes expression of mood and feeling. It allows the clients to experiment with texture and touch by molding, shaping and manipulating the clay. Pounding and kneading the clay offers a healthy way to exert excess energy. Gently molding, stroking and smoothing it lessens stress and anxiety” (Buchalter 116). 

Glazed Pot and Heartless Sculpture

In one of my blog posts I briefly mentioned a sculpture that I was glazing. It thankfully survived the process and no other piece blasted off. This sculpture started off as my initial “Heartless Puppet” piece, but it quickly shifted into something much more personal and raw. The creation of the sculpture brought me catharsis in whatever emotional and mental strife I was feeling during that week; wedging and kneading the clay pieces into a prominent form helped me direct my pent-up frustration

When it came to hollowing out the piece and adding details, my “aggressive” emotions shifted into more calmer and serene ones, seeing as I couldn’t put brute force onto the piece as I did at the start. I had to carefully score and slip specific parts of sculpture and be mindful where I was placing extra clay pieces into the piece. Carefully smoothing out the piece brought me a sense of peace that I needed that specific day, and allowed me to reflect a bit as to why I was so upset in the first place. The end result was worthwhile; the slight purple color effect weaving its way onto the piece came out wonderfully. 

The same could be said for the pot to the left of my sculpture, its creation following a similar cycle except not as severe or personal. Wedging the ball of clay in order to throw it in the wheel needed some force and motion behind it, which allowed me to express the typical feelings of stress I was feeling. When it came to pulling and shaping the clay, I needed to be more gentler and mindful of my hand placement and force I was putting onto the clay. 


With how close the semester is ending, I decided to try making more sculptures out of clay, aiming toward abstraction this time around instead of realistic. The image above is a piece I made that will tell a specific narrative I have envisioned, and many more statues will soon follow to help build a visual story. 


Buchalter, S. I. (2009). Clay. Art Therapy Techniques and Applications (pp. 116). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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