Amazing how my two passions are so intertwined, as I massage a client I envision them as a piece of clay. When I work on a piece of clay I personalize the figure by remembering a client. Whether massage modality or clay technique the images blur and become one for me. There is a saying that says, “the issue is in the tissues,” and clay issues are no different
Gathering the client’s information is critical when planning a massage; the intake form, questions you ask, watching the range of motion before they even get them on your table. Once there is a plan, it is time to center yourself; all thoughts are gone from your mind but the client’s wellbeing. Then as I massage, I feel for hyper tonicity in the muscles or lack of muscle tone, follow the path to a solution, if possible, which hopefully achieves what the client is looking for. Sometimes they want what they can’t have, lots of explaining about a need for a new normal type of massage due to age, illness and health history. The role of the massage therapist is to explain the difference between what the patient wants in a massage and understanding what is appropriate for their time spent with you. Knowing what they want and understanding what they need is not always the same thing.
Clay work follows a similar path. Choose the best clay for your project; stoneware, porcelain, beginner’s clay. It allows you to know what to expect from the clay, then you introduce your hands to the clay to find out if it is too hard or too wet. This information is vital to ensure a successful throwing experience on the pottery wheel. You hope that it will feel like butter. Moving a lump of clay on a wheel is a challenge, takes all of your attention and physical ability; how it feels, how it spins on your bat, centered or wobbly. A plain pot is a clean slate for me; special opportunity to alter its appearance. This means that the next phase is critical; when to sculpt, carve, roll a slab, attaché pieces, mold a figure onto the vessel and sand the finished piece. Each step takes a different drying level, cool to the touch perfect to sculpt, waiting too long allows the clay to dry too much and sanding is about all you can do.
Massage and clay work seems to be about knowledge of what is under your hands; type of massage and modifications are needed to ensure a safe massage. Knowing clay and its properties and techniques helps to create a perfect piece of art. When I am with a client, using all of the tools in my toolbox I feel that I give them time to renew and regroup to deal with the stresses in their lives. Do I need to teach them to breath, stretch, recognize tight muscles groups? Can I soften their back with massage techniques appropriate for the medical condition? Can I just hold them and give them a moment of tranquility? When I work on a piece of clay I feel a similar connection to what is under my hands. For me, the carving symbolizes that we all have scars, the molding shows me a gentle touch can make a difference, the sculpting emphasizes the need for knowing how far I can push myself and the clay. Whether it is a client of a piece of clay, putting all of these techniques together energizes my creative side and calms the stress chatter in my head.
Working as a Massage Therapist or Potter are both solitary endeavors; one client at a time, one design. Unless you are in school, there are no evaluations or critiques of your work. The pat on the back comes from a referral, recommendation, client or mentor’s praise, rebooking or reordering a new design. Personal satisfaction comes from a client doing something for the first time in a long time because of your time spent with them or creating a beautiful artwork. Personally I love the clay work and can see myself doing this forever. Professionally I hope to continue massage but can’t figure out which avenue to take. Guess a bit more time contemplating my future while my pottery wheel spins.