Here's an uplifting story submitted by Deborah Lurie Edery, a clay artist who has combined her love of clay with her work, and has provided her clients with a beautiful handmade project as well as a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Here's her story...
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I began working with polymer clay more than twenty years ago and while I developed my skills as an artist, I also brought the medium to work. I am a recreation therapist and wherever I worked - nursing homes, senior centers, assisted living, and most recently rehab - I have introduced polymer clay workshops.
Finally, a gentleman who is one of best ceramic shop volunteers was admitted to rehab. He showed me an heirloom 100-year-old hand carved walking stick that was magnificent but had no handle. He thought about creating a ceramic one but surely it would be too fragile. I made him a handle out of polymer clay and again everywhere he walked people stopped to ask him about his most unusual walking stick.
Working with polymer clay in these settings gave clients a way to discover new talents without competing with their former abilities. The clay promotes hand eye coordination, fine motor skills, and great exercise for arthritic hands. Many of our projects were "make it take it", a blessing for those who have memory loss. My groups have made pins, pens and ornaments. They display their artwork proudly and have given their work as gifts and sold their work. The participants take pride in seeing the staff and visitors buy and wear their handcrafted jewelry. They have even sold their work as fundraisers for disaster relief. Making beautiful and valued objects is a boost to every artist's self esteem.
Creation of Claydaptables:
One day a passing remark took polymer clay to a whole new therapeutic level. A resident with a power wheel chair was rolling by the polymer clay workshop and asked if I had some glue to keep the rubber knob on her control stick because the "dang thing" kept falling off. We were working with canes and I had a lot of scrap clay. I made a fist sized ball of scrap clay and covered it with the canes. I placed the ball over the metal stem that controls the wheel chair and then cured it and varnished it. I wiggled the ball onto the stem and she now had something similar to a stick shift.
Our group began making these stick shift knobs for anyone in the facility who wanted one. They soon became "wheel chair bling" as very useful conversation pieces. Our occupational therapist joined me in several workshops where rehab patients made their own as part of their therapy. Some of the women even have pins and earring to match their wheel chair knob. And I must mention the gentleman who wanted to be behind the "eight ball" on his chair. Most of the residents who use a power wheelchair in our facility now have polymer clay control knobs. It gives them a better grip and more control of their vehicle.
There are many ways to incorporate polymer clay as a therapeutic tool. Teaching, demonstrating, and creating objects to make life easier are just some of the ways. For me the most magical moment is always when I hear, "I am 95 years old and I just learned something new!" or "Look, I just made this myself!" And now, "So many people stop to admire my wheel chair."
by Deborah Lurie Edery
©2012 Text and Photos
We want to thank Deborah for sharing this fascinating story with Polymer Clay Central. If you have a lesson or tutorial, or something you would like to share with PCC, please email Leigh or Stephen and we will help you prepare your project for the PCC Website!