Jack Wynn talks to Ethan Powell about the powerful effects pottery has in the development of mental health
Pottery and its mindfulness qualities is something Ethan Powell, 25, strongly believes upholds a powerful connection. He greets the Fabricate team at Cardiff Metropolitan University’s student cafe, wearing clay-stained overalls and boots, before giving a guided tour of the very prosperous workshops. “I moved from a place called Malvern and it can be quite daunting moving to a city,” says Ethan, as he demonstrates the different types of machinery before heading towards his own corner studio, brimming with his own works, green plants, a work bench and his very own pottery wheel. “But, in Cardiff, there’s lots of independent galleries popping up all over the place. Somewhere that you don’t have to be ‘Mr Big’ to get your work in.”
In addition to working on his dissertation and developing his business plan, Ethan, a third-year ceramics student, has explore the strong link between pottery and mindfulness, quoting studies where conclusions include a connection with resilience to depression. “Pottery is definitely one of those activities where it completely grounds you and puts you in an embodied state,” he explains. From his time as an apprentice teaching primary school children, Ethan developed an understanding of how the craft can shape mental health and recognised its potential effects later in life.
He went on to suggest pottery should also be introduced to older children. “In secondary school, you’re a little bit more judgemental of yourself and think, ‘I’m not sure if I can turn this into a beautiful pot’. I believe it should be introduced to the 11-18 year-old bracket – the development stages.” So where does a modern-day potter get inspiration? “YouTube is a great way to look at different methods and find out what works well for you,” he says.
He also finds speaking to colleagues another great source; a benefit to a university environment. “You tend to pick up something that you’re not expecting. Someone will be saying about their practice and they’ll say a little something that they’ve discovered and it’s something that I can take.” But, above all, first-hand practice makes perfect for Ethan’s philosophy. “The lifetime experience: that’s where the real, rich knowledge comes from.”
Originally published in Fabricate, a Cardiff University MA Magazine Journalism project in 2019