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“Clay work is like the Cinderella of the art therapies. She still waits to be discovered with her magic, her beauty and her ability to transform the wells of human suffering into places of insight and celebration. Her dark earthly solid mass, often appearing in greyish, brownish or terracotta dress, is hardly alluring at first sight. Touching this sticky cold mass, you sense she has a longing and determination to merge with your skin.” – Sherwood, 2010

Soggy, sticky, and not necessarily visually appealing, clay sets itself apart from other mediums. While creating ceramic pieces, there is a level of hands-on involvement that is absent from other forms of art. Its malleability is very appealing to everyone who touches it. It can be squeezed, squashed, and rolled; holding the form a person molds it into. It takes on whatever texture the creator impresses on it.IMG_9820

For these reasons the residents of Northwest Passage often express the comfort that working with clay brings them and their desire to use it as a “fidget”, which is a coping strategy means to calm or distract them. But ceramics provide the residents of Northwest Passage with much more than just a sensory tool; it provides them with the opportunity to gain competency in a new skill.

It is not uncommon for the residents to express hesitance and a lack of confidence when beginning ceramics, adamantly insist that they will never be able to complete the task given to them, let alone master it. Some even try to throw in the towel halfway through class when challenges arise on their way to their end goal. But with time and encouragement the residents start to fully understand how the material works and begin to master the techniques needed to achieve the task that they set out to complete.IMG_9822

The ultimate reward comes when their pieces emerge from the kiln after the glaze firing for the first time, all shiny and bright. There is something really special about seeing for the first time something that you created with your hands that is so tangible, solid, and permanent. For many residents this is an “I can” moment. A moment when they get to hold a ceramic piece in their hands that is a physical representation of how time and effort can and will result in something wonderful.

The notion that effort will result in a better outcome is something that is essential for all people who want to obtain a goal, but is especially important for the residents of Northwest Passage to know, as they are overcoming challenges that are seem insurmountable to the most people. Ceramics is a tool that is used to help the residents to know what it means to learn a skill, practice it, and ultimately succeed.IMG_9821

Experiences like these give the residents of Northwest Passage a sense of confidence and pride that will allow them to see their past experiences as challenges to overcome as opposed to an impassable road block.

Jae Mawby, Northwest Passage, In a New Light Intern – Summer 2015

The boys of Riverside filmed the assembly of their new pottery wheel. They had a blast and we hope you enjoy watching them in action.

Northwest Passage Riverside is a residential treatment abode for boys learning to deal with intense mental health struggles. Aptly named, Riverside is situated along the calm banks of the Clam River, in Northwestern Wisconsin and proves to be a place of both healing and building new connections with everything from self to nature. Be it enjoying the grounds, including a private peninsula, or taking part in the powerful and unique experiential based therapy programming, these boys have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to heal at Northwest Passage.

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