‘Your mind at your fingertips’

A Bachelor's degree study of the experience of hand-building with clay

This research study was done as a part of my Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Psychology with Counselling degree with the Open University in 2020. My research project’s data gathering method was face to face interviews with artists. I was very lucky to be able to do these interviews in participating artist studios just one day before the national COVID lockdown. I believe that this study would turn out very different if I would have to do it via ZOOM or socially distancing with masks on. No technology can substitute a real interaction where people breathe the same air and experience the same sensory inputs from the environment they are having social contact. I truly miss that ….

“What we make either stays or vanishes, but the experience has changed us, maybe in little ways, maybe in great ways.” (Groth, 2017, p.xi)

What are the embodied experiences when creating with clay?

Abstract

An artwork is a collaborative activity between the artist’s mind, bodily senses, environment, and an art medium. This qualitative research study used a phenomenological approach to explore the artists’ unique and personal experiences during hand-building with clay. The main aim of this study is to respond to the research question: What are the embodied experiences when creating with clay? This study explored connections between the human body and mind with a specific interest in how artists relate to their art medium. The two participants for this study were purposefully selected from ceramic artists who use the hand-building method as their main technique. To explore the lived experience of how it appears to an artist, the semi-structured interview method was used. Interviews were held and recorded at participating artists’ ceramic studios. The rationale behind these arrangements was that the environment where artists work with clay will help to relive and recall the experience. Analysis of acquired data revealed reoccurring themes and meanings in both interviews. For example, the agency of clay as a contributor to the creative process. Also, the positive effect on the artist’s mental states during the making process. The findings of this study correspond with some of the existing research about tactile art materials and the effect they have on the person who manipulates them (Kemske,2009); (Groth, 2017); (Wong and Au, 2019), (Elbrecht and Antfield, 2014).

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