Looking back on the ol’ decade-spanning mental health ~career~, there’s not a lot that, between us, we haven’t tried. Therapy, meds, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness, meditation, hypnosis, acupuncture, journalling, gratitude lists, green juice, veganism, yoga, throwing ourselves into the ocean—like we have really tried it. By now, we’ve come to terms with the fact that our mental health is something that will fluctuate throughout our lives and a shifting thing that we’ll continually interface with. A decidedly less satisfying notion, but probably an ultimately more effective approach than trying to beat our brains into submission and “fix” them.
At the height of the pandemic, with most of us in lockdown, a concurrent thread emerged: Victorian-era inspired hobbies, often involving handwork and crafts. Who among us didn’t see or try our hand at sourdough making, knitting, crotchet, embroidery, gardening or other time-consuming, hand-involving pursuits? Other than the fact there’s only so much Netflix you can watch before losing it, we reckon there’s something to be said for the collective turn to activities that pull us back into our bodies and encourage us to use our fingers for more than sending someone our favourite TikToks.
Rosa-Clare Willis and Andrew Ford really read the room. Together they launched Crockd, an at-home-pottery kit that we wish we came up with, back in February of this year. In the recyclable packaged kit, you’ve got enough clay for two pairs of hands to get crafty, a selection of tools and some “clay breakers”: non-cheesy prompt cards designed to encourage open conversations about mental health. Opening the cute box up, you’re immediately struck by how human of an approach to mental health this is. There’s no clichéd language, cold unrelatable statistics about depression or trite messages of encouragement bordering on toxic positivity.
“Ultimately, the aim for Crockd was to spark conversations among friends about their mental well being without it feeling awkward or intimidating,” Willis explained to Syrup. “We created illustrations as the ‘face’ of the brand that any one could identify with and we speak from Crockd as if we’re speaking to our friends. With androgynous illustrations and a playful tone of voice we felt we could use DIY pottery kits as the ‘trojan horse’ of critical conversations about mental health.” Inclusivity, approachability and a way to finally fucking try pottery like you’ve been meaning to forever? *Their minds.*
Willis notes that making pottery accessible was intentional, “prior to Crockd you had to commit to a series of workshops learning in a room of other creatives—which is very intimidating. Being able to learn pottery at home in your own time is something that traditional ceramists never thought possible! Inclusivity is so important to us.” Crockd was also the recent recipient of an Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grant—which Willis hopes will help aid them in their mission to reach more people.
“Pottery is definitely the most inclusive visual art!” Willis explains.“You don’t have to consider yourself creative in order to make something that you’ll want to keep forever. Even the wonkiest pieces come out beautiful. We believe that it’s a little bit of the “IKEA effect” that when you’ve been able to be the producer and not just the consumer of something, it takes on a whole new meaning and significance. Being able to see and admire something that you created then transformed into something that will last forever is a really amazing feeling—especially in today’s digital climate!”
The Crockd brains trust also have a lived experience of mental health, FYI. “Mental illness has been a prominent feature in both of our lives growing up and into our adulthood,” explains Willis. “I’ve personally lived my life trying to outrun my emotions, fearing that my feelings would catch up to me if I stood still for too long, which is what happened at the start of this year (I actually wrote a very personal blog about this if you’re interested.)”
Like us, Willis is a big proponent of calling in the pros when it comes to tackling the tough head-stuff. “I’ve been seeing a psychologist on and off now for about 2.5 years and it’s been the most liberating thing I have ever done. Therapists are wizards! They’re able to connect dots, explain theories behind unconscious patterns, and most importantly ask questions that get you to reflect on how you actually feel.”
She continues, “Oftentimes, friends won’t ask the deep questions for fear of “over stepping” or offending. We also don’t always answer truthfully when we’re asked by friends as we don’t want to worry them.” She’s right and she should say it. Syrup spoke with psychologist Ash King from The Indigo Project about this exact phenonmenon: feeling too guilty to talk about our feels. “Crockd is more about what has served us rather than what hasn’t. At the essence of Crockd is empowerment—empowerment to learn, to reflect and to be seen by others.”
The clay breakers seem a little conceptually familiar, think Reflex The Game and We’re Not Really Strangers, and it got us wondering: why does it seem like we kinda need a bit of help to have deeper conversations these days? “We are living in a world where we’re so concerned about offending or hurting other people,” says Willis. “We’re aware of our privileges and our naiveties and so no longer enter conversations asking questions. We’d rather not face the consequences of being misunderstood!” She adds that anything in this vein, whether it’s pottery or painting or tie-dying together “can safely and silently facilitate these conversations and give people their voice and curiosity back. It’s so important for us to keep an open mind and to keep reflecting and sharing without fear of judgement.”
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Even though we’re more Zoomy and ~online~ than ever, sometimes *actual* communication is just hard n tiring. Especially when it comes to asking for what you need. If you feel like things are dropping off and you need some help reconnecting, Syrup’s made a check-in template that breaks it down. ⠀ ⠀ Step 1. Send this post to a friend you care abt and ask them to fill it out in their stories and send it back to you privately. (You can do the same.)⠀ Step 2. Compare notes about how you’re doing from your Slide 1 answers. Are you struggling with the same things? Can you trade tips? We love healthy sharing in this house.⠀ Step 3. Commit to doing some of the things that would help each other from Slide 2, maybe try one immediately. Save the list of things that will help on the days you can’t reach out, even though it’s hard, try and stick with it.⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #therapistsofinstagram #mentalhealthadvocacy #mentalhealthcare #anxietytips #mentalhealthsupport
It’s easy for us to get caught up in attacking our brains with thought-based strategies. While they’re helpful tools that should defintely be in the kit, trying to address our app-based anxiety with… yet more self-care apps can sometimes be a bit of psych-solution overload.
Willis concurs, “We all need to GET OUT OF OUR HEADS! About 12 months ago we both tried “float therapy” and it was the worst thing ever… It numbs all your senses and you’re literally left in a temperature-less egg with no sensations. Just you and your mind for 60 minutes—no thank you!” (We’ve tried that too, ofc, mostly we just zoned out and felt like we were floating in the darkness of space, but the mileage clearly varies!)
“I think we’re so stimulated these days that sometimes in order to actually get a grip on our thoughts, feelings and emotions we actually need to get back into our bodies,” says Willis. Given the unofficial status of Yoga With Adrienne as the patron saint of isolation, it makes sense. “We need to learn to listen to the signs and signals that our bodies share with us. I’m a big believer that intuition lives inside our gut and uses our body to communicate to us—things our little pea brains just can’t comprehend. Besides pottery, I love to paint portraits and Andrew enjoys pushing himself in physical workouts. Every now and then we will drive north and spend the weekend camping in nature with no tech. It’s the best way to reconnect our minds and bodies.”
You can order a cute lil Crockd kit for two here, it’ll set you back less than the cost of a psych app. (Reminder, under the new budget we now get 20 Medicare-subsidised therapy sessions a year, so you can do ~both~).
Lead image via Benito Martin for Crockd.