20 July 2018

Award winning ceramicist helps mental health service users

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People experiencing mental health difficulties, currently receiving support from Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust (AWP) have taken part in a ceramics workshop led by award winning ceramicist and artist Mary Jane Evans. The workshop explored a new approach to creativity and supporting service users to attend psychosocial activities within the community.

Whilst on placement with the Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) Early Intervention (EI) team student nurse, Hannah Correy, devised the idea of the workshops with service users through conversations with those who had expressed an interest in pottery and ceramics.

In conjunction with mental health support worker, Nat Burgess, Hannah approached Mary Jane Evans, a resident ceramicist of Bath Artist Studios and award winning artist. The trio created bespoke sessions for service users focusing on creativity as an approach to social engagement and building on the tools gained through psychosocial activities, rather than creating a therapy session which includes creative elements.

Mary Jane introduced the group to the world of ceramics and the making of vases through a technique called slab building, engaging the service users immediately with the materials and exploring the creative process with a more tactile hands on approach.

The group was guided through the entire creative process, including decorating their fired pieces and glazing the finished product. Service users commented throughout on the level of guidance, support and insight offered by Mary Jane, and that the session's emphasis on the social creative aspect was a refreshing break from the traditional approach to mental health support.

Mary Jane Evans has won a number of awards and prizes in the UK and Japan, and has exhibited widely throughout the UK including at The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and the Royal West of England Academy on several occasions. She was recently awarded the Pangolin Prize for Sculpture at The Royal West of England Academy Autumn Exhibition 2016.

Nat Burgess said: "Service users from the group reacted positively to the session, with individuals expressing how it has helped equip them with the tools to combat social isolation, and how it has helped those struggling with ongoing mental health issues, allowing them to see that though they may be going through a period of poor mental health they can still remain social and enjoy shared activities."

The EI team are now looking to expand on their psychosocial activities by engaging service users in a wider variety of activities, sessions and events.

"AWP and the EI team would like to extend their thanks to Mary Jane Evans for her time, expertise and the passion which she instilled in the group." Nat added.

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