Strongarm Gives Happy Potters a Hand

Potter Delnia Crum gets a hand from the Strongarm tool. (Photo by Lynne Kelsey)

Lynne Kelsey

Pottery is a uniquely expressive craft. It’s part skill, part creativity, and part science; “hands-on” in the most literal way. The potter’s hands take a nondescript ball of clay and transform it on the wheel by pushing and compressing it into a centered, symmetrical mass. Fingers locate the center point of this rotating clay and push down into it, pulling outward to open the piece, which can then be refined into a bowl, mug, or jar; whatever the artisan envisions. Those first steps are essential. But what happens as we age, and pain and loss of strength in our hands or complaining back muscles keep us from bending over the wheel and coaxing that stubborn lump of clay into a workable piece?

Fortunately, the Happy Potters have acquired equipment that will help our members to continue to throw on the wheel. Investing the proceeds from the Holiday Market into improvements of the studio, the club now has a lumbar support stool and a Strongarm device set up at one of the wheels. The Strongarm uses a pair of arms and the power of leverage to assist in first centering the clay and then opening it. Once that initial process is complete, the potter can move the piece to a different wheel to continue shaping and refining their creation, freeing up the Strongarm for others to use. For those with less strength in their hands and arms, it is a tool that will allow them to continue enjoying the therapeutic benefits of the craft, which have been described as calming and meditative, as well as remaining active in the studio with fellow members. The potential impact of the Strongarm is undeniable. There’s a video on the Internet of a one-armed potter using it to make a beautiful bowl! In addition to this piece of equipment, the club has ordered leg extensions that will raise one of the other wheels to table height so that potters who have back issues can work standing up. Our goal is to make the studio completely ADA compliant and a place where all potters will be able to pursue their craft, regardless of physical limitations.

The Happy Potters are in the process of membership renewal and also have an orientation class underway for new members. We are looking forward to many exciting new projects this year. If you would like any information about the club, drop by the Wine Cup Room in the CATC and chat with a potter!