Potter Andy moulds better lives when it comes to mental health

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to offer free pottery tuition to people looking for a creative outlet that comes with emotional support.

Thursday, 26th September 2019, 6:00 am

Mental illness is a major public health challenge affecting one in three people, according to the Scottish Government.

Those suffering know only too well of the overwhelming struggles this can bring and how quickly anxiety and depression can lead to social exclusion and loneliness.

One of the most important things to know during these difficult times is that you are not alone.

Andy Lang, nicknamed The Potter of Leith, has lived with recurring episodes of mental ill-health for many years. Through a range of therapies and medication he found ways to deal with his struggles and he used this experience to start working in the social care sector in 2006.

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Prior to this, Andy gained a degree in ceramics and began teaching around 1986. Throughout his life he continued his passion for teaching pottery and started to see the therapeutic value of clay first hand.

He said: “Over the past 30 years I have seen the benefits of socialisation and creativity in my classrooms over and over again. Clay is one of the most tactile and responsive materials we have and, in the majority of cases, it speaks both to us and through us.”

He wants to use his work and experiences to support his local community, by offering a safe and social environment where people can learn pottery techniques, as part of his social enterprise, Leith Community Pottery. Andy set up a crowdfunder to raise the money needed for the pottery equipment. The campaign, set to end on Saturday October 19, has so far raised £5,560 of the £25,000 target.

Professional ceramic potter and designer Kate Malone MBE also believes clay can be used as a creative therapy, showing her support by donating two pieces of her work, each valued at £200, to be auctioned as part of the crowdfunder. The co-presenter of the first two series of the BBC’s Great Pottery Throwdown wants to see projects such as this widely available.

“Clay has so many benefits and this is such a generous idea,” she says. “Let us all be as kind as this, and our communities will benefit.”

Free places in the pottery classes will be offered through referrals, either by the NHS or other voluntary and community organisations, such as charities and self-help groups.

The NHS values creative sources of support through its initiative called “social prescribing”, an approach used to recommend non-medical resources in the community which can help combat poor mental health.

The studio, at Leith Business Centre, will also provide workspace for developing and emerging potters at affordable rates. To donate to Andy’s project visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/leith-community-pottery