Clay is Life

Elise is touching the clay
Elise Gettliffe is featured throughout. She kindly shared images of the pond in her backyard in France where she sources her own clay for her own pottery. Instagram @elise_gettliffe.

Clay is one of the most universal materials known to humans. Throughout history and around the world, people have developed the art of forming clay from earth and water to make ceramics or pottery. Out of all of humanity’s handicrafts, pottery is the oldest – even writing, the very method of communication which created a foundation for human development, came after the first clay pots.”
~ Sentimental Journal – Volume 04 – Ceramics

Facial Clay

Clay is soil. It is alive, and considered a low energy life form. It is one of the most universal materials known to humans.

Soil is not dirt. It is transformational, and like our skin, organizes raw materials into tissues. The skin has many crucial jobs to perform. As our first line of defense it exhibits an awareness and ability to constantly change and adapt us to our environment. It is a barrier against germs, prevents the loss of essential fluids and regulates body temperature.

The skin is also our largest organ of elimination and participates with the organs of digestion. During the night metabolic impurities are released through thousands of tiny dermal pores. In essence, you can say that the skin breathes, inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide and systemic impurities. The organ of the skin is self-regulating.

Clay has been taken internally by native peoples since the beginning of time to detoxify and mineralize. Externally it is used as a detoxifying, purifying and re-mineralizing facial mask.

Our Clay Masks come in a glass jar, and in a dry form. Clay is inert when it is dry, but when liquid, condensation from steam or spring water is added it becomes active, and starts the pulling, drawing sensation that can be felt when the Clay masks are applied to the skin. If your clay is sold wet and in plastic, it has been outgassing the chemicals in the plastic and absorbed into the wet clay.

I designed two levels of activity depending on skin conditions. The more gentle of the two is the French Rose Clay (mixed with rhassoul from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco), and the more active is our Green Tea Clay (a combination of montmorillonite clay mixed with Matcha green tea). But clay is very adaptogenic, and energetically cooling to any skin to which it’s applied.

Like our bodies, the soil participates in the recirculation and transformation of the four major elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Like our bodies [skin], also, it is full of ‘channels’ and ‘pathways’, directing the elements into fertile combinations and transformations at distinct, organized levels of the whole structure that penetrate the skin’s surface into distinct, organized levels of the whole structure. And like our bodies [skin], it has a definite genetic form. [source: DIRT/ Underground Horizons]

The earth’s crust is made up of minerals that have been weathered and broken down over millions of years. Clay is present everywhere, on the ocean floor, along river banks, in fields and valleys, on mountain tops. Clay is rich in silica, calcium, iron, magnesium, and other trace minerals. It shimmers with electromagnetic energy. As you walk along the river’s edge you can collect raw clay for molding. It needs to be strained and cleaned of leaf matter, debris and large stones but this is where clay originates.

Potter - Elise Gettliffe

“Archaeologists have uncovered pottery vessels that originate from well before the Neolithic period, some dating back nearly 30,000 years. In ancient times, people would transport water in handwoven baskets. The water, especially from rivers, would be seasoned with clay. As the clay dried out, it adopted the shape of the basket…Eventually, civilizations realized that these clay linings could be used as sturdy containers…”
~ Sentimental Journal – Volume 04 – Ceramics

From Esthetician to Potter

I worked for many years as an aesthetician. I had no desire to do anything else. Researching raw ingredients, and finding clay and its effect on skin solved many skin issues I came up against. I didn’t like dissolving the epidermal layer of the skin, as many acids did, but needed something gentle to exfoliate and soften skin, and clay does it all, it exfoliates, purifies, softens, and minimizes wrinkles. Clay is also like a gymnastic workout for the skin, i.e., by its dual actions of contraction and expansion, it stimulates blood circulation and oxygenation.

I also believe that a Clay Mask can actually draw emotions out of our body. Application of a clay mask begins at the most restful point in the Facial, the breath has become deeper, slower and more rhythmical. The mind is at rest and receptive to touch. This is a form of what I like to call ‘temple sleep’. The body releases the metabolic impurities through the skin’s pores, and along with these impurities, an emotional, mental and physical lightening  has taken place. The breath and central nervous system now work in concert to relax and release.

"Out of clay, we make a pot, but it is the emptiness inside which contains what we want”
~ Lao Zi

Then, one day a few years ago my life changed. I found myself, metaphorically, caught in a flood plain, I was surrounded by water with no familiar landmarks. Without the safety of compass, raft or map, I was at the mercy of rising tidal waters. Unable to see what lies ahead, I negotiated each twisting corner as it came. And unlike the rhythmic certainty of a river which is always headed in a specific direction, I found myself meandering, rudderless and lost.

Following this period of time, creative inspiration started to come to me in many ways, most often while I was in the shower. Standing there in that spitting flood of purification came an awareness. The Jungian archetypal symbol of our vast unconscious is water, and always intuitively as in a dream world, it came to me unbidden and unexpected.

Becoming a potter (and I am very much still in that ‘becoming stage’) was something that I didn’t expect but given the scenery of my floating life at that time; the water, clay, and the scooping of my hands to grab a purchase on the river’s edge, all conspired to lead me to want to buy my first potter’s wheel. I took classes locally, watched videos and read books.

I think I am most enthralled with the intimate communication between me, the clay and water, the wheel, potter’s tools, and the primary fact that CLAY is alive, and it has a mind of its own. After the first few times of throwing clay and trying to get it to submit to my will, I finally discovered that I had to relinquish control….
Now I sit down at the wheel, lean over my coned lump of clay and see, hear, feel the prevailing winds at my back… waiting to see what emerges.

XO, Evan Healy


Potter - Elise Gettliffe


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