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Clay is our vehicle, not our destination: a message from our Nicaraguan Director

Posted by Patty Osborne

Two years ago, Potters for Peace lost the lease on our office in Managua. Rather than search for another office, we built a small workshop and storage area adjacent to our house in Ticuantepe. Our fully-equipped workspace has allowed us to make the potters’ wheels, worktables, and other tools and equipment our amigas need to improve their work.

Robert at the wheel.

Robert at the wheel.

Just over a year ago, we also set up a small pottery workspace with the intent of delving deeper into the unique pottery techniques practiced in Nicaragua. Immediately upon throwing a few pieces, I remembered how empowering it feels to mold a shapeless piece of clay to one’s will. How many times have I seen our amigas take this sense of empowerment outside their pottery workshops into their families and communities? It is so satisfying to watch their sense of self-determination grow and flourish!

The very poor often have not developed their planning skills simply because, as the Bible says, “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Planning for tomorrow is a luxury when you are struggling for your family’s survival today. However, ­pottery-making is a long, multi-step process. Digging and processing the clay, forming the piece, decorating, burnishing, firing, selling it: all require planning and foresight. The meditative, centering, contemplative nature of the work naturally generates a habit of focus and reflection. Entering the marketplace to sell your wares creates confidence in your ability to put a plan into action. With the constant practice of our craft, a new mindset blossoms, giving all of us the power to improve the future of our families, communities, and world.

Fortunately, our organization has inherited a unique working philosophy and methodology based upon Ron Rivera’s 40 years of experience working and living in solidarity with the poor. We do not offer charity to our amigas; we offer them empowerment and control of their own lives. The craft of pottery is an amazing vehicle for self-expression and self-development, but it is the method, not the goal.

Clay is our vehicle, not our destination. Potters for Peace is unique in the world in harnessing the power of our craft to bring our amigas to an habitual process of focus, vision, empowerment, self-determination and action that improves not only their own lives, but those of their children and wider communities. Thank you so much for supporting this important work.

—Robert Pillers

This article was published in our March 2016 newsletter. To read a PDF version of the entire newsletter click here.

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