When was the last time you took a moment to play? When was the last time you stopped, and did something meaningful to you that didn’t have a measurable outcome or productive result? Camille Kersley from Arts Health Business is inviting the community to do just that on Saturday, October 15th from 10 to 12AM outside Trader & Co. Café in Yass. 

Camille will be providing small pieces of clay for visitors to play with, reflect over, shape, and create a small object meaningful to them. You can also bring dug local clay from your backyard. The event will be very unstructured and informal, and the creation of the small clay piece can mean anything to anyone. Camille encourages the community to create something with loving intentions and make those intentions a physical act in the creation of a little piece, whether it be an intention towards yourself, someone, something, or simply a thought.  

“I feel, especially at this time, to have a place or an opportunity to stop and acknowledge, privately, a thought or feeling is important,” said Camille.

“Humans are physical beings, and making something with presence is helpful, otherwise you’re just walking around wishing.”

In making items using clay from the Australian earth, Camille deeply acknowledges the Ngunnawal land and people.

Her motivation for running the clay-making event is mental health month, which is this October.

“People can know nothing about it, they can come along, pick up the clay and play with it. The idea is for people to have their own rituals. I feel we as a culture don’t really have many rituals at all, we’ve sort of lost them,” Camille explained. 

As a counsellor and artist, Camille runs an arts health practice where she runs groups. 

“I was just really keen to chuck something out there, that’s something I really personally believe, but I never take to the public because I’m not sure how people will respond. It was important to do what is meaningful for me.”

For Camille, the process and making of a small clay piece like this is an opportunity to privately shape a piece of the Earth, and while doing that, reflect on a thought or a prayer to something that is in your heart, something that matters.

“The symbol doesn’t have to be identifiable or represent anything. It’s just that you almost allow a little shape to form. People make their own meanings. I really hope people put it on the ground, I hope people leave it somewhere special to them, outside under a tree.”

For her entire working life over 35 years, Camille has worked with communities and with people, and has designed a variety of arts health programmes for services, government departments, and other organisations. She said that developing her art health practice has been an organic process over many years. Often, the communities Camille reaches in her practice come from difficult backgrounds such as those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction or those who are homeless.

“I get contracted to do that, and I tailor-make it with those people, engaging with them, to come up with creative processes and what’s meaningful for them. It could be ceramics, printmaking, drawing,” explained Camille. 

Only recently, she took a group of people in a detox clinic to visit gardens as part of supporting their mental health. 

“Arts health is important to me as I feel that we as a culture really undervalue doing things that haven’t got an outcome focus. We don’t play, we don’t wander. When people allow themselves to sit on the ground and play with something, go for a walk or sit under a tree, it is life-enhancing. As a culture, we don’t honour that. 

“There’s no money put into collecting evidence for that because you can’t tick it off about what happened when you sat under a tree for an hour! We’ve got so far away from that, and so why I do arts health is because it’s my way of making sense of being in the world,” she said.

“I take that and I see if other people— and they do— kind of drink it up.”

Over the years, especially when Camille has worked in residential drug and alcohol clinics, she has seen the benefits of arts health, particularly because of its self-focussed approach to healing. 

“It’s not an intellectual process, it’s dropping down into a different space of being in the world. It’s where people learn about themselves. It’s revealing to the self, when you work in creative therapy. You haven’t got someone going ‘you’re like this, you need to change that,’” she explained.

“If I design a project well, what happens is the person, as they’re doing their thing, comes to some comfortable place within themselves.”

In the clay session at Trader & Co. on Saturday, Camille is inviting the community to join her in this process. While she won’t be teaching anything or taking the pieces for firing, she hopes the making process and physical reminder of thoughts, intentions, and reflections will benefit individuals in a similar way.

“Making this clay piece can be for anything, and only each person knows what is mattering to them at that time. It’s private, you don’t need to tell anyone, it’s almost like an avenue to experience and acknowledge what is in your heart. They’re like markers, just an organic thing with the raw clay,” said Camille.

Southerly Jones