Creating art is one way to help address or manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. Eli Zemper started Curiouser Clay in Chelsea due to a lack of access to creative programming.
Curiouser Clay is a mobile clay workshop business that facilitates the use of clay art to relieve stress and encourage creativity.
Zemper began Curiouser Clay, almost exactly a year ago after transitioning from being a high school teacher. While Zemper planned to host workshops in their home studio, the number of people that could attend at a given time was limited to four. Zemper connected with Adam Kovsky, the managing director of Robin Hills Farm, and they have since been partners in hosting workshops.
“Adam and I thought we could accomplish Robin Hills Farm’s educational goals and my creative community outreach goals if instead of hosting clay classes in my studio, I made my operations mobile,” Zemper said. “I am so proud to have turned a zoning problem into creative opportunities for myself and others.”
Curiouser Clay offers diverse workshops, providing opportunities to create anything from license plate mugs to ornaments to fairy doors. The variety in offerings makes the workshops interesting to many.
“For me, it doesn’t really matter what we are making,” Zemper said. “It’s just important that people are slowing down, getting their hands dirty, and hanging out with others. Supporting community mental health has always been important, but is an especially acute need right now.”
Now, Curiouser Clay has been able to deliver workshop opportunities for many rural and urban communities, servicing nearly 800 people thus far.
“At clay workshops, I don’t hear people talk about the things that divide us, instead I hear people laughing at an idea they came up with, or marveling at what they or someone else made,” Zemper said. “I see people relax and just enjoy themselves and others. For me, that’s what success looks like- getting a little break, taking some time for yourself, connecting with others, and doing something creative.”
At a Curiouser Clay workshop, Zemper helps guide everyone to the final product but ultimately leaves a lot of decisions up to the individual. This make-your-own-adventure model helps foster creativity and a fun, playful environment.
“I think when we play, we are connected to who we were when we were little and our authentic selves come out,” Zemper said. “I can tell you the mechanics of ‘how’ to make whatever we are making, but at every turn, I am going to offer you a series of choices and ask you to consider how these choices can add up to your own unique creation.”
Curiouser Clay caters to all ages, with workshops specifically for kids and adults. Zemper has seen and worked with many adults who come into workshops with the ideology that they are not creative.
“Maybe because I’m surrounded by my kids who are still young and draw amazing, and often ridiculous, ideas without much self-critique,
I feel compelled to help others return to this state of imagination and wonder,” Zemper said. “I love it best when there is emotion bubbling right below the surface and people are trying to find a way to either capture or release it. […] I love to help people to connect to those forgotten or sometimes inaccessible parts of themselves.”