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QotW: Either generally or specifically, what do you think, feel, and/or do when confronted with moderate to serious/severe limitations of some aspect of health that alters how you work in clay? 

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LeeU, recently in the question pool, asked:

I've been thinking a while about those of us who have spoken about various limitations, challenges, health impairments, disabilities, and so forth. Some folks have had to leave the Forums and reduce their work because of certain conditions of body and/or mind (tho I believe they are integrated, not two separate issues). There is no Forum particularly suited or appropriate for discussion about one's aches and pains, or serious impediments that affect our ability to work in, and enjoy working in, clay, or work-arounds that help make it easier to function and hang in there. So, my question is:  Either generally or specifically, what do you think, feel, and/or do when confronted with moderate to serious/severe limitations of some aspect of health that alters how you work in clay

I guess I have been complaining quite a bit over the last few years, hate to be whiner, but I have had to make some adjustments as the hands especially have gotten older. I used to abuse them, using the back of the hand to compress bread thickness slabs into a block when wedging, slamming the back hard into the block then adding another piece of clay. Then later I had a cyst and bone spur on my rt thumb, and had the cyst removed, and the dr. removed some of the bone spur. The joint deteriorated, and  now I have a bone spur on both sides of the thumb. This has made things more difficult in one studio area. . . pulling handles. I have covered most of this else where, but short of the long is that now my mug handles and teapot handles are extruded. Still apply them like I used to, but the handle is now using a putty gun type of extruder. 

I have found that much of the pain from arthritis as I get older is actually alleviated by moving. If I use my hands, especially in the studio,  they don't hurt nearly as much as if I have pampered them. So I try to get into the shop as much as possible, do the total gym thing and get plenty of exercise. It really does help.

 

best,

Pres

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This is a very important question, and I am glad to see it posted..

I am in my sixties, but as I am fairly new to clay, I don't have repetitive use injuries from the practice.  I also don't generate any sort of volume.

When I took a wheel class for the first time one year ago, I realized I needed to throw standing.  Right now that is how I am accommodating where I am physically.

I also don't work for more than a couple of hours at a stretch.

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Many potters throw standing up. John Glick was one who went to great measures to stand trowing, and actually used a back brace connected to the wall to help him.

 

https://objectiveclay.com/blog/2016/2/7/its-hard-to-be-a-potter-with-a-hurt-back

https://objectiveclay.com/blog/2016/2/7/its-hard-to-be-a-potter-with-a-hurt-back

http://www.johnglick.com/articles/Sciatica.pdf

 

These links should help yo out Gabby with your back problems and throwing.

 

best,

Pres

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Many of you already know I have Multiple Sclerosis,  my first relapse was when I was throwing a vegetable bowl.   I had just finished a set of tableware and decided I didn't like way the glaze came out.   My right arm wouldn't work right and I was in a lot of pain,  I was sent to a neurologist because my GP thought I had pinch a nerve in my elbow.  The rest is history.  I wasn't going to let this disease take away everything I had worked for so I started making tile murals.  I made those for about 7 years and I got to the point where I needed more and more help from my husband in moving them and installation.  It wasn't fair to keep him away from his car restoration projects.  I decided to go back to my love of ancient pottery and do some coiling,  I have been coiling now for three years.   Recently Mark C found a Brent wheel on E-Bay in my area so he sent me a message about it.   I bought it and sold my kick wheel that I could no longer use.    I have been throwing small bowls and mugs trying to retrain the neural pathways in my brain the way they do with stroke patients.    My arms are pretty weak,  I hope practicing builds my throwing muscles.   I have a back up plan in case I get to the point I can't work in clay anymore.   I have been growing gourds and drying them,  they look like pots and you can carve, paint, cut and stain them.   Don't let aches, pains or a serious disease take away the work you love.   A woman in my neighborhood was hit by  a car, her daughter was on the other bicycle and was killed.   The only part of her body she could move was her head.   A helper would set up her paints and put a brush in her mouth and she would paint beautiful still life's.  She never let her disability get her down and was inspiring to everyone she met.    Denice

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Pres, your hands sound like mine. On both hands I have bone on bone where the thumb connects to the hand. Bone spurs, also. I too, cannot pull handles anymore. I could, but it would ruin my hands for a couple of days. My handles are slab made. Any pinching action with the thumbs is painful. Just as you had suggested Pres, if my hands are busy in clay throwing, they don't ache so much as if they are idle. As a programmer, I'm hammering on the keyboard all day but something about clay is soothing to the hands. For every movement made with my hands I first analyze how that my affect the use of my hands after the movement is completed. Then try a different approach if pain ensues. For punching decorative holes in a piece, I started using a drill instead of hole punches. The drill proved too much strain on the hands. Actually punching holes with the punches does not feel bad, it is the clean up of the hole, the little ridge around the hole, afterwards that is a pain. I am allergic to the arthritis medicines and having only 1 kidney, I cannot take any over the counter meds for pain. The stick blender is a real pain to use. But it is the best tool to use. Last night I mixed up and added water to 13 glaze tests using the stick blender. Also sieved 2 production glazes. I use small brushes, about the size of the Talisman brushes, for the sieve, easier to hold than a scrapper. Today the hands are very sore. But it is what must be done to advance my pottery. Oh yeah, having only half a left thumb adds to the complexity of holding tools, especially a rib on the inside of a pot. A lot of finger wrapping around the tool to hold it. Also holding some tools between the middle and ring finger, either hand, helps to control the tool with minimal pain.

Without clay I would be miserable. 

Edited by dhPotter

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Like DH I had bone to bone contact in both thumbs which was the result of abuse during my career as a remodeling contractor. The pain had gotten to be pretty bad. I had consulted with an orthopedic surgeon who suggested hand surgery. I had my right thumb done first and had the trapezius bone removed from the thumb. The joint was pinned and put in a cast for six weeks. Then the pins were removed and I underwent physical therapy once a week for another six weeks to regain the normal function of the thumb. It took about 10 months from the time of the surgery to get my thumb back to 100% at which time I had the left thumb done. Same process. It took about 4-5 months from the time of each surgery before I could work the clay on the wheel. Since then the hands have been working perfectly without pain. I could not recommend this particular surgery more highly because of my experience. 

Here's a shot of the x-ray with the pins in place and the bone removed:

 

view0002.jpg

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Moat of you know my story-in fact its the reason I came to this site in the 1st place-to ask the question can you  still throw pots after having a PRC wrist surgery. Which for me was unknown at that time.

That was my 1st post on this board back in 2012 if I recall

I had some trama to my right wrist sometime in past 30 years  and hurt that wrist and the wrist became to painful to do much with.The scaphoid bone drifted into the lunate  after that injury (unknown to me) and arthritis ate it all up.

Had this procedure done 

http://www.sonjacerovac.com/procedures/hand-wrist/proximak-row-carpectomy/

They cut out the 3 of the 9 bones we all have in our wrist.I have 6 bones now-you all have 9.

I found the best surgeon specialist on the west coast and got several opinions first as I really wanted to stay in clay.

I ended up 6 hours south in San Fransisco at UCSF . It was a 6 month recovery-(5 clay free)

Now I have a limited range of motion and only have 105#s of grip (once was 130) in that hand.

Its slowing degrading from use and my next option will be full wrist fusion when I cannot stand the pain my Docs says. If I baby it It may last my lifetime but I have found that clay work is not babying it enough and its slowly getting more painful. Thank goodness I have a high pain threshold.

The timing is such that hopefully I can slow down in time ( less pottery making)not to have full wrist fusion. (no wrist movement at all) 

I could throw even with full fusion but I'm not keen on that idea.

Now at 65 my hands get cramps and get sore but I generally work thru it.My wrist is a bigger issue than finger arthritis for me.

On the economic notes I can hang it up anytime but I really like my job at times and would prefer to just slowly do less.

I built this business over 45 years ago and Its not something I look forward on closing the door on.I know at some point in the next years I'll stop with shows -thats a given with age but I like the idea of still suppling some choice local markets I have delved over the past 45 years.

Its a gamble either way.

I did get a power pugged right after wrist surgery and should have gotten one a decade sooner-all the labor saving devices really help in the long run.

advancer shelves -power wheels electric slab rollers-Peter Puggers-all very worth it if you do this for a living.

Another issue for me is all my other hobbies are heavy stuff-like diving with tanks and lead and heavy underwater cameras or shipwreck salvage. My fun is all heavy stuff.

 

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Today I was extruding handles with the hand extruder. Really wish I could find an old time Wad box or Dod box, as the screw crank on that would be a lot easier on the hands. However, by the time I invest in one probably cost as much as a Bailey 4 or 5" extruder. Still adapting the die to exactly what I want, design them in Corel draw, print out templates and cut with a zip saw, very carefully.

 

best,

Pres

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Pres,
Recipe for wadding box:

Start with a big C-clamp, or 
a  big Double Anvil C-Clamp, or 
something like IRWIN QUICK-GRIP 0.75-in Clamp, 
some scraps of 1x4 and 1x6 planks,
some nails, glue, etc., 
your own creativity, and 
you can make one of those wadding boxes your self.  

LT

038548014791.jpg 

 

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LT, Good thought, I had already considered that, and also had thought of using the housing/crank of a meat grinder with a lead threaded rod to push clay through the barrel of the extruder I already have, just haven't got it all figured in my head yet. Threading on the two tubes is the same diameter, but different thread. If I could find a coupling that would attach the one to the other I would be nearly there.

 

best,

Pres

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@Pres, how about using an electric caulking gun? Ryobi makes an inexpensive one ($40 in Canada)  500 lbs of push force. I know the battery and charger would be expensive but if you already have those?

image.png.255d4a36a9650398740503156c4106b5.png

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As I mentioned before somewhere I have leukemia. When I was diagnosed I promised myself a few things. One, I would do what I wanted the way I wanted as much as possible from then on with the time I have left. Working with clay to some extent gives me a focus and relieves my depression to a large extent, helps me to handle my fear, and though I don't really believe in 'legacies' it's sort of nice to know that a few things I made will be around a long time after I'm gone. Right now I actually feel physically pretty good and thought I was doing well in remission. A visit about a week ago with my oncologist cleared my hopes up when he said it's time for me to get in line for a bone marrow transplant. Hm, yes, well.

Anyway, on the bright side I got to quit my job (after not being able to finish a shift at work due to having pain from a swollen spleen, a health care provider with no health care, thanks to the heartless health care system in the US) three years ago when I finally walked into an ER and got diagnosed. I'd been managing and working through horrible symptoms undiagnosed for at least two years not knowing what I had. The ER doc suddenly got excited saying my white cell counts were off the scale and I was rushed over to another hospital in the middle of the night, put into all sorts of contraptions, IV's inserted, etc. The oncologist assured me I didn't have long if it was one type, about 25 yrs if another. My only thought was "Christ I can finally quit my job!" -that's how much I hated it. After recovering and getting social security and medicaid worked out, I sold my wee house in Idaho, (also hated Idaho, I'm from CA originally, seriously a fish out of water) and used the money to move to a place I love on the Oregon coast. Anyway I'm cramming as much of what I want, that I can afford on next to nothing, into what's left. Not everyone gets the news they better get their affairs in order and have such and such time left to do it. Most of the time, I'm grateful, not always. 

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1 hour ago, yappystudent said:

As I mentioned before somewhere I have leukemia. When I was diagnosed I promised myself a few things. One, I would do what I wanted the way I wanted as much as possible from then on with the time I have left. Working with clay to some extent gives me a focus and relieves my depression to a large extent, helps me to handle my fear, and though I don't really believe in 'legacies' it's sort of nice to know that a few things I made will be around a long time after I'm gone. Right now I actually feel physically pretty good and thought I was doing well in remission. A visit about a week ago with my oncologist cleared my hopes up when he said it's time for me to get in line for a bone marrow transplant. Hm, yes, well.

Anyway, on the bright side I got to quit my job (after not being able to finish a shift at work due to having pain from a swollen spleen, a health care provider with no health care, thanks to the heartless health care system in the US) three years ago when I finally walked into an ER and got diagnosed. I'd been managing and working through horrible symptoms undiagnosed for at least two years not knowing what I had. The ER doc suddenly got excited saying my white cell counts were off the scale and I was rushed over to another hospital in the middle of the night, put into all sorts of contraptions, IV's inserted, etc. The oncologist assured me I didn't have long if it was one type, about 25 yrs if another. My only thought was "Christ I can finally quit my job!" -that's how much I hated it. After recovering and getting social security and medicaid worked out, I sold my wee house in Idaho, (also hated Idaho, I'm from CA originally, seriously a fish out of water) and used the money to move to a place I love on the Oregon coast. Anyway I'm cramming as much of what I want, that I can afford on next to nothing, into what's left. Not everyone gets the news they better get their affairs in order and have such and such time left to do it. Most of the time, I'm grateful, not always. 

It sounds like you are handling a difficult situation brilliantly. I am not ill but a young one I love beyond measure is seriously, permanently ill, and I am glad for medicaid.

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Yeah, I am on medicare, and have T2 diabetes. I would not want to be looking for insurance at this point as the premiums for T2 are through the roof. I am controlled, and don't have to take meds, but anyone that knows me knows that I am very strict on my diet. I don't test, unless feeling ill, but have had an A1C below 6 since 2010. Diagnosed in 2009 just 3 months before retirement. 

Yappy, sorry to hear of your condition, but you seem to be handling things well, and still learning.  . . thats a good thing. Keep on keeping on as much as you can. Loved the Oregon coast, lived in Seattle for 7 years. great times.

 

 

best,

Pres

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3 hours ago, yappystudent said:

Most of the time, I'm grateful, not always. 

Mostly grateful, tho not always, 'bout sums it up for me. I fought against making my first  "Gratitude List" so hard, it took weeks before I was even willing to acknowledge the positive presence of having all my fingers and toes. I am glad those days are gone, and I have some grasp of the imperative necessity of gratitude, which for me generates hope,  whether here and now or in reserve for somewhere in the great beyond, after the "tunnel of light".  I am amazed at the array of difficulties others have shared. Amazed at people being so forthcoming (and glad there was a place to put it on the Forum--thx Pres). There is so much distress that periodically accompanies my own physical and/or mental challenges, that I must take strength from the resiliency of others, and try to take caution from the actions of some who lost their battle, such as Anthony Bourdain--that one hit me hard. I don't know if it is factual that--as some suggest--creative people have more than their share of deep suffering and bedevilments, but it does seem to me that artistic beings bring an especially tenacious spirit to the game, and seem to express a heightened tenacity to overcome, and to do so with grace.  In terms of altering how I work in clay, just doing it tends to be feast or famine, so the striving for balance is the primary requisite if I want to keep on truckin'.  Among the tools in my tool box is this community, which is so generous & so supportive, way past simply sharing knowledge and expertise.    

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10 hours ago, LeeU said:

Mostly grateful, tho not always, 'bout sums it up for me. I fought against making my first  "Gratitude List" so hard, it took weeks before I was even willing to acknowledge the positive presence of having all my fingers and toes. I am glad those days are gone, and I have some grasp of the imperative necessity of gratitude, which for me generates hope,  whether here and now or in reserve for somewhere in the great beyond, after the "tunnel of light".  I am amazed at the array of difficulties others have shared. Amazed at people being so forthcoming (and glad there was a place to put it on the Forum--thx Pres). There is so much distress that periodically accompanies my own physical and/or mental challenges, that I must take strength from the resiliency of others, and try to take caution from the actions of some who lost their battle, such as Anthony Bourdain--that one hit me hard. I don't know if it is factual that--as some suggest--creative people have more than their share of deep suffering and bedevilments, but it does seem to me that artistic beings bring an especially tenacious spirit to the game, and seem to express a heightened tenacity to overcome, and to do so with grace.  In terms of altering how I work in clay, just doing it tends to be feast or famine, so the striving for balance is the primary requisite if I want to keep on truckin'.  Among the tools in my tool box is this community, which is so generous & so supportive, way past simply sharing knowledge and expertise.    

Lee, in reference to your speculation that creative people may suffer more than their share of bedevilments, you might find interesting the book Touched with Fire, by Kay Renfield Jamison.  She is a scholar, clinician, and master storyteller whose own bipolar disorder brought her to study the relationship of mental disorders and creativity.  She also looks at the predisposition to the abuse of alcohol and other substances.

There is a strong correlation between great creativity and some mental disorders as well as alcoholism.  In bipolar disorder it is the hypomanic state, the transition state, rather than the poles that connects closely to creative achievement. 

I don't think research suggests that creativity and physical illness or creativity and more general suffering are strongly correlated though. Said differently, people with physical illness who are highly creative would likely have been just as creative had they stayed well. Life hardships in general can cut either way in terms of creativity and creative productivity, sometimes enhancing and sometimes stifling.

( I was a teaching fellow for a course on this subject some years ago when I was doing research in this area).

 

Edited by Gabby

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Gabby,  I cannot begin to imagine how you do it....or any of you who have experienced or in the midst of experiencing great medical challenges.   My heart goes out to you all. 

My troubles are small in comparison.  I am 61 for a couple more months and have always used my hands whether in fiber arts or 25 years of restoring ceramics  and making ceramics for 15 years...  all stuff that is hard on the body.   My hands, wrists, back and shoulders have given me trouble for many years .  Most of the time I don't think about it....it is my normal. 

I had to put the studio on hold for a few years for a variety of family and financial reasons, but with the arthritis pain increasing in my hands, I feel driven to get moving on getting my studio up and running and me back to making pottery....the road before me doesn't seem without end like when I was younger.  I just want to be able to give my craft a good 25 to 35 years....or as long as the hands and back hold out. 

Oh....I hand build.....there is something very comforting about building with the clay...cut and formed very much like the textiles I worked with years ago.  

Thank you, Pres for starting this thread.  

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Folks, lets give credit where credit is due. I am only a facilitator on the this Qotw thing, as I try to choose questions from the question bank that is in the ICAN forum section. LeeU posted this question just last week, and so here it is. . . thank her.

Thank you LeeU!B)

best,
Pres

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I asked the question because I get such support and inspiration from other people's journeys, learning about how they navigate difficulty, and how they keep their spirits up, or get through the hard times when spirit-lifting  just isn't happening.  I was frustrated with the strength needed (and some pain involved) to go through the whole physical process of cleaning kiln shelves, doing new kiln wash, loading them to fire it on, unloading to prep for a pending fire, needing to reload this weekend, etc. I am now saving every penny I can to buy lighter weight shelves, even tho I am a hobbyist with low volume and probably not needing to look too far down the road, either.  I also hit a wall of mental paralysis and stayed out of the studio too long, which came back to bite me, of course. And I completly neglected my website and lost what little traffic I was beginning to get. Worse, in terms of "acceptance" and developing "work-arounds" is the minor (relatively speaking) TBI that trips me up cognitively. It's getting worse (relatively speaking) by the minute. It's affecting my speech now, leaving me searching for words that I know, but half the time can't cough up. I end up substituting "thingee" for nouns when I come up empty and people look at me funny as the dead air goes on and on,  which is, at the very least, a tad annoying for all ocncerned!! Oh-and I am not dyslexic, but now find this letter reversal happening when I write--at least I can catch and correct that. Whine whine, moan, moan.  :rolleyes:

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1 hour ago, LeeU said:

I asked the question because I get such support and inspiration from other people's journeys, learning about how they navigate difficulty, and how they keep their spirits up, or get through the hard times when spirit-lifting  just isn't happening.  I was frustrated with the strength needed (and some pain involved) to go through the whole physical process of cleaning kiln shelves, doing new kiln wash, loading them to fire it on, unloading to prep for a pending fire, needing to reload this weekend, etc. I am now saving every penny I can to buy lighter weight shelves, even tho I am a hobbyist with low volume and probably not needing to look too far down the road, either.  I also hit a wall of mental paralysis and stayed out of the studio too long, which came back to bite me, of course. And I completly neglected my website and lost what little traffic I was beginning to get. Worse, in terms of "acceptance" and developing "work-arounds" is the minor (relatively speaking) TBI that trips me up cognitively. It's getting worse (relatively speaking) by the minute. It's affecting my speech now, leaving me searching for words that I know, but half the time can't cough up. I end up substituting "thingee" for nouns when I come up empty and people look at me funny as the dead air goes on and on,  which is, at the very least, a tad annoying for all ocncerned!! Oh-and I am not dyslexic, but now find this letter reversal happening when I write--at least I can catch and correct that. Whine whine, moan, moan.  :rolleyes:

Is there a local kid who could help with the physical stuff related to heavy shelves?

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Lee, I  like the notion of knowing that we are not alone.   We can still be creative and support each other's journey.  Finding ways to move forward despite the odds is acting creatively.    Gabby's idea is a good one.  Does someone teach pottery making in your area?  A interested student may want to help just to add to their education. 

Acceptance of the physical limitations that our bodies are putting on us is very difficult for me.  I worked on the wheel for a short time several years ago but stopped because of the pain in my hands....ended up have surgery on my right hand...nothing as extensive as Mark C and Johnny K have had done...but serious enough for me to examine how I work with my hands.   I still experience weeks of downtime if I overdo it.    Was thinking for a while that I would not be able to make pottery.  That was a depressing time.  After feeling sorry for myself for a while...decided to figure out how to rearrange my life so that I can follow my dream of making pottery.   Here's what I got so far:  We have stopped taking large and heavy work in the restoration business ....yeah, we can do it, but the downtime needed to recover is not productive.  When was doing my work at a local community art center, I started testing out using their big Bailey slab roller to help with wedging....works great....so I saved up and bought one of those.  Also, I have chosen to go with a small kiln to start, it has 15" shelves (I don't always make large things...It will also challenge me to come up with creative ways to design and make something large.  I have the name of a guy who can help with the big gardening things I do...like move the giant plant pots or big plants.  I am even researching easier plants or shrubs to grow in the yard so that I can maintain the use of my hands.

Thanks to all for sharing. 

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On 7/25/2018 at 8:29 PM, LeeU said:

 I am amazed at the array of difficulties others have shared. Amazed at people being so forthcoming (and glad there was a place to put it on the Forum--thx Pres). There is so much distress that periodically accompanies my own physical and/or mental challenges, that I must take strength from the resiliency of others, and try to take caution from the actions of some who lost their battle, such as Anthony Bourdain--that one hit me hard. I don't know if it is factual that--as some suggest--creative people have more than their share of deep suffering and bedevilments, but it does seem to me that artistic beings bring an especially tenacious spirit to the game, and seem to express a heightened tenacity to overcome, and to do so with grace. 

I'm an Anthony Bourdain fan too, he shared my zodiac sign (cancer, no coincidence with my affliction) and though I'm a lot more type B personality I'm pretty sure politically and artistically we had the same zeitgeist going on in our heads. 

 

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