Participatory clay workshops exploring contemporary motherhood


OMM [Maltese: Mother] were a series of participatory clay workshops held with a group of mothers. Having recently experienced motherhood has led me to reflect on the demands and preconceptions of contemporary society towards parents, in particular mothers, which drew me towards artists who
are mothers themselves and are activist artists, termed mamaactivists by Svea Boyda-Vikander (Loveless, 2016). exploring what it means to be a mother in a contemporary society, the challenges, expectations and different realities we face.

During the workshops clay was used and basic techniques such as coiling, hand building and pinch potting were used. An analogy between clay and child-rearing was naturally discussed; how different mothers have different ways of bringing up their children. This relationship, like clay, responds to both mother and child and adjusts, creating a dialogue (Brinck and Reddy, 2020).

The use of clay as a medium proved to be a good choice. Clay is accessible and allows a direct
connection between the individual and the medium. It has a memory, and is malleable, and can be shaped at will, but needs care when handling and shaping, and an understanding of its
inherent properties. These properties and forming of vessels contributed to the discourse of
motherhood, the mother/child relationship and the different paths taken by different mothers. This
was also reflected in the distinct works that were produced as a final collective piece.

The workshops provided an intimate space to connect through a creative practice. Particularly the need to discuss motherhood without judgement was evident. This was a need that resonated with all participants, that once a mother, particularly the first years, there seems to be a lot of judgement and lack of support that contribute towards guilt feelings. However there was also reflection on the different support structures, such as family and friends, that may exist and whether individuals are in a position to access them. Having different age groups participating in the workshops revealed how certain struggles are shared, it also opened up the discussion on mother/child relationships, providing better understanding of certain decisions made by our own mothers.