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Architecture graduate provides art therapy through pottery
When a major car accident left her with a spinal cord injury, Marina Nassif found herself taking an elective pottery class as part of her architecture studies at the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at American University of Sharjah (AUS). With her injuries impacting both her physical and mental health, Nassif was surprised to see the positive impact of working creatively with clay.
Now a graduate living in Kuwait, Nassif has established the Clay Therapy Studio, where she encourages others to experience the same therapeutic benefits she found sitting behind a potter’s wheel.
“Clay made me gain back my physical health, where I was using my entire body with strong movements of hands and arms to mold it, find the appropriate position and postures, focus attention, and work on body stability and the balance of the limbs, providing feelings of internal structuring, as well as cognitive and emotional effects,” said Nassif.
“I established Clay Therapy Studio to offer people the chance to experience a different form of art therapy that can become an essential and powerful tool in life in reaching personal and professional goals with more creativity,” she said.
As the co-founder of her family architecture firm SEA.M in Kuwait, Nassif has been heavily influenced by her mother, a successful career architect for more than 30 years. Joining her mother on site visits, helping her select materials and watching her create inspired Nassif and her brother to follow in her footsteps. While her brother studied architecture in their home country of Egypt, Nassif was drawn to study abroad.
“AUS is one of the top universities in the region. While visiting the UAE, AUS was always recommended to me by both AUS students and students from other universities. When I met CAAD students in particular, they were very proud to be studying at AUS, seeing their great work pinned up and the way they spoke about their projects made me more eager to want to join CAAD and be one of them!
As part of their foundational and elective studies, CAAD students have the opportunity to engage in a wide range of design practices—including pottery—in the university’s regionally acclaimed CAAD Labs. Pottery classes are delivered by Professor Brian Dougan, a potter, designer and drawer, and it was his influence that led Nassif to start her new enterprise.
“Clay made me unconsciously calmer, more hopeful, happy, fresh and ready to dive into my architecture work with more creative thoughts. Professor Dougan had a very strong impact on me, teaching me to never give up. In my opinion, that is one of the most important lessons in life,” she said.
“After graduating, I decided to go to Kuwait and join my family and work in our firm. I had plans to pursue my master’s studies in the UK this year, but due to the pandemic, my plans changed drastically,” she said.
Nassif decided to order a pottery wheel and it arrived exactly one day before Kuwait’s total lockdown earlier in the year. Taking it as a positive sign, she established Clay Therapy Studio. As things began to open up again, she began to host workshops for corporations and events, restaurants and hotels, as well as for nonprofit organizations such as the Kuwait Mental Health Hospital.
“At CAAD I learned how to sell my concept, share my ideas professionally, and to make my work speak out loud, with no chances given for the opposer to judge me or my capabilities according to your gender,” she said.
In 2021, Nassif plans to open a physical studio where she can provide a consistent range of art therapy experiences while continuing to sell her handmade pottery.
For more information about Clay Therapy Studio visit www.claytherapystudio.com or follow them on Instagram. To learn more about the College of Architecture, Art and Design at American University of Sharjah, visit www.aus.edu/caad.