Pottery shop helps heal from the heart

Isabel Barjesteh and Grace Nikunen use their artistic ingenuity to paint two mugs at Heart and Soul, a paint-your-own-pottery business that recently opened up in the Pavilion. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Isabel Barjesteh and Grace Nikunen use their artistic ingenuity to paint two mugs at Heart and Soul, a paint-your-own-pottery business that recently opened up in the Pavilion.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

Sometimes life tosses us into the fire, only to make us stronger and shine brighter. It’s how tragedy can turn into triumph.

Islander Lori Blevins knows this well.

“It really upset the balance of our personal lives, and our family,” Blevins said of a personal trial she went through.

Six years ago Blevins and her husband, Bill Schilling, were on the road heading to the Kingston ferry dock. But they didn’t make the boat on time. Fate was traveling toward them instead.

A large logging truck experienced a failure in six of its nine brakes. It lost the ability to slow down and was fast approaching the small cars ahead.

The truck lurched into the oncoming lane to avoid hitting other cars.

As a result, Blevins and her husband collided head-on with the logging truck.

The crash sent the couple on a new and difficult road.

“We weren’t able to return to our jobs,” Blevins said. “It was very traumatic all-around. We had to learn to cope and get ourselves back.”

Both Blevins and her husband suffered brain and physical injures that required considerable recovery time. She had difficulty concentrating. Both suffered neck and spine injuries.

But Blevins also noted the psychological trauma they experienced. It was a factor she found herself researching.

“I went back to school to learn more about how the body heals, physically, but also psychologically,” she said.

Now Blevins is on her way toward a doctorate degree in somatic depth psychology with a neuroscience emphasis. She is already putting her knowledge and skills to work at Heart and Soul in the Pavilion on Madison Avenue.

The new business first fired up its kilns this December.

Heart and Soul is a place where islanders can come and paint their own pottery. They have special themed days such as Monday Madness, for the days when island students get out early from school. Or Wonderful Wednesdays, which is crafted toward girls’ night out, men’s night out or even a date night.

From plates to decorations and more, Heart and Soul provides the pottery, and islanders provide the artistic ingenuity. Then those creative works go into the kiln, and return shining with glaze.

But the paint-your-own-pottery shop is more than just smiles and fun.

Blevins opened the business, with her daughter, Kelsey Gonwick, to be a place for art therapy and healing.

“Art is a vehicle to use to bring out trapped feelings or emotions we have never dealt with,” Blevins said. “With art therapy we are able to address these feelings and emotions.”

Blevins knows the value of art as therapy from her own first hand experience.

“I used art,” she said. “I found that I couldn’t do a whole lot, so I did art; painting, drawing.”

“Painting your own pottery, creating your own art and experiencing different mediums is a way to express yourself, but it is also a mode for healing.”

Blevins hopes to expand Heart and Soul’s therapeutic message into classrooms and elderly centers.

Heart and Soul is open from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is open noon to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays, and noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays. It is also open for special events.

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