About the Founder
Hearing Maria Salazar talk about her work with clay, or better yet, seeing her sense of zen while she throws, molds, and details her own visions…it leaves little question as to why she’s chosen to work with fellow veterans through art. What may not be so obvious, is that clay wasn’t always her medium of choice. In fact, until 2017 it wasn’t part of her experience or education at all, but you wouldn’t know that to see her in action or showcasing her art at both collaborative and solo exhibits. During her second semester in school, Salazar attended a workshop led by her now mentor, Army Vietnam veteran, Dan Christophel. It was under his guidance where she was provided the opportunity to work with clay, instantly fell in love, and as she tells it, she never looked back. It immediately became a passion of hers and altered the course of her artistic focus into the world of sculpture. Salazar took her first formal ceramics class the following semester, led by her other mentor, Frank Olt. Clay has become a vital part of Salazar’s comeback story, as it has helped her cope and heal through her compounding tribulations including those that followed her home from her own time in the military.
Introducing: Claymore Vets
While Salazar launched her new non-profit organization just recently in January of 2020, this was by no means a last-minute business decision. Rather, Claymore Vets is a delicate plan and passion project that has been unfolding over the past year. In preparation for the New Year public announcement, Salazar spent months working with the Samaritan Daytop Village.
Learn more about Samaritan Daytop Village
The village is a local organization where homeless and otherwise distressed military veterans (and civilians) work towards integrating back into society. During their time with the program, some veterans are unable to leave the rehabilitation premises and remain under the watchful care of an onsite team. Salazar states that, “participants who travel out to my studio are those who are later in the program and are able to leave the premises.” For those who cannot visit the studio, she takes expressive art to them once or twice a month, making sure that everyone in need has the opportunity to experience the powerful benefits of the creative process.
Inside the Studio
We bet you have questions, right? How does art and specifically clay help the healing process? Are Claymore Vets’ services only available to veterans? What does it mean to join Maria Salazar’s “Mud-Tribe”? Well, we have answers.
Claymore Vets’ focuses on art as a physical way to practice mindfulness or moving meditation. The collaborative approach taught by Salazar is based on physical and grounding techniques supported by the Semantic Theory. While they don’t currently offer clinical therapy as a component, it may very well be something to look forward to in the future.
Much like clay itself, as people we are like the humble material. Contoured from our birth, reacting to pressure, influence, and instinct. Made solid through the heat of life. A cosmic balance of strength and fragility. Claymore Vets focuses on creating a community where conversations are organic, raw, and relatable. Salazar refers to clay as a “primal modality”, having the ability to make us feel grounded and connected to earth. This connection creates an openness and comfort level that helps participants to rebuild a loss of social skills due to physical and emotional trauma. At its core, it helps people reconnect with what it means to be part of a group, to encourage new experiences, and getting back to the essence of who you are and what you want the rest of your story to be.
How are veterans responding to expressive art? Great! And we’re not just being biased! Claymore Vets is dedicated to the veteran community and makes it a priority to maintain a safe space for each one of them, to date an estimate of 45 veterans have already gone through the program since August 2019. In time, they are looking to extend services to military families, adding the inclusion of spouses and children.
While participation is limited to veterans, volunteers may be civilians. All candidates are carefully screened to ensure that participants are best supported. Anyone with a background for art may apply; additional preferred qualifications include social workers, art therapists, or experience in related fields.
Maria Salazar, Mother of her Mud-Tribe. To know her, is to know that you are eternally being rooted for. As a soon-to-be certified art therapist and warrior in all meanings of the word, she truly makes it her mission to ensure that those she works with feel supported, encouraged, and capable of being their most authentic self. Therein lies a secret ingredient to coming out of the expressive creative experience and feeling like you have successfully done some healing of your own.
One of the best things about art is that with a little guidance and experimentation, you can find what method speaks to you the most. Art becomes a skill you always have to help create your own moments of serenity!
Funding & Spreading the Word
As a new non-profit organization, Claymore Vets is currently funded solely through donations and will soon be retailing artwork made by veterans in the studio. With a heart for grassroots marketing, Salazar focuses heavily on networking within the various communities including her alma mater, veteran organizations, etc. Claymore Vets is also currently pending approval on a fiscal scholarship and applying for grants that will help support veterans’ participation, studio time, and the cost of supplies and equipment as needed.
Partnership with Unfeathered Ink – Fundraising for the Arts
Claymore Vets and Unfeathered Ink’s partnership to fundraise, support the arts, and assist those they seek to help heal, is built from the ancient beliefs that art transcends language, time, and origin. Be it ceramics, the written word, vocalized epics, painting, dance, etc., a culture's art when rightfully preserved and honored can tell us of its people and its land even when nothing else survives. Help us keep this universal human tradition alive by supporting our fundraiser events and merchandise. Links about events and purchasing items when available, can be accessed here in this post.
Reflections & Final Thoughts
You know a person has truly been through the healing process with their art when you see the atheistic results; an evidence-based sense of maturity, understanding, and personal growth is sensed through their creations. And while art aids in the healing process from PTSD, depression, social anxiety, and the likes, it’s also a good motivator to overcome some of our more widely shared fears. For Salazar, this means combating public speaking and opening herself up emotionally to the public and those she guides through their own art therapy journey. As a USMC veteran, mother of 3, art therapist, Zumba-teaching firecracker, student, wife, dedicated daughter, and proud immigrant, she is a living inspiration of all we are capable of accomplishing and surviving in even half a lifetime.
Claymore Vets runs out of the ceramic’s studio at
Long Island University.
Studio hours: Scheduled events only
Point of Contact: ClaymoreVets.org | firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Pending approval for open studio time every Tuesday & Thursday evening. Updates coming as we get them!
Comment and let us know about your experiences with expressive art or art therapy, share your modality of choice and how it’s helped you, or ask any questions you may have. With enough feedback Unfeathered Ink and Claymore Vets will stream an interview session with updates and answers!
Culture & community through communication & connection! This blog will be a collective of cultural insight & experience, as well as the occasional review & discussion.