History and Theoretical Background

In 1970/71 Heinz Deuser conducted a study into Haptic Perception where a calcified shell was explored with the hands and closed eyes and then named. This study eventually lead to the development of Work at the Clay Field.

What stood out from this study into haptic perception with the calcified shall was the difference in the "things" the research subjects discovered – for example a hand axe, something precious and in need of protection, a landscape - and in addition that the naming was determined by the way how the shell was held and touched. Thus the quality of the movement became objective and turned it into a symbolic object that grew beyond itself into an acquired life story. The tactile sense opened up a unique dimension in which important events of ones biography were remembered.

In order to allow the movements of the hands to become visible and develop into a creative process, Heinz Deuser invented the clay field. With the evolution of the clay field something was found, in which all could shape their own story according to their life’s needs. As a compassionate observer he has since developed the theoretical concepts and applications of this method. 

An important aspect of his theoretical background was the Analytical Depth Psychology of C. G. Jung, in particular its specifications by E. Neumann. The creations with the material and the individual organization gained clarity through the understanding the world of archetypes and symbols of transformation as they emerge during the individuation process.

Further insights were obtained from the observation that there was a tendency in the hands to complete whatever unfolded in the clay field. The manifesto "Movement becomes Gestalt" was coined. Touching and being touched, movement and sensory perception merged in the Gestalt Process, the process of creating form. These "cyclomorph" events reflected the Gestalt Circle of a dynamic order described by V. v. Weizsäcker, or what E. von Holst and H. Mittelstaedt called the Reafferenz Principle (1950) and which P. Anochin named Functional System. Every organismic unit develops in this manner. The creative process could from now on be related to the movement through which it had occurred. The Gestalt Process could be understood as actualgenetic in the way F. Krueger and F. Sander proposed.

Ging es nun um die Ich-Bildung und ihre Entfaltung, musste das Augenmerk auf die Entwicklungsstadien dieses Prozesses und seines Aufbaus gelenkt werden. Frühester Beginn wurde die leibliche Gleichgewichts-
organisation in den Basissinnen. Die eigene Verwirklichung in der Gestaltbildung vollzog sich als intelligenter Akt im Sinne J. Piagets, als emotionaler Akt im Sinne M. Kleins und D. W. Winnicotts und als sozial-anthropologischer Akt im Sinne A. Gehlens. Orientierung hierfür boten besonders hier die Arbeiten W. Diltheys, H. Plessners, M. Bubers, E. Husserls und M. Heideggers.

The next evolutionary focus shifted to the formation of the ego and the unfolding of identity, the structure and building blocks of the developmental stages. The earliest stage became the sensorimotor organization in the core senses. Self-realization emerged as an Intelligent Act (J. Piaget), as an Emotional Act  (M. Klein and D. W. Winnicott) and a Social-Anthropological Act (A. Gehlen). Orientation for these insights was found in particular in the work of W. Dilthey, H. Plessners, M. Buber, E. Husserl and M. Heidegger.

Die Arbeit am ToThe formerly held perspectives that were based on Depth Psychology were now transformed into a phenomenological one. The perceptual intention no longer concerned ‘the consciousness’, but the individual and his/her sensorimotor realization in the world. The focus was no longer on the process of creating shapes and forms, but on how this was achieved, which place within a structural build and in the context of human development it held.

Today Work at the Clay Field opens the perspective onto a process that – reduced to its foundational elements – offers the conditions and possibilities for development.




International Events: Work at the Clay Field

English Publications


2014, Larsch, Oliver; Biebrach, Monika: 
Work at the Clay Field; Recognizing potential, awakening resources, furthering development. Verein fuer Gestaltbildung e.V.

2009, Deuser, Heinz:
Work at the Clay Field: Grasping what moves us: Possibilities of haptic evolvement
Set of 7 DVDs, 21 hours of Heinz Deuser teaching. German with life English translation. Purchase


2014, Elbrecht, Cornelia; Antcliff, Liz:
Being Touched through Touch:
Trauma treatment through haptic perception
at the Clay Field: A sensorimotor art therapy
. INSCAPE, International Journal of Art Therapy, 2014, Routledge

2014, Elbrecht, Cornelia: 
The Clay Field and Developmental Trauma
In: Malchiodi, Cathy Ed., Creative Interventions with Traumatized Children. The Clay Field and Developmental Trauma. Guilford Press, Pennsylvania.

2013 ANZJAT, the Australian New Zealand Journal of Arts Therapy Vol 8, No. 1, 2013, p.67 review of: Trauma Healing at the Clay Field by Maggie Wilson.

2012 Elbrecht, Cornelia: 
Trauma Healing at the Clay Field,
A Sensorimotor Art Therapy Approach. 
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London/Philadelphia. This book has been translated into Korean and a Spanish translation is underway. Look inside