Getting out of her head

Psychotherapist uses jewelry-making as form of creative meditation

Cate Potyen is taking her own medicine.

As a psychotherapist, when people come in for help, she tries to get them in touch with their creative side. She shows them art as an outlet.

And in a new class she has been teaching Wednesdays at Epilogue Book Co., Potyen is leading students through the book, "The Power of Now" and into ideas of the spiritual, meditative life.

As she sits at a table picking through beads and pendants, creating jewelry well into the night, she slips into the same sort of creative meditation that she encourages in her clients.

"Making jewelry is very meditative for me," she said. "It gets me out of my head and into the present. It helps me appreciate the moment."

Potyen describes her necklaces and bracelets as "ethnic, eclectic and elegant." She incorporates semi-precious stones with tribal silver from Bali and Thailand.

She looks through fishing tackle boxes of beads and waits for inspiration to hit.

Since her college days at the University of California at Berkeley, Potyen has been making jewelry to relieve stress and feel creative. But with her main focus on her psychotherapy practice, she never made it part of her livelihood -- until now.

She and her husband, Paul, moved to Steamboat Springs in 2001 with the idea of changing their lives.

"We both felt increasingly assaulted by the urban life (in San Francisco)," she said. "It wasn't one thing. It was a lot of things. We got tired of the fog and of people not being friendly. We felt a distance from nature in the dense traffic -- people cutting you off and flipping you off."

They moved to Steamboat for one year, which stretched into two, then three. They built a two-room, strawbale house 12 miles outside of town.

They moved to a quieter life in which they could explore their creative sides.

As the weight of city life fell away, Potyen noticed that her art had changed during the years in the Bay Area. Her aesthetic had evolved.

"The more I do it, the better my eye gets," she said. She subscribes to jewelry magazines and relies on nature for inspiration.

"The less I think about it, the better it is," she said. "A lot of creativity is suspending thought. My psychotherapy practice is about helping people to get out of their own way and connect with that divine spark."

Potyen will be showing her work tonight at a trunk show in June and Richard Florence's home. She shows her jewelry at Wild Horse Gallery, but tonight is the beginning of a concerted effort to focus more on selling her pieces.

"I'm just going to lay it out, and people can socialize. It will be a very down-home, casual event and a nice place for people to meet each other," Potyen said. And it will be a chance to see Potyen's "alter ego."

"Doing this is not a choice for me," she said. "It feels like what I was put on the planet to do."

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