Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ceramics and Christ


I recently started learning how to throw on the pottery wheel.

As it turns out, that is quite a bit harder than it sounds! There are a lot of steps to making something, and finally, after the better part of a semester, I think I’m getting somewhat good at it. But as I sat there, struggling with yet another misshapen blob of goopy clay, I started thinking.
 (Don't be scared. Good thoughts.)

“But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand”
-Isaiah 64:8
I have always liked this verse, but I never understood the whole throwing process until now. I've always envisioned God gently forming me into a beautiful pot, but my understanding started halfway through the process, when the potter has clay in an upright and shapely position, already a vessel in itself.

Here is the basic process for throwing:

1.       You whack and knead the clay until it is moldable. You form a ball and attach it to the wheel with a little water.

2.       I had never heard about centering until my teacher demoed it for us newbies in the class. You start the wheel running at a high speed, and firmly push the clay towards center. This involves strength and resilience as you force the clay into a position of evenness. Sometimes you even lose bits of clay when doing this. The clay has to be in the exact center of the wheel, so that when you form it into a pot or other vessel it remains strong and even. This is the necessary foundation for creating a reliable, symmetrical, and beautiful pot.

3.       In order to center it further, you use your hands to bring the clay up into a cone shape. When the clay forms a pinnacle, (a centered one) you bring it back down again. You have to repeat this several times.

4.       Once the clay is centered on the wheel, you start to build your pot. I like to make bowls (it’s the only thing I can make) so I start by collaring in the clay before I form a well in the top. Then I dig in my fingers (this is where nail clippers come in handy) and pull up the walls. At this point I notice: the clay looks completely different from how it did before. It has form and usefulness.

5.       This is where a ceramicist can get creative. The possibilities are endless, and that is why I love ceramics!

Here’s how I like to think about it:

A.      I see the first step as Salvation. We are firmly planted on God with the Holy Spirit.

B.      I love this step. God uses his strength and patience to center our focus on Him. It isn’t always comfortable, and sometimes we have to give up what was once dear to us. But it is sooo worth it.

C.      This part can be exciting and painful. We are raised up to glorify God, but we are also brought low to do the same. Through triumph and struggle, our faith is strengthened and God, the potter, is glorified.

D.      Focused on God and submissive to His will, we can now be formed into something truly beautiful. God builds us and transforms us into the image he had for us all along, the pot he envisioned for us when we were nothing but an unseemly clump of clay.

E.       The journey of a Christian is a long and magnificent one, with endless possibilities.


Throwing pots is such a wonderful picture of what Christ is doing in my life! It's an encouraging thing to think about as I struggle with the learning process in my class. I’m  glad I could share it with you.