The first years of our marriage, my husband and I were constantly in a state of not knowing if we were staying or moving to another location. We clung to God and each other. Jobs were difficult to find. Everything seemed an uphill battle. Ironically, even through the catch-22 of prerequisite job experience, in one of the interviews I had I was told I was “overqualified” for what they were looking for. I was fighting burnout—the kind of tired where you feel tired all day long, but feel totally awake at night, which in turn would cause insomnia.
I was exhausted, and there was no rest in sight.
I had the most to do with the least energy, but that didn’t mean there was time for a break. When I complained, “Lord, I feel very worn.” My heart felt His reminder “I’m rest.” Resting in the Lord requires yielding—a concept that I saw in action, paradoxically, years ago during the incredibly long and weary hours spent working toward my degree.
My second concentration in college was ceramics. Admittedly, printmaking or photography or drawing would have been concentrations that made more sense for a graphic design primary concentration, but ceramics more so than other mediums helped me to wrap my head around more abstract ways of creating art—a type of thinking that very much is related to graphic arts. The whole Potter/clay analogies in the Bible (see Jeremiah 18, Isaiah 64:8, 2 Corinthians 4:7) take on a whole new meaning when actually working with clay. Let me explain if I can and if I remember it all well enough still.
All things being equal and assuming the clay is well made, in order for clay to be used, it first has to be “wedged.” That’s essentially the opposite of kneading because you’re working the air bubbles out instead of in. You’re also working out any debris the clay may have picked over its life span. Wedging takes muscle. It’s hard work for the potter; it’s necessary for the clay. To the clay, it’s gotta feel like abuse, but if the debris and air are not removed, it could cause the clay to warp and spin out of control on the throwing wheel—or worse, if it manages to stay past that stage, it can blow up in the kiln harming it and many other vessels.
To throw on the wheel, the clay needs to be “centered” on the base. Centering is rough. It takes work for the potter because the potter is working with/against his or her own force and the opposing and centrifugal force of the wheel. How rough? There was once during the height of prepping for finals that I’m pretty certain I dislocated my wrist. Finals preparation starts really early for ceramicists because so many students are vying for kiln time amidst drying time and deadlines; there’s no time to stop or take a break—for any of the art concentrations really. People are literally sleeping in the studio and in the halls, living on determination and caffeine. I had to have someone put my wrist back into place there in the studio so I could keep working. Whoever says art school is a breeze is severely ill-informed. (If you’re unfamiliar with a BFA degree, it’s different than a bachelor’s degree in that your focus is typically much, much more time doing intensive studio work. I remember one professor telling his class that for every one hour we spent in regular class hours in the studio, we should be spending a minimum of 2-3 on our own time. When studio classes are typically three hours each session, held three times a week, a full load of credit hours meant you didn’t leave the hive of studios very often—even less so during finals.)
Next, the clay must have water added frequently to it so that it doesn’t dry out. Not just any water, “living water” is best for clay, which is why clay does well with yogurt, food, and fermented drinks added to it. My favorite part of the Potter/clay analogy is that through all the stages, the clay can ALWAYS be restored for use. Even greenware can be turned back into useable clay by soaking for an extended period in that living water. It’s only after it’s been fired that it’s final and can’t be re-shaped into anything new. Whether you thought you were going to be a pot or a bowl or a vase, you can be certain that the Master Potter can always transform you into something valuable.
This is part 11 of 31 in a personal story participating in the Write 31 Days Challenge. To start at the beginning or to see all the posts in order, click here. If you want to follow along, follow on social media or subscribe as a reader to Eclectic Affinity.
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