The beginning of the week is always exciting at the pottery studio. It’s when I arrange the pots that are drying on the shelf and check them if they are all dry. I usually place the pots on my skin (arm and sometimes my cheeks) and check if they feel cold, which means they are not totally dry yet. Pots can’t be fired when they are not fully dry (bone dry). I am very thankful for the weather, as the pots get dry faster. But letting them dry too quickly can cause them to crack too. Pots are more fragile even before they go through the fiery furnace.
One of the many tasks that a Potter does, is to collect all the clay scraps, that were unused by the students or by themselves. These scraps are mostly left uncovered with plastic while working. I have heard so many times, “Oh no! The clay is too hard now to be used. It’s just going to be a waste!” or “Poor clay! It can’t be formed anymore!” I smile whenever I hear these comments and tell them, “You are not wasting the clay at all. Clay can be recycled. In fact, it becomes stronger after recycling them. It can be brand new once again.”
Tomorrow, four huge buckets with scraps of clay are waiting to be recycled. They come from the different sessions that are held in the studio: pinching, coiling, slab making, and wheel throwing. The bucket will be filled with water overnight. The fun part begins the next day, when the water will be siphoned out. This is where the muddy work comes in, more than forming the dry lump of clay by hand or with the wheel. Two hands will dig all of the melted clay. I can always ask someone to do this, but this process has been my favorite time to play with clay. It has become a time of prayer for me as well.
Since I don’t have machines to recycle my clay, I do it the hard way. I would put the melted clay on plaster bats and let them dry until they are almost ready to be kneaded. I put all the heavy amount of clay on the floor and would step on it, barefooted of course. I have to make sure that there are no lumps, because it’s such a hassle to knead the material with them. I am trying to stay away from carpal tunnel syndrome, so I would rather process my clay with my feet! A trip to the nail spa is how I would end a clay-stomping day.
After stomping the clay, I get my shovel and gather all the clay to the center. This will make it easier for me to put them all back on the table, a few kilos of clay at a time! Who needs a gym membership? Definitely not me! The consistency of the clay is so much better at this stage. Sometimes it’s better than a newly processed clay that was never used. I take a break after bending and carrying all the heavy clay. After a glass of water and a few stretches, I go back to the table to knead them. It excites me to try two kilos of recycled clay with the potter’s wheel. I would then know if it needs an additional material to make it stronger like sand or grog.
Sometimes, this is my form of prayer. No words, no sound, no laughter, no tears. Just watching a pile of wet dirt being brought back to life. Making sure that all of the scraps will be used again. Not for the same purpose, but will definitely become useful again. It gives me hope after I feel my body all tired and ready to collapse at times. Sometimes no words can explain how powerful the Master Potter is. It is in what I see in each process that makes my lips form a sweet smile. Sometimes with tears in my eyes after knowing that just like the clay, we will never be put to waste. Never to be thrown away, never forgotten, never taken for granted.
There is hope in every situation. Just when things start to look impossible, it’s better to be silent sometimes and just watch the creative work of the potter’s hands in our lives. He has a way through everything. It is in seeing and watching with patience and perseverance, that the work of the Potter’s hands is revealed. He knows what is going to happen next. He knows when we are ready, he knows when our walls are ready to go through the heat that will burn us and make us even stronger. As fragile as we all are, it is between the Potter’s hands that makes us more safe and calm. He doesn’t need machines, gadgets, or any latest software application, to show us how much he loves us. Opening our eyes or being sensitive to what is happening around us, is sometimes his way of saying, “Look at this my child, watch this turn into something good for your sake. In all your sufferings, I am with you. Whether you have disobeyed me or turned your back from me, I never left your side. Turning away from me didn’t make me change my plans for you. The purpose I have for you stays the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I Love You because I created you between my hands. And even if you think you have failed or sinned against me, my love for you never changes.”
I cannot wait to dig these hands into the four buckets filled with wet clay. Hope is there, love is there.
I will dig until no clay is sticking on the walls of the buckets.
I will stomp the clay until no lumps are left.
I will knead the clay until they are all back in plastic bags.
And I will kick the potter’s wheel until I see the recycled clay back to life.