Clay In Me

One hundred sixty one degrees Celsius and rising.  The heat is increasing slowly, as I fire my kiln today.  Thanks to the pyrometer, which tells me the temperature inside the fiery furnace. I look at the sky and it looks sunny today. I’ve missed the bright skies and non-rainy days. Clay dries up very slow during the rainy season, and my pottery studio gets wet and a bit flooded, when the rain pours really hard. There are times when I would just come in, and stare at the gush of water from a leaking part of the ceiling. I run to the back of the house and find a bucket, but it’s usually not big enough to contain all the water.  Most of the time, I smile as I panic or worry. Tears would just add to the wetness of everything else. I am still very thankful.

The action of firing pots happens in the kiln, where all the pots are being touched with the flame. I am gloss firing my pots today for Whitespace on Sunday. I’ve decided to glaze everything in white, but since I am using stoneware clay, the pots look more beige and rustic, which I really like.  I am looking forward to open the furnace tomorrow morning, after it has cooled down. Seeing results makes me excited, and seeing how each functional piece can liven up a dining table, or my earrings that add beauty to someone’s face, encourages me that my works have served their function.  And most importantly, I keep in my heart dearly – the stories/conversations that are shared as I share my pots to clients, friends, and family.

The excitement from forming the clay, is different from firing the pots. But not one is greater than the other. The attitude is always looking forward, whether there have been good or bad firings, and having a good or bad batch of clay.

One thousand one hundred and eighty eight degrees Celsius  now and still rising. I look through the peephole of the kiln, and watch the color of the flame. At this stage, some of the glaze chemicals have melted on the pots. While I wait for the firing to end, I form more pieces on the potter’s wheel. I adjust the pressure of the gas once in a while, and watch the flames as I do it. I am reminded of how impurities are taken out, while the pots are being engulfed with orange flame.

I have been experiencing some transformation in my own life, most especially in the past week. Like the pots. I feel like I am going through the fire. And this isn’t the first time, that I feel like I am going through it (figuratively speaking).  It feels familiar, but a different set of impurities, are being revealed to me at this season. It hurts, it doesn’t feel comfortable, and most of the time, it makes me cry. Not tears of sadness, but tears of joy, because this certainly means that something great is about to happen.  What matters to me most importantly, is that the one who created me knows when I am ready to be molded, fired, and used.

One thousand two hundred and seventy two. I am seeing now that my cone 9 pyrometric cone has bent. This means that I am almost finished with my work today. I just had a good dinner of fish “tinapa”, and “sinangag” rice. The perfect meal for the drizzly evening.

Til the next firing of pots and the clay in me…

Fiery Furnace

People talk about a lot of things. Over a hundred ways to speak it, over a thousand decisions to make – whether to listen or not, and over a million subjects to share. One of the million things that has caught my attention, is working with clay and how to play with fire. For almost eight years now, I am still hooked to watching people form clay, and observe how a kiln reacts with fire.

Last night, I attended a gathering of Philippine Potters. Some of them shared their experiences, from their recent pottery trips abroad and kiln building techniques. I saw the fire in their eyes as they talk about their passion.

Inner fire or a great passion for something keeps a person going. But seeing flames and feeling the heat of a roaring kiln makes me tremble. It never fails everytime I fire my kiln, or the kiln in the University, where I assist every now and then. As I gather wood, and as I stoke, excitement fills my bones. It somehow brings back the fire that was once lost in me: To keep living. Fire encourages me in so many ways.

As the temperature rises, I look forward to opening the kiln the next day, after it has cooled down. And yes, I love the smell of a freshly fired kiln. Opening it brick by brick, still feeling its warmth. Sometimes I forget to wear protective gloves, and not caring at all if the dirt, or marks of fire that seeped through the peep holes have stained my hands and clothes.

Some say it’s a man’s job to be a potter. It’s never about gender. It’s about the fire that burns inside. What burns in me is encouragement. Not task, not just the craft or art of pottery making. It’s how the clay ministers to me, and how the fire communicates with me.

Fire is hot. Fire hurts. It can kill and destroy. But it also gives birth to beautiful creations. Inner and outer beauty.  If only pots could talk, it could have been a hellish scene being inside the fiery furnace. But could it possibly be the opposite?

What burns in me now, may be gone tomorrow. But it can only die down, when I myself will turn to ashes…