This winter I have spent hours . . . okay, days . . . in my art studio. As I’m throwing clay, I am relieving stress and getting a bit of upper body exercise–wedging clay takes some muscle! My art time also brings up topics of discussion with my inner self. Perhaps I should say inner selves since the conversations I’ve been having seem to have several opinions and variable ideas.
Sometimes the clay even speaks to me about what it wants to become (often different than the idea I had in mind). I find interesting parallels between creating an object with clay and creating our own lives and how our beliefs and the choices we make affect us now and in the future. The clay goes through several stages as it comes to form. I’ll make comparisons to show what I’ve been learning from my “play” time.
Material — I purchase clay that has been mixed to a perfect state, ready to be formed. But someone had to mine it from the earth in areas where the clay content is high. They know what to look for and how to obtain a consistency that will hold together. Our physical bodies are made of organic and carbon material similar to the stars and this planet. The human form was created by a higher intelligence beyond my understanding.
Storage — The clay can be stored indefinitely. If the clay is not worked or kept air-tight it can dry out or mold–even grow algae. The same is true about our spiritual lives. If we do nothing to cultivate a relationship with our divinity, we dry out and become contaminated by the default programming around us.
Plastic Stage — When a piece is being sculpted or thrown on the wheel, it is in a modifiable state that can be shaped, influenced by pressure and the will of the artist. This is when a pattern can be imprinted. As children we are very impressionable. Our beliefs are molded by our parents, educators, religion, society, and our experiences.
Leather-Hard Stage — There are levels of leather hard stages from soft to almost rigid. How quickly the clay passes from one stage to the next depends upon the moisture in the environment. In the first few hours, the clay is still able to be moved and manipulated. A warped bowl can still be reshaped in the early stages. Within a few hours, the clay will be ready to carve a design into. If you wait too long, the clay becomes too rigid to change, but that’s the perfect time to add an underglaze.
Our lives pass through “drying stages” as well. If we do not like what we are creating, we can change it. Clay is very forgiving. Unless it has been fired, a piece can be returned to the plastic stage by adding water. We can bring our lives to leather hard and return to the plastic stage as new ideas and experiences shape our reality. We are able to be imprinted at any time.
Bone Dry — Now the clay is ready to be fired, assuming you like what you have created. Sometimes our beliefs are worth keeping. Our values need no more modification and we are ready to put them into practice as guidelines for living.
Bisque Fired — This is the part where impurities are fired out and the clay passes a point of no return. I compare this firing to the dark night of the soul. We come out of the fire with a resilience that is like stone. A new foundation and strong supportive belief in ourselves is forged. But the transformation is still ongoing and becomes more beautiful at each stage.
Glaze Fire — Once a piece is bisque fired, a glaze can be added to make the piece shiny, colorful, and useful for service. The clay moves into its mission as a decorative piece or dinnerware, depending upon its uniquely designed function. After we have gone through the refiner’s fire in our life we are able to be of greater service.
Re-Fire — I’ve made some mistakes in life as well as with pottery glazes that did not turn out as I expected. I have re-glazed and re-fired several pieces and made them more to my liking. I’m thankful for the do-overs and new starts in my life. Our mission may change or we may go in a new direction after a difficult season has passed.
I encourage you to be aware of the stages you are going through. We are all being molded and refined. We are both the clay and the potter. We have choices and options in life. We can change ourselves and change our lives. May you find your authentic self (selves) in a joyful way.
Come and play in the clay with us during our Sacred Creations Inner Child Playshop April 20-22. Three days of fellowship, food, fun, art, and healing.
Sweethome Retreat Center