Jeremiah 18:6 O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? says the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.
By reading the Bible, one cannot help but notice that God is a God if relationships. We know He spent time with Adam, we know he walked with Enoch until he was no more, we know he made a covenant with Abraham through relationship. There were other generalize relationships mentioned in the Bible, such as Shepherd and His sheep, a God and His people and my favorite, the Potter and His clay. I want to talk about the Potter and the clay in todays post and I’ve also posted a scripture above for a point of reference.
Now I’ve never had an opportunity to witness the techniques executed by a potter working on a clay. I’ve seen the finished product but never seen the actual process. So to offer my point of view I decided to do some research so that I can better understand and explain the procedure.
Steps in the Ceramic Process
1. Recognizing and digging the clay
The first step to the ceramic process is recognizing and digging the clay. At this stage, the potter employs certain techniques in procuring authentic clay.
How to Recognize and dig Clay
Clay may be found wet or dry or in any stage in between. In its dry state it may look like rocks; in its wet state, like mud. When looking for clay take a bucket, shovel, trowel and penknife. If you find dry lumps. take a chunk and scrape it with a knife. If it’s clay the fine particles will crumble off. Scrape some into a small pile and dampen with water to see if it dissolves . If you’re in a wet area and must dig to get to the clay source, don’t stop too soon. It’s necessary to go beneath the layers of leaves, sand, stones and humus, clearing these away as you dig. You’ll know you may have arrived at clay by the fine particle size.
Take a small lump of the damp material , working it into a ball with your fingers. Roll it into a coil, then bend the coil around your finger. If it stays together and feels smooth and plastic, chances are you’ve found clay. Gather about a bucketful for processing and further testing. Be careful not to add stones, twigs or dirt as you do this. (Kitcornelpottery.com)
Here we see the details and precision that is put into finding the clay. The process is rather labor intensive as we can see. That doesn’t stop the potter though. When God formed us, He knew where to find authentic clay. He finds the clay and tests it to see if its the real deal. “My sheep hears my voice.”
He made sure when He formed us there were no leaves and brushes in us to contaminate us. David says, we were fearfully and wonderfully made. That is why we should be content with the way God designs us.
The second step is known as wedging. This is the process of mixing clay by hand by rotating and pressing the clay ball on the table. This process is used to thoroughly homogenize the clay and remove any air bubbles. These air bubbles which can result in explosion of the clay is a representation of the works of the flesh in our lives. Our pride, lust, idolatry, anger and strife. These things, if they are present in us will eventually explode allowing what’s inside to manifest itself on the outside. Even though the pressing can be painful, it is designed to remove the impurities from within us. The only role the clay plays here is that it has to stay still, it has to be submissive. God isn’t asking us to fix ourselves but that we submit ourselves to Him and He will fix us.
There are 5 methods used in forming clay. These are; slab, wheel, coil, pinch and mold. These can be used collectively or singly. The wheel however is what Jeremiah saw when he received the revelation from God. Here is an example is the process “forming by wheel.”
BASIC WHEEL-THROWING STEPS
1. Start off with clay of the proper consistency: soft enough to throw easily, yet not so soft that it will quickly collapse. Clay that’s too hard or dry is very difficult to throw. Be sure to wedge the clay carefully up to 100 times, taking care not to fold it in a way that might trap air bubbles within. Mold into as perfect a cone shape as possible, and smooth out all cracks.
2. Slam cone onto the center of the wheelhead or bat. Slowly spin the wheel to see if clay is off center; if so, gently slide cone toward the center as much as possible while the wheel is turned off.
3. Thoroughly wet the clay and start wheel turning to begin centering process. Cup hands evenly around clay and force cone upward and downward a few times to align the clay particles. Then firmly press inward with one hand, and downward with the other, making sure the entire exterior surface of the clay hump is in contact with a portion of the hands. Keep hands firmly positioned in one spot, and with wheel spinning rapidly, steadily maintain that position until the clay offers no resistance, periodically wetting it as necessary. Whenever you remove your hands from the clay, be sure to do so SLOWLY, so as not to knock the piece off center.
4. Once the clay is centered, cup hands around it and allow thumbs to glide into center while wheel is turning. Press slightly to make dimple, or impression, in the middle. With both thumbs or one of forefingers, steadily press downward in center to make a hole in the clay that’s roughly 1/2 to 1/4 in. from the bottom. Periodically stop the wheel and check the depth by poking through the floor of the pot with a needle tool until the desired thickness is reached.
5. Now use forefingers or thumbs (whatever’s more comfortable) to open floor of pot outward, being sure to slide fingers across the clay STEADILY, at the same level as the desired thickness of the floor of the pot. Continue to open the clay outward until the inside diameter of the pot is roughly 10% wider than the desired inside diameter of the finished piece, to plan for shrinkage.
6. Begin to pull clay upward with fingers or knuckles of both hands, one on the outside, the other inside. First undercut the bottom edge of the pot with outside fingertip to form a clay ledge. (Always make sure to re-set the rim of the pot after each movement, to keep it on center.) With fingers of inside hand slightly higher than those on the outside, and outside fingers (or knuckle) positioned underneath the clay ledge, gently squeeze the clay between the fingers at an even pressure, and steadily pull upward at the same rate the wheel is revolving. (At this stage, the wheel should revolve at a medium to slow speed.)
7. Repeat the process until the clay walls have reached an even thickness and desired height. If you accidentally knock the clay off center or end up with walls that are uneven, try this: apply a straight-edge wooden rib to the outside of the pot, and hold your left forefinger at a 90 degree angle, pointed downward, on the inside of the pot. Slowly spin the wheel and force the wall of clay between the inside forefinger and outside straight edge back into a uniform thickness, slowly and steadily gliding upward until entire wall is uniform.
8. Gently shape the pot with fingers or ribs, re-set the rim, and release from the bat with a wire or string cutter.(claytimes.com)
In number 3 as you can see, the Potter keep His hands steadily on the clay and He molds it and forms it. He does this until the clay offers no resistance. If you’re on the Potter’s wheel, you will find yourself there until you can submit to Gods plan and design for your life offering no resistance.
I consider this the waiting process. After we have been formed, we wait on God to put in us what He has intended. Now just because we are formed doesn’t mean we are perfected, there are more steps to complete.
This stage of drying that is characterized by a loss of water through evaporation. This is a good time to carve the excess clay, add handles and decorative elements. This however is the last stage at which the Potter can modify the clay at all. It’s a good thing we have a Potter that doesn’t make mistakes. A master Potter must recognize this stage. This is place where we are equipped and prepared to face the fire. God builds us, designs us and strengthens us, afterwards He tests us.
This is where we reach our peak. If we get bent at this stage, we will break, this is a stage where we just cannot take it anymore. We beg God not to give us anymore trials or temptations. Yet we still haven’t gone through the fire as yet. He will never give us more than we can handle. What’s coming up isn’t meant to break us, but to strengthen us.
7. Bisque Firing
The process of heating the clay at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Wow, see the clay doesn’t think it can withstand this. The clay isn’t fighting however because it had given up its resistance a long time ago. It sees the fire but it doesn’t worry, it sees the pain but trusts that God is using this experience to make it stronger. Clay fired at this temperature retains its porosity which is its ability to absorb liquid. This bisque process is necessary to make the glazing process much easier. It allows the liquid part of the glaze to be absorbed allowing the glassy materials in the glaze to remain on the surface.
Now the Potter sees and knows that the clay can stand the fire. The potter knows when to increase the heat and when to decrease the heat. The Potter now feels it is safe to trust the clay with gifts and success. Can God trust you? At this stage coloring materials are added. Spiritually God starts to impart gifts towards us, things that we need to be successful and useful.
9. Glaze Firing
After the glaze is added, then the clay is fired again..this time at 2350 Fahrenheit. This is so the glaze and ornaments can be firmly fixed. A final test, the difference is that now we are equipped with the gifts that God has given us. We are starting to see what He saw when he found us. At this stage we stop seeing the worst in ourselves and we start seeing the best.
While looking at this whole process, there’s one thing I’ve notice and I hope you did too. I notice the intricacy and attention to details used by the Potter in forming the clay. The process seemed long but the Potter knew what He was doing from the start. God is asking us, can He not do with us, what the potter does to the clay? The beauty of it all is that we know the end result. So if you’re on the Potter’s wheel today, please pay attention to the process, submit yourself and stop fighting. Nothing you have gone through will be wasted, everything is meant to make you into what God intended. There are two things you should know about this process. One, the Potter’s eyes are constantly on you and two, His hands are continually forming you. You’re in His hands and on His mind. The Potter isn’t trying to hurt you, He is simply trying to fulfill the vision He saw the first time He dug and found you as a lump of clay. God bless.