working the clay (part 1) – the measuring tape and the plumb line

Isaiah 34:11

 

The desert owl
and screech owl will possess it;
the great owl and the raven will nest there.
God will stretch out over Edom
the measuring line of chaos
and the plumb line of desolation.

We studied these passages in our BSF lesson last week, this struck me in the notes “The measuring line depicts the act of marking out the land in plots for occupation and ownership while the plumb line points to the fact that all will be assessed and compared with the true and real.  God, like a master builder who uses a measuring tape and a plumb line to ensure buildings are true and square, will execute the same attention to detail both in building things up and in breaking them down for destruction.”

I have worked with wood a few times in my days, it is not my favorite material because I can never quite get it right.  I love the look and the smell of freshly cut wood but lack the skills to transform it.  The artist’s craft and patience has to be exact, and their tools sharp to obtain a building that is square or a product that looks good.  I have chosen not wood but clay, as to me it always has seemed more forgiving and it’s responsive to the potter’s touch.

The roundness is important; before a piece can be thrown/shaped on the wheel the clay must be readied.  All the air bubbles wedged out, hard particles removed, and a good consistent feel through the whole lump of clay.  On the wheel the lump must be completely centered.  This comes by consistent pressure on the clay, your tools which in this case are your hands must be working together.  Once centered the potter must use a plumb line to drop a hole,  this too must be exact to keep the lump completely centered.  The art is the connection between the mind, the heart and the hands, as the potters touch transforms each lump of clay into a unique vessel.  Even if he repeats a similar form, each piece holds its uniqueness and intimate touch.  Every vessel is made by the conception of an artist’s hand.

The potter envisions his work of art, centers the clay and opens the hole by pulling the clay outward.  This begins the process of stretching the clay.  From this point on it can’t go back, the clay particles begin to loosen making the clay pliable to the potter’s touch.  Water is added to lubricate, reducing friction and further softening the clay.  He begins to pull the clay by again adding a steady and even pressure not outward this time but upwards.  It is important for the newly formed pot to stay completely centered as this rotation keeps it workable and strong.

It is sometimes necessary to  scrape clay from the bottom or trim the rim at the top to keep the pot centered.  After reaching the desired height, he begins to shape it as it seems fit.  Overtime the potter creates a signature for himself.  A body of work that brings him delight and satisfaction, an example of his skill and consistency.  If the clay is overworked or thrown off center the pot collapses, the potter will remove it from the wheel and toss it into a bucket to be reused another day.


This is the ideal way to make a vessel.  An experienced potter will be able to accomplish these steps in a matter of minutes but it takes him years and practice to achieve these skills.  Along the way you learn little tricks, how to reshape, trim or alter your pot if you don’t like how it looks.  You learn how to redeem it if it is slightly off centered or has a uneven side.  In fact you learn how to mask the imperfections that keep it from being true and real.  This can result in a very clever and deceivingly round pot, but such facts cannot be hidden from its maker.

This has caused a great reflection in me… In learning how to throw pottery on the wheel, one learns the art, the motion, the process of being real and true alongside learning the way to cover, conceal and correct.

Are you aware of the makers intimate touch on your life? The uniqueness of your vessel and the purposes of why you have been made?

Have you measured your life by what is true and real?

The same plumb line that is used to make the clay into a vessel is used in the judgement of it.  The creators workmanship is real and good, his body of work must remain consistent to maintain his signature.  He charges us with the task of remaining centered in his hands and moving upwards.  Are you being moldable and pliable, responsive to the potters touch?

Is the living water being added daily to resist friction and soften your soul?

Are there things in your life that are off center and cause spinning that is increasingly out of control?

Are you bringing delight and satisfaction to your maker? Or are there things that need to given up, thrown in the slop bucket in order to not compromise the body of work as a whole?

Isaiah 40: 28-31

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Amen Jesus.  I thank your for these words and visual pictures of you hand in our creation.  May these thoughts be pleasing to you O God and bring glory and advancement to your kingdom now and forevermore.

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About Kate

I am a wife, mother, friend, artist, swimmer, traveler, cook, adventurer and follower of Christ. This is where I share the best moments in my day – the kind you know would be a crime to keep to yourself. I write like I talk, not too fancy but from the heart. View all posts by Kate

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