I gently stepped into the pottery shop with my hands on my back. My motions were calculated, careful not to make any unnecessary movements that might cause any of the display to fall on the ground and break.
My wondering eyes looked at the jars, cups, mugs, plates, vases, and other earthen products that exhibit a variety of simple and intricate designs. They could make a lot of use from kitchen and dining to decorative purposes. Some are glossy, shining in the diffusion of light from the white bulb above.
My eyes caught the price of a bowl that attracted my attention. I smiled, knowing that it would not amount to the remaining cash I have in my wallet. No doubt, it was a valuable piece because it embodies the intelligent design of its artist. The finished potteries around me were polished up to the last minute detail by manual dexterity and skillful craftsmanship.
My wondering turned into a desire to know more.
How does an excellent, beautiful work of art come out of a seemingly unusable patch of clay?
From a close distance, I heard the sound of a rotating wheel. Then, I immediately went out to follow the sound. Only one person holds the answer – the potter.
I walked through the humble facility.
On the left side, I saw the piles of sacks which I thought contain the fresh clay. Some pots that are still in progress were in the wooden shelves.
A handwritten sign warned me not to touch any of the pots because “they are too delicate at this stage.”
I saw the potter in one corner. She smiled at me and introduced herself. I recognized her to be the same woman that I saw in a photograph of my friend who visited the pottery several years ago. She looked the same.
I gazed at the potter’s wheel, a rounded platform that was in front of her. It is made of steel and connected to a small electric machine that runs it. It was still wet and muddy, probably fresh from the previous demonstration shown to those who came before me.
“Please show me,” I said in great anticipation.
She took a lump of clay and placed it at the center of the wheel. She plainly explained how the clay is sourced, stored, and treated before it becomes suited for pottery. She spoke the English language well.
Then, she turned the electric motor on and the wheel started to rotate quickly. Using her right hand, she poured a small volume of muddy water on the clay.
As the wheel was rotating fast, she clasped her palms on the clay, applied soft pressure until the clay began to form a shape.
In a few more seconds, the shape slowly grew in size. She gently pressed her hands down the center of the form to create a space inside. The turning wheel helps in maintaining the rotational symmetry of the clay.
Her hands were well coordinated. While the left hand was polishing the hollowness inside, the right hand was working on the outside to make sure the clay is shaped to a desired purpose.
The passion in her heart flowed through her hands and onto the clay. When she was done, the raw, delicate form became a jar.
“This is all I can show you for now,” she ended and turned the machine off.
She held the jar on her palm. The work is not yet finished. She said that it would be baked again; it would be branded with a unique design; it would be glazed to satisfy an aesthetic quality; it would be fine-tuned for safe usability.
“The whole process takes a lot of time,” she said when the wheel came to a halt. “You have to be very patient.”
I turned off my camera and put it inside my pocket. I thanked her for welcoming me in her place and for graciously giving me the opportunity to see how her work is being done.
Of course, she would not tell me everything about the process, and I would not need to know everything either, but not knowing everything does not limit me from enjoying the beauty and the benefits of the work that is done.
I emerged from the pottery house with high hopes in my heart. The sun was setting behind the pine trees and the temperature dropped below 18 degrees. I pulled down the strings of my hood and buried by cold hands deep into the pockets of my jacket. I looked up to heaven and uttered a prayer.
“I want to be like the clay that entrusts its shape and purpose to The Potter’s hands. I want to be held, molded, and crafted by The Potter who can use even the dirt to create something genuinely beautiful and useful. In your name I pray. Amen.”