by Melissa Reddick
Jeremiah 18: 1-4
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words." So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me. "O house of Israel, can with you as the potter has done? Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand."
As an artist who passes most of her days in her studio, it is fair to say that I spend a good deal of time in my own head, thinking thoughts both large and small. I find sanctuary in these stretches of time when I simply listen to these thoughts and nothing more, no music, no podcast, no audiobook. In the quiet, I find memories of moments shared with family and friends. I find solutions to difficult problems. I find new dreams for the future. I find myself, and when I am very lucky, I find God. Inevitably, when I am alone, the silence is broken by my own voice chiming in on whatever thought might be in the works. "Exactly!", "Good idea!" or "What in the world?" might be heard at any moment. So, yes, I am not only admitting that I talk to myself, but I also that I enjoy it. This practice began for me many years ago when as a young mom, I was advised that it was good for developing children to hear language. The habit stuck, and I began talking to the sweet young ears of my babies in an effort to help them learn. Now, years later, when my children have grown far out of earshot, it becomes clear that I was also listening and benefiting from hearing my thoughts spoken over the silence. It seems that when voiced aloud, the hazy thoughts became vibrant and found purpose and meaning. In writing this blog, I hope that the same premise will prove true and that my humble thoughts might be transformed into words worthy of the majestic subject of God's role in my life; a life that I know to have been molded with grace and patterned by faith. Speaking from one artist's perspective, I will share the creative process used in my studio during the making of the PrayerBowls and how these steps relate to God's own hand in my life. Just as God works within our own lives to mold us, these steps used in the making of the Prayer Bowls result in a unique piece of art, perfect in its imperfections and ready for a life of meaning.
Molded with Grace.
Isaiah 64:8 "But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand."
Step 1. Wedging or Kneading the Clay
Before it can even be molded into a form, clay must be wedged in order to release any air that may be trapped within the clay. Air bubbles, when fired in the hot kiln, can cause the entire piece to crack or even explode, making this step very important to the integrity and strength of the finished piece. In my own life, it has been during the darkest moments and most challenging experiences that God has led me to become stronger and more ready to face future challenges and hardships.
Step 2. Flattening the Slab and Cutting Out the Circles
In order to most efficiently create a number of pieces at one time, I often roll out a very large slab measuring about 3' x 4'. Using a template that is pre-measured to ensure the final pieces will be the correct size, I cut out several different circles. Needless to say, some parts of the slab are chosen to be a part of the circle, while other parts are left behind as scraps to be reworked into future pieces. Which parts of who we are has God decided were needed to remain as we were formed and what was left behind? Let's believe His promises and trust that all that we are was deliberately chosen by him to become the "us" that we know.
Step 3. Forming the Bowl
This step is always one of my favorites. There is something incredible about pinching in the curves that become the sides of the bowl and the final form. Here is when the bowl comes to life and is transformed from a flat piece to one with more dimension. Instantly, we can begin to see what the finished piece will look like and start to imagine the form it will have going forward. Perhaps this step is also a favorite of God's. Through the work of God's hands and only with his divine wisdom are we formed to become what we may in his eyes. Finally, the molding of who and what we are is complete. What we may become is up to us.
Patterned by Faith
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Those who know my clay work know that in addition to form, I am all about the story beyond the surface. Stories behind every piece infuse meaning in a way that raises the level of importance from something that is just a simple object to one that celebrates the feelings, thoughts, and intentions that are found within the human spirit. I often seek out tools to work with that might not ordinarily be used with clay but, when pressed into the soft surface, create wonderful textures that bring the stories behind the tools to life. Among the most special of these include several snips of antique lace tatting made by my great-grandmother, Melissa Coley, a teacher who lived from 1865-1943. Each time I press the delicate handmade pieces she held so many years ago into the clay, I think of her, her life, and the legacy of the importance of education she passed along to the women in my family. Other favorite studio treasures include a vintage pastry rolling pin, a sterling silver comb, and shells washed up on the North Carolina beach where my family has spent many happy years. The pattern of the cross used to make the impression on the PrayerBowls is also of great significance due to the meaning behind it. Although every cross holds great importance, this one is special to me because it was cut out from a photo I took of the steeple that stands atop my home church. With the making of every PrayerBowl, this homemade stencil is pressed into the clay to create a unique surface. Each time I complete this step, I am reminded of the worship and fellowship experiences our family has enjoyed since we joined almost 18 years ago. Because those memories are dear, I believe a bit of the very special meaning is transferred into the finished pieces through the story beyond the surface. How are we meant to find our own patterns in this world? Where do we look? How do we think outside the box and find what is uniquely special to pattern ourselves after and with? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word in this way: Pattern (noun); a form or model proposed for imitation, something designed or used as a model for making things. That definition seems to point to the verse in 2 Timothy 2:13, "Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." Thank you, 2 Timothy! It seems that we have our answer. Through faith, prayer, and love for others, Christ's teachings serve as a pattern we may follow to understand God's plan for us, a plan that will offer us lives that are far richer and eternally more meaningful than just what may be seen on the surface.
We are blessed to have been uniquely crafted by your careful hands into the perfectly, imperfect works of art that we are. Thank you for the wedging and kneading, the flattening and cutting out of each important piece, the shaping, the forming, and the molding that, through your love for us has brought us dimension. We pray that you will continue to guide us as we strive to live lives that are patterned by faith. Lord, please open our eyes and ears to the opportunities within each day when we might respond with grace and love as Christ did so that we might help to make this world a better place. We know that it is only through your will that we may be led to live lives that tell a story of true meaning.