From Clay, to Cylinder, to Pot, with the Touch of the Master’s Hand

File May 11, 9 26 06 AMA picture is worth a thousand words; poetry enables the mind to remember the message; the story is thus enriched at least by two when accompanied by both mediums. The picture is empty without the story and the story is purposeless without the application, and so it is both fun and instructive to include all in my writing..

I had completed the second semester of ceramics at Pensacola Junior College and was hanging around with the rest of my adult friends who paid a small fee to continue to do pottery under the tutelage of “Clover,” our esteemed professor. The wheel I chose to use was next to the messiest wheel in the room. You see, those of us who used the equipment, the students, had to clean up after ourselves, but Clover had none of those conditions imposed upon him, so he left it messy so no one would use his wheel.

I had undertaken a project of an old-fashioned bean pot and six matching bowls with the vision of making chili in the pot and eating it in the bowls. The bowls were completed and were lined up on my shelf behind me, waiting to be fired, along with the pot. I was kneading my clay and preparing to throw the pot when Clover entered the room with a new class of beginners. He began his usual routine of showing the students the wheels and how they worked, showing them the shelf units and assigning them a shelf upon which they would store their tools and their work, and then gathering them around his messy wheel, instructing them, of course, to clean up before leaving class. He then cut a small section of clay from his messy block, took it to the work table, showing them how to knead the clay to get all the air out and get it to the consistency needed for throwing it. He then brought his entourage back to his messy wheel and began to demonstrate the most basic and necessary step in using the wheel, making a cylinder. All items — tumblers, mugs, pots, vases, pitchers, bowls, plates, etc. — emanate from the cylinder. If you can’t make a cylinder, you cannot make anything but a mess on the wheel. It is from this exercise that you learn to center the clay and begin to pull the clay up into position. It is from this exercise that you learn to feel the thickness to maintain the structural integrity of the piece you are making.

As Clover moved effortlessly from his informative lecture into his demonstration, I, over at the next wheel, was beginning to shape the large cylinder I had pulled, into the shape of the bean pot and began to shape the ledge where the lid would sit. There was a long moment when every student’s eyes left their intended destination and with great fascination, centered on what I was doing. There were a few moments when Clover’s lecture and his excellent demonstration fell on deaf ears and blinded eyes as his small ball of clay became a tiny cylinder, and my large ball of clay became a large cylinder which morphed into a shaped pot. His lecture and demonstration fell silent and still as he realized he had lost his students.

“Frank!” he bellowed. “I am the teacher here.” And he quickly recovered the attention of his lost students. I hasten to say that I had no intention of interfering with Clover’s instruction, nor did I then, nor do I now, set myself up as being a master of the craft, only still a learner. True to Clover’s instruction, however, each time I start a session on the wheel, I start with a small ball of clay, knead it, pull a cylinder first, and then proceed to my project for the day. The cylinder is not wasted as it can be turned into a small bowl, a mug, or back into a ball of clay to be used at a later date.

Clay is a wonderful medium to work with. If it is too wet, add some dry clay powder. If it is too dry, add some water. If the piece you are working on collapses, make it back into a ball and start over. No condition of the clay is beyond reclamation in the hands of the potter. And so it is with the Father. There is no human condition beyond reclamation in the hands of the Master Potter. I refer you to Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:4, Romans 9:21, and the wonderful old song “Have Thine Own Way,” which says, “Thou art the potter, I am the clay; mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.”

You’ve seen the picture, and now you’ve heard the story. Here’s the poem to help you remember the message.

The Old Violin
The Touch of the Master’s Hand

‘Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
”Who starts the bidding for me?”
”One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
”Two dollars, who makes it three?”
”Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”
But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.
“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
”Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
”Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
”We just don’t understand.”
”What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
”The Touch of the Master’s Hand.”
“And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.
– by Myra Brooks Welch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s