Pottery is not easy. When we started out, we reasoned that the mastery of ancient crafts were well within the reach of modern man. “If the Neanderthals could do this, so can we”, I would chirp. Thing is, outspoken ignorance throws egg on its face. Mine sure did.
There are just so many variables. The ancients would dig and refine their clay. I buy mine. That probably works in my favour with consistency, but the material remains organic and variations occur. Then there are the challenges of construction. Wheel work and hand building are our thing. Construction includes decorating if slips or pigments are used. The dry wares are then bisque fired, followed by glazing. I buy my glazes too, tweaking the commercial stuff a little from time to time to give me what I want. Application is by dipping, pouring, spraying and brushing, or perhaps a combination of these. Then its back into the kiln, which peaks somewhere around the twelve hundred degrees centigrade mark, making us stoneware potters and our products vitreous.
Here’s the the thing. It sounds so simple. But it’s not. Materials interact with tolerances as fine as fractions of a gram. Temperature is sensitive to the degree. Factor in water quality (there’s water in everything), ambient temperature, humidity, and of course the kiln, and you’re stirring alphabet soup hoping to write a short story in the swirls. The only constant is inconsistency, and with every kiln opening the butterflies flutter a-frenzied in the belly.
A small percentage are good pots. Sometimes there are none. Occasionally a few. A tiny percentage of pots are real stunners. Even in the safe zone of white glaze over buff clay on an undemanding form, if you want six, make eight. This is because there is serendipity in every good result. Serendipity, when the variables coalesce into a smile.
But here’s the other thing. It is not serendipity alone. As Gary Player (famous golfer) reportedly said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”. It’s a studied serendipity. A considered and nurtured serendipity. The more I apply myself to every stage of the process, the luckier I get, and the further I push the materials towards manifesting their flamboyant beauty to full potential. I’m no longer a novice, and I’m by no means yet a master, but my serendipity quotient is a pleasing rising tide.
Which brings me to the Gracious Potter. His wheel is this mortal coil, His kiln the furnace of life. Talk about variables, and that’s not to mention His impurity-ridden detritus-sodden uber-organic raw material, us. He is the Potter. We are the clay. He works in love, mercy and grace, bringing His genius to bear in His every thought, word and deed. His artistry is centered in the work of Christ, and songs of praise saturate the atmosphere as He works. There is pitch-perfect resonance throughout as His grace compensates over and above and more than enough, no matter what.
And out of the mud of sin and shame, saints from sinners, beauty from ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning. It’s life from death, glory from dishonor, peace from mayhem, and the eternal from what was only perishing without hope. What’s not to adore! There He is, ever redeeming, reclaiming, restoring, recreating, with the skill and patience of infinite love. His grace is a magnificent study in engineered serendipity. A carefully conceived, considered, constructed and nurtured serendipity. As such it is no serendipity at all, for a guaranteed serendipity is a contradiction in terms. His goodness is not of chance at all, but a reflection of His person and the fulfillment of His inviolable promises, which are firmly founded on the covenant of Christ.