I am sure there are similar references in other ancient texts but having been raised Christian I am familiar with texts in the Bible about humans equated to clay shaped by the master’s hands, and my years of work in clay has made it clear why. (Job 10:8-9)
Clay is the result of years of wear on rock, it is digested rock. It is found generally in water beds or at the base of mountains. When found in the mountain it’s self clay is in the purest form of it since it has not been washed off the mountain along with impurities. But that pure clay, you have to climb for it. Clay is best mixed and then left to mature. Clay that has rested for 6 months is more plastic; it is easily shaped and won’t crack or break. People are like that, it takes years of events like rain and winds to let us know what we are made of. And the years make us more willing to change and accept other ideas.
A potter likes to combine different types of clay to make better clay, one with qualities of both low land ruff clay and fine clay from high on the mountain. The clay taken from the ground is dried and pulverized and the impurities are removed. Then it is mixed with water and slip until it is wet enough to put your finger in and none sticks to your finger. (Slip is wet almost runny clay made from clay left over when making something or dried pieces the potter decided not to fire.) The clay can’t be completely smooth, it best with some grit in it. The grit makes the pottery stronger, makes the new pot stand on its own while it dries. I see myself as stoneware with lots of grit. I’m suited for everyday use like dishes or a pitcher full of iced tea or sangria. A pot for the baser use of Romans 9:21 not fine use like porcelain. The Kings and Queens of pre world war I Europe were made of that pure clay vessels for a fine use.
Clay has to be wedged before it can be used. This is a process much like kneading bread dough but the purpose is to work air out, not in. it is a very physical process because clay is considerably more stiff then bread dough. It is never easy to prepare ourselves for change, for a new project or vocation.
A potter may have a project in mind but it never works out exactly like she expects. With more experience, it comes closer to the expected result but never exactly. As a result, potters learn to appreciate the project for what it is and not what she intended. I see it as the chaos of the universe having a hand in the creative process much like how God works with us to help us reach our potential.
To a potter clay is precious. A potter has a longing for it like the body longs for water. Clay is rarely wasted. If the potter doesn’t throw the pot she was planning on she finds a way to us it, adding to it, cutting away at it, reshaping it. If it just can’t be used it is either re-wedged or put in to the slip bucket ready to be water source for new clay. I am sure I have been thrown back into the slip bucket many times transformed into something else, something more truly me.