Potter molds clay for beauty

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 20, 2020

Pottery at Saffron Collective Studios reminds columnist of a favourite hymn from his youth. Graphic by Warren Harbeck

In a recent conversation with local artists at Route 22 Gallery, the question came up: If beauty is so important for the healing of our broken world, then how can we ourselves become more truly beautiful works of art as agents of healing? After all, as the sacred writings teach us, we human beings are created in the image of God. And can anything be more beautiful than that?

But that image seems so lacking in its intended therapeutic splendour these days. What can we do?

That musing was still going through my mind when, a few days later, I paid a visit to Saffron Collective Studios, imagination central for Cochrane-area potters. Children and adults alike, inspired by rubbing shoulders with experienced artists, have discovered their own hidden talents for making pottery through the studio’s classes in an art form that predates writing.

Saffron Studios, located at #6 – 205 3rd Ave. West, is a place where “creative heARTS bloom,” says owner/operator Nicole Snider.

According to her website, Nicole’s 20 years of experience in pottery “have taught her to have an open mind with how everyone learns as well as the variety of ways to make clay work for everyone.” An imaginative possibility thinker, Nicole says, “There is nothing you can’t do with clay; the only limitation is our mind!”

Upon entering Saffron Studios, I encountered various folks doing what potters do: kneading and balling up clay, fashioning the clay on their potter’s wheel, or adding finishing touches to their bowls, cups, saucers and plates, to create things of beauty to bring joy to the world.

They were doing with their clay exactly what Nicole promises to do with her studio’s students: “Let us mold you. You want to try – we know you do. So give it a go already!”

Yes, of course! The secret is in the molding! And immediately words from one of my favourite hymns of my youth came to mind. In 1902 hymn-writer Adelaide A. Pollard recalled the word of the Lord about the potter and the clay spoken through the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah: “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand” (Jeremiah 18:6). Thus inspired, she blessed us with the hymn that begins:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

And if the Lord creates you and me to reflect the Divine glory, then we should be truly beautiful, right? Except, our self-will keeps getting in the way – as if the clay says to the potter, “Not Your will, but mine be done!”

But the artistic restoration of the Creator’s image in us doesn’t happen overnight. Like clay in the potter’s hands, we, too, are works-in-progress. It only requires our continued yieldedness to the Potter, if we are to become beautiful works of art for healing a broken world.

And here we make the prayer in this hymn our own: “Mold me and make me after Thy will, While I am waiting, yielded and still.”


© 2020 Warren Harbeck

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