I came across the following reflection on the American ‘Christians In the Visual Arts’ website (www.civa.org). You will understand why it is that I, as an ex-potter, am drawn to the image of the mark, the thumbprint of the creator in each piece, their individuality and worth.
I am rather taken, too, by the view that beauty is found in our perception of things. It is not about the appearance. It is not something that is possessed, but rather a grace given, a worth recognised. As such, beauty is indeed inherent in creation, as it is here that we discover the worth of others, our own worth. God’s purpose and worth are seen in people, as they fulfil their part in his design.
For myself, I am not attracted to ornate and colourful ceramics as much as I am to solid, well-made and functional pottery. Good design, made well in order to fulfil a purpose, is where I perceive beauty.
Imprint: The Thumbprint on the Clayby Luci Shaw
I’m a collector of hand-thrown clay pottery. Around my house I have what I consider a fabulous collection of bowls and jugs and individual mugs, all in subtle earth and glazed jewel tones. I love them all, the look of them, the feel of the shapes in my hand, each of them the result of combining earth and human eye and muscle–some hand built, some from the wheel, some with the thumb-print signatures of the potters themselves on the mug handle or the bowl base. I know where each unique piece came from, from which potter I purchased it, and when. That Galliano Island potter in the woods two years ago. The friend who died last year just after removing his fired pieces from the kiln. My brother-in-law on Bainbridge Island. The why of my choices is nearly always implicit; an aesthetic appeal or shape or function that corresponds to my need, my impulse, my desire.
Each of these pieces bears the evidence of intentionality and human art. The thumbprint, like the finger-print, is for me a singular clue to human identity. A thumb print leaves a more powerful impression than a finger print because there is a greater weight of hand and arm and muscle behind it. And that’s only one reason this image carries such energy for me.
If each human thumb print is unique, God’s is even more so—the original thumb-print on the universe, seen in the whorls of suns and planets in space, in the nebulae, and closer to home, in the fractal patterns of trees and crystals, of deserts and rivers and oceans, and in the wild profusion of color and texture and design displayed in plants and animals. It’s a creative complexity unmatched within the known universe.
And in human beings. Each one of us has a distinct and distinctive history, a story, an identity, a personality, a way of seeing the world and a way of expressing what we have seen and heard. We are as varied and intricate and striking as stars or snowflakes, as internally rich and complex as a geode. As different as Eve was from Adam, and as they both were from antelopes or elephants or eagles.
I have come to believe, through observation and study, that beauty is an aspect of Grace in Creation. That beauty isn’t resident simply in what we see, but in the way we perceive what we see. That it is in design, in pattern, in juxtaposition, in relationship, we discover beauty and meaning. Further, that we, as responders to all this divine initiative are called upon to create in the image of our Creator.
Beauty seems to be inherent in Creation (and by Creation I mean the God-created universe in which we live, including sentient human beings). Believe me, when I use the term beauty I’m not referring to the kind of easy sentimentality found in a greeting card, a popular song, or the physicality to be seen in a Miss Universe contest, but rather in the experience of what we might aptly call glory—the appearance of something of supreme worth that seems to make sense of all the breakage, the heartache and distress of our world. An epiphany, perhaps. It may be momentary—a glimpse of something wondrous, that is, capable of evoking wonder.