WAY OF CLAY
The crystal lattice of clay is formed in sheets of a flexible silica layer, irregularly hexagonal and (three dimensionally) tetrahedral, linked by oxygen to a rigid gibbsite or alluminum octohedral layer, and attached to other silica-gibbsite layers via oscillating hydroxyl bonds between oxygen and hydrogen. You hear me right?
It is this sheet like structure of clay that allows for alignment and workability when even pressure is applied, and in part this hydroxyl bonding from the presence of water to become plastic.
In my mind this is rendered magic in which aggregate force and interaction of elements and atmosphere weathered rock down to hydrate, expose and create a flexible molecular bond of its particles, most basically Silica and Alumina, aligned and reflexive in the presence of moving pressure, direction, gesture, impression, with rich memory in its ability to hold form.
And so, clay pots can experience ceramic change, returning to a rock-like state in the heatwork of a firing chamber rising above 1292 degrees Fahrenheit, driving off hydroxyl groups to make bonded allumino-silicate or metakaolin in a couple or a few days; in a way resembling the ages of molten earth cooling to rock as a kiln returns to ambient temperature.
Such as clay’s agility to remember and be formed, is suspension of distinction at the center of the wheel as physics of the material begins to think the potter’s movements, at once fast and slow, in motion thanks to centrifugal force.
A pot bears an essence or quality of space through its shape, it has spaciousness.
A pot may be filled, where space and contour meet, but it is also really nice empty, it has emptiness. In its hollowed nature, a pot can be hallowed in my humble opinion as it bears the essence and imprint of the potter and whatever character expressing through gesture on the wheel. In ritual pots are formed from hours blending infinitely on the wheel throwing multiples; as seen in the mind of a potter the vessel creates itself so long as the clay will speak, so long as the practitioner listens.
In the whole way of clay one is going with the grain, with the Tao in a sense, as the ceramic process also has many phase changes a practitioner becomes aware of its signs and must act and yield accordingly to see work through the trial by fire, as M.C. Richards puts it, past the kiln as vitrified vessel.
One ought not force, but be with the forces of nature… and in the development of practice arriving at a starting point again and again with steady sense of what it is that it is and continuity (sometimes it is hard to remember, but one must keep exploring). I am drawn to think in inspiration that this curious wisdom could be like to what early humanity must (perhaps) have felt when perceiving and forming thoughts and language from the continuance of phenomenal impressions on earth and atmosphere, inherently onomatopoeic; being as potter is this reflexive and spontaneous subtlety of mind, a great shapeshifting inheritance.