The Wheel and the Kiln

Melanie scooped a double-handful of gray clay out of her trough and set it on the wheel. With a deep breath, she paused, staring at the formless lump, trying to decide what to sculpt next. A shape materialized in her mind. With gray-spattered hands, she touched either side of the hunk of clay. Then she stepped on the pedal.

The wheel whirred its familiar whisper as Melanie pressed against the clay and started to shape it. Slowly it narrowed and rose higher, its sides becoming smoother and taking on a slight curve. Melanie placed a few fingers into the top to hollow out the inside and then worked the outside again.

When she finished, she frowned. It didn’t look quite right—the proportions were off.

Melanie mashed the vessel into a misshapen glob and put it back in the trough. After mixing it in, she drew a new scoop of clay out. Soon, she formed another vessel, and it made her smile. For a few moments, at least. But she quickly became disappointed. Again, it was wrong. Why couldn’t she form what she had in mind?

The next one seemed to be going well when an involuntary tremor in Melanie’s hand marred the side of her sculpture.

Letting out a sigh, Melanie started over. This time, as she ever so gently pressed the clay, it rose and curved in a way that more closely matched her mental image. She hollowed it out, and finally, she shaped the mouth to give it a graceful spout. Melanie couldn’t suppress a smile as both relief and satisfaction warmed her. Carefully and at the same time hurriedly, she rose and took her sculpture to the kiln. She had to capture this accomplishment while she could.

With the vessel safe inside, Melanie sat and sighed, but this time she felt good. She was glad that the wheel gave her as many opportunities as she needed to form something she could appreciate. The kiln made a shape permanent, whether it was good or flawed. Nothing was fixed, nothing unchangeable, until then.


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