“O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” --Isaiah 64:8
Earlier this fall I went to a tiny village in Oita Prefecture that is known for its amazing pottery. Onta is such a small village that it only has ten households, but they all work together to create these traditional crafts. All the techniques of pottery-making and the talents of this unique style are passed down from each father to his oldest son.
The process of preparing the clay is very interesting. The clay comes from a nearby town and is then pounded using a giant wooden hammer. A river runs through this village, and the water provides the energy and force to opporate the hammer. The water fills a tube, which in turn weighs down the handle of the giant hammer and pushes the top of the mallet up. When the water drains out the bottom of the handle, the top of the hammer strikes the clay with a tremendous force. Anywhere in Onta, you can hear the sound of the giant hammers striking the clay every few seconds.
Next, the clay is filtered in pools and dried. After that, the clay is kneeded and formed with a traditional kick-wheel. I heard that the men usually form the pottery and that the women usually do the glazing and painting.
After the poettery is formed, it needs to dry some more in the sun.
Then, the pottery is ready for the kiln. The kilns are only fired 4 or 5 times a year though because it is quite an undertaking. The wood-fed kilns are kept at about 1250 degrees celcius for 30 or 40 hours, so it means many long and sleepless hours of hard work.
The pottery is typically glazed using earth tones such as greens, browns, and blacks. Many of the patterns and styles have been used for hundreds of years, but the styles also continue to develop as the artists apply their own unique touches. Although the pottery may look similar, upon closer inspection, one sees that each item is uniquely designed and formed. In fact, the Onta pottery is so special, that in 1995 it was officially declaired “Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan.” The pottery is a beautiful creation that reflects the dedication and devotion of the potter. Tremendous time and effort is put into each work of art, and the pottery in turn reflects the master craftsmen’s care.
I spent such a beautiful fall day in Onta, and I feel so blessed to have had that experience.
Now, let us pray.
Heavenly Father and Creator,
Thank you for the care and attention that you put into forming each and every one of us. Thank you for making us unique and special. You placed hopes, dreams, and talents in our lives that make us exceptional. Help us to unilize these gifts as we serve you.
In Your name I pray, amen.