Friday, April 19, 2013

Arts Meditation with Clay

Two weeks ago at our Create in Me retreat, we'd have been getting ready for our Friday night experience. On Thursday, we'd have done our arts meditation and the clay would be drying. By Friday night, we could carry our creations in a candlelit procession down the mountain.

What did we make? Pinch pot candle holders.

On our car trip to North Carolina, the passenger made the meditation kits (directions are below, if you want to make them for a larger group).

I loved dividing the 5 pounds of clay into smaller lumps. I found it oddly soothing. I tried making a pinch pot or two. They looked misshapen.

It was quite a contrast to our arts meditation that ended our first night session. We took the clay in our hands and closed our eyes. Our leader led us through the clay shaping process, while reminding us of how we're being shaped like clay. In so many ways are we being shaped like clay: in our relationships, with our art, at work, by way of our various disciplines (spiritual, physical, educational).

Here's the big surprise for me: the pot I shaped with my eyes closed was much more shapely and pleasing to the eye than the ones I made with my eyes open.

That result wasn't a surprise to my friend who makes her living as a potter. She said that vision often gets in the way. When we close our eyes, we can work with the clay that we have, not the clay that we think we should have. Our hands are better guides to what pleases in terms of shape, smoothness, balance, and all the rest.

Seems like a metaphor for much of life to me!

We had a toothpick in the kit, and we used it to put a word on the pot that seemed important.  It could be a word that we wanted to meditate upon or a word that we wanted light shed upon.

The pastor who led us in this exercise said she has campers write their names on the pot while she talks about how God knows their names.  If you didn't want to involve candles, it's still a powerful way of thinking about God as potter, humans as clay.

And the exercise seems like it would be a good one for classes of all kinds:  Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, arts and spirituality classes.

When I was the Vacation Bible School Arts and Crafts Leader last summer, I found that kids of all ages loved working with clay.  After our Create in Me retreat, I can report that grown ups love working with clay too.
Directions for assembling meditation kits:

What You Need:

Sandwich bags that zip
Crayola Air Dry Clay (5 pounds = 30-40 kits)
Thick wet wipes (not the pop-up kind)
tea light candles

The meditation kit consists of a sandwich size baggie with a small ball of
clay on one side of the baggie and two wet wipes, a tea-light candle and a
toothpick on the other side - with the baggie twisted or taped/tied in between -
so that the wipes stay clean & wet (otherwise the clay will soak up their
moisture). I put the wet wipes in one zip-lock baggie and added it to another baggie
that contained everything else.

It does not need to be a lot of clay. The ball should be about the size that
would fit into the opening made if you touch your thumb to your index finger. At
least for me, that much clay easily makes a nice pinch pot that fits a tea light
candle inside with not a lot of extra clay to worry what to do with... The wet
wipes have to be the thick kind - not the "pop up" kind. They dry out too fast.

Now for the complication: the kits probably can't be made more than a week
ahead or they'll dry out - and even then you'd need to squeeze out as much air
as possible to keep the clay soft and the wipes wet. To be on the safe side, you could
put the meditation kits in another plastic bag or container.

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