WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Life Tips from a Pottery Wheel

By Tim Atkins

Two hands shape a lump of clay on a potter's wheel, as seen from above

"Your ego can become an obstacle to your work. If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity."
—Marina Abramovic

Over the past couple of years, what started off as a hobby has turned into a true spiritual practice: wheel-thrown pottery. I would love to tell you that I picked it up immediately, that I’ve become an expert potter with showcases and gallery openings and… okay, I can’t stop laughing at that picture.

In fact, I’ve had some pretty epic failures with my pottery. Almost everything comes off a little off-centered and often my attempts on the wheel end up with a disaster of some sort. Just last month when I was trimming a bowl, it flew off my wheel, smashed into another wheel, and the formerly not-too-bad bowl turned into something that more resembled a pancake.

I laughed it off. When I was learning to make bowls, clay ended up coating my arms, cheeks, hair, everywhere really. None of the bowls came out like bowls, and I left with a huge smile on my face, despite failure after failure.

Because what have I learned? Far and away, the most important lesson pottery has taught me is to not be attached to the final product. There are a lot of places in the process of making wheel-thrown pottery where something different than you expected can happen. You never know how the final product will look after glazing until it comes out of the kiln. Every time I’ve put a piece in to the kiln with a certain expectation of how it’ll come out, I’ve been disappointed. When I don’t much care in the end how it looks, I end up pleasantly surprised. I can’t be attached to those final outcomes—the process matters more than the product.

The process matters more than the product: this is a universal truth in art and creativity, and it transcends every artistic medium, from architecture to YouTube videos. No matter what form the art takes in the end, no matter what artistic medium you use, the process of making that art changes who you are, as a person. How we’re changed differs from person to person, but we are fundamentally changed by embracing our creativity—no matter our creative outlet.

May we all take the time to fully immerse in our creative potential, no matter the medium. May we all be reminded that the process matters, not just the final outcome.

About the Author

Tim Atkins

Tim Atkins (he/him/his) serves as the Director of Lifespan Religious Exploration for the First Unitarian Church in Oklahoma City.


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