After the Stretching Comes the Compression

Clay is such a wild material for creating work. It starts as a lump, really as a goop of mud, and can be turned into solid forms that are microwave and dishwasher safe.

How is clay able to go through that dramatic of a transformation?

The answer: compression

Have you ever tried creating with clay? On the wheel? With coils or slabs?

If you have then you have probably discovered that clay is very malleable. You can form almost anything and the construction possibilities are many.

You’ve probably also run into the hard part about working with clay.

When you’ve gone too fast in your creating. Or you think, “Done!” And it starts to dry for the kiln.

And it cracks.

And it warps.

And that piece over there falls off.

And …

Clay has a memory. It remembers being a lump of mud. It remembers everything – and I do mean everything – it went through during its transformation into a sculpture or pot.

That’s a lot of stretching and growth.

Think about yourself for a minute. What would happen if you had been stretched and proved that much?

You just might respond like clay. Maybe fall back into some old habits. Maybe default to an old mindset and react as you have in the past.

Growth is hard!

This is why compression is so important.

Compression is the “there, there” steps along the way of forging a new shape – of becoming.

It’s the smoothing of stretch marks (if only ours were so easy to get rid of!) and throwing rings.

It’s the melding of two pieces of clay together with care and reinforcing where they join.

When clay is stretched it weakens. Compression gives the clay back it’s strength so it’s doesn’t have to snap back into its old shape to be safe.

People are a lot like clay.

Internal and, very often, external forces will stretch us and cause growth. We also need periods along the way to re-strengthen as we embody our new form.

After the stretching comes the compression.