The Dust of the Earth

Roots Amongst the Dust, © 2010 by Muddart

As I am researching the development of kiln technology in China, one interesting fact I found was the linkage between the yellow loess that lies in a thick blanket over China and the development of high-fired ceramics thousands of years prior to other parts of the world.¹  The loess in turn was blown in from the Tibetan plateau and the Gobi desert.  As I was discussing this with my professor, he mentioned other examples of dust being blown from one part of the earth to another and thus impacting the ecosystems, and thus in turn impacting the cultures that developed there.

As I thought of this, I saw in my mind’s eye dust blowing all over the earth directed by the winds, and I thought of the Western conception of inspiration as breath, and considered both the Hebrew and Greek conceptions of “spirit” which are associated with both breath and wind.  It seemed an amazing idea that the earth’s winds blow dust that result in amazing innovation in a culture, and in our own culture the idea of wind is associated with both inspiration and our human spirit, as well as the divine Spirit.

2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit [wind] of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

¹Finlay, Robert. “The Pilgrim Art: The Culture of Porcelain in World History,” Journal of World History, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Fall, 1998), pp. 141-187



I have been thinking about the Biblical account of creation. It says that man was formed out of the “dust of the earth” and life was breathed into him. As a potter this story holds powerful imagery for me, as I alluded to in my first post on this blog.

Whether one is religious or not, this is kind of an intriguing idea. I seem to remember from college biology 101 that our bodies are mostly made up of carbon and water. I’m no geologist, but might we think of carbon as “dust of the earth”, and if we mix that with water might we think of the mixture as mud? And if we breathe life into this mixture might not we consider it art? Certainly that’s the process I go through to create a piece of ceramic art such as my raku pot. What turns it from a piece of mud into muddart is the breath of life that I “breathe” into it. Interestingly, the English word “inspiration” comes from Latin meaning “to blow into”.

So when I speak of Muddart, there are three aspects of it: (1) the piece of art (some might say “piece of work”) that is myself, (2) the art that I, as muddart myself, create, and (3) my appreciation of you other “pieces of work” out there. I am the muddart creating muddart. And if you can receive it, so are all of you!