The author of Ecclesiasticus pauses a moment to watch the potter at work and gives us a graphic portrait of him, a sort of generic picture and a rather rare passage in sacred literature:
So doth the potter sitting at his work, turning the wheel about with his feet, who is always carefully set to his work, and maketh all his work by number. He fashioneth the clay with his arm, and boweth down his strength before his feet (Eccles. 38:32-33).
This care, this skill, this freedom of the human artist before his work, perfectly evokes the attitude of the Divine Artist vis-à-vis His creature.
All men are from the ground, and out of earth, from whence Adam was created. As the potter’s clay is in his hand, to fashion and order it all: all his ways are according to his ordering: so man is in the hand of him that made him, and he will render to him according to his judgment (ibid, 33:10, 13-14).
…G. Duhamel … was inspired by the spectacle of the famous potters of Jerba. We shall observe how he was to capture the beauty and sanctity of the act of modeling:
When the soft, stone-free roll is placed on the small wheel, Yamun spring lightly to his place. He murmurs the humble prayer sanctifying every need—In the name of God!—and the mystery begins. It is the beginning of the world…. Yamun imparts a circular movement to the apparatus, the movement of the stars, the principle of all genesis…. A earthen flower rises, rises and opens, although he scarcely seems to touch it. He follows its ascension, caresses it, and restrains it with awe. Like a god, Yamun concentrates on his work, and suddenly it is finished. With a single stroke of the wire, he detaches it from the socle. An offering! With careful hands, he holds it up. Is it real? It has risen so quickly from the original ground, that we might believe that simply dreaming it was enough to make it.
To conclude, we have a text from St Irenaeus … presented as a gloss of Ecclesiasticus…:
If then, thou art God’s workmanship, await the hand of thy Maker which creates everything in due time; in due time as far as thou art concerned, whose creation is being carried out. Offer to Him thy heart in a soft and tractable state, and preserve the form in which the Creator has fashioned thee, having moisture in thyself, lest, by becoming hardened, thou lose the impressions of His fingers. [St Irenaeus, Contra haer. IV, 39, 2.]