In the past few years I have discovered a love for collecting ceramics (yes, one of my many collections). It started with Mata Ortiz pottery. Over the years we have bought many Mata Ortiz pieces to give as gifts. My collection started when my eye was caught by a javelina made by master potter Nicholas Ortiz. Several Mata Ortiz potters are represented in my collection, but Nicolas Ortiz remains my favorite. In addition to the javelina, my Nicolas Ortiz pieces includes a rabbit and two turtles. I was totally satisfied with collecting Mata Ortiz pottery, then over the summer I discovered some other potters.

The first discovery happened when I needed to buy a wedding gift. My plan was to buy a Mata Ortiz piece. My main “supplier” is always at the Wednesday farmer’s market in Green Valley. He never misses. Except for the week I needed to buy the gift (of course this was the occasion where I waited until the last minute to shop). I remembered there was a shop I had heard about, which turned out to be in the same area as the farmer’s market. This is where I was introduced to the work of master potter Jorge Wilmot, and Tonala pottery. While searching the net for Wilmot pieces, I came across the work of California master potter Howard Pierce. Pieces from both of these potters are limited since Wilmot died in 2012, and Pierce died in 1994. I have added several pieces from both of these potters to my collection (I confess in the mail right now is a Wilmot owl and a Pierce penguin).

I have become pretty good in identifying works from both Pierce and Wilmot. It is easy to find Pierce’s mark. His mark is always on the bottom of the piece, with most of them being a stamped “Howard Pierce”.  The challenge with Pierce is when he did animal sets (usually a parent with one or two babies), it was common for him to only stamp the larger piece. This becomes an issue if the set is broken up. It is helpful to be able to recognize his style and the type of glazes he used.

With Wilmot, he marks his work with a “W”. Sometimes it is underlined or has what looks like an equal sign next to it. The “W” can be anywhere on the piece of art. It is rare for Wilmot not to mark his work. I have bought three pieces where the sellers said they weren’t marked. In all three cases, I already knew they were “Wilmots” without seeing the marks. After receiving each of them, it took me less than forty seconds to find the marks. The marks confirmed what I already knew.

It is common for me to hear “Where is God?”, especially when people are in crisis. It is easy for people to feel forgotten, and to doubt their faith. Crisis has a way of making it hard to focus, and everything starts to look “fuzzy”; even being able to see God. This is where it helps to have people in our lives who are able to recognize God’s work. Those who know it when they see the “Potter’s mark” of love. The “mark” confirms what we already know.

I have been surprised by how discouraged some of our church leaders have gotten during our current United Methodist crisis. I heard one local church leader say, “all of our churches are going to close”. I don’t believe this for a moment. As I travel through the South District leading Charge Conferences and “conversations”, I’m greatly encouraged by all of the times I’m seeing God’s “mark”.  I don’t have to look long to spot it.

“Major issues” and “crises” are part of life. The question is where are we focusing when they happen? Are we looking for God’s “mark”? When other people can’t see God’s handiwork, maybe we are the ones being called to help share it. When we can’t see God’s work, it’s a good time to surround ourselves with people who can.

Your brother on the journey, Mark

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