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Welcome to GeekPots. I create wheel-thrown functional and decorative ceramics, inspired by math, physics, kitchen gadgets, and the occasional chicken.

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Portfolio

A life-long pianist, I find working with clay similar to practicing a musical instrument: both processes invite one to develop attention to form and detail, to balance technique with improvisation, and to discover a personal creative voice. 

Alongside music, my background in physics and math informs my art. Physics governs the relationships between the forms and surfaces of my zigzag and swoosh pots. I cut or swipe patterns into slipped cylinders; these expand into captivating organic designs as I stretch the pots from the inside. Friction torques vertical lines into spirals, parallel swooshes drift apart or scrunch together, and coarse canyons emerge between smooth-slipped plateaus. The transformations are different every time, functions of variables both within and beyond my control: initial patterns, depths of cuts, slopes of curves, plasticity of clay bodies, magnitude of expansion, directional spin of the wheel. Occasionally, fortuitous scars appear: an un-wedged air bubble pops and flattens to hug the pot’s surface, or a narrow fault line cracks open as the clay stretches to its limits. I enjoy how this rough evidence of material and process juxtaposes with well-practiced symmetry.

SWOOSH

My swooshed surfaces are made using cake decorating combs. Sometimes I apply sodium silicate (a desiccant) before swooshing, which yields a crackle effect.

ZIGZAG

I once spent a beautiful afternoon perusing kitchen supply shops in Meran, Italy. After spending at least 20 minutes staring at a gadget-laden wall, I was approached by a shopkeeper who asked if I needed assistance. I did my best auf Deutsch to explain that I was a potter seeking tools for surface decoration. I suspect he thought I was a little crazy, but I did eventually leave with a snazzy new ravioli wheel to add to my collection.

LIGHT

The ceramic hole (to quote Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology) “adds itself, it is a surplus, a plenitude enriching another plenitude, the fullest measure of presence . . . But the supplement supplements. It adds only to replace . . . if it fills, it is as if one fills a void . . . its place is assigned in the structure by the mark of an emptiness.”

CHICKARINAS, PENGUINS, and OTHER BIRDS

Having thrown chickens off the hump for well over a decade, I can confidently say that the egg comes first. My chickens started off as rattles, but evolved into well-tempered ocarinas, which is what happens when you have a PhD in Music Theory and a BS in Physics–so these birds are the culmination of decades of musical training and rigorous academic study. Click here to listen to a chickarina in action; click here for fingering charts. For an explanation of the penguins, click here; and for herons, here and here.

GEEK

My dad was a math professor at the University of Illinois, so I grew up wandering around Altgeld Hall looking at vintage plaster Platonic solids stored in antique oak curio cabinets. Much of my art makes me think about math and physics, from the swoosh and zigzag pots above to the more explicitly mathy Klein bottles, nested spheroids, Cadogan teapot, π plate, and salt rocks below.

About

CERAMICS RESUME

EDUCATION

Ph.D. Music Theory, minor Linguistics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1998

B.M. Piano Performance, summa cum laude, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1991

M.S. Astronomy, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1989

B.S. Physics, summa cum laude, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1987

Ceramics classes taken at the Durham Arts Council, Claymakers, and Penland School of Crafts. Workshops taken with Alan Bennett, John Britt, Leonora Coleman, Susan Feagin, Marty Fielding, Denny Gerwin, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Jim Lawton, Kent McLaughlin, Vince Pitelka, Deborah Schwartzkopf, Gay Smith, and Carolyn Wyland.

RELEVANT WORK EXPERIENCE

Independent Studio Artist, 2010-present

Instructor, Claymakers, Durham, NC, 2007-present

SOLO AND DUO EXHIBITS

Claymakers, Circle of Influence, two-person show, Durham NC, 2020

Carol Woods Community, solo 3D show, Chapel Hill NC, 2018

JURIED EXHIBITS

North Carolina Botanical Garden, Sculpture in the Garden, Chapel Hill NC, 2023

The Clay Studio, Small Favors, Philadelphia PA, 2023

2023 Joint Mathematics Meetings, Mathematical Art Exhibition, Boston MA, 2023

Good Earth Pottery, Winter Warmers Cup Show, Bellingham WA, 2023

30th Strictly Functional Pottery National, Lancaster PA, 2022 (see Awards below)

North Carolina Botanical Garden, Sculpture in the Garden, Chapel Hill NC, 2021

The Clay Studio, Small Favors, Philadelphia PA, 2021

28th Strictly Functional Pottery National, online, 2020

North Carolina Botanical Garden, Sculpture in the Garden, Chapel Hill NC, 2020

2019 Joint Mathematics Meetings, Mathematical Art Exhibition, Baltimore MD, 2019 (see Awards below)

25th Strictly Functional Pottery National, Lancaster PA, 2017 (see Awards below)

Plough Gallery, Tea: The Ritual and the Art, Tifton GA, 2017

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XII, online, 2016

24th Strictly Functional Pottery National, Lancaster PA, 2016 (see Awards below)

Claymakers, Claybody: The Human Form in Ceramic Art, Durham NC, 2016

Bridges 2015 international conference on math/art intersections, Art Exhibit, Baltimore MD, 2015

Towson University Center for the Fine Arts Gallery, Mathematical Art Exhibit, Towson MD, 2015

Bridges 2012 international conference on math/art intersections, Art Exhibit, Towson MD, 2012

Towson University Center for the Fine Arts Gallery, Bridges: Connections between Art and Mathematics, Towson MD, 2012

INVITED EXHIBITS

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Birds! Birds!, Gainesville FL, 2023

Cedar Creek Gallery, National Teapot Show XII, Creedmoor NC, 2023

Cedar Creek Gallery, CUPful, Creedmoor NC, 2023

Claymakers, Community Showcase, Durham NC, 2021  

Cedar Creek Gallery, CUPful, Creedmoor NC, 2021

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XVI, Gainesville FL, 2020

ClayAKAR, Yunomi Invitational 2020, Iowa City IA, 2020

Cedar Creek Gallery, National Teapot Show XI, Creedmoor NC, 2020

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Exquisite Forms II, Gainesville FL, 2020

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XV, Gainesville FL, 2019

Claymakers, Steinfest 2019, Durham NC, 2019

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XIV, Gainesville FL, 2018

Claymakers, Steinfest 2018, Durham NC, 2018

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Exquisite Forms, online, 2018

Cedar Creek Gallery, CUPful, Creedmoor NC, 2018

Greenhill Center for NC Art, Winter Show 2017, Greensboro NC, 2017

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XIII, online, 2017

Claymakers, Steinfest 2017, Durham NC, 2017

Cedar Creek Gallery, National Teapot Show X, Creedmoor NC, 2017

FRANK Gallery, Pots from the Piedmont, Chapel Hill NC, 2016

Claymakers, Steinfest 2016, Durham NC, 2016

Cedar Creek Gallery, CUPful, Creedmoor NC, 2016

Perkinson Art Gallery, Millikin University, Just Use It, Decatur IL, 2015

Cinema Gallery, Use It: A Show of Functional Ceramics, Urbana IL, 2015

Claymakers, Steinfest 2015, Durham, NC, September 25-November 15, 2015

Mathematics of Science, Art, Industry, and Culture (MoSAIC), traveling exhibit, 2014-2016

Claymakers, Steinfest 2014, Durham NC, 2014

Baltimore Clayworks, Southern Hospitality, Baltimore MD, 2014

Claymakers, Steinzeugkrug: Present Day Interpretations, Durham NC, 2013

Claymakers, Line and Rhythm, Durham NC, 2012

Cinema Gallery, All Steamed Up Invitational Teapot Show, Urbana IL, 2011

Claymakers, Season of Lights, Durham NC, 2011

COLLABORATIVE INSTALLATIONS

MATHEMALCHEMY A collaborative, touring mixed-media art installation celebrating the joy, creativity, and beauty of mathematics. https://mathemalchemy.org

Contributing mathemalchemist, 2020-present

See https://mathemalchemy.org/events/ for current, upcoming, and past exhibit information

THE POTTERS’ PENGUIN PROJECT – A community art project to make the impacts of global warming on distant places more immediately tangible to makers and viewers. The Potters’ Penguin Project energized nearly 600 makers to create over 2,000 handmade clay penguins, and raised over $5,000 to support environmental advocacy non-profits.

www.facebook.com/potterspenguinproject

Founder and curator, 2016-2019

Exhibits

Claymakers Gallery, Durham NC, January 10-February 11, 2017 (1,973 penguins)

North Carolina State University Crafts Center gallery, Raleigh NC, February 20-April 28, 2017 (600+ penguins)

Greensboro Science Center, Greensboro NC, April 25-May 20, 2017 (200+ penguins)

Maker Events

North Carolina Science Festival, lectures and public Make-a-Penguin events, North Carolina State University, sponsored by Research Triangle MRSEC (Materials Research Science and Engineering Center), April 8, 2017

Multiple public/independent school Make-a-Penguin workshops, Durham, NC, 2016-2017

Multiple public Make-a-Penguin events, Claymakers, Durham NC, 2016

Press

“From Our Supporters,” Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine, Spring 2019

“Potters’ Penguin Project,” INDY Week, January 9, 2017

AWARDS

30th Strictly Functional Pottery National, Jean Lehman Form and Function Award, 2022

Joint Mathematics Meetings, Mathematical Art Exhibition, Best Textile, Sculpture, or Other Medium, 2019

25th Strictly Functional Pottery National, Purchase Award sponsored by The John Ground Collection, 2017

24th Strictly Functional Pottery National, Purchase Award sponsored by The George School, 2016

Durham Arts Council, Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist Grant, Durham, NC, 2014

PUBLICATIONS

Susan Goldstine, Elizabeth Paley, and Henry Segerman, “Ars Mathemalchemica: From Math to Art and Back Again,” Notices of the American Mathematical Society 69/7 (August 2022).

“Round Peg, Square Hole: Designing Clay Critters for Mathemalchemy,” Mathemalchemy Chronicles 25 May 2021

“Light and Shadow,” Pottery Making Illustrated (November/ December 2021).

“Raiding the Kitchen,” Pottery Making Illustrated (July/August 2021).

PROCEEDINGS

“Thinking like a Pianist/Mathematician/Potter-Designer: Strategies for Tuning Ocarinas.” Proceedings of Bridges 2015: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2015), 559–562.

PUBLISHED IMAGES

American Mathematical Society, 2024 Calendar of Mathematical Imagery (“Ada and Évariste on the Beach,” 2023 JMM Art Exhibition)

Pottery Making Illustrated, “Pattern Play,” September/October 2023

American Mathematical Society, 2020 Calendar of Mathematical Imagery, cover image and October (“DT/MSH Klein Bottle,” 2019 JMM Art Exhibition)

Ceramics Monthly, “Exposure” (Charlie Cummings Gallery Cup: The Intimate Object), November 2017

500 Teapots Volume 2, Lark Books, 2013

500 Vases, Lark Books, 2010

2019 Joint Mathematics Meetings Exhibition of Mathematical Art, 2019

Bridges 2015 Art Exhibition Catalog, 2015

Bridges 2012 Art Exhibition Catalog, 2012

SERVICE

Planning Committee, Durham Pottery Tour, November 2016-present

Claymakers Arts Community Inc., Durham, NC:

Board Member, 2019-2022

Past-President, 2015

President, Founding Board, 2011-2014; assisted with reorganization of Claymakers into 501(c)(3) nonprofit

Contact

Blog

Ars Mathemalchemica

The article “Ars Mathemalchemica: From Math to Art and Back Again” is a playful narrative romp through the Mathemalchemy project. Co-authored by Susan Goldstine, Henry Segerman, and myself, it appears in the August 2022 issue of Notices of the American Mathematical Society. Mathemalchemy made its public debut at the National Academy of the Sciences in …