Earlier this year, I wrote an article for Pottery Making Illustrated. My working title was “Using Kitchen Gadgets to Pre-Texture Stretched Pots.” Fortunately, their editors decided “Raiding the Kitchen” was better.
This past March, I joined a group of artists, mathematicians, and mathematician-artists collaborating on a math-art installation that is generating layer upon layer of mathematical and artistic thought, narrative, punning, and play. For me, during this summer of covid, the “Mathemalchemy” project has been an opportunity both to get to know a bunch of really interesting, dedicated, talented, creative people and to explore new objets d’clay. I’ve prototyped mixed-media herons and hagfish-inspired Fibonacci sea serpents for a Knotical scene, tortoise shells decorated with pentagonal and heptagonal tilings of the hyperbolic plane, and clay cat heads for an industrious feline baker of tessellating cookies, with more creatures still to come. These explorations are stimulating adventures for me outside of the project too. The first heron prototypes, for example, flew off to the Sculpture in the Garden show at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, and successive generations rounded out a recent Claymakers Zoom class on wheel-thrown and altered birds and beasts.
The project now has a website–mathemalchemy.org–that includes a video teaser as well as info about all 23 participating artists. Visit the website to learn more about the project, its history, and its makers!
First came chickens (well, eggs, but that’s another story), then came penguins; now come herons. Wheel thrown and altered, underglazes and sponged glazes , ^6 oxidation, standing on #8-32 threaded zinc-coated steel rods.
In an interesting reminder that physics is always at play in pottery, the bird necks twisted clockwise during firing. Given that the wheel was spinning counter-clockwise, the frictional force utilized to narrow the necks was clockwise–meaning the necks twisted further when fired, rather than untwisting. Someone told me years ago that teapot spouts can untwist when fired, so here’s proof that that’s actually a myth: they twist more, not less. (I get around the issue with teapot spouts by pulling the spouts in rather than collaring them in, but heron necks are a little too long for that.)
I’ve had my hands in clay since 2002, but it took Covid-19 to nudge me into creating a real website–one that’s more professional than my longtime blogger.com blog (which includes non-ceramics content) and more attractive and more malleable than Facebook. Thanks for visiting the site, and for bearing with me as I figure out how to get it to do what I want it to do.