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 Washington D.C. this past spring. It is currently installed at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, and its next stop after that will be Boston University. For information about Mathemalchemy and future exhibit locations, visit

Copyright necessities

Mathemalchemy now has its very own page in Wikipedia, thanks to the efforts of some of the Mathemalchemists and a Wikipedia editor. 

I am the copyright holder of one of the photos the authors want to include in the article, and Wikipedia has very specific rules about how copyright permission to use photos is granted. One of those rules is that the photograph has to have a URL. So I’m creating one by putting the photo here:

Ta da! There are additional steps in this process, but this is the first one needed to get this ball rolling. Look for these two charming chipmunks on Wikipedia soon.

Light and Shadow

I enjoyed writing “Raiding the Kitchen” so much that I wrote another article for Pottery Making Illustrated this fall. If I had had room, I would have written about Jacques Derrida’s concept of the Supplement from Of Grammatology, because it seems so apt for describing holes: 

“[The supplement] 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.”

I love that with holes, “the mark of an emptiness” is fullness, and that the void in this fullness is filled by subtractively adding emptiness. 

But there were word limits, plus PMI didn’t seem like the right venue for lit crit, so I summarized the whole idea with just one sentence: “Holes enrich surfaces by adding absence.” Thus you can understand why I need to supplement the article with the words above . . .


Originally published in Pottery Making Illustrated, November/December 2021. Copyright, The American Ceramic Society. Reprinted with permission.


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––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 bought a domain!

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 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.