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