Thursday, February 25, 2010

Diatomaceous earth

Call me uninformed, but I had never heard of diatomaceous earth until S observed that my little hole-poked Klein Bottle reminded him of it. Diatomaceous earth, also known as diatomite or kieselgur, is composed of the fossilized remains of diatoms, which are a kind of algae. It's used as a potent organic insecticide and also as something to mix into your lemonade if you're in need of deworming or a good colon scrub. "The ladies love it because it grows longer, stronger fingernails!" declares one Nebraska enthusiast, even though he admits it's "not endorsed by the [pesky] FDA" or "cleared for actual human use."

In any case, there are enough images of diatomaceous earth out there on the internets to demonstrate that fossilized diatoms can be stunningly beautiful, tantalizingly symmetric, and impressively prolific in their variety.

When S showed me online pictures of diatomaceous earth, I finally had a plan for a vase I had thrown last weekend. The bulbous pot was about a foot tall, and the form annoyed me (dumpy, footless, no lift, and too evenly split between body and neck). After I made it, I contemplated squashing it, but then I remembered a friend's advice: if you can experiment on the surface, don't throw it out. So I saved the vase, and yesterday evening, the experiment began: Could I carve diatomaceous earth designs into the clay and still keep the pot functional (i.e. no hole cutting allowed)?

After I determined the answer ("go buy yourself some shellac and take a drawing class if you want to do this right"), I recycled the clay.

Stupidly, because I had forbidden myself from cutting holes, I forgot to experiment with drill bits before trashing the pot. My Kemper hole maker leaves messy clay goobers in its wake. Since I can't reach inside Klein Bottles to smooth out the goobers, I'm looking for a way simply to make cleaner cuts. Guess I have something to do with my next irritating form.

In other potting news, I'm just a few deep breaths and one phone call away from buying my very first electric kiln. Here's hoping I have enough oxygen in my brain to make that bold leap tomorrow.

3 comments:

Nancy Kimberly said...

Sounds like TGIF is in full swing at your place. Not only will you be busy, but bold and inspired and well, materialistic. Enjoy!

Tamsin said...

Ah, now, see - if you were a gardener who liked hostas in particular, you'd know diatomaceous earth as a good slug repellant.

Rae said...

I use diatomaceous earth in my chicken coop because it magically neutralizes the poopy-coop odor (a beautiful quality in and of itself). Now I find out it is just as stunning in form as it is in function. Thanks Liz!