Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gee whiz

"Aging Reader" tells me I've been lax about posting lately, and he's right. So to keep him entertained, here are some updates about my exciting life.

The lot with the geo-thermal tubing balls now has a giant gaping hole surrounded by immense piles of North Carolina red clay. The first day of digging was pretty much the best digger action I've ever witnessed and made me want to borrow a toddler to share the joy.

Beamer and Leo now have three additional harlequin rasbora companions, named Leo 2, Leo 3, and Leo 4. We haven't bonded with the new guys yet, as they don't seem to have much personality (I'm sure the sentiment is mutual), but perhaps we'll grow on one another over time.

I'll be selling pottery in the Watts Hospital Hillandale Art Walk on Nov. 7. This will be my first sale since returning from our Germany hiatus last December, so I've started pulling pots off shelves and assessing my inventory. It's quite the eclectic mix, between the one-of-a-kind class demo pots and the intentional self-improvement pots. Self-improvement phases have apparently included Round Things, Tall Things, Oval Things, Stretched Things, Darted Things, Miniature Things (a phase that lasted about 30 minutes), Chickens, and--most impressively and somewhat disturbingly, when you put them all next to one another--things with holes in them. Lots and lots of holes. Wow.

It's especially nice to discover that pots I once felt ambivalent about--pots that, when removed from the kiln, looked nothing like I hoped they would when I put them in--actually look quite good thanks to several months' separation from my initial expectations.

My friend Adrian came over this morning to pick up a bunch of pieces to photograph for me, so I should have some quality pictures to post soon. In the meantime, here's some of the stuff he didn't take, looking oranger than in real life:

Because I like kitchen gadgets, I'll mention that the pots on the bottom right were made by zesting straight cylinders with a lemon zester, then stretching the cylinders from the inside, yielding the globe shapes with spiraled zest lines.

I've been working with clay for about eight years. I've been competent for perhaps the last five of those, meaning I've generally been the boss of the clay rather than vice versa--that is, I usually manage to turn the blob of clay I start with on the wheel into what I intend for it to become. I'm still waiting for some personal style to emerge, some characteristic detail or gesture that connects most of my work. Looking at the mish mash of pots in the photo is probably not the best way to find that connection, although the combination of zested pots, tall things, holes, and the isolated chicken has me leaning toward the "gee whiz" factor.

A lifetime ago when I was a grad student in astronomy, the grad student cubicle room would occasionally get telephone questions from inquisitive members of the public. The questions usually dealt with what my peers called "gee whiz" astronomy--delectable popular astronomy tidbits that emerged from stunning satellite or telescope photographs, the sorts of images and ideas that make people say "gee whiz!" (as in, "gee whiz, that's where stars are born?" [Omega Nebula image credit: European Space Agency, NASA, and J. Hester (Arizona State University)]). Gee whizness is what led me into a master's thesis on interstellar gas and dust--which, frankly, is not as exciting as you might think once you take away the pretty pictures and the Vangelis soundtrack from Cosmos.

When I later became a music theorist, I noticed I was drawn to what I called "gee whiz" theory: bring to the fore previously unnoticed details and discuss them in engaging and artful narratives that make people say "gee whiz!" (as in "gee whiz, even though the ghost of Manfred's deceased beloved doesn't ever sing, I actually hear her generating pitches inside my head in that single measure of silence in the third act!").

Gee whizness doesn't answer big questions: it resides in snapshots and unexpected convergences, in flashes of forest seen amidst lots of trees. It's nifty, but not particularly useful or utilitarian in the grand scheme of things. It's like using a Van de Graaff generator to make your hair stand up rather than to produce extremely high voltages for accelerating sub-atomic particles.

I hope I'm not just flattering myself to think my pots are leaning toward a certain gee-whizness, built into the making if not apparent in the final result. The Klein Bottles are pretty obviously gee-whizzy, as are the double-walled bowls and (I think) the chickens (wheel-thrown chickens!). And personally, I think lemon zested oblate spheroids are pretty gee whiz too.

It's possible that I'm simply confusing gee whizness with nerdiness. I recently submitted a proposal to Claymakers for a new class I've dubbed "Pottery for Geeks." I sure hope they let me teach it.

In other news, the auto repair shop just called and we need a new front axle.

Here's wishing all the best to "Aging Reader," "Aging Breeder," and the rest of you in Pixel-land. Leave a comment sometime so I know you're out there!


Anonymous said...

Great that you have returned to your blog. It is in fact appreciated.

Is the Altima finally cashing in its chips? Sorry about that. I remember it well.

Aging Reader

Lisa B. said...

Gee, whiz - glad you've resumed posting.

Robin said...

I'm still here, glad you'r back.

mom2homer said...

Greetings across the ether, y'all! To Aging Reader, yep, the Nissan ain't what it used to be; or maybe it's exactly what it used to be, just 13 years older and with lots of new parts.