Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New horizons in hole appreciation

I thought I'd give myself a break and make some smaller votive candle holders that load from underneath and therefore don't require copper hangers. Plus, I figured the smaller size would improve my chances of avoiding clay goobers, because I could fit my fingers into the pots to provide counter-pressure against the hole-cutting tools. So I threw a couple of little saucers to hold candles, and a couple fist-sized bottomless closed forms to go over the saucers; and when the hemispheres were leather hard, I commenced making holes.

Making holes takes a long time, even with small pots. Despite the reduced size, it still took over an hour to cut the first MSH/TC luminaria by hand. So, long overdue, I finally broke out the big gun:

Like the hand tools, the DeWalt DW972K-2 leaves sizable clay goobers on the inside of the pot, but they're easier to brush off, and the interior cut is cleaner overall. The exterior cut is messier, but the mess is nothing a little sponging can't fix. After experimenting a bit, I came up with a reasonably satisfying process: drill holes, brush off crud, rout holes with hand tools, brush off crud, sponge, then clear remaining crud from holes with a needle tool. A little complicated, perhaps, but it took only 23 minutes and 14 seconds to drill, clean, and sponge a SSH/TC model, and only twice that long to make a MSH/TC model (not counting the time I had to wait to recharge the drill battery), which makes drilling way speedier than hand cutting. As an added bonus, drilling doesn't make my thumb sore, and it doesn't leave metal oxides on my fingertips; and it lets me make a greater variety of hole sizes and get the holes closer together.

I could probably overcome the goober problem if I waited until the clay was bone dry before drilling. I read in Ceramics Monthly that Simon van der Ven drills bone dry clay using dental drills, so I know it can be done (with dental drills, at any rate, if not with a DeWalt DW972K-2). As I don't want to wear a respirator mask while I'm drilling--especially when I'm using porcelain, which has an amazing capacity to spread itself on anything that comes within its event horizon--I'll be sticking to leather-hard clay for now.

They don't look like much now, but when they have candles inside, they'll cast pretty light dots all over the ceiling, like that toy star projector my brother had when he was a kid. Not that this little project has anything to do with overcoming my childhood jealousy. Of course. But now that I've brought it up, I need to add constellation luminarias to my To Do list.

Hole hero 3

Louis Sachar knows holes. His excellent book suggests that when the whole world seems to be against you, it's probably not your imagination but rather an Old World cosmic curse. Deep down, don't we all suspect that's the case?

Hole hero 2

Simon van der Ven knows holes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


If a story is told in a forest and only one child is there to recognize its greatness, can it become a classic?

Simple or complex, brief or elaborately told, a good story traverses generations. My mother's mother, Lorraine, whom we always called Woozy (oo as in wood rather than wooed), left a legacy of good stories, a treasure trove of family and cultural histories documented in artfully illustrated bound notebooks, in little handmade booklets, and on loose leaf paper.

My grandmother died in 1990, over a decade before my son was born. Surely Woozy would have enjoyed knowing that her great grandson would spend hours poring over her stories, reading and rereading them, absorbing the family legacy. Although few outside our immediate family have ever seen the texts, E recognizes and appreciates them as classics.

E recently quoted one such classic for a Word and Grammar Study assignment at school. His teacher, understandably unfamiliar with the collected Woozy Works, signaled her mystification by circling E's answer:

It's kind of hard to see, but you might note that E even cited his source (Woozy Works). We consider this progress, as his teacher has asked him to think more about what kinds of information he needs to convey to his readers so that they'll understand what he's writing about.

For the sake of clarification, here's the original text:

Incidentally, I believe the little black dog in Woozy's picture was named Willis, as in Willis is barkin'. The name comes from a line describing the marital interests of a character in David Copperfield, wherein Barkis is willin'. Maybe someday, E will get around to reading that other classic.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The golden hairy toe

I posted recently about my friend J, who had needed to make party favors for her neighborhood Halloween festivities and thus decided to make plaster toes by casting her own pedidactyls.* If that act alone isn't sufficient evidence that she takes community responsibility seriously, check out this amazing end product (which, interestingly, is now in the private collection of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, who attended the party with her four children):

*My gift to the English language. Use the word freely.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A quick visit to our nation's capitol, day 2

On October 30, the day after going to the Air and Space Museum out by Dulles, we thought we'd continue our trip to D.C. by heading to the Mall. Our party of seven left our hotel in Falls Church at 9:30am and walked the half mile to the Metro stop, where we encountered this:

I took this photo about two hours after we got in line. The line started to the left of the overpass, continued a block to the right, wrapped around about a fourth of a block and then continued another half block into the Metro station.

By the time we had tickets and were on the platform, it was 12:10pm. All of the trains heading into D.C. were so crammed full of people, there was no way for anyone else to squeeze in. We finally got seats by squeezing into a train heading in the wrong direction and riding one stop to the end of the line. More folks squeezed on there, and we changed direction and headed into D.C.

The trip would have been more pleasant if it hadn't been over three hours and a nice big glass of OJ since I'd last peed. Instead of joining in the general conviviality of the singing crowd (yes, when happy people who share common goals are crammed on trains like sardines, spontaneous singing may erupt), I hunkered down and tried not to think about Tycho Brahe's dismal death. By 1pm, still a few stops from the Smithsonian, there was no alternative but to escape--"coming through! coming through!"--and S, E, and I dashed up to the restrooms in the George Washington University Hospital cafeteria.

It turns out that holding your bladder in a cramped public space for that long makes you a little jittery and tense even post-restroom, so that when a seemingly innocuous woman asks you what that sign you're holding is supposed to mean, and you offer a friendly explanation even though you think the sign seems straightforward enough, and she calmly goes on and on about how you you've got it all wrong and politicians are just doing what they're supposed to do and why do you think things should be any different and how people who attend rallies always think they're being useful but they're really not and what makes you think politicians shouldn't be obfuscatory and so on and so forth, somehow eventually making her way to what was apparently her goal all along about "all those evangelicals and pro-Israel people" in your part of the country who have gotten us into the mess we're in, all the while claiming she's just trying to understand your sign...and because she won't shut up even after you tell her you're done talking with her about this, and because you're still super edgy and irritable from the whole peeing thing...well, that's when, instead of walking away like a mature adult, you might instead ironically find yourself shouting "leave me alone or I'll call security" and then stuffing your fingers in your ears and shouting "I don't want to listen to you so I'm going to cover my ears and talk over you because I really don't want to listen to you, blah blah blah I can't heeeear you" while holding the homemade Rally to Restore Sanity signs in the photo below:

We walked from the hospital to the Mall, finally arriving at about 2pm. We couldn't get close enough to see or hear much of the Rally program, but we did see a bunch of fine signs (see below) and dozens of Waldos.

By 3pm, we had managed, through intermittent cell-phone connections, to meet up again with J and M and their kids, whom we had abandoned when we bailed on the Metro. Since the rally had ended, we headed to Chinatown with a quarter of a million other people for an early dinner. Our small group didn't even attempt to find a table anywhere and instead headed (noooooooooo!) into the stuffy underground darkness of the Metro to play another hour of Sardines with a thousand like-minded folks. Since none of our party had remembered to eat lunch, saying we were all a little cranky is an understatement. In desperation, we eventually got on the only train that had any room and rode it to Rosslyn, where we got out, had some dinner at a restaurant where we waited in line for a table and waited in line to use the restroom, and finally caught a packed connecting train back to Falls Church.

The drive home was uneventful and quick and involved no lines at all.


S thought coat hanger wire was too inelegant, so he bought some shiny new copper wire and made candle hangers (thanks for the tip, R!) for two of my impractical hole-filled pots, just in time for the Art Walk tomorrow. Not only do the candle hangers make it much easier to get a lit candle inside the pots, they also make these previously non-functional hole-filled Objets d'Art--poof!--functional. Of course, sitting on a shelf looking interesting while collecting dust is a function of sorts, but there is some urge to "be of use" (as Wilbur Larch would say). I can thus make hole-filled narrow-necked pots to my heart's content, knowing that potential buyers will appreciate them a smidge more because they shine prettily in the dark ("oh, that's what they're for!"). I just have to remember to keep the pot necks wide enough to accommodate a tea light.

My friend Adrian finished taking photos of my pots last week, and he's put together a snazzy slide show. It's a little shocking (in a good way) to see professional photos of my work, since the images I usually see are the cheapo snapshots I take using a piece of white posterboard as a backdrop, which doesn't exactly flatter the pots. Check out Adrian's slide show here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Where's Waldo?

If you don't want to get lost in a crowd of 250,000, dressing up like Waldo might seem like a good solution--unless a hundred other people have the same idea. In contrast, we only saw one Beaker, and no Dr. Bunsen Honeydews. Judging from his sign, Beaker had an unequivocal message for Washington insiders.

Found poem

I just realized the Labels tag cloud on this blog makes a pretty swell found poem. I particularly like the phrases atmospheric firing attitude, camping cats, cursing dialects, downtown dreams, energy fish, heavy machinery holidays, möbius strips neighbors newspapers, obscene heat obsession, and the elision of spring style therapy things with things you blow in tolkien--plus that the poem ends with y'all. Here's the current iteration; parse it as you will.


acrophobia airport security assumptions atmospheric firing attitude adjustment backseat conversations bats beach bedding beloved child beloved engineer bifocals blogging breathing bugs camping cats chickens church colloquialisms common cold consumer culture creative nonfiction cultural differences cursing dialects diatomaceous earth disappointments don't try this at home downtown dreams education energy fish flowers food friends geekitude gender germany good causes grammar heavy machinery holidays homework house houseplants hyperbole intentional homophonic misspellings jury service kiln klein bottles large numbers maintenance math mendelssohn mental hygiene mice modal auxiliary verbs museums music möbius strips neighbors newspapers northern obscene heat obsession opera organ overreacting pedal piano poetry plastic pollen pottery preparing pronouns punctuation recycling religion roadtrip safety in the pottery studio schumann sentence fragments shoes signs size sleep soccer southern southern insults spring style therapy things you blow in tolkien town gown relations trash untapped potential USA weather y'all

Monday, November 1, 2010

A quick visit to our nation's capitol, day 1

Last Friday, S and I and our friends M and J took our kids out of school and drove 4.5 hours north to the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located next to Dulles airport and complements the Air and Space Museum on the D.C. Mall. It houses the Enterprise space shuttle and the Enola Gay, among other icons of national and international air and space history.

M had seen a lot of airplanes recently, having just returned from a business trip to Liberia that involved an unplanned day-long stop-over in Newfoundland due to a smoking first-class seat, and a runway diversion in Belgium to deboard a disruptive shouting passenger; the trip was capped with a drunk Liberian police officer who set up a roadblock somewhere between the airport and Monrovia at 4am in order to coerce bribes from drivers.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, J had needed to make a bajillion party favors for kids at her neighborhood's Halloween shindig, where the grownups were unveiling "The Legend of the Golden Hairy Toe"; so she made plaster necklace charms cast from her very own feet. How's that for thinking on your toes?

Anyway, the airplanes 'n' stuff at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center were pretty neat, but for me, the greatest thrill was showing my inner acrophobe who's boss by walking the entire upper catwalk All By Myself. (OK, so my inner acrophobe and I walked it together). I regret to report that no one else was particularly impressed by this accomplishment, but it's a far cry from where I was pre-Germany. (I don't want to boast here, but I've also been over the suspension bridge at Eno River State Park not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times this fall--a task that was previously so nerve-wracking that I'd avoided the Few's Ford branch of the park for a whopping five years.)