Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chickens for the Cure, 2011

Oh so fine! These photogenic chickens are part of a team that has been doing a few hours a week on the elliptical trainers at the Y in preparation for the 2011 Komen Triangle affiliate Race for the Cure on June 11. While you're unlikely to encounter Desdemona, Roxanne, or Brunhilde on the race course (after all, the Raleigh event draws 23,000+ participants, and small birds do get lost in a big crowd), you can encounter a chicken in your very own living room. Repeating last year's offer, for every $50 that you donate to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on behalf of me or my team, I'll make sure a unique, handmade, wheel-thrown and altered, wood-fired, North Carolina chicken with an authentic clay pretend egg inside wings its way to you.*

That's right, one chicken for $50, two for $100. What the heck, if you donate $150, I'll persuade four of these gals to move in with you. Sure, it would be cheaper just to buy chickens directly from the artist, but then you wouldn't have the satisfaction of supporting the quest for a cure for breast cancer or helping to fund early-detection, education, screening, and treatment programs for under-served women. And with clay chickens, you don't have to build a coop, fend off raccoons, or eat a dozen eggs a week (although they won't get in your way of doing those things, if that's what turns you on).

If you would like to run, walk, or sleep in for the cure on June 11, feel free to join Team Amazing Us. If your race fee plus additional donation totals $50, there's a chicken in your future.

*Offer good until supplies run out, which should be a while. I'm currently cohabiting with dozens of chickens.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Borromean rings, take two

I'm getting closer to decent wheel-thrown Borromean rings, though I'm still pretty sure coils are a better way to go. I could probably crank out a few hundred coil Borromean rings in the time it takes to make one set on the wheel. Nonetheless, efficiency isn't everything, and the process has reminded me of some useful tidbits. Listen up, class: (1) wet tori squish more easily than firm tori, so trim and squish them when they're as wet as possible; and (2) nothing disguises unsightly bulges better than hundreds of hand-cut holes.

To address my desire to access the insides of the rings (why make hollow rings if you can't tell they're hollow?), I cut holes into two of the rings to let light show through. Then I wrapped a small pile of hole detritus into a piece of paper towel and stuffed it inside the solid torus during ring-locking assembly. (You can see the access point at the top right of the photo; once the clay is stiffer, I'll smooth over the bulge). Thus, even though people won't be able to see through the solid ring, they'll be able to hear that it's hollow when all those clay bits rattle around inside it--because what's a person going to do with a quarter of a cubic foot of Borromean rings other than shake them up and down?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I've been meaning for a while to write about a set of organ variations by Marcel Dupré: Variations sur un noël op. 20 (1922). I've been meaning to write about how I've been dragging my feet studying them this past year, and how I finally decided to buckle down and really learn them because I ran out of Schumann and my organ teacher thinks the variations are a necessary evil good for me at this point in my musical development, and how I agree with him in theory but nonetheless find a bazillion creative ways to avoid practicing them. The variations are like diminutive exercises in learning to pat your head, rub your tummy, and chew gum all at the same time while standing on your head with your arms superglued together. You'd think blogging about avoiding them would be a good avoidance strategy, yet every time I sat down to blog, I'd think, "no, no, instead of writing about them, go practice them."*

Thus it is that today I introduce my latest pottery geek experiment: wheel-thrown and altered Borromean Rings. They're made from three tori stretched and nudged into ellipses. It's a little disappointing that there's no way to get inside any of the tori, the way there is with a Klein Bottle or a Moebius diatom box. Why throw and alter hollow tori when you can roll out some coils much more easily? Clearly, further experimentation is necessary.

*Despite all my kicking and screaming, I'm going to conquer this beast. I've dutifully started a practice log, in order to generate evidence that I've actually been practicing (or not) and to focus on how I practice. I've started memorizing individual variations, which makes it a smidge easier squeeze some musicality from these mechanical pieces. A light is finally emerging at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Geek ball

I thought about putting a chicken inside the outer ball, but decided it would be better to use something that wouldn't look anthropomorphically forlorn in a spherical cage. Enter the clay wiffle ball, form of 10,000 uses!

As I've already had to kluge one of the outer-ball spokes back together, I have serious doubts that this geek toy is going to survive intact into bisquehood. Ah, ethereal art!

Friday, April 1, 2011


"Pottery for Geeks" is coming up in a few weeks at Claymakers, so I'm doing a little prototyping.* From the how-did-the-world-ever-manage-without-this department, I proudly introduce the clay wiffle ball. Imagine how these babies will fly when hit with a clay bat. No, not that kind of bat; this kind of bat. I just need to figure out how to throw one on the wheel.

Truthfully, the balls aren't meant for wiffle anything; they're merely a first step en route to a multiple sphere geek toy. I'll post photos eventually if everything works out as planned.

*Verbifying "prototype" reminds me that this morning, I heard a guest on the Diane Rehm show on NPR use "offshore" as a verb--as in "companies are offshoring labor." Way to turn an adjective/adverb into a verb, eh?