Sunday, December 23, 2012

Summer recaps finished: Penland and flutes

Warm November flew away, and barely-cold December is also on its way out, so here's my last summer catch-up blog. I'm sure I'll never catch up with autumn blogging, so I'll spill the highlights right away: (1) our determined angel fish laid new eggs every 2-3 weeks and the young fry got eaten by their carnivorous tank-mates and parents every darned time; and (2) Schroeder lost his carrot, causing distress and consternation, but my mom knitted him a new one and everyone is content once more. Ooh, and (3) I worked towards coming to terms with glazes fired in oxidation, attempting to mimic the variation of reduction-fired surfaces by spraying layers of different Claymakers' studio glazes à le Steven Hill, and it's going well enough that I recently bought a used compressor and spray gun, with hopes of building (and, by extension, finding room for) a spray booth for my home studio; but that's a story that lacks photos and will have to wait until 2013 for blog development.

So back to the summer. I spent the last two weeks of August at the Penland School of Crafts, taking a class entitled "Shape Shift: The Pot," taught by Jim Lawton. I had been meaning to take a Penland class for almost a decade, and the stars had finally aligned between a class I was very interested in, two unencumbered weeks, and manageable kidcare. At Penland, I learned a lot about darting, making holes, and assembling well-proportioned altered pots, worked intensely from morning to night, met a lot of interesting and talented people, ate super duper well, and happily jogged almost daily along beautiful mountain roads (only getting lost once, when what I thought was a 180o-sum turn on curvy roads turned out to be only about 85o, and a 3-mile trip turned into 7 miles, so that I missed breakfast on the last day).

One of my Penland classmates, Joe, is a glass artist who was honing his clay skills. We had a shared interest in clay instruments; I showed him how to make ocarinas, and he showed me how to make a flute. It took until late this fall for me to finally attempt making a flute; the initial results are played below, with a chickarina for comparison (apologies to Beethoven for the flubs). Ocarinas are easier to play, although the tone quality and range aren't as good. Both flutes were tuned by ear; maybe next time I'll pull out my tuner. As with the chickarina, some pitches +/- can be replicated with multiple fingerings, which helps some with the tuning. It would probably help too if I actually knew how to play the flute. As it is, I feel disturbingly light-headed after playing these things. I'm sure good tone quality and hyperventilating don't always have to go hand-in-hand.

There are assorted online guides to making clay, wood, and PVC-tubing flutes. Handouts for assorted college-level acoustics labs tend to go into more precise detail than I was interested in, so I followed the suggested measurements in Barry Hall's book, From Mud to Music, which offers the same hole-positioning advice as this website by Mark Shepard. The detail that can't be stressed enough is that hole size hugely affects the tuning. After some trial and error, I abandoned the distance-of-finger-hole-from-mouthpiece measurements and relied on hole size to enable comfortable finger placements. But maybe that's part of why I have to hyperventilate when I play.

Another lesson I took away from Penland was to register for more workshops at Claymakers--way cheaper and way more convenient to get to than Penland (although the food and scenery, of course, can't compare). Thus I enjoyed a late-summer workshop with Susan Feagin (Penland's clay studio manager) and a mid-autumn brush-making workshop with Kent McLaughlin.

And now for some pastoral Beethoven...


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