For the first time ever, Toronto is getting a handmade holiday pop-up shop just for science lovers! On December 9th and 10th, the Toronto Etsy Street Team will host A Scienterrific Holiday Pop-Up at their gallery at 906 Queen St West. Between the hours of 10am and 8pm, you’ll be able to buy beautiful handmade gifts for all your science-loving friends and family, and maybe a little something for yourself ;)
A couple of years ago I spent some time at a studio out in the east end of the city. I worked under a potter there who was a brilliant sculptor, and it was under her tutelage that I learnt most of the core slab-building techniques that I now use.
When most people think of pottery, what comes to mind is the classic scene from Ghost, where Patrick Swayze “helps” Demi Moore on the pottery wheel, and sexiness ensues. (Let me assure you that there’s nothing sexy about wet clay. It gets everywhere, and it’s gritty.) Wheel-throwing is just one method of building structures in clay, though. It’s great if you want something round, or at least round-ish, but it’s far from the pinnacle of the fine art of pottery.
Slab-building doesn’t employ a wheel at all, though you can build most of the same basic shapes with it. Instead, the potter begins with a hunk of clay and rolls it out flat, much as you would a pie crust. The slab can be draped, pressed into a mould, folded, twisted, curled, cut into strips and re-attached at crazy angles – the options are endless.
For this piece, I started with a slab draped over a dinner plate for a gently rounded base. Then I cut asymmetrical strips and attached them to build up the sides and form the handles.
I didn’t have any specific creatures in mind as I formed it, but rather impressions of sponges and corals and sea stars and eels and seaweed. I wanted it to evoke the feeling of a coral reef without actually depicting one. Similarly, I chose glazes that call to mind the ocean for the interior of the vessel, but glazed the outside in the matte white of bleached shell and bone and coral.
This is one of my favourite pieces, so I hope you enjoy it!
After months of planning and consultation with several helpful nerds, I’m pleased to present my latest art work! I made this piece specifically for the Dinovember art show at the Toronto Etsy Street Team Gallery in Toronto. If you’re in the area, you can check it out until November 14th.
Here’s the video of the installed piece. You’ll want to be in a quiet space and crank the volume up – the music is subtle even in situ, and my phone didn’t pick it up as well as I’d have liked.
I had to learn a few new tricks for this project. The sound (an original composition by Brian Engh, used with permission) is controlled by an Arduino Uno with an Adafruit Music Maker shield. I used copper wire for the veins on the exterior of the heart, and these are attached to the stack to act as antennae for the capacitive sensor. When you approach the heart, the sound is triggered.
Here are some making-of photos :)
The heart itself is earthenware clay, and based on a chicken heart. The magnolias I sculpted from Fimo. The cycad and ferns are synthetic, but the moss and lichen are real, and the blue morpho butterfly is one I pinned myself at a workshop a couple of months back :)
I learnt to solder (thanks to Ele Willoughby, who also talked me through the whole process and dealt with my panic and terror with infinite patience and grace), connect speaker wires, and splice a USB cable to a power connector. I read a lot about resistors and capacitance and absorbed only barely enough of it to get this working, albeit with room for improvement.
And now I’m thinking about my next Arduino project ;)