May 5, 2015

Sonic Hedgehogs...A Small Army of Ceramic Bells

For my recent pit firing I created an entourage of small ceramic bells. I called them "sonic hedgehogs," so named for a molecule affecting the development of the autonomic nervous system. Of late I have been told that the term has also been used for video games. Perhaps a scientist who liked video games named the molecule.

My sonic hedgehogs were created by making a hollow sphere around a solid ball, called a katel. When the clay of the outside sphere had stiffened up enough to carve I created a long slit around half of its circumference. This opening functioned like the holes in a round bell. The sound was made by shaking the katel against the sound hole. Since I knew from past experience that low fired ceramic makes a clicking noise instead of a ring, I added attachments to the ball that made them look like beasts with open mouths. Many of these had rows of teeth to emphasize the gnawing sound that shook out of its opened mouth.

I was instantly intrigued by the idea of making a small army of such small monsters with tail handles and over-sized mouths that emitted clicks. I envisioned about a hundred or so people each clicking one so that the group would emanate the sounds of so many crickets or cicadas. Perhaps they could even be synchronized by pitch. I would name the performance piece "Disturbing Peace," after a line from an ancient Chinese poem I translated years ago...."Who says rats don’t have teeth. They can bore through my wall and disturb my peace." Just a thought. But performance art notwithstanding, friends of mine agreed that these little things belonged together as a group. The more the merrier as the old adage goes.

I burnished the raw clay to keep the natural colors of rose, red and buff on most of my sonic hedgehogs. On others I used terra sigillata glazes made from aged painting terra sigillata mixed with Amaco velvet underglaze. These were blues, greens and deep reds. I posed them for a group portrait.

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