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## symmetry, asymmetry--math as it applies to ceramics

### Peter T. Wang on tue 28 dec 99

Hi everyone,

This is my first message to the list, so go easy! I have been reading the
archives for some time now, and the recent talk about mathematics as it
applies to ceramic form got my attention. I'm sort of in a
"perma-student" state, having graduated from college (in math, yikes), but
now taking classes in ceramics. And the one thing I noticed about the way
I approached the elements of ceramic form was that I demanded ...
precision. Not so much a perfection of sorts, or even symmetry, but to me
I couldn't loosen up because every line, every profile had to be right
where I wanted it to be. Learning how to let go of that when I want has
been and continues to be one of my biggest challenges.

I am heavily influenced by (read: in awe of) potters such as Elsa Rady,
John Tilton (also a mathematician!), Toshiko Takaezu, Maija Grotell, and
Lucie Rie. In their work I see a certain precision imbued with spirit,
presence.

Geometry certainly figures into ceramic form, and you can argue which is
more fundamental--but to me they are indistinguishable. Math is not a
description of nature so much as it *is* nature, the reality of existence
merely reflecting the reality of mathematical truth. And when I speak of
math I am not talking about the restrictive concepts of "equation,"
"graph," or "formula." These are human constructs which allow us to
comprehend and work with the ideas which comprise the body of mathematical
knowledge.

Math is the idea behind the shape, the formula. Mathematical intution,
therefore, is about understanding the idea and not the equation which
is its representation in human language.

So, where does this aforementioned "presence" come from? The artist, of
course. Where does mathematics and existence come from? As some will say
"God," and others will say "the Big Bang," I'll not expect myself to know
the answer; instead I'll just throw my pots, and prove my theorems.

I love math. I love ceramics. I need to stop trying to decide which one
I love more and just enjoy them both.

Anyway, just my two cents. :)

Best wishes for a new year,

-Peter, 24 years old and wondering if clay is my calling...

http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~peterw/

### Norman van der Sluys on wed 29 dec 99

Seems like we are stuck in an old argument: Does an idea have existence
independent of the mind that contains it?
Perhaps the mathematician sees the principles of his field as cosmic truths.
As a potter, painter and art historian, I tend to think of structure and motif
as being important bearers of these truths. Are we really talking about the
same thing? My biggest beef with those who say that in the beginning there was
math, is the arrogant idea that we can finally oneday come to understand the
ultimate objective truth (assuming such a thing exists.) It seems to me that
man's perspective will always color his perception of the geometry (or
calculus) of the cosmos.

Peter T. Wang wrote:

> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> Hi everyone,
>
> This is my first message to the list, so go easy! I have been reading the
> archives for some time now, and the recent talk about mathematics as it
> applies to ceramic form got my attention. I'm sort of in a
> "perma-student" state, having graduated from college (in math, yikes), but
> now taking classes in ceramics. And the one thing I noticed about the way
> I approached the elements of ceramic form was that I demanded ...
> precision. Not so much a perfection of sorts, or even symmetry, but to me
> I couldn't loosen up because every line, every profile had to be right
> where I wanted it to be. Learning how to let go of that when I want has
> been and continues to be one of my biggest challenges.
>
> I am heavily influenced by (read: in awe of) potters such as Elsa Rady,
> John Tilton (also a mathematician!), Toshiko Takaezu, Maija Grotell, and
> Lucie Rie. In their work I see a certain precision imbued with spirit,
> presence.
>
> Geometry certainly figures into ceramic form, and you can argue which is
> more fundamental--but to me they are indistinguishable. Math is not a
> description of nature so much as it *is* nature, the reality of existence
> merely reflecting the reality of mathematical truth. And when I speak of
> math I am not talking about the restrictive concepts of "equation,"
> "graph," or "formula." These are human constructs which allow us to
> comprehend and work with the ideas which comprise the body of mathematical
> knowledge.
>
> Math is the idea behind the shape, the formula. Mathematical intution,
> therefore, is about understanding the idea and not the equation which
> is its representation in human language.
>
> So, where does this aforementioned "presence" come from? The artist, of
> course. Where does mathematics and existence come from? As some will say
> "God," and others will say "the Big Bang," I'll not expect myself to know
> the answer; instead I'll just throw my pots, and prove my theorems.
>
> I love math. I love ceramics. I need to stop trying to decide which one
> I love more and just enjoy them both.
>
> Anyway, just my two cents. :)
>
> Best wishes for a new year,
>
> -Peter, 24 years old and wondering if clay is my calling...
>
> http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~peterw/