Flying by Numbers

A-M Gallery, Nov 2012

Flying by numbers is a term used in training airline pilots. During those first few important hours of flight training, a student pilot is asked to memorize lots of numbers – airspeeds, power settings, runway headings, etc. The more experience a pilot accumulates, the easier it is to control the airplane by feel because the numbers become, in a sense, ingrained in how we fly.
I recently experienced watching a young lorikeet learning to fly over a few weeks. The beginnings of his attempts were ruled by gravity mostly – so he fell like a stone. But as he gained strength and grew longer wings, he slowly became an acrobat in the labyrinth of trees.
I wonder how much we navigate by numbers and at what point we start developing that feel in our practice. Working with materials like clay, plastics and metals offer the comfort of physical rules, just like numbers and give me the limit that in turn gives form to ideas that are limitless.

At the very beginning of my practice, my favourite part of the wheel-throwing lesson were when the teacher cut the pot in half to show the thickness of the wall. The cross-section that is revealed through the process of cutting has been engaging me ever since.
I have been fascinated by playing with gravity in my ceramic works, it is often determined due to the fine balance of weight. Most change happens inside the kiln if a piece lives or dies, due to the pyroplasticity of the porcelain.