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Origin Story

I guess it all started with digging holes in my backyard. It seemed like the natural thing for a boy to do on a large flat half acre lot, that had once been pasture land. It was my way of sheltering in place and it felt like the earth was embracing me. Years later, I stumbled upon a remarkable forming process, strangely akin to my early earthen adventures, called "Earth Casting." In a nutshell, it is a technique developed by the architect Paolo Soleri for making everything from small ceramic wind bells to large concrete vaults and domes. I took to the technique like a moth to a flame, or perhaps a badger to his den.

It would take a long time to give a thorough introduction to Arcosanti and Paolo Soleri but suffice to say, both are fantastically enigmatic, truly pioneering forces, that have fostered many potent ideas related to architecture, urban design, and the future of human kind. Out of this panoply of intriguing and heady stuff, I was irresistibly drawn to the humble yet magical forming process, earth casting. It would seem that it was inevitable that Soleri would wed himself and his project to this versatile fabrication technique, having settled on a dormant, ancient river bed in Scottsdale, AZ. Mostly comprised of silt, the crucial ingredient for earth casting, Cosanti became a precursor to Arcosanti, and a construction fab lab. Silt is primarily composed of fine sand and clay, and it turns out, this mix offers excellent properties for making sculptural work using castable materials like concrete, plaster and clay.

After completing a construction workshop at Arcosanti during the summer of 1991, my wife and I were eager to continue exploring and living in Arizona and thus found work positions on site. I chose the ceramic studio, primarily because it looked like a place I could do some side experiments with the medium. The initial image below is a detail of my first earth casting experiment. I was enthralled with the way in which one form flowed into another, as if a landscape in miniature. The elements were distinct, yet appeared to emerge from a core; almost like they had grown organically. At the time, I had also been making clay beads which shared a similar formal sensibility. Whether one refers to it as earth casting, silt casting, sand casting or just playing in the dirt, I had found my vehicle for exploring a spectacular range of form and pattern. My childhood of digging holes had evolved to the next level; building intricate form work for casting.

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