The Fitful Flog

October 15, 2006

North by Northwest

16 Sided Compass Rose Jar

The City Fathers (a few Mothers, too) and the Department of Public Works have given me several broad hints lately that the art I pursue is no art at all, but a mere “craft or decorative art.” So be it.

Urania, Muse of Astronomy and Mathematics, who used to come see me now and again, has given me up for a rank poseur. Instead, I get visited by Cleanso, the Mt. Hellicon charwoman and part time Muse of Helpful Household Hints, and although everything she says is true, I am less inspired than I could wish to be.

“Red wine stains?” says my thick-armed vision, “Club soda will get that out.” or “Stubborn collar grime? Have you ever tried washing your freaking neck?”

Truth sucks.

I respond by posting a piece I promised to post over year ago. This is the 16 Sided Compass Rose Jar and a fine piece of work it is, indeed. And the City’s cruel barbs have forced me to admit, there’s not enough emotional content in my work. Cold dotted and dashed lines on an endless plane, hopelessly Apollonian stuff. This crease pattern bears the rebus of my dreamtime, because dreams are the fruit machine of the gods. Drop your dime, pull the lever and away you go. Happy dreams of love and royalty checks, sad dreams of old girlfriends and smelly sneakers.

It’s hard to decipher. The peppermill could be about my ambivalence on the loss of heavy industry in New England. Or maybe it was that I put too much pepper on my soup at lunch yesterday and liked it, anyway. The basilisk could express my trepidation that I am getting too stiff and slowly turning to stone. Or it might be some weird-ass religious symbol – they call them Jesu Christo lizards in South America, because they walk on water when startled. (In Venezuela, they walk on brown crude -Caracas Gold, Paramaribo Tea – same deal.) Point is, dreams are just things in juxtaposition to other things and sometimes, a pickle is just a gherkin. Judging by the symbols here, it looks like a happy dream, mainly.

Okay, brass tacks: it takes about an hour to do the precreasing. You’ve really got to want to do this. The construction method is largely the same as the 8 Sided Compass Rose Jar. Precrease; twist the central helix; swap the layers; collapse the edges. Here’s the crease pattern. Note that the second page tells you why the lines are where they are.

Elegant, you ask? No. The 2, 3 and 5 here started out as wild guesses and ended up as excellent approximations of the tangents they represent. Hey, this is art! Did you not see the emotional content above?

3 Responses to “North by Northwest”

  1. 1
    ahudson Says:

    Don’t feel disregarded or anything, I and the rest of your readers think you’re an artist, we sure as hell couldn’t do half the stuff you post…

    But anyway, do you know what the mathematical name for the shape of the top half is? I want to look it up, I bet it has all sorts of fun properties…

  2. 2
    oschene Says:


    That is so where I wasn’t going with that.

    I was trying to mock the making of art hierarchy, not to draw attention to me as artiste. That other people can’t fold my stuff, that just means I’m still failing to explain myself adequately. I’m working on that.

    It’s all art – from the hobo’s burgoo to the Parthenon. And it’s not that we can’t make aesthetic judgments about pieces of art or entire genres – get me going on opera or ballet, some time – it’s that governing bodies attempting to say a sculpture is more Art than a ceramic pot is an obscenity worth fighting. Or at least mocking broadly.

    This all said, that shape is called a one-sheet hyperboloid. And it does have fun properties. It’s springy!

  3. 3
    DShpak Says:

    A nice piece. It took my much less than an hour to do the precreasing on the printed crease pattern; more like 20-30 minutes. Granted, I wasn’t being real precise. The total time, though, was at least an hour. I had a heck of a time swapping the layers after collapsing the base, and when I did pull it off, the layers didn’t line up properly. I ended up resolving it by folding the entire top part with the layers the wrong way ’round (so that everything had good firm creases), unfolding it, swapping the layers, and re-folding it.

    For the edification of anyone else who’s trying this: I found it worked best to fold the top lip before folding the “spring”, which was the opposite of what I had originally expected. And I doubt I would have managed this without folding the 8-sided Compass Rose Jar first.

    When all’s said and done, a remarkably nifty little jar. With the spring collapsed the right distance, it’s very reminiscent of a little clay pot.

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