A few years ago, my father read about the Theory of a Thousand Marbles. The idea is that you figure out how many Saturdays you have until you turn seventy-five, and place them in a jar. Every Saturday, you throw away a marble to remind yourself that the days are precious.
It was a lovely idea, but it didn’t work out quite the way it was originally intended. First my youngest child asked for some of the more attractive marbles. Then some more got taken when both boys went through a phase where they played marbles. And the jar got spilled a few times. Obviously this idea was created by someone who lived a more orderly life than mine. So I moved the marbles into the studio. That’s when I found out that marbles are useful things to have there.
I know they don’t look like an indispensable ceramic tool. But they are! I use them all the time when I make molds.
While slipcast ceramic items are made in plaster molds, our master molds (the molds used to make the molds) are made of polyurethane rubber. The rubber itself is pretty rigid, but there are times when we want to reinforce that with plaster. Normally you cut “keys” into the back of the rubber. Then when the plaster is poured over the rubber, it fills the cuts, which holds the plaster in place. It works really well, unless you slip the knife.
Which is where the marbles come in. I found that if I set the marbles on the back of the curing rubber, they would sink in and create really nice keys.
The idea is to get them to sink just below their half-way point, so they create a knob-shaped recess. You have to put them in at just the right time, or you get marble-filled rubber – which isn’t nearly as useful as marble-keyed rubber! But I’ve found that I prefer that risk to the one where I cut my fingers with an xacto.
So that is how I spend my Saturday marbles. I’m still not quite sure what that says about how I count my days, but it works for me.