Foraminifera are tiny single-celled organisms that construct shells. They live in oceans and after death their shells settle and are keys to paleoclimate research.

I hear and feel forams roll off the sediment filled brush. I see them in the glazes – that’s how I guage the thickness of poured sediments on pots while I glaze. Some forams are bigger than others, which may mean they came from warmer water where they had lots to eat. Foram density varies from one end of a core to another.

What I’ve observed from all my geographically varied collection, is that sediments containing foraminifera often make branching patterns. while they melt. People think I make the patterns – no – the patterns self-organize while they melt, after I apply sediments evenly onto stoneware clay.

WHY muds melt into dendritic patterns is a common question. I don’t know, but it appears to be a combination of the chemistry (potters often use calcium carbonate in glazes) and the physics of a little ball of calcium carbonate moving in a molten mass. Rate of temperature rise affects pattern development, so I slow the kiln after I see through a spyhole, that incandescent glaze looks like wet ice. My read is that gravity pulls glaze down, but crystallizing on a textured clay surface causes growth up.

I don’t use a microscope to learn if grit in sediment is a foram, a diatom, sand or something else.

One sample from the Indian Ocean was dated by visually inspecting the forams. It’s 35 to 40 million years old. Seeing the pot I made with it, Nancy Jack Todd wrote in Resurgence, "Fingering these primordial crustacea is unsettling, a tactile nudge from planetary coevolution. Through them Joan has discovered a conduit across time and space, life speaking to life across a chasm of forty million years." 

In my guest book a visitor wrote, "It's a piece of the Big Bang!" Another said, "A genetic link to some other place."

Each golden speckle is a melted foram from Ceara Rise.

You won’t need to look far on Internet to learn more about foraminifera.