Local math whiz creates line of clever clocks
Skona Brittain’s enthusiasm for mathematics has led her to launch an unusual business — designing and making unique clocks at her home in Goleta.
She calls the latest one “Corona Time, the Covid Clock,” as a play on “Miller Time.”
Instead of numbers, the words “I don’t even know what day of the week it is anymore!” circle the COVID-19 symbol in the center.
“The 12-word sentence marking the hours expresses how we are all feeling these days,” said Ms. Brittain. “These clocks don’t actually tell time — they may be fast, slow, floppy or stagnant, which is why they are being sold at half price during the pandemic. There is no second hand since we think silence is more important than the semblance of precision these days.
It was designed to be both humorous and comforting.”
Also available are The Music Clock with hours represented by musical symbols, The Carb Clock with each hour represented by pieces of fruit and carb counts, and The Portraits Clock with gold-hued hands that feature diamonds and a heart.
“The Carb Clock is cute, but it is not my best seller. I think people don’t want to be reminded of how many carbs there are in the fruit,” said Ms. Brittain.
All models, which hang on the wall, come in 10-inch diameter size, suitable for homes and offices, and 14-inch for classrooms and studios. Prices begin at $40.
The business is called SB Crafts, which Ms. Brittain says, “People usually assume it stands for Santa Barbara. It does but it also stands for Skona Brittain and my daughters, Shelly Brittain and Sandy Brittain.”
SB Crafts is actually her secondary company. Her primary one is SB Family School through which she does math enrichment for kids who love math.
“I really miss meeting with my students, which is probably why I’ve designed some new clocks,” said Ms. Brittain, who was born in Boston and earned her bachelor’s degree in physics and math at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies.
After attending Princeton University to study mathematical physics, she earned her master’s degree in computer science at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I taught both math and computer science at various colleges before returning to Santa Barbara in 1986. When I had my children, I became involved in homeschooling,” said Ms. Brittain. “More than 10 years ago, I started coaching math teams for my own homeschooled children and liked it so much that I have been doing it ever since. About the same time, I started developing SB Family School’s set of Creative Mathematics classes, which I taught in a variety of venues.
Several years ago, she helped bring Math Circles to Santa Barbara. The only criteria for the group is that participants have to love math.
“They don’t have to be especially good at it. I do not make math fun. Math is intrinsically fun,” she said.
Guest speakers were frequently invited to appear at her Math Circles, and to show her appreciation, Ms. Brittain would present them with clocks she designed specifically for them.
“My first clocks were for engineers, professional mathematicians, math aficionados, mathematically inclined college students, theoretical computer scientists and meta mathematicians,” she said. “There are also math clocks for computer geeks and anyone from ages 10 to 100 and 8 to 89.”
In addition to math coaching and teaching, Ms. Brittain works as a freelance copy editor specializing in advanced computer science textbooks, is writing a physics book titled “Fizyx for Felines” and produces a personalized math story workbook.
Her volunteer work includes coaching a high school ARML team, copy editing for local nonprofit organizations, reading math and science books at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic and tutoring math at the Santa Barbara School of Squash.
(ARML is an annual, national high school mathematics team competition held at the same time at four locations in the United States.)
“With some time on my hands during the pandemic, I decided to create The Covid Clock and the other non-math clocks, although I do admit that there’s some mathematical flavor in virtually all of our clocks,” said Ms. Brittain.