Crafting a celebratory bowl

A few weeks ago, I was approached by the Geoscience Department at Williams College to make a bowl celebrating the work of Ronadh Cox, the 'beloved and energetic' department chair who is stepping down after 6 years in this role.  Ideally, the bowl would represent her research, her students and the coast of Ireland.  Whew!  That seemed intimating.  But, without hesitating, I jumped at the chance to stretch my abilities and creativity.

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I started by doing some research myself.  Students sent me photos. I knew Ronadh studied boulders but I had no idea of the depth and importance of this work.  I spent a morning watching videos of her talks, reading articles that appeared in newspapers and journals.  Ronadh and her students have learned that a 620 ton rock can be moved by storm waves. Below is photo of one of her giant boulders that has been tossed about on the coast of Ireland and her students. This image was one of the main inspirations for the design of the imagery on the bowl.  


 In one of her talks, "Boulder Thoughts: Decoding the World Through Geoscience" Ronadh ended her presentation with this beautiful quote by Rachel Carson.

The sediment are a sort of epic poem of the Earth. When we are wise enough perhaps we can read in them all of past history. For all is written here.
— Rachel Carson, 1951, The Sea Around Us

I drew some sketches but was having a little challenge visualizing the finished work.  So, uncharacteristically, I made a small mock up.   The rock, colorful people motifs and the Carson quote all made it on to the final design.   Email flurries, oohs and ahhs from colleagues and family members ensued. We all agreed it might work.  The bowl is formed with a slab of porcelain and decorated with layers of colored porcelain slip (wet clay).  


It seems to have hit the right mark, she recognized her boulder (or bowlder) immediately.  Thanks! Geos for including me in this special day.