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Just like our garden, some studio work is seasonal. Annual commissions return each year at their appointed dates, as predictably as hardy perennials. Every spring, for the past five years, I’ve had the privilege of designing and producing the race trophies for the Grandman Triathlon. In a feat of physical ability that makes me tired just to THINK about, 400+ athletes from across the nation come to coastal Alabama to swim 1/3 mile in Mobile Bay, bike 16.4 miles and run more than 3 miles — all in 85-degree weather with 90 percent humidity.  Whew. The race benefits Mobile Baykeeper, a watchdog organization working to keep our region’s watershed healthy and viable.

Each raku tile trophy starts with a sketch. Here’s the one for this year:


It’s a little challenging to come up with a new design each year. The ideal art features the triathlon events and includes a reference to the Mobile Bay coastal ecology. The first year, the trophy ended up as a whimsical Art Deco homage to fleet-footed Mercury, with a bicycle wheel and water:

2005 GM tile

The following year, the design evolved into a heron — but the bike wheel lingered:

2006 grandman design

2006 grandman tile

In 2007, the tile design headed off in a simpler direction — a relief carving of a pelican in flight. This is my favorite of all the trophy tiles, so far:

grandman 2007 unfired

grandman tile 2007

Last year, art students at Spring Hill College designed a logo for the event. Naturally, the 2008 race trophy was based on that…


…which brings us up to this year’s trophy again.  Ideas for 2010, anyone?