The Perfect Glaze
Sisters and fellow Southwestern students Taylor and Jordan Hutchison say they have always enjoyed working on projects together. This year, their teamwork earned them a $2,500 prize.
The two sisters were the recipients of the 2014 Walt Potter Prize, which is awarded for the best project at the annual King Creativity Symposium. The two won the prize for their project titled “The Perfect Glaze: Using Evolutionary Computing to Format the Most Aesthetically Pleasing Glaze.”
The King Creativity Fund was established in 2000 with an endowment provided by Southwestern alumnus W. Joseph “Joey” King and supports “innovative and visionary projects” proposed by Southwestern students. The Walt Potter Prize is named after computer science professor Walt Potter, who was King’s mentor when he was a student at Southwestern.
Ironically, Potter is one of several faculty members that Taylor Hutchison, who is a sophomore physics major, has worked with since she came to Southwestern. While working with Potter on a summer research project, Taylor said that Potter, who has recently become interested in ceramics, wondered whether computer science could be used to find the perfect glaze for ceramics.
Taylor decided to take up the challenge and applied for a King Creativity Grant to help fund the project. She asked Potter to be an advisor on her project, along with Steve Alexander, professor of physics, and Patrick Veerkamp, professor of ceramics. She also asked her sister Jordan, who is a senior with a double major in studio art (ceramics) and French, to be a technical advisor on the project.
The two started by using computer code from a previous King Creativity Project to help come up with different combinations of the materials that are used to make glazes.
“We wanted a glaze with uniform color, good texture and one that is easy to make and not too viscous,” Taylor said.
While early iterations of the program produced a grey glaze, the two were finally able to create a teal-colored glaze that they were happy with.
“It is really cool to have glazes that no one else has,” Jordan said.
Paul Gaffney, dean of the Sarofim School of Fine Arts and coordinator of the King Creativity Fund program, said the Potter Prize selection committee was impressed with the “very unexpected combination” of computer algorithms and ceramics that the two sisters used.
Jordan said she plans to use her portion of the prize money to purchase a kiln since she won’t have access to one after she leaves Southwestern. She plans to go to Korea to teach English after she graduates in May.
Taylor said she plans to use her portion of the prize money to build her own telescope. She currently helps run the telescopes at the Fountainwood Observatory’s public viewing nights and plans to attend graduate school for physics.
And before she graduates, she hopes to take a ceramics class.