Custom Firebowl celebrates generations through a family portrait


When Kevin called from Long Beach , CA he already knew that my firebowls will last generations.

Thinking about how the firebowl would be passed down through his family, he wanted to commission a custom piece that would tell a story about his present family to the generations to come. He wondered if I could create a family portrait to serve as both a celebration of the family now and a remembrance for those to come. It was certainly an intriguing idea!

Kevin and his wife took turns describing their family and proposed several ideas for how to portray them. I had them look at a garden fence that tells a family’s story in four acts which I had made for my friends Howie and JoAnn. What worked best about that project was that I was able to capture the personality and interests of each person through gestures, poses, props and reference to stories JoAnn told me.

By the end of the call, we had settled on the idea of portraying their two boys and dog at play. Kevin sent an email with his thoughts and photos of the boys and dog.

In thinking about the story of the boys and our dog, our thoughts would be to celebrate their lives and highlight their individual personalities as you look around the fire bowl. Our hope is to look back many years from today and remember this time in their lives and to some day pass it down so that another generation can enjoy it and see what the “dad” was like when he was a kid… We put together a collection of pictures of all three to hopefully help with a visual expression of who they are.

I drew several different options but the one that worked best was having the two boys and the dog running along the edge of the bowl as though they were chasing each other in a spirited game of tag. I requested that they shoot an additional photo of all three standing together so that I could get the proper scale.

It was tricky to create silhouette images from the photos at the scale we were working (about 10 inches high for the tallest figure). I’ve learned through trial and error that any lines cut into a figure to add detail have to be pretty thick cuts to let the fire shine through… at the same time, it’s important not to weaken the steel by cutting away too much. So the ideal was to create solid figures with very little interior detail and rely on the pose and the features of the face to carry the personality.

This was the first firebowl I made by cutting figures from separate pieces of steel and then welding them to the outside of the bowl to create a textured relief sculpture. I had been thinking about trying the approach for quite some time but hadn’t yet had the right project to try it out. It was also the very last firebowl I made before moving to New York. Beginnings and endings. Very appropriate for a bowl that was designed to send a message to future generations!