During an assembly designed to raise awareness about women's issues throughout the world, , the students and faculty of The John Carroll School viewed the documentary, "Girl Rising," which focused on the serious problems young girls face all over the world. Teachers were asked to create lessons for their classes in response to the film. Art teacher Michael Gaudreau's solution was to have his students create ceramic icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role of the "Protectress." After researching online, Mr. Gaudreau found the image of a stained-glass window, designed by Roman Kowal, in a Ukrainian orthodox church in Winnepeg, Canada. Students placed paper reproductions of the image on slabs of clay, traced onto the clay with pressure, then incised the traced form.
After bisque firing, black glaze covered the image, getting into all the lines. It was then washed off, leaving the incised lines filled with glaze, in a Japanese technique called Mishma. The image was colored with various glazes, then glaze fired. After firing, the students wrote the Hail Mary prayer on the back of each icon.
Throughout the process, students learned about the purpose of icons, the life of Roman Kowal, and the situation of women in the world, as well as current events in the Ukraine. A showcase in the school displays fifty of the icons, providing spiritual and artistic inspiration for the school community.