Geologist weaves science into her art at the loom

Patterns from rocks at the core of the Earth inspire grad student Claire Zurkowski’s work

Claire Zurkowski, a graduate student in geophysical sciences, weaves work inspired by the refraction patterns of crystals that she studies. Photo by Jean Lachat

Apr 3, 2019
Louise Lerner

Editor’s note: This story is part of ‘Meet a UChicagoan,’ a regular series focusing on the people who make UChicago a distinct intellectual community.

Light filters through large windows at Claire Zurkowski’s apartment, where she sits at her loom, weaving bright yellow-orange thread into a rug already filled with the colors of the rainbow.

Weaving is a bit like playing the piano; her feet tap the pedals and her hands move over the half-created rug stretched out on the wooden frame, pulling the shuttle back and forth through the multicolored threads. The colors and angles in her work reflected in the rocks and minerals sketched into her lab notebooks; her works are inspired by the refraction patterns of the crystals she studies as a graduate student in geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago.

“The way light travels through crystals is affected by atomic structure,” she says. “If light travels faster in one direction than another, you get these beautiful spectrums—light split in different directions like a prism.”

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Geologist weaves science into her art at the loom
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Geologist weaves science into her art at the loom
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Editor’s note: This story is part of ‘Meet a UChicagoan,’ a regular series focusing on the people who make UChicago a distinct intellectual community.