A Tie for the Books: 8 Spelling Bee Winners Means 8 Scripps Cups

By: Rookwood Pottery

The unexpected ending shines a light on our commemorative trophy design for the world’s most famous bee.

The unexpected ending shines a light on our commemorative trophy design for the world’s most famous bee.


Erysipelas. Pendeloque. Bougainvillea. This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee didn’t end with a single winning word, but rather a bouquet of them. In what the announcer described as “unchartered territory,” the competition concluded after the 20th round with eight champions—each deserving to hold our custom Scripps Cup trophy in their hands.

The 8 winners of the Scripps National spelling bee with the trophy

The news meant we had more Cups to create—and fast—with each standing nearly 16.35” tall adorned top to bottom in Rookwood’s signature mix of intricate hand-carving ad vibrant color. Concepted and executed by a small team of artisans in our OTR Flagship factory, the Cup is a commemorative tribute to the legacy of the Bee and the hard work of its participants. “The Bee is the country’s largest and longest-running educational program,” says Mary Guanciale, Rookwood’s director of product development who helped design the Cup. “As one of the oldest ceramic studios in the US, we love the synergy of our partnership. We’re proud to create the crowning achievement for something as beloved as the Bee.”


Beyond its hexagonal “honeycomb” shape and filigree of bees, the cup brims with more symbolism than meets the eye, Guanciale explains: it stands on a base of walnut wood hand-carved by Family Woodworks, referencing the Bee’s headquarters on Walnut Street in Cincinnati. And the flowers that bloom from the open book aren’t just any blossoms. They’re gladiolus, which was the first winning word in the Scripps Bee in 1925.

Scripps_Spelling_Bee_Trophy close up

“Every detail of the Scripps Cup carries deep meaning,” says Deborah Smith, who hand-painted the piece alongside Heidi Shannon. “We weren’t anticipating that we’d need to make eight, but we’re more than happy to do it!”


So from first carving to final glazing, how long does it take to complete eight cups? “About 3 weeks each,” says master mold-maker and carver, Gary Simon. A lot of time, but we’re sure the winners spent just as many hours studying up.


To learn more about Rookwood’s legacy of commemorative designs for major milestones, head here.