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home : premium content : news May 27, 2016

2/1/2013 1:12:00 PM
Potters prepare for Empty Bowls event
Photo by Michaels Photography
Local potter Terry Porlier works his craft to benefit Empty Bowls.
Photo by Michaels Photography
Local potter Terry Porlier works his craft to benefit Empty Bowls.
Submitted by Lisa Therrell

For the past 17 years, Leavenworth has been participating in the grassroots movement Empty Bowls, an effort that seeks to fight global hunger. Local area artisans have found a way to use their talents and skills to make this cause not only successful, but also beautiful.

Many know Empty Bowls as the family-friendly event where the community comes together to paint bowls and, later, to eat soup. The proceeds are contributed to the Community Cupboard to replenish food for the food bank. However, less familiar is the story of what takes place leading up to glazing days and the soup supper. Beginning in late summer, before any soup is eaten or prepared, before the bowls are glazed, and even before the planning committee has started finalizing event details, a team of potters begin throwing the bowls.

This year's potters are Dawn Kranz, Terry Porlier, Phil Yenney, and Scott Dillman. Last year there was a surplus of bowls thrown, and so bowls by Randy and Brenda Black, Sabrina Brakensiek, Margareta Dilley, Sara Peckham,

Isaac Howard, and Tim Lynch will also be used this year. Many of these potters have special schooling in the ceramic arts, and a number earn their living making beautiful pottery.

In total, over 700 bowls are thrown from pugged clay. The bowls are then bisque fired so that they are more durable for handling while painting. The public and the artists then use brightly colored underglazes to paint their artwork onto the bowls. The next day, after the underglazes have dried, a group of volunteers known as the "glazing committee" dips the bowls into clear gloss glaze. After the bowls have dried, they are loaded into a kiln for clear glaze firing. Each bowl is completely covered with glaze as the clay used is porous earthenware; the clear glaze makes the bowl safe to use for food.

Empty Bowls first began in Leavenworth in 1996, when Jeff Hilton and Nancy Peterson, two local potters, initiated the event. The first bowl painting was held in the garage of Carl and Sheila Bergren, and about 150 people bought tickets to the soup supper. Artists from Village Art in the Park decorated most of the bowls, and diners would select a painted bowl the night of the soup supper. Yet Peterson kept pushing for her vision of the public painting their own bowls, believing that while children have many venues for creating art, most adults do not. Eventually her approach took hold, leading to the event today in which most of the 700 participants decorate their own bowls.

For more information about Empty Bowls and its potters, go to

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