Empty Bowls project targets hunger

Instead of imitating, art will influence life at the 10th annual Empty Bowls project on Friday at Southern Oregon University's Thorndike Gallery. The event will raise money to fight hunger in Jackson County, where the poverty rate is 14 percent and is likely to increase as the economic downturn continues.

Empty Bowls hopes to match last year's total of $5,000 to help the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, Uncle Food's Diner, ACCESS and Food For People. The Soroptimists International of Ashland will match the amount raised by the sale.

This year's Empty Bowls project event was set up early Saturday morning for a weeklong display prior to the sale. On hand for the task were: Sally Jones, who co-coordinates the event with Amanda Pyle, Soroptimist Sue Kurth and Schneider Museum Preparator/Registrar Stephen Frazier.

As the more than 300 pieces of pottery were unwrapped, a variety of different styles, techniques and uses were revealed.

"Most of the pieces are glazed," Jones said as she explained the different types of pottery, "but there is also some raku and terra cotta. Some of the pieces are more artistic and some are basic."

The range of pottery became more than just the average bowl as a number of platters, vases, coffee mugs and rice bowls with holes to hold the included chopsticks, among other items, were placed on the 15-table display. Of note is a clay cookie jar/bank of a bear holding a freshly caught salmon.

"Most of the pieces can be used every day," said Jones as she explained the many utilitarian uses, "especially pieces like the mixing bowls."

The pottery sale is part of the Soroptimists International of Ashland's hunger outreach program. SOU, the pottery society, Clayfolk, and the Ashland community have also pitched in to make the event a place where an empty bowl can fill a plate.

According to Jones, Empty Bowls is more than just a pottery sale for different reasons.

"It is pretty unique that SOU, The Soroptimists and Clayfolk all got together to make it happen," Jones said. "It is also unique because of the range of ability of the different artists. Clayfolk are the pros, but many local schools and artists are also involved."

Some of the pieces are from the students of Helman Elementary, John Muir School, Phoenix High School and SOU.

Besides the opportunity to purchase some unique pottery, attendees will be offered live music by local guitarist Joel Handley, chocolate from Dagoba, coffee from Noble Coffee Roasting, wine from Ron Roth of Geppetto's, and food from the Ashland Food Cooperative. The Soroptimists will also be offering food and refreshments.

Attendees will also be able to purchase a soup ticket for $5, which can be redeemed at one of 10 participating local restaurants for a bowl of soup. Proceeds from the ticket sales will also go to fight hunger.

Jones said that the prices for the pottery average around $10, but there are children's pieces for around one to two dollars as well as a few as high as $75.

The weeklong display and the sale can draw 200 to 300 people, and, according to Jones, "There has been strong competition in the past."

"For sure there has been a rush for certain pieces," Jones said. "There can be up to 50 people waiting for the opening of the sale."

The Soroptimists International, which means "best for women," is an organization whose mission is to serve women both locally and globally. According to Kurth, they are one of only five non-governmental organizations that have a seat in the United Nations. Empty Bowls is a national movement whose only requirement is all money raised under the name Empty Bowls must be used to fight hunger. Clayfolk is a nonprofit pottery society founded in the Rogue Valley in 1976.

This year's Empty Bowls event will take place Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Thorndike Gallery, located in the SOU art building, adjacent to the Schneider Museum of Art on the corner of Siskiyou Boulevard and Indiana Street.

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