Pottery artists excited about Empty Bowls event

Published 2:46 pm Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NATCHEZ — For ticket-holders, choosing which bowl to fill with gumbo and take home for keeps can be a little competitive, but all part of the fun, at the Empty Bowls project this Sunday.

Mary Baugh, artist in residence at Natchez Clay, said she is looking forward to standing back and watching folks try to beat each other to their favorite bowl, as well as supporting the Natchez Community Stewpot.

The underside of each bowl is embossed with a signature identifying the artist.

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“People get competitive about choosing bowls,” Baugh said. “I’ve heard there are certain artists people follow, and they want to get their bowl to complete a set.”

Baugh, who has created 40 bowls herself for the event, said it’s gratifying to work toward a purpose like Empty Bowls.

“It helps me work outside of my style-comfort zone,” Baugh said. “Every bowl is made with love, and will hold gumbo. It’s nice to know that the Stewpot is here to feed people who need it, and I’ll be glad when we can write that check.”

Baugh said for the ticket-holders who want first dibs, the gates will open at 11 a.m. The event is sold out.

Nathalie Harris, a studio member who teaches hand building to children, adults and children with special needs, agreed that the most intense part of the event is the bowl picking.

“I like to stand back and watch everyone choose their bowls,” Harris said. “And it’s nice when they pick your bowl, even when they don’t know you.”

Harris said the Empty Bowls project is incredible to her because so many community members get behind it. She also looks forward to the creative possibilities that arise from such a big project.

“This is a chance to expand our creativity and experiment with different glazes and techniques. And it’s wonderful to see everyone in town support such a worthy purpose,” Harris said. “The whole premise of the event is for people to look at the empty bowls, and be reminded of the hungry people in the world, and in our area especially.”

Louis Gunning, director of the Natchez Community Stewpot, said he keeps the overhead low so he and volunteers can focus on feeding disadvantaged residents in the community.

So when local efforts like Empty Bowls arise to assist the Stewpot with finances, it takes a load off Gunning’s mind.

“Empty Bowls is a big part of keeping us solvent,” Gunning said.

Tom Hughes, a stoneware potter who works from his home in Natchez, contributed more than 20 bowls to the Empty Bowls project. Hughes has a deeper understanding of how much the event helps the community because he also volunteers one day a week on the delivery route for the Stewpot.

“It’s a good opportunity to give back and help the people who need it,” Hughes said. “It’s also an opportunity for people to obtain work by local artists. I try to make things that I feel good about. If I like the way the bowls are turning out, I make a large supply of those.”

Hughes, who practices the wheel-thrown technique and mixes his own glazes, said he also sends bowls to an Empty Bowls project in the Dallas area.

“It’s a blessing to make something to be used in that manner,” Hughes said.