By Carolyn Marnon – If you had an empty ceramic bowl sitting on your coffee table or desk, do you think it would make you more aware of the many people suffering throughout the world from hunger? The Empty Bowls Project, a grassroots movement to help end hunger, started in 1990. John Hartom, a Michigan art teacher, wanted to organize a charitable event that gave art students and artists a way to make a personal difference. His students made ceramic bowls in their high school art classes and then the bowls were used as individual serving pieces for a fundraising meal of soup and bread. Guests then got to keep the empty bowl. That was 26 years ago.
This month, students in the Tinkham High School Ceramic program, along with the William D. Ford Culinary Arts program, will be hosting their 3rd annual Empty Bowls Luncheon on Friday, May 13, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. in the lobby of the William D. Ford Center, 36455 Marquette St. in Westland. You may come to lunch at any time during those hours. The suggested donation is $10 and will include lunch and a handmade ceramic bowl to take home. Proceeds from the fundraiser will support the culinary and visual arts programs with a donation also going to the Wayne-Westland Family Resource Center.
Ceramics 1 and 2 students at Tinkham have been making bowls since the fall. The bowls begin to take shape by one of three methods: coil bowls, pinch pots or drape molds, all techniques the students learn in class. Once formed, the bowls take a few days to a week to air dry. Dried bowls then go into the kiln to be fired for 12 hours. Another 12 hours passes before the kiln has cooled down enough to remove the bowls. Students then take the bowls and add glaze to “paint” the bowls. Each bowl requires three coats of glaze, drying between coats, before being fired in the kiln a second time. There is a chemical reaction between the glaze and kiln that changes the chalky-looking glaze into a brilliant shine. All bowls are food-safe according to Anne Chambers, the ceramics teacher at Tinkham.
The Empty Bowls Project began at Tinkham three years ago when a Social Studies teacher used it as a service-learning project. It spread school-wide and grew very quickly. The project gives students the opportunity to make a personal difference in the fight against hunger in the community. The empty bowl that attendees take home is a reminder that someone’s bowl is always empty.
Thanks to the donation of a kiln and supplies from UAW Local 900, Doc Stevens and Lisa Washick, the ceramics program is able to continue. Anne is always looking for donations to help support the program. Although cash is always needed, other donations that would be acceptable include clay and supplies that are no longer being used by someone who did ceramics. Anne is also looking for people who would like to volunteer in the classroom helping to make bowls.
Wayne resident and ceramics student Leah Hawkins, a junior at Tinkham, is looking forward to the event. “It will be cool,” she said. She’s made at least five bowls for the fundraiser, including a coral and white bowl she was working on the day of my visit to the classroom. Leah said she was in the class because she was given ceramics as part of the credit recovery program she is in.
When you arrive at the event, you will give your donation and choose an empty bowl before you get your lunch. Plans are to have four different types of soup, bread and pastries, all made by the culinary arts students. There will be a vegetarian soup option available. The ceramic arts students will be attending the fundraiser.
There will also be a raffle table highlighting local businesses including HYPE Recreation Center, The Avenue, Designer Wearhouse, Helium Studio, AirTime, Sports Venue, Ralph’s, Christine-Bryant Cicirelli, Kroger, Mongolian BBQ, Wen Hair Products, Vizzy’s Pizza, Designs by Betty, Dog Basket, Dairy Queen, Richard LeBlanc, Glenn Anderson, State Representative Robert Kozowski, and numerous gift certificates. Raffle tickets will be available: 1 for $1, 6 for $5, 15 for $10 and 30 for $20.
Mark your calendar now for Friday, May 13 to have a simple meal and support Empty Bowls.