Vessels won’t be empty for long

Local artist Jenny Andersen (right) repairs chips in Lindsay Fisher’s soup bowl.  - JIM BRYANT photo
Local artist Jenny Andersen (right) repairs chips in Lindsay Fisher’s soup bowl.
— image credit: JIM BRYANT photo

The Empty Bowls project returns to benefit hunger relief on Bainbridge Island.

The sixth-grade students closed their eyes and imagined what it would be like to be really hungry: A snow storm traps them at school. They must sleep in the classroom. There is no food.

Then they shift the image: It’s the end of the month. The cupboards are empty. The family inside is hungry, and they are neighbors.

With those sensations fresh in their minds, they opened their eyes and went straight to work, making clay bowls to benefit the hungry.

“Project Empty Bowls gives them the opportunity to know that their artwork changes people’s lives,” said Sakai Intermediate School art teacher M.J. Linford, who begins the project each year with a guided meditation on hunger. “It helps them to feel they are giving back to the community.”

The students agree that this is so.

“I think it’s really cool we’re doing it,” said Tyler Blackwell, 12, as he painted a decorative anchor on the bowl he has made. “It shows respect, in that some people don’t have bowls, or soup or bread to eat.”

Project Empty Bowls was brought into Bainbridge schools three years ago by artist Jenny Andersen, who with Linford and several volunteers helps the students make and glaze the bowls.

The finished bowls will be sold at fund-raising dinner of soup and bread on March 5. Proceeds from the dinner ($3) and the bowls ($15 and up) will be split between victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Helpline food bank.

In the course of the project, the students learn that nearly 5,000 children 11 and under live in poverty in Kitsap County. They take a tour of the Helpline House food bank, learning that the agency fills over 1,800 bags of groceries each month, serving about 620 people on Bainbridge Island.

“I think it’s a good way to help the community,” said 12-year-old Maddy Midas, as she painted her vessel. “I just want it to make someone happy.”

Will Vandagiff said he had a family in mind when he made his bowl, saying, “I hope they are happy when they get it, and that they can get some use out of it.”

This year, 350 clay bowls were made in Linford’s classroom, with students as well as teachers and members of the community coming in to personalize the bowls with patterns, sculpture and glaze. The finished products, along with pictures of the bowl-making project, will go on display at the March 5 dinner. The bowls are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and one need not buy a bowl to attend.

The Arts and Humanities Council provided a $1,200 grant for bowl-making materials. The dinner, to be held at the Bainbridge Island Commons, will feature soup donated by Cafe Nola, Blackbird Bakery and the Pizza Factory, as well as fresh-baked rolls.

“Everyone works together — the students, the schools, the restaurants, the people who buy the soup and bowls,” said ceramic artist Kathleen Kler, an Empty Bowls volunteer. “Every piece is necessary or it doesn’t work the way it does.”

Joanne Tews, executive director of Helpline House, praised the project for raising community awareness about poverty, hunger and economic diversity on the island, where one in eight households makes less than $25,000 a year.

“One of our goals,” she said, “is to help local youth develop a generous spirit.”

* * * * *

Fill ‘em up

The Project Empty Bowls dinner runs 5-7 p.m. March 5 at the Bainbridge Commons. Soup and bread is $3, with bowls handcrafted by Sakai students selling for a minimum of $15 each. For more information, call Helpline House at 842-7621.

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