WILKES-BARRE —Toting handmade bowls of clay, satisfied-looking soup eaters left Wilkes University’s Henry Student Center. Donors exchanged a few dollars toward a charity effort for complimentary bowl made by a local potter and a belly full of soup.
Wilkes University, King’s College and Luzerne County Community College students and teachers pitched in for an event Sunday called Empty Bowls, a fundraiser to aid local food banks. For $15, donors bought handmade bowls spun by local potters and ate soup and bread. All proceeds go to area food banks. More than 1,300 bowls were spun, or “thrown” as potters say, for the fundraiser.
The CEO/Weinberg Food Bank, Back Mountain Food Pantry, Luzerne County Community College’s food bank and St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen are to receive the money raised Sunday.
Wilkes senior Richelle Smith watched as soup-destined donors perused a selection of more than 1,000 hand-spun bowls. Smith is studying history, but won a seat in adjunct pottery instructor Jean Adams’ pottery class. Adams cooked up the idea to join artists and charity last year.
“I’m not a math person, that’s why I do pottery. But it was easy to figure 1,o00 bowls could raise $15,000,” Adams said.
The inspiration struck last January when Adams realized her skills used for spinning bowls for charity operations all over the state could be used for good in her hometown. Empty Bowls is a national effort that sets the parameters for a fundraiser and Adams felt it would be fitting for local artists and soup-eaters alike to help raise money for the poor.
She approached Ken Marquis, a local art and frame shop owner who curates exhibits in his South Main Street shop, to ask if her simple plan would stick in Luzerne County. Marquis backed her effort and now sits on the local Empty Bowls committee.
The local artists and colleges raised $11,000 for the inaugural event last year and Adams said she hopes to make more this year. After all sales are calculated, she expects to have a total number today. Adams said she noticed heavier foot traffic at the event compared to last year, but at first count, there was between 275 and 300 at the door.
Smith pointed out the different spinning styles among the bowls, some with detailed designs, others square in shape. She picked out one of the 10 she spun, a piece that was conical in shape and stamped. Smith said each bowl took a few days to spin, dry, glaze and fire before it was complete.
The event served a dual purpose: giving artists a chance to showcase their work, and raising thousands for the valley’s hungry.
“There is certainly a need from people in the community,” Marquis said. “Artists typically are very giving people. Boy, they stepped right up to the plate.”