Bowls in ‘a variety of flavors’

Mar. 05, 2013 @ 05:58 PM

Those who attend this year’s Empty Bowls benefit will taste soup recipes from 16 Durham restaurants. They also will get to admire and choose pottery in “a variety of flavors.”

Lee Jones and Becca Hulett of the Durham Arts Council’s Clay Studio showed off about 50 of 176 bowls that teachers and students in the studio have made and contributed to this year’s Empty Bowls benefit for Urban Ministries. Earlier this week, the rest of the bowls had already been transported for the 7th Empty Bowls benefit.

Jones, the clay studio coordinator, and Hulett, who teaches in the studio, each made, or “threw,” about 50 bowls for the benefit. They and studio students have been working about a month and a half on the bowls, which altogether represent between 400 to 500 pounds of clay, Hulett said.

But visitors to the Empty Bowls benefit likely will be more struck by the shapes, colors and patterns of the bowls, rather than statistics. Jones picks up several bowls and points out colors like “pouty purple,” “eggplant” and “spruce” – “so we have a variety of flavors in the bowls,” she said. Students at the studio asked for some new glazes, which the studio technicians created, all from scratch, Jones said. Students also used sponges, paint brushes and other instruments to make color patterns in some of the bowls.

“There was a great opportunity to test glaze combinations without using your own piece,” Hulett said.

The bowls are different shapes and sizes, with colors ranging from warm yellows and earth tones to many shades of blue. A few bowls were shaped by hand, but most were thrown using a potter’s wheel.

In past years, the studio has allowed any artist skilled in pottery to contribute to Empty Bowls, but this year, the teachers decided they could keep the work in house. The students rose to the occasion, with no cajoling, Jones said.

“Students actually gave up their class time to throw for Empty Bowls,” Hulett said. One student, Reggie Hall, contributed about 20 bowls to the benefit, Hulett said. Other students who were not able to contribute bowls donated a portion of unused clay to the project.

Creating a bowl is about a two-week process, Jones said. The pieces must by trimmed, fired, glazed and fired again. Getting all 176 bowls through the process became an informal assembly line, Hulett said. “I was really proud of everybody who pitched in,” Jones said.

Other art studios contributing to Thursday’s event are Claymakers, Clayworks Guild, Carrboro Clay and Haven Hill.