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The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

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Students share soup drive sculptures

Upperclassmen create handmade bowls to donate for charitable event at local food bank
AEBP challenges participating students to apply some artistic independence to a piece that ultimately has a deeper purpose.
Elizabeth Yowell
STEADY HANDS: Senior Mia Schwartz molds clay into a small bowl during her sculpture class for the Austin Empty Bowl Project. According to Schwartz being able to contribute to her community through her artistic abilities encourages her to continue with her passions.

Molding, spinning, wet hands gradually turn a firm lump of clay into a smooth work of art. As senior sculpture student Mia Schwartz places another drying piece on the rack, the Austin Empty Bowl Project gains another $30 towards their cause.

“I’m glad that I can use my skills towards something that can make a difference,” Schwartz said. “Make a cohesive piece, and help out a bunch of people at once.”

Austin Empty Bowl Project (AEBP) is a non-profit fundraiser for organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Central Texas’ Meals for Kids, and the Central Texas Food Bank.

“It’s a good community service project,” sculpture teacher Ryan Logan said. “It’s something we’ve done in the past, it helps out our homeless and the food shelter.”

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, AEBP hosts families and friends from all over Central Texas to enjoy music and eat soup out of $30 donated bowls like the ones the sculpture students are making.

“The actual Empty Bowl event is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, all volunteers,” AEBP significant donor and workshop teacher Nancy Hallmark said. “It’s the perfect combination of people from many parts of Austin coming together to celebrate the start of the ‘giving season’.”

Hallmark has been an avid participant in AEBP for a long time; she contributes a large number of her own wheel-thrown and hand-painted bowls to the non-profit each year and teaches an AEBP workshop for art teachers.

“I learned about the Empty Bowl event many years ago when it was being run out of a pottery studio called Clayways,” Hallmark said. “It made so much sense to me that I could make bowls that would be sold to raise money for people who’s bowls were empty.”

I think a community service project, having them do something every year to connect to the community, is good for the kids.

— Ryan Logan, Sculpture Teacher

Like Hallmark, Logan is a firm believer in the project’s cause and practicality for an artist’s experience when it comes to making bowls that will eventually serve a purpose.

“It’s good for the kids to make pieces that are good enough to use and give out to help out our community,” Logan said. “It has to be functional.”

Participating in the non-profit is beneficial to the artists and building their experience, as well as an incentive to be meticulous with their pieces.

“This project is different from the others I’ve done because usually there isn’t much of a rubric with the potter’s wheel,” Schwartz said. “It was interesting to have some rules.”

In addition to functionality and food-safe cleanliness, AEBP challenges participating students to apply some artistic independence to a piece that ultimately has a deeper purpose.

“Instead of based on them learning to do something or learning a technique or a skill this is something for them to throw that they can be proud of and take out in the community,” Logan said.

Schwartz is one of the higher-level students who is throwing donated bowls on the pottery wheel; she brings originality to her creations using her talent in painting.

“I’m most proud of this one bowl I made that I did a bunch of glaze details on,” Schwartz says “I made it look like a porcelain piece, and spent a lot of time on it.”

By applying different techniques to the potting process, students like Schwartz are able to take their own creative liberties with their bowls.

“Everybody’s bowl will be a little different, whether they’re using coil and creating a coil bowl that’s completely smooth on the inside and then detailed decoration on the outside, or if it’s just a really clean thrown bowl from the wheel from the potter’s wheel,” Logan said.

Making a piece of pottery takes practice and focus, especially if throwing is the technique of choice.

“Making a bowl is a sort of long process,” Schwartz said. “It starts with wedging the clay, shaping it, centering it on the bat, poking the hole in the mass, and pulling it into the wanted shape.”

When throwing on the wheel, the process can get messy and sometimes go the wrong way, that’s why potters must be patient with the clay and the process.

“I decide what my bowl wants to be on the spot,” Schwartz said. “Sometimes I’ll make something, and the clay just does not vibe with me that day.”

Schwartz is passionate about her art, whether that be acrylic painting or throwing on the wheel; working on bowls for AEBP gives her an important addition to her portfolio and an opportunity to take a larger perspective on her art.

“I feel productive knowing my bowls are going towards a good cause and something that will help others,” Schwartz said.

With the 10 to 15 bowls that Schwartz makes a week, her experience and skill is clear. There are plenty of ways to showcase her talent in the future, including how Hallmark participates in programs like AEBP, that Schwartz can apply.

“I would love to think of a career in art in the future, or look into college majors based around studio art and fine arts,” Schwartz said.

For students like Schwartz considering pursuing art in the future, AEBP is the perfect place to experience how this can look, and meet a number of potters who have been producing art for a long time.

“There’s a lot of professional artists that support the organization and they’ll be able to go down and see their bowls and purchase bowls from them also,” Logan said.

With Bowie’s donations to AEBP and the annual can drive coming up in November, the campus is a strong contributor to the Central Texas Food Bank and organizations similar to it. Participation in these projects has proved to be crucial in teaching students like Schwartz and fellow young artists the importance of serving the community.

“I think a community service project, having them do something every year to connect to the community, is good for the kids,” Logan said. “Something they’re doing could eventually help somebody else out that’s in need.”

Make a bowl with Mia
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