October 30, 2014

Ceramics students work to help community

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Ceramics students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are reaching out to help feed their community, and they are doing it one handcrafted bowl at a time. 

Pattie Chalmers, associate professor of ceramics in the SIU School of Art and Design, wanted to combine a lesson for her class about handmade objects with a lesson about community participation. She found a way by joining up with Empty Bowls, an international initiative combining arts and education with community support. 

The Empty Bowls event is Saturday, Nov. 1, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the Neighborhood Co-op Grocery Store in the Murdale Shopping Center, Carbondale. The students are selling ceramic bowls for donations of $5, $10 or $15, and the Co-op is donating soup to fill the bowl. The bowl goes home with the purchaser, and the donation goes to the Good Samaritan House in Carbondale. 

“I often find my most effective way of supporting the community is through donating my work,” Chalmers said. “Participation in an activity like this will hopefully convey a notion of public service as a good and doable activity to the participants. It is encouraging for students to see how their actions can affect change in their community, and I believe that when considering the state of our world, there is no more important lesson to be learned by students than how to be a good citizen.” 

Approximately 20 students contributed bowls, Chalmers said. They’ve been working on the project since September. A “bowl-making party” served the dual purpose of “making for the community, and community-building within the studio,” she said. The final kiln unloads on Friday, so the students have been busy until nearly the last possible minute. 

Chalmers noted that the different prices on the bowls reflect different skill levels in her students. She wanted this event to include all students, including beginners. She said another consideration was affordability -- bowls priced to sell mean more community members can buy a bowl and soup, and more money ultimately will go to the charity. 

Lisa Smith, brand manager at the Co-op, said the board of store owners is excited to partner with Chalmers and her students. She’s expecting about 200 bowls, including some donated by emeritus faculty and from community members. Smith said in observance of National Vegan Day, soups will be meat- and dairy-free.