Student potters filled with enthusiasm for Empty Soup Bowl Fundraiser

Megan Messer


BG Independent News

John Balistreri, head of the ceramics area at Bowling Green State University, makes it very clear: The clay program’s involvement in the Empty Soup Bowl project was the students’ idea.

He wasn’t at the Clay Club meeting when the idea came up. And when he was told the students wanted to do it, he drew a hard line.

This was a busy time for the studio. “This place is going around the clock,” he said. The students had to committed to create the hundreds of soup bowls — “beautiful bowls that people will want to use” — needed for the event. They also had to be learning something along the way.

“It’s up to them to pull it off right,” he said. The students convinced him they would.

Emma Robinson works on glazing a bowl.

The Artists vs. Hunger: Empty Soup Bowl Fundraiser will be presented from Saturday, April 13, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Wood County Historical Center and Museum. The sale of the bowls for $15 each as well as the good will offering for the soup to fill them will benefit the Brown Bag Food Project.

Megan Messer is the student who proposed the idea.

Now working on her Bachelor of Arts in ceramics with a minor in community art, she started as an education major.

As part of that program she volunteered at Brown Bag. She was impressed by the locally grown effort to address food insecurity. The project provides groceries to tide people in need over until they can get more permanent help.

She met Marissa Muniz, a Brown Bag board member and publicist for the museum, while volunteering.

Messer came up with the idea of staging an Empty Soup Bowl fundraiser.

“It was exciting,” she said. “It could bring us out into the community more, and help a good cause.”

Empty Bowl events are held around the country.

One of Messer’s classmates, David Rummel, from Bryan, participated in a similar effort back home that was organized by potter Brandon Knott.

The project, he said, “is not too terribly hard. It’s a great way to raise funds for a good cause.”

Emma Robinson, another student in the ceramics studio, agreed. She said she was on board as soon as the idea was brought up in the Clay Club meeting. 

Artists sometimes can be insulated making their work in their studios. “It’s nice to use our skills to reach other communities, and give back,” she said.

She added that the project also is a good way to rally the students involved around a common goal.

Balistreri is always pushing the students to increase their production, and this will force them to do that, Robinson said.

“They’re learning how to make pots, the rhythm of it,” Balistreri said.

David Rummel with bowls he’s made.

The potters are using the project to experiment with applying a variety of glazes.

When Balistreri was convinced the students were committed, he said he’d throw 50 bowls himself — but the students would have to glaze them.

They expect to create about 400.

Rummel said he was attracted to pottery because it create objects that people will use. “They’ll have it in the cupboard. It’s a way to share myself with someone else. It’s very spiritual.”

Bowls waiting to be fired.