Empty bowls was an annual project hosted by the art department at my school. Every year the art students made clay bowls and donated them to a chili dinner hosted at school. Attendees paid to attend the event, and in return they get a hot meal and handmade bowl. The purpose of the bowl is to act as a daily reminder of the millions of people who are hungry each day. All proceeds from the events were donated to a local food bank to help the fight against hunger. Empty bowls began as a grassroots movement in Rhode Island, and has since spread to have an international following.
When I began working at my school this was an event that was already in place. I loved the project, it was an assignment in sculpture as well as selflessness. Students had to put time and effort into a work of art they couldn’t keep. Many of them struggled with the fact that they couldn’t take their bowl home, which made the lesson that much more important. It was a big event and took a lot of time, planning, and effort. Months in advance we had to start making bowls to allow enough time to create, bisque fire, glaze, and glaze fire them. The kiln would run daily for weeks on end. The event had many moving parts that had to be coordinated and students had to commit to time outside of school to help out. It was a huge project in and of itself, but despite the effort it was all worth it for the good of my students and their community.
My last year at that school I was a solo art teacher, our department was literally cut in half when budget cuts had to be implemented. As I began planning out the year I realized if I wanted to continue the project I would have to go it alone. Many times I considered skipping it, and I honestly tried. However the dinner had become a regular event, something people looked forward to, and those were the ones that wouldn’t allow me to let it go. After giving a number of “maybe” responses to “when is empty bowls happening?” questions, I finally gave in. I was going to go it alone this year, this massive event was going to happen one way or another.
As expected my planning periods and afternoons quickly filled as my to do list grew. It was harder than ever to pull it off, but the night came and went, and was another success. We had a wonderful turn out, delicious food, and hundreds of handmade bowls in the hands of our attendees. My students had another year of learning another valuable life lesson. They are luckier than most. At the very least they get to come to school each day and fill their bellies at lunch. There are so many in the world who don’t always have the chance to eat even one good meal a day. Watching my students work together for the greater good of their community reminded me of the importance of this event. I required them to selflessly give away their artwork and I needed to step back and remind myself that I also needed to learn a lesson, that my time was worth the sacrifice to help out someone in need.
This visual journal page reflects my most hectic and final empty bowls dinner.
Check out my visual journal page about Empty Bowls 2009 here.
- Visual journal
- Rubber cement
- To do list
- Yellow notebook paper
- Colored pencils
- White paper
To create this visual journal page I started by ripping up and collaging my very long to do list. It felt good to rip up that list at the end of the event, and it felt even better reflecting on the event by creating this page. I used rubber cement to glue down the paper.
After placing the background, I brainstormed the best way to reflect this final empty bowls experience. It was a ton of time and work, I had tons of great help, there were so many hands involved, but one of the things that stood out most was the number of times I had to run the kiln. Everyday like clockwork I would rush to my classroom, unload the kiln, load it back up, and spend the rest of the day bumping the temperature, checking on the progress, and waiting until it shut off to leave for the day. This was an older kiln that used cones to determine the turn off time. Every day before I started the kiln I placed a cone, a cone shaped piece of clay, to support the latch and shut off for the kiln. As the kiln reaches temperature the cone slowly melts until it releases the latch which shuts of the kiln and allows the cooling process to start. I had piles and piles of used up cones by the end of the empty bowls process, and I thought it was the perfect imagery to use to represent the long process.
Using white paper and pencil I sketched out the variety of shapes the melted cones took. After I completed the outline I added color using colored pencils. I used a variety of red tones to give it a three dimensional look. Once I finished filling them in I cut them out using scissors. I glued them down using rubber cement in rows across the page.
Next, I ripped up a picture and story that ran on the front page of the local paper about the event. I was photographed for the picture that ran with the story holding some of my ceramic pieces that were auctioned off at the dinner. I was very touched when the newspaper reached out about covering our event, and floored when I realized they were running my picture on the front page.
I glued down one layer of ripped up newspaper, then layered a circle cut from the yellow notebook paper I used for the to do list on top. I cut out a circle shaped section from the newspaper story, then ripped it into three pieces, and glued it down. I drew the empty bowls logo on top of that with sharpie. Last, but not least, I added a small ripped up piece of newspaper to the bottom right corner, layered the yellow notebook paper on top, and wrote “2011” in sharpie.
Create a visual journal page using newspaper. Find an interesting article you connect to and use it as a base for your next page or create a page about the story you discovered.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! I hope you are inspired to start your own visual journal. Help me spread the word by sharing with others. Thanks for stopping by!