‘Empty Bowl’ project will benefit local food pantry

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Some of the bowls created by Mattituck students for the international grassroots "Empty Bowls Project."

Soup and bread lines aren’t something that many North Fork residents have personally experienced, but the art department at Mattituck High School is planning to change that.

Under the direction of art teacher Jeanne Fallot, whom fellow teachers call the pottery guru of the school, students, parents and community groups have spent more than a year shaping, glazing and firing earthenware bowls to be used for a soup and bread benefit Feb. 11 to raise money for the food pantry at CAST in Greenport.

Similar projects, titled Empty Bowls, have been used to raise money for the hungry throughout the world since the first Empty Bowls benefit was held at a community hall in Detroit in 1990. The concept is simple, said Ms. Fallot. For a small donation, in this case $10, donors receive a simple meal of soup and bread and take home a bowl handcrafted by fellow community members.

“The clay glazes we use are all dinner-safe, but some bowls are very decorative,” said Ms. Fallot. She said that while each person who attends the benefit will take home a bowl, the soup will be served in plastic bowls so people don’t have to wash a dirty bowl at the school.

Volunteers, including Girl Scouts and other community groups, already had made about 150 bowls by mid-December, said the district’s art department head, Lee Harned, this week.

“We haven’t really counted them because we’re artists,” she said. “We just keep making them.”

On Tuesday night, students and parents were hard at work in Ms. Fallot’s classroom, rolling out 1/4-inch-thick slabs of clay to be hand molded into bowls.

Ms. Fallot said that last year the district had made more bowls using a potter’s wheel, which required  great skill to produce a good finished bowl. This year, volunteers have focused more on hand-molded designs.

Tuesday night, Mattituck eighth-grader Abigail Terry, who has been one of the most steadfast bowl makers throughout the project, was decorating a red clay bowl with a sunburst pattern on its base while her father, Dan Terry, made a bowl with a lizard-skin texture and a clay snake coiled on its rim.

Ms. Fallot was showing the father-daughter team a series of bowls she had designed that featured animals — from cows to dogs and pigs — as if they were lounging in a tub.

“It’s more or less about the symbol of the empty bowl,” Ms. Fallot said. “What’s nice about this is it’s really combining the arts with a community effort.”

The art department is looking for donations of paper goods for the benefit, which is still in the planning phase but will be held at the school cafeteria. Ms. Fallot is also looking for musical accompaniment for the event.

Ms. Fallot plans another parent-student bowl-making project in January and is inviting community and civic groups to help make bowls over the course of the next month.

For more information about how to get involved, e-mail [email protected]

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