One Hundred Empty Bowls

For a very long time now, my pottery friend, Bridget Hauser, founder of Sunset Canyon Pottery, has hosted an annual Empty Bowls event in Dripping Springs, Texas.
Empty Bowls is a concept that has been around quite a while. The story that is generally told is as follows:
1990 a high school art teacher in Michigan helped his students solve a problem. They were searching for a way to raise funds to support a food drive. What evolved was a class project to make ceramic bowls for a fundraising meal. Guests were served a simple meal of soup and bread, and were invited to keep the bowl as a reminder of hunger in the world. By the following year the originators had developed this concept in Empty Bowls, a project to provide support for food banks, soup kitchens, and other organizations that fight hunger. Since then Empty Bowls events have been held throughout the world, and millions of dollars have been raised to combat hunger.
The really big deal about Empty Bowls, is that the funds raised all remain local. In most cases, VERY local. And, well, I am into "local"!
At any rate, this summer, Bridget came up to McKinney to teach a workshop, and while we were visiting, she asked me to make some bowls in support of this project. This is a good time to point out that, when I first moved back to Texas in 2010, I had no space to do pottery work for almost a year. Bridget graciously allowed me to come to her studio and make all the empty bowls that I cared to make. It was a great way to keep up my skills, and I remain very grateful.  Even though I had been supporting the Empty Bowls event in Dallas for several years before moving back to Texas, the Dripping Springs event has remained near and dear to me, and I have been making bowls for them ever since.
So, of course I agreed!! And, then (after agreeing - not very smart, perhaps), asked her how many she wanted. We concluded that one hundred was a very good number, and it went up on the giant "TO-DO" white board in my shop.
I am very happy that, as of my last firing, the Dripping Springs Empty Bowls are now ready for delivery later this week.
And, just in case you are wondering what One Hundred Bowls actually look like, here are some photos. And, yes, you might notice that I had to take TWO photos to get them to all fit! Somehow it reminded me of those really old class photos from elementary school!
This is a more condensed version, but, even so, like bakers, we potters would ALWAYS like to have a bit more space!
After almost thirty years in business, Bridget has sold Sunset Canyon Pottery, to one of her former employees, and Bridget plans to be a semi-retired studio potter. So, the event location has moved down the road just a bit to the Mercer Street Dance Hall in "downtown" Dripping Springs. By clicking this link, you can get all the information about the Dripping Springs Empty Bowls Event that will be held on 6 November, 2016 from 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM.  Your $25.00 donation will not ONLY get you a GREAT bowl (if you get there early enough), you will get some good eats from some of the best chefs in Austin and Dripping Springs.
MOST importantly, the fundraiser will benefit Dripping Springs Helping Hands, a local organization that helps with food needs in the Dripping Springs area.  So, your donation stays local, and  goes to a good cause. 
So make plans to come on out and join us on 6 November. There will be great food, great music, and amazing bowls - all benefiting a really good cause. Just don't be late - folks have been doing this for a long time, and there will be nothing but slim pickings and empty pots by 3:00!!
I hope to see you there.

Let’s Start a Movement!

For some time now, I have been thinking about a concept that I like to call, “The Hand of the Maker”.  I guess it sounds kind of momentous, and perhaps it is, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!!


We live in an amazing world, and fascinating times.  Technology has made the world a very small place, and that comes with a whole host of implications – some of them wonderful and amazing, and some of them, well, not quite as “desirable”.


I am amazed – literally, as in it almost defies my comprehension - that I can go on line to “The Earth’s Greatest Selection”, and for less than two green American Dollars, I can order a product.  Yes, that part is amazing, but, wait, I’m not quite finished.  In a few days – it arrives – AT MY DOOR – and from the packaging I can tell that it has come across the Pacific Ocean from a country of almost 1.4 Billion people.  Seriously, how can they even afford to SEND me the product - much less PRODUCE the product – for what I PAID for the product?  And, yes, for those of you (myself included) of the, “you get what you pay for” mindset, this is often the case.  However, I am, and probably will remain, amazed!


However, there is the counterpoint to this amazing situation.  When I look around my house, and the houses of most Americans that I know, I have NO IDEA WHO made the products that I am using on a daily basis.  Sure, these products become a part of my life, but, WHERE did they come from, WHO made them, HOW did they make them, and WHAT were they trying to accomplish in doing so?  With many of the emerging news stories about baby formula and children’s toys, it may also be worth asking what ingredients went into making them.  I guess that, for some people, it doesn’t really matter.  It has really started to matter to me.


I have found that, when I go to the local Farmer’s Market (bright and early on Saturday mornings, thank you very much), and I interact with the people who actually grew the beets, or the lettuce, or the green beans, or the people who keep the bees that made the honey, or the chickens that laid the eggs, or the goats that made the milk that made the cheese, the food seems “better”.  And, it doesn’t just seem a little better, it seems a LOT better!  The peaches SMELL like peaches!  I can shake the hands of the people who are making my food.  They have a vested interest in delivering a quality product that keeps people coming back for more.  The food is real, the people are real, the stories are real, and I get to know that I am supporting local folks in my area that work hard to do things with integrity.  Integrity can be in short supply in our world if we don’t actively seek it out.


With that in mind, I have started looking around my house at the things that surround me almost every day.  I know the names of the people who have made the things that I enjoy the most.  I have cups from my buddies Shawn Grove and Bryan Mattraw, and their Woodfired Pottery in Northern Virginia.  I have a “salt pig” from my pottery buddy Dennis, who I met through a wood kiln firing.  I have a hand carved wooden spoon that I traded for a really nice tea pot when I was at Penland.  And, yes, the list is pretty pottery-centric, but, hello, that should not surprise anyone!! And, the list does go on and on. 


Sure, I will admit it, I have plastic cups – GASP!  And, amusingly enough (to me, at least), I use them when I “don’t care”.  Maybe I don’t care if they get lost or broken or ruined.  Or, maybe I am running out the door, and don’t care to have a “meaningful experience” when I just need a mostly unbreakable container.


But, the things I enjoy the most - from plates to spoon rests to cutting boards – I HAVE actually shaken the “Hand of the Maker”.  On some level, I “know” these folks.  I have heard parts of their stories.  I have brought a part of them into my life.  We almost always feel a common bond as “Makers” and members of the “Human Community”.  Sometimes we have become great friends.  Sometimes we have great arguments.  Sometimes they have served as great inspiration.  Sometimes the object that I have, that they made, reminds me of the fleeting time we spent together.  And, consistently, the objects have meaning that extends far beyond the physical form.


So, I am doing my best to embrace my “Hand of the Maker” philosophy.  Little by little, I am trying to bring objects into my life where I have shaken the “Hand of the Maker”.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t need to.  I think it is an awareness worth developing consistently over time.


In some areas, it is easier than others.  I’ve mentioned that I enjoy the Farmer’s Market.  And, we have two great local breweries in McKinney, and I’ve shaken the hands of the guys at both of them.  I’ll let you guess who is more likely to get my “brew business” – the large multi-national brewing conglomerate – or the two guys and their teams down the street from me!


In some areas, it is a little more tricky – I have not met any Artisan Box Spring Mattress Makers.  I’m not saying they aren’t out there, I just haven’t met them!  But, I do have hand towels in my kitchen that were woven by a friend of mine.  And, I have a mop head that was knitted by another friend of mine.  You can probably figure out the soap dispensers in my bathrooms all by yourself!


I think that if we develop an awareness of the concept, seek out and support the local folks who take the time to make things with integrity, it can enrich our lives and our communities in amazing ways.  After all, life is about stories – our own stories and the stories of the people we interact with.  Even the word, “history” points to the idea of “his story”.  And, yes, yes, of COURSE it can be “her story” and “their story” and “our story”!


So, seek out the folks around you – and around the country, or the world, when you travel – who are making things.  Talk to them.  Support them.  Ask them.  Interact with them.  Trust me, they care – and they care passionately.  They have stories, and they are happy to contribute to your story.  Shake the “Hand of the Maker” – you will be glad that you did, and they will be glad, too – in a very personal way.


In support of this idea, take a look around your house or your office or whatever you consider to be your “space”.  If you have things that you enjoy, where you have shaken the “Hand of the Maker”, take a photo (as clear and well-lit as possible), and send it to me, along with as much detail as you can possibly provide – what it is, who made it, where and how you found it, why you like it, contact information for the Maker (if appropriate), and the “story” that you like to tell about it –and I will post it here, on my blog, to share with everyone.  We can all make a difference if we choose to take the time to do so.


So, let’s start a movement - get out there in the big world, and start shaking the “Hand of the Maker”!!

By the way, I would like to hear your thoughts and share them with the other readers.  If you click the Title of this post, or the small icon near the title on the right side (it is followed by a number in parenthesis), it will take you to a page where you can scroll to the bottom and add your comments - please do! :-)

Local Collaborations – Filling Mugs with Happiness

McKinney, Texas, like more and more small towns around America, is fortunate enough to have a local brewery.  Well, actually, we are fortunate enough to have TWO local breweries – both of them producing some outstanding brews!


It brings me great joy to see the resurgence of small, local businesses making things that people use and enjoy.  It is one of the elements that makes a community truly great.  Whenever you can, take the time to seek out and support the local folks who are taking big chances to help develop true local character.


Most recently, I have had the opportunity to work with Keith Lewis out at Tupps Brewery, ( in developing his customer appreciation program.  I choose to say “customer appreciate program”, because, if you ask ME, it’s a “Mug Club”, and, OF COURSE, if you ask Keith, it is a “Beer Club”!!  And, well, that’s how it should be. :-)