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Soup and a Bowl fundraiser to feature many area potters

According to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, one in every 10 area residents struggles to keep food on their table. That’s why the organization began its annual Soup and a Bowl fundraiser more than two decades ago — to serve as a reminder of the many unfilled bowls within our communities.

The fundraiser, which operates in both Harrisburg and Williamsport, will hold one of its events at the Genetti Hotel tomorrow, with seating times at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The price of admission includes a variety of soups created by fantastic chefs throughout the area, and a handcrafted pottery bowl produced by a talented local artist. All proceeds raised help the CPFB continue in its mission of feeding families in the 27 counties it serves.

“Hunger remains a huge issue in Central Pennsylvania,” said Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “Our popular Soup and a Bowl event not only raises vital funds for our mission, it also reminds us that we have many neighbors struggling to fill their bowls and that everyone can help. Each individual ticket purchased will help us provide 180 meals to our neighbors in need.”

Many of the area potters that donated their creations for this year’s Soup and a Bowl have worked with the fundraiser in the past. Though they all have varying artistic backgrounds and reasons for wanting to help out the Food Bank, each feels the event is immensely satisfying to take part in.

“It is truly a pleasure to make and use handmade pottery,” said Lisa Fink, who has been donating works to Soup and Bowl for the last six years. “Since (the bowls) are hand-thrown, trimmed, and glazed — not in a factory, but in my home — each piece is one of a kind.”

Fink said that, though she was a pottery minor in college, she went more than 15 years after her collegiate career ended before getting back into the art form. It wasn’t until she attended community pottery classes at a high school she lived near in Florida that she started working with clay again. After moving to the Williamsport area in 2005, she was able to get her own pottery studio up and running, and has had mud on her jeans ever since.

Five years ago, Fink was asked to be the Commemorative Potter for Williamsport’s Soup and a Bowl, which meant she had to create and donate 150 bowls — a task she said was a “great exercise” that “certainly helped take my throwing to a new level.”

Aside from that year, Fink usually donates anywhere from 40 to 50 bowls to the fundraiser annually. She enjoys knowing that each of her creations will go home with a stranger that will get to enjoy it for years to come.

“I like that my pottery goes off into people’s homes,” said Fink. “Each piece will have an intimate relationship with the buyer; holding their food, popping it in and out of the microwave and dishwasher, being held, examined, closely admired, coming into contact with their lips and hands.”

Lisa Major is another local artist that jumps at the chance to create pottery for Soup and a Bowl. Having donated to the event for the last several years, Major said that “anything to support the endeavors of the Central PA Food Bank is gratifying.”

It was four years ago that Major decided to first get involved with the event. After emerging from a “very unpleasant situation” that forced her to seek food assistance, she became interested in doing something to raise funds and awareness for nutritional assistance.

“I will be forever indebted to the generosity of food banks as they were, at one point during my journey, my only source of nutrition for myself and my son,” said Major. “It is vital for me to give back to this worthy endeavor because what happened to me could — and, does — happen to anyone without warning. So, this is very close to my heart and I am an adamant advocate.”

For this year’s fundraiser, Major hopes to donate around six bowls, which will be made with a hand-building method rather than on a potter’s wheel.

“I have opted for (hand-building) as a result of sitting with an Asian-inspired soup bowl that had an uneven rim, and contemplating why this would be considered acceptable,” Major said. “The potter’s wheel was always a favored tool to create open vessels like bowl and plates, but I finally began to understand the elegance of a seemingly imperfect rim. Of course, I know techniques that would even out the rims, but I’m really getting into this organic expression of functional wares.”

David Stabley, who teaches ceramics and sculpture at Penn College, has been having his students donate works to Soup and a Bowl for the last seven years. He said that each year his group creates around 125 bowls to give away.

Most of Stabley’s students don’t yet have the skills required to make their bowls on a wheel, he said, so their creations are also of the hand-build variety.

“What a great way to help support a worthwhile fundraising event,” Stabley said, of creating works for Soup and a Bowl.

Victoria Stetts is another area teacher that has her students donate works for Soup and a Bowl. As an art teacher at Montoursville Area High School, she developed the school’s ceramics program back in 2011. In 2014, she started having her students donate bowls to the fundraiser, and said they donate anywhere from 50 to 100 per year, depending on what the students have time for.

“I think (the students) like to participate because they feel good about helping others,” Stetts said.

Her students use a potter’s wheel for their creations, and Stetts said that they also experiment with marbling clay, using stencils, and interesting clay combinations.

“I have students who get it right away and those who take a lot longer to get the hang of it,” Stetts said. “The more you practice, the better you get at it.”

For Stetts, Soup and a Bowl is an especially meaningful event to take part in, because her mother worked at the Westmoreland County Food Bank before she passed away in 2005.

“When I was approached about donating bowls for the Central PA Food Bank, I accepted because my mom spent the last years of her life helping at her food bank and I felt like I was doing it for my mom in a way,” she said.

For more information on the annual Soup and a Bowl fundraiser, visit centralpafoodbank.org.

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