Overflowing Bowls

Annual fund raiser breaks record from previous years


Marina J. Powell

From left, Sylvia, Evelyn, and Angela Bowman select bowls during the event.

Marina J. Powell, Assistant Editor

Since 2007, the Empty Bowls event has been an important event for both campus and community. But this year, the 13th anniversary of Empty Bowls, sent the numbers skyrocketing.

“The goal of the event is to raise enough money to fully fund the Ferrum Elementary School Panther Pack program–a program that sends meals home with children from food insecure homes each weekend during the school year.  That is about 13,000 meals per school year,” explained Nell Frederickson, event coordinator and local potter and jewelry maker.

The goal this year: $8,000. And the response? A whopping $10,000.

This overflow will allow the school to send food home with children, and not only on the weekends, but on holidays and breaks as well.

Faculty, staff, students, and community members all take part in hosting, working, and supporting the event.

“This is truly a community event,” Frederickson said. “Ferrum College hosts the event by providing the venue and allows the Ceramics Program to host community bowl making workshops to make the bowls that are so popular each year.”

Frederickson does all the firing, most of the glazing, and then glaze firing the bowls made through these workshops.

One workshop each year is a gathering of professional potters from the Blue Ridge Potters Guild and 16 Hand Floyd–that crew produces more than 100 bowls through its work on the college’s potters wheels.  The Blue Ridge Potters Guild members also donate bowls and numerous items for the Silent Auction, as do many well-known regional artists.

“Jake Smith does the production of all our signs and programs, helps with the hauling and set up of the event in the venue.  He also manages the money table.  Our Ceramics and Art students work the event,” Frederickson said.

Jennifer Tally, principal of Ferrum Elementary School, is grateful for the community’s willingness to meet the growing need.

“The number of students receiving bags varies from year to year and sometimes even month to month.  Currently, we have around 50 families receiving a bag each week.  Most of the items sent home are food staples that are easy enough that children can prepare if necessary.  Our families receiving bags are so thankful to have the extra food items, especially with the increasing price of food these days,” she said.

The event was originally begun by Jeff Dalton, ceramics professor at the time. Now, Frederickson, Smith, and many others run the event each year. For attendees, the difficulty is in choosing a bowl. But for those who organize Empty Bowls, a lot of background work is necessary.

“(The hardest part is) making sure that all the bowls made are then cleaned, fired, glazed, and fired again.  It is time consuming, and at times I can get a bit panicked about finishing them all in time,” Frederickson said.

Bowls are made year round by the Blue Ridge Potters Guild, Frederickson, Ferrum College Ceramics Students, and 16 Hands Floyd. Next year, Frederickson’s plan is to incorporate more workshops to teach community members how to make pottery for the event.

“I would like to see the community continue to be involved in the bowl making aspect and see a few more student groups join in.  I am also planning on hosting some of the workshops in the fall so we can spread them out a bit and fit group schedules more easily,” she said.

Both Tally and Frederickson agree that this year’s event culminated in an overwhelming show of support.

“It is amazing the community support from groups making bowls, individuals donating time to work the event, people donating items for the silent auction, Ferrum College’s willingness to prepare the food and space, and the community for coming out to make a donation,” Tally recounted, “We truly live in a wonderful community with amazing people.  The money raised from this year’s Empty Bowl event will provide for our students and families for months to come.”