By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Doug Lorenzen was throwing as many clay bowls as he could Thursday morning before he was due into work.
“It’s a hobby,” he said. “I like creating something out of just a piece of clay and ending up with a usable vessel of some kind.”
Lorenzen, of Joplin, was one of more than a dozen potters participating Thursday at a Bowl-A-Thon at Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 S. Main St. The goal of the 12-hour event was to make 1,000 bowls that can be used in November for the art studio’s Empty Bowls fundraiser for three Joplin charities.
“It’s a big undertaking to make 1,000 bowls,” Lorenzen said. “It sounds accomplishable, but that means between now and November, someone has to make 40 bowls a week. So if you can get a big group together and knock a bunch out, you can get a running start.”
His wife, Christina Lorenzen, a retired art teacher and former owner of a pottery business, was also hard at work nearby on her own collection of clay bowls.
She said she “fell in love” with clay years ago and has enjoyed pottery ever since.
“I just think clay got into my blood,” she said. “It’s a way of life.”
The Bowl-A-Thon attracted not only local potters and art students, but also artists from around Southwest Missouri. Todd Nelson, a former glass-blowing artist for Silver Dollar City, was on hand to help organizers and to throw a few bowls himself.
“It’s calming, therapeutic,” said Nelson, of Spokane, Mo. “(The clay) is nice and slippery; it feels good. That’s part of the attraction, is the way it feels.”
Mark Oehler, the owner of a pottery business in Reeds Spring, has been working with clay full-time since 1970. He said he enjoys making not only utilitarian pieces, such as bowls or mugs, that customers can use, but also artistic and decorative pieces that “resonate” with the buyer.
“I was an art education major that just happened to discover clay was the medium I really liked to do,” he said. “On a pot, all of a sudden you’ve got a nice, three-dimensional canvas.”
Potters on Thursday were only throwing the bowls from clay, which was bought with a donation from a local bank. The firing and glazing of the bowls — the steps that will make them food-, dishwasher- and microwave-safe — will take place later, organizers said.
The Empty Bowls project is an international grass-roots effort to raise money and awareness to end hunger. Phoenix Fired Art held Joplin’s first Empty Bowls fundraiser last November, inviting the public to purchase a handmade ceramic bowl that was filled with soup from a partnering restaurant. The effort raised about $12,000 with 600 bowls, according to Heather Grills, the studio’s executive director.
Proceeds from the fundraiser, which is set this year for the third Thursday in November, will go to Crosslines, the Salvation Army and Watered Gardens.