Givens Estates Pottery Group Provides for Empty Bowls Program

A fundraising effort that combines skillful craftsmanship with delicious food is getting a soulful boost from a Givens Estates pottery group.

Empty Bowls is an international project to fight hunger, personalized by artists and art organizations on a community level, with local efforts directed by MANNA Food Bank of Asheville. The money raised is donated to soup kitchens, food banks and for meals to meet nutritional needs, including school children.

“Our focus is assisting, through donating our clay bowls, the food securities of the area,” said Blake Salmon, the group’s leader. “We make no claims to any special artistic talent” though looking at the examples here, some in the group truly have it.

As MANNA Food Bank describes it, “Empty Bowls serves as a poignant reminder that, while art has the power to uplift and inspire, it can also serve as a platform for raising awareness about the very real problem of hunger across our mountains. Guests select a bowl handmade by local artisans and take with them a seasonal meal of delicious soups, breads, and dessert. The souvenir bowl that guests take home reminds them of the many Western North Carolina neighbors who are currently struggling to afford groceries.”

Cindy Strom in group shirt

A community grant provided funding for the Givens Estates pottery group to purchase clay. Inspiration for an eclectic array of shapes, designs, colors and ornamentation comes from individual and collective thinking. Previous work sent about 70 bowls to Beacon of Hope in Marshall. This helped Beacon of Hope raise more than $7,000, more than triple what they raised last year.

“This all came about when resident Dan Jones said his daughter, who works at Beacon of Hope, needed bowls for their event,” Blake said. “Dan and I said ‘hell, we can do it’.”

Next up for the Givens Estates pottery group is diligent work to supply bowls for the seventh annual Empty Bowls Fundraiser on May 19, a community meal benefiting the Flat Rock Backpack Program. They needed 100 bowls to fill a void left when a local potter retired. More than 100 bowls were delivered on April 12 in support of their event, which will take place inside the Parish Hall at the Episcopal Church of St. John in the Wilderness on May 19.

The Backpack Program works to combat childhood hunger by providing supplemental food for children on the free and reduced lunch program so that they don’t go hungry on weekends during the school year. Each child is given enough for three dinners, two lunches, two breakfasts, and two snacks on a regular weekend.

Not to rest on their ceramic laurels, the group this week committed to making 50 bowls for MANNA’s 23rd Annual Empty Bowls event to be held Monday, Oct. 14, at the DoubleTree Asheville-Biltmore Hotel.