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Empty Bowls returns

Soup, art and giving back are all part of this annual Lakeridge High event

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Michael Moxness, a Lakeridge senior, shapes a bowl during a throw-a-thon in preparation for Empty Bowls on Feb. 18.A Lakeridge High event next week will offer participants the chance to shop and eat simultaneously — while also helping fight hunger.

During Lakeridge’s Feb. 18 Empty Bowls fundraiser, which benefits Tualatin School House Pantry, attendees can buy a hand-crafted bowl created by a Lakeridge ceramics student and can then enjoy soup cooked from scratch.

Ceramics teacher Mike Helle says students push themselves every year during a “throw-a-thon” in class to “throw” and then fire as many high-quality pieces as possible for the event “to get a few more dollars” for people in need.

“I love it because of how I can help people and do my favorite thing,” says Lakeridge ceramics student Annika Haug, a senior.

Proceeds from Empty Bowls will go directly to Tualatin School House Pantry, which is part of the Oregon Food Bank and provides food to people in need in Tualatin, Durham, Lake Oswego and West Linn.REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Mary Gonzalez, a Lakeridge junior, shapes clay into a bowl.

Senior and ceramicist Sam Willis says during throw-a-thons, the progress on Empty Bowls pieces seems to come in waves.

“All of a sudden, there will be 10 bowls made,” Willis says.

Yet, the students toiled away over wheel and kiln, and there are now 400 bowls for the taking. Most bowls will cost $10, others will be available for $5 and many larger and more intricate bowls also will be sold for $45 to $50.

Senior Elijah Pilkington says he simply tries to take his bowls one at a time and to not get attached to any one piece before it’s complete, because a lot can go awry while shaping clay into a dish.

“You baby this piece, and something happens to it,” explains Pilkington, a ceramics student.

Helle is using his skills for the event, too. The event’s raffle has been expanded and now will feature not only a ceramic fish made by Helle, but also several large, one-of-a-kind vases and other clay creations. For the fish he shapes each year, Helle uses raku, a Japanese firing technique that results in an iridescent exterior. Each piece is life-size, although that size varies.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge senior April Chia works the wheel during a recent throw-a-thon to ready lots of dishware for Empty Bowls.“I catch a fish, and then I make a mold of it,” says Helle, who will eat the half of the fish that he doesn’t use for his art.

About 200-300 people turn out each year to check out the many creations — finned or otherwise — at Empty Bowls.

“I love how many people participate,” says Haley Paulson, Lakeridge senior and ceramics student.

And Lakeridge Empty Bowls has been steadily growing financially, with a recent rise in prices last year at the insistence of customers who wanted to pay more than $5 for a bowl to help out a good cause, Helle says. Lakeridge gave $3,400 last year to the pantry, triple what the donation five years before, Helle says.

The Lakeridge event was launched in 2008; this is Helle’s fifth year teaching and running Empty Bowls at Lakeridge.

But he’s participated in Empty Bowl events on his own since about 2000, nine years after Imagine Render Group, a nonprofit organization for social change, launched the first one. Since then, potters have held thousands of similar fundraisers worldwide.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Elijah Pilkington, a senior, demonstrates arranging dishware in the kiln before firing, one of the steps of making a bowl.Sponsors are instrumental in making the event possible at Lakeridge. This year, they include Georgie’s Ceramic and Clay Co., which gave 500 pounds of clay, and Zupan’s Markets, Haggen Food & Pharmacy and Palisades Market, which donated ingredients for the soups. Joe Froman of Farmers insurance provided $100 to offset costs of any items that hadn’t been donated. Student volunteers also are a major force, including not only the artists, but also the cooks.

Thirty students in six kitchens spend one 90-minute class preparing all of the soups, during which students develop knife skills and learn more about cooking with vegetables, says Christine Rulli, Lakeridge foods teacher. The beginning foods classes will whip up sausage minestrone, chicken enchilada soup and vegetarian minestrone. Rulli’s advanced class will be preparing cream of chicken noodle and West African peanut soup, while also assisting her with avgolemono (Greek lemon chicken) and a Thai soup. She says Empty Bowls provides a great learning opportunity for students to develop time-management and large-scale food production skills.

“I marvel at the caliber of the ceramic bowls produced by our Lakeridge students, and that’s just icing on the cake,” Rulli says. “Attendees get to eat some wonderful food while giving to those in need, and then they keep these fabulous works of art created by our talented students. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

By Jillian Daley
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If you go

What: Empty Bowls

When: 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18

Where: Cafeteria at Lakeridge High School, 1235 Overlook Drive, Lake Oswego

Cost: Bowls are $5 or more, depending on size and intricacy; the raffle is $1 per ticket.