Everyone knows bowl games are big in January.

Area high school students are displaying their talent in making bowls, not watching them, in a delicate show of overflowing creativity.

The students are making ceramic bowls for the 19th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, set Feb. 4 at Central Middle School in Columbus. Its proceeds from soups, breads and handmade souvenir bowls benefit food banks such as Love Chapel and Hope Community Food Bank, plus nonprofit agencies Turning Point Domestic Violence Services and Brighter Days Housing emergency shelter.

Last year’s event netted $15,000, according to organizers. Since its beginning in 1999, the gathering has generated more than $175,000 for the cause.

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Columbus native and electric violinist Cathy Morris, long a favorite at JCB NeighborFEST local concerts, returns as the featured entertainer to give of her own tasty creativity.

Luke Harpring, a Columbus East High School sophomore¬†student of Jim Ponsford’s three-dimensional art class, felt warmed by much more than the chili he ate at last year’s event. He saw an attendee buy a bowl he made.

“It was really nice to see someone use it,” Harpring said. “I know that helping means a lot for this organization. And it doesn’t take much effort on my part, and doesn’t really feel at all like work.”

Last year, about 40 of the event’s roughly 200 bowls came from East students. Others came from Columbus North students and a mix of local professional artists.

“It’s great to see them giving of their time and talent to the community,” Ponsford said of his charges.

Matt Furnish of East made several bowls this year.

“In my pots, I like adding these ridges,” Furnish said, lighting running his finger over them on the vessel’s outer edge.

East’s Mark Nusterer acknowledged with a smile that “the learning curve is pretty steep” to make a well-rounded bowl worthy of a public event that attracts several hundred people.

“But once you get better, it’s pretty satisfying,” Nusterer said. “When I start, I never exactly know what I’m going to throw.

“The final piece is always kind of a mystery. So when you lift it off the wheel and look at it, it’s always kind of this epiphany of what you actually thought it would be.”

East sophomore Emma Ortman mentioned that pottery has become her stress relief in her school day.

“This allows me to chill out before I go home,” said Ortman, who has parlayed her finger dexterity from piano and put it to use on the potter’s wheel. She has created two bowls for the event.

Ortman now enjoys it all so much that her other bowls and pieces have become gifts for family and friends. One vase is on display in a glass case outside the room in the school hallway.

Columbus North students Sydney Perry and Shelby Heavren have made the event their senior project, helping coordinate everything from some of the bowl making to publicity posters. Perry first attended several years ago — and loved it.

“I thought it was an awesome way to raise money,” Perry said. “And I really liked what the money went toward.”

Perry mentioned that others’ compassion toward the fundraiser already has touched her.

“Seeing all the love and the work they put toward it — that makes me feel really good to see that we have such people like that in this community.”

Bowling you over

What: 19th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, with proceeds shared among Love Chapel, Hope Community Food Bank, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, and Brighter Days Housing shelter.

When: 5 to 8. p.m. Feb. 4.

Where: Central Middle School cafeteria, 725 Seventh St. in Columbus.

On the menu: A broad variety of soups, chili, breads and dessert.

Tickets: $25 for artisan keepsake bowl plus all-you-can-eat soup, bread, beverage. $12 all-you-can-eat soup, bread, beverage. $3 for children under 12. $2 for all desserts. Advance tickets available at Viewpoint Books and at the door.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.