CULLMAN, Ala. – Potters and volunteers were busy Friday afternoon at Cullman First United Methodist Church, washing the bowls that will be used at this Monday’s 17th annual Empty Bowls of Cullman County Chili Dinner. Attendees will enjoy chili with grilled cheese sandwiches, live entertainment and a silent auction. All money raised will benefit the Cullman Caring for Kids United Way food bank.
The stars of the annual fundraiser, hundreds of beautiful hand-thrown pottery bowls were made and donated by local potters.
Since the Empty Bowls event began in Cullman in 2003, several of the original potters have passed away or have had to stop due to health reasons. Only a handful of these talented potters are left to make the bowls, but they remain hopeful that others in the community will learn the art.
The Tribune sat down with one of the potters, Lynn Jetton, to learn more about how these bowls are made.
“I started taking pottery at Wallace State (Community College) in 2005 so they had already been going for three years. I was just learning to throw bowls and throw on the (pottery) wheel, and I made my first thing; I call it a candlestick. I used a softball-sized clay and I worked and worked and worked it and it came out to be this tall (gesturing, just a few inches). I had it glazed, too.”
Jetton said her teacher at Wallace State, Sandra Heaven, recruited her to “throw bowls” with her for Empty Bowls.
“I said, ‘Oh no, Sandra. I can’t throw bowls.’ She said, ‘Yeah you can!’ I told her I would try and to my surprise, I made 19 bowls that day,” Jetton smiled.
It was Heaven’s encouragement and teaching that led to Jetton becoming an accomplished potter.
“She is a great teacher and very positive and enthusiastic,” said Jetton. “She teaches pottery at Meek Middle School now.”
Jetton said she hopes to teach more people to prepare clay for hand-built bowls rather than using a pottery wheel.
She explained, “You roll the clay out to so thick and then you put them in a little form. Then you can get doilies and stuff like that to roll patterns on them or scallop the edges of the bowls. It doesn’t require a lot of technical ability.”
In the past, events have been held at Cullman’s Art Park with Jetton, Heaven and Sandra Abbott teaching people to make bowls.
“It is fun to do, especially in the company of other people,” said Jetton. “It’s like a party with people bouncing ideas off one another.”
To own your own piece of pottery made by Jetton, Abbot, Heaven or any of the talented potters, be sure to attend Empty Bowls Monday evening. Each bowl has the stamp of the artist who created it.
Cullman First United Methodist Church Music Director Debbie Morrison coordinated the music for the event. It will include Southern gospel artists Enell Baker, Joyful Hearts, The Potentials and a preview of Ben South’s musical, “The One Liner American Diner.”
This year’s silent auction will have more than $7,000 in retail items donated by area businesses including jewelry, art, golf packages, movie tickets, office equipment, housewares and even tickets to attend the Grand Ole Opry.
Tickets to Empty Bowls are just $10 and include chili and grilled cheese and a bowl to take home. Tickets are $10 and on sale now at Cullman Caring for Kids and First United Methodist Church. The dinner will be held Monday, Feb. 17 from 4-6:30 p.m. at Cullman First United Methodist Church in Hearin Hall, 320 Third St. SE, Cullman. Guests can dine in, drive through or carry out.
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