Ceramic artist Karen Fiscus says that for her, throwing clay is meditative. For newcomers to pottery, who often have trouble keeping their clay upright, that can be a surprise to hear.
"If I have a headache, I can go out on the wheel, throw, and after a half-hour my headache is gone," says Fiscus.
But such peacefulness can be achieved partly with experience, and Fiscus, who works at the University of Houston Clear Lake Art Gallery, has a lot of it, throwing it and creating pottery for more than four decades. She's admits she can "put out 15 to 20 bowls in about an hour." That's a lot of bowls.
So, what does Fiscus do with all those bowls? For one, she annually donates 100 of them to the Empty Bowls fundraiser hosted by the Houston Food Bank.
The Empty Bowls fundraiser, whose proceeds give meals to the hungry, is set for 11 a.m. May 18 at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. In 2012, artist Clark Kellogg launched the 100 Bowl Challenge, making that many vessels for the event. Other artists followed suit, including Fiscus, who has kept contributing over the years. As of this year's fundraiser, she'll have donated 700 bowls overall.
"I just fell into it, and I haven't been able to stop," she says. "It's such a good cause, and it's hard for me not to do it."
Attendees of Empty Bowls can purchase a bowl—empty as a reminder of those who go without meals—with a $25 donation to the Houston Food Bank. That donation also includes a lunch of soup from Sweet Tomatoes and bread from Slow Dough Bread Co. Attendees can purchase multiple bowls, and larger bowls are available for more than $25 each. For every dollar donated, the Houston Food Bank promises to give three meals to the hungry. That means with 700 bowls created over seven years, Fiscus has provided approximately 52,500 meals to those with the most need.
Moreover, a few of Fiscus's bowls will be displayed at the Archway Gallery's Empty Bowls Invitational, which opens May 4 with a reception May 10. More than 50 pieces, including bowls, will be featured, and artwork can be purchased through a monthlong silent auction. On May 17, Empty Bowls will host a preview party at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. For $50, attendees can have the first opportunity to purchase an empty bowl while enjoying light bites, beer, and wine.
The big event on May 18 is where all the hard work comes together: More than 1,500 bowls in various colors, designs, even shapes, are laid out as attendees enjoy soup and celebrate community.
"I call it a win-win-win," says Fiscus. "The first win is I get to share something I love do to with people. The second win is people who get the bowls get a beautiful bowl, and they get the feeling of helping out people who are hungry. And then, the people get to eat!"