Functional Art

Art, Food, and Charity Come Together For Empty Bowls Houston

In its 14th year, Empty Bowls Houston returns to help the Houston Food Bank.

By Cory Garcia May 9, 2018

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A bounty of bowls will be available at Empty Bowls Houston.

You might look at the bowls around your house as mere vessels for nourishment or clever storage solutions, but not all bowls have to be strictly utilitarian. A bowl can be art, beautiful and functional, or just beautiful. It can amaze without meaning anything, or it can be a metaphor for those starving in a community. At Empty Bowls Houston, taking place on Saturday, May 19, it can be all of the above, depending on why you need a bowl.

Over the past 13 years, Empty Bowls Houston has raised $801,550 for the Houston Food Bank by selling bowls from artists across the area. This year there are 1,500 bowls to choose from, each coming with soup and bread. The bowls start at $25 each, which means each bowl purchased will provide at least 75 meals for the community. It’s an event where art, food, and charity intersect in a really beautiful way.

“It’s a craft event with a much deeper meaning, rooted in the food needs of the community,” Houston Empty Bowls Co-Chair Samantha Oldham says. “I really love working with the Houston Food Bank because they are able to stretch the dollar. They service 18 counties, so when you make a donation you are impacting a very large area.”

For purchase, you’ll find bowls created in a variety of ways, created by pros and amateurs alike. Every year Empty Bowls reaches out to local craft guilds and schools in the area as part of their call for artists.

“We take everyone’s artwork, from K-12 to well-established artists in the community. We have a blanket call for bowls from the community,” Oldham says. “Felt, glass, wood, all types of different mediums."

While the Empty Bowls Houston event taking place at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft is the main event, it’s not the only one. Over at Archway Gallery, you’ll find an Empty Bowls invitation exhibition and silent auction lasting through May 30.

And then there is the Empty Bowls Houston preview party. Your $50 ticket to the event, also taking place at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, gets you light bites, beer, wine, and, most importantly, early access to bowl buying. Don’t want to risk missing out on the bowl of your dreams? Get your preview party ticket.

There’s no right way to choose a bowl, but the Empty Bowl Houston co-chairs were kind enough to explain how they do it and how they've seen others approach it.

“Touch is so important to a bowl. The weight of it. If you’re looking for something that’s smooth or rough, touch is very important,” Oldham says. “Plenty of people come with something in mind, ‘oh, I need a dog bowl,’ or, ‘I need a bowl for my keys by the front door.’ People do come for sets.”

“It has to feel right. I have to imagine what I’m going to eat out of the bowl,” Renee LeBlanc says. “But then I like to know who made the bowl. A lot of time it’s collecting bowls from people I know.”

Empty Bowls Houston takes place Saturday, May 19, from 11 a.m.—3 p.m. at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main. For more information, visit

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