Empty Bowls in Las Cruces | Potter's Guild of Las Cruces | Annual Local Charity Fundraisers | LasCruces.com
Empty Bowls Event

“We’re coming together as a community to help our community,” Jan Preston Archey of the Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces said about Empty Bowls.

Jan Archey from the Potter's Guild making a pottery bowlThis fundraiser to benefit El Caldito Soup Kitchen will be held for the 30th consecutive year on Friday, October 14, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. “These bowls were made by a community,” Jan said. “That’s a beautiful thought. Somebody prepared the clay, threw the bowl, loaded it in the kiln, unloaded it, glazed it.”

And someone very likely will select the bowl to keep as a reminder of the cause and then enjoy soup and bread donated by local restaurants.

The Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces (PGLC) was busy this summer making 1,000 bowls of all sizes, shapes, and colors to be sold at Empty Bowls. The guild, founded in Las Cruces in 1981, has been the major sponsor of Empty Bowls since the event began in Las Cruces in 1993.

In 2021, despite the pandemic, Empty Bowls raised a record $33,800 — which was more than 10 percent of El Caldito’s annual budget. For comparison, PGLC sold 600 bowls at the very first Empty Bowls, raising $3,500 for El Caldito. During the past three decades, more than half a million dollars has been raised for the soup kitchen, which is a part of the Mesilla Valley Community Hope and feeds about 250 people a day.

Jan is a founding member of PGLC and its current president. She has been a leading volunteer during every Las Cruces Empty Bowls, helping make it the oldest and most successful fundraiser of its kind in New Mexico. “I’m all about mission and public service,” said Jan, who has been a potter for more than 40 years, “What a blessing it is to be able to use one’s talent to make somebody else’s life better.” She will handle 400 to 500 of the bowls the guild makes this year, and many PGLC members also participate in Empty Bowls every year.

“Bowl making [for the next fundraiser] can potentially start as soon as the event is over, at least for those who have a home studio,” said PGLC member Erica Cordero, who continues this year as Empty Bowls’ day-of-event coordinator.

Bowl-making workdays are hosted in July and August at Peter Paulos’ Las Cruces Clay and Studio, New Mexico State University’s ceramics studio, and Doña Ana Community College’s Workforce Center, all in Las Cruces. NMSU professor and ceramic artist Joshua Clark “is such a fantastic host and loves to be a part of community things,” Jan said, adding that PGLC volunteer Linda Sanchez got scrap clay for the bowls that were made at NMSU. “We used something old that could have been thrown away,” she continued. “How cool is that? Old, recycled clay is better than new clay. It’s got better vibes.” New Mexico Clay in Albuquerque renewed its support of Las Cruces Empty Bowls with a donation of about 400 pounds of clay for this year’s event.

clay bowl being made out of potteryMore than 50 restaurants will donate soup for the event and many businesses, groups, and individuals will donate items for the Empty Bowls silent auction, which will be conducted by Mesilla Valley Estate Sales. “Without them, it would not be possible for us to do this auction,” Jan said. “They’re providing the service because they believe in what El Caldito does.”

Tickets for Empty Bowls 2022 will be $20 and available in advance at locations in Las Cruces and Mesilla, as well as at the door the day of the event. For your $20, you get to select a bowl to take home, then enjoy soup from a variety of local restaurants, a beverage, and bread. While the ticket price has stayed the same as in 2021, Empty Bowls has added some new features to this year’s event. For example, this year’s silent auction will include unique pieces from a private ceramics collection donated to PGLC, including a mug made by famed Council of the International Academy of Ceramics artist John Gill of New York. “The potential for raising more on the silent auction is exciting,” Jan said.

There will also be bowls made by new PGLC members for sale, including the work of one new member who recently moved to Las Cruces. “His bowls are rock stars,” Jan said, “like nobody around here has made before.”

PGLC will be doing more outreach than ever before on social media this year, “cultivating a new generation of buyers.” And, for the first time, event advertising will be done in Spanish as well as English. “We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing forever,” Jan said. “It’s always new and fresh.”

Empty Bowls got its start in Las Cruces in 1992 when PGLC member Cally Williams (who along with Suzanne Kane is a co-chair of this year’s silent auction) came home with the idea from a national ceramics conference. Art teacher John Hartom started Empty Bowls in 1990 at Lahser High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit with a population of about 4,000. John wanted to participate in a local food drive, so he asked his students to make ceramic bowls, then invited the school faculty to a soup lunch and requested donations.

His idea caught on, and today Empty Bowls events can be found all over the world. “It took us a year to figure out how to do it,” Jan said. “From there it’s just ballooned.”

Visit pottersguildlc.org, elcalditolc.org, and emptybowls.com for more information.

30th Annual Empty Bowls
Friday, October 14, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
225 W. Griggs Ave., Las Cruces
$20 per person



Story and photography by Mike Cook

Additional photos courtesy Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces

Originally published in Neighbors magazine.

Posted by LasCruces.com

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