Making Soup Bowls

This week I’ve been making soup bowls.  Some weeks ago Hildegard Pax, who is area coordinator for South East Open Studios (SEOS), suggested we might organise some sort of event at Tonbridge Old Fire Station, combining art and food.  I suggested an Empty Bowls event.


My prototypes either side, with the original Purbeck Pottery bowl in the centre

The basic idea is that potters make and donate bowls, chefs donate soup and bread.  People buy a ticket, select a bowl, get it filled with soup and sit down together to a bread and soup supper.  The money raised is given to a charity concerned with homelessness or poverty – so you are emptying a bowl to fill someone else’s.  And you get the hand made bowl to take home at the end to remind you of the occasion.  We are supporting The Bridge Trust, which has been helping single homeless people in our area for 25 years.

The team at Tonbridge Old Fire Station have been running food based events since taking on the venue and renovating it.  They loved the idea and offered the venue and to find suitable chefs.  They have come up trumps with three excellent chefs.  Ticket sales have just gone live on their website.  Just talking to people in the area the response has been very enthusiastic, so we have expanded to two nights of 50 places each.  Oh! So now we need around 100 bowls.

Fortunately 15 of the potters from SEOS this year said they would make bowls, and since adding an extra night I’ve emailed a few other potters in the area and have had some positive responses already.  I think we’re going to be fine.  Of course that meant I had to get out in the pottery and make some too.

Way back when I first went to university I bought some seconds of Purbeck Pottery.  Initially a teapot (essential for any student room) and then a few cups and a large plate to put them on.  Then, friends bought me a coffee pot and some mugs for my 21st birthday.  When I got my first flat family bought me some plates and bowls.  Thirty-something years on they are still going strong.  That’s stoneware for you.  I measured one of the bowls and scaled up to allow for shrinkage.  A bit of experimenting and I found that 500g of clay is about right.

The first prototypes got fired a week back and they look OK so this week has been “production week.”  Not that I’m a production thrower – there’s a lot of variation in the size and shape of my versions.  I’m making plenty so that I have some for my display for Open Studios in June.  I’m looking forward to seeing the variety of bowls the other potters make.

By the way, tickets for 11th and 12th May 2016 are available to book online now.


Mass production!  Well, the first dozen just drying.



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1 Response to Making Soup Bowls

  1. Peter says:

    The Empty Bowls event is a lovely way of bringing people together, as well as raising money, I imagine that the bread and soup supper will be a very special time. Bowls are wonderful things in that they have so much humanity.

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