Cierra Vargas, senior, and Tim Grogan, senior, work on bowls for the Empty Bowls Supper during Spanish class at Eagle Point High School Tuesday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Empty Bowls, Full Hearts

Ten seniors in a Spanish class at Eagle Point High School are shaping ceramic soup bowls and painting Aztec designs on them — learning about ancient Mexico while they help feed the hungry.

Their work will be among 150 to 200 bowls being created around the valley as part of the nationwide Empty Bowls campaign. The bowls will be sold for $25 each, and local donors will use them to dine on soup at the upcoming Empty Bowls Supper, to be held from 4 to 7 p.m., Friday, May 24, at First United Methodist Church, 175 N. Main St., Ashland.

The soup will be donated by 30 area restaurants, including Amuse, Pangea, Spoons, C Street Bistro, Greenleaf, Maren Faye Caterers, Standing Stone and Black Sheep, and money from the event will go to Uncle Foods Diner, Food Angels and ACCESS.

"Making bowls is better than sitting in class, though we love Spanish," jokes student Kelli Holcombe. "It's nice to know these bowls are going somewhere good instead of sitting on mom's shelf."

Teacher Sarah Sievert teaches the pottery unit in Spanish and asks students to look up ancient designs on the Internet and share their meanings, such as fertility, the sun and various animals.

"This really serves a larger purpose," says Sievert. "A lot of our kids don't get an opportunity to serve in the larger world and actively step outside themselves."

Painting a lizard and zigzag on her bowl, Cierra Vargas notes, "I do it because it's really good for the community. I want to make a really pretty one."

Sharing earbuds with her, Tim Grogan says, "I like to contribute and help in some way. I'm painting intricate designs that symbolize the interweaving of society."

The class was led in the techniques of pottery by Dalton Fenner, an EPHS graduate of 2011 who studied ceramics for four years.

"I taught them how to coil the clay and make the bowls. They will get three glazes and are dishwasher and oven safe," says Fenner. "It feels good to help the less fortunate."

The exercise in volunteering and making a difference in society is especially meaningful for the students, says Sievert, because many EPHS families experience extreme poverty, alcoholism and other problems.

Some school students, including some in the class, work full time and use their earnings to support their family, while going to high school full time and setting sights on college.

"It's really great to do this," says Michela Saling, a member of Leadership Class. "It's something fun that helps people. It's big for me."

Empty Bowls, sponsored locally by Peace House of Ashland, is a "remarkable joining together" of artists, social-help agencies and restaurants, says the event's volunteer coordinator, Zoe Alowan of Ashland. Julie Wiley organized assistance from restaurants.

Southern Oregon University's Art Department donated clay, and 30 SOU students made bowls. Live music will also be volunteered at the event.

"It makes me feel very grateful and satisfied that I can participate in such an endeavor," says Alowan. "The event is so joyful, a spilling over of gifts, with celebrity waiters, some members of the City Council."

Tickets can be purchased online via PayPal at, and at Paddington Station, Northwest Nature Shop and Peace House.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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