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Empty Bowls overcomes challenges

BY LAUREL BLACK lblack@paducahsun.com

After four years of running an operation the size of Paducah's Empty Bowls Project, organizers have learned to expect the occasional glitch.

A 1,000-pound batch of clay could prove unusable. Perhaps the price of the glaze used to paint the handmade bowls will double - at the same time the venue cost triples. Or maybe, as happened this year, one of co-organizer Michael Terra's three kilns will break down as he races to fire at least 1,500 bowls for the event.

"Every year, we have something that happens," Terra said. "We don't live boring lives."

Despite such hurdles, the project to fight local hunger always comes together.

"It's really like a magic trick, because somehow in the end, there they are, the beautiful bowls on the table," Terra said.

The Empty Bowls Project's community meal brought 1,500 people to the Julian Carroll Convention Center last February, raising $20,000 for the Community Kitchen in downtown Paducah.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers, Terra and his wife, Victoria, will work their magic again this February. It may mean aching shoulders from throwing 100 bowls a day on a pottery wheel, but Terra says that's just part of the project.

"It's like being a parent," he said. "You can't change the baby's diapers when it's convenient; you've got to change them when they need to be changed. Pulling together a project like this is very much like that. You just work really hard, and you work with great people."

Terra said that by the time the glazing process is completed, close to 400 people from the community will have stopped by his studio on Seventh Street to glaze a bowl. The Paducah School of Art will have held several open studios - the last is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at Madison Hall - where novice and veteran potters create handmade bowls. And about 15 restaurants will have donated their time, food, and expertise to feed more than 1,000 attendees.

"My family may be the instigators, the organizers, but this is really such a Paducah event. So many people give so much to make this work. It's pretty stunning," Terra said.

The Empty Bowls Project's community meal will be held Feb. 15 at the convention center. Ticket sales begin at 11 a.m. After the doors open at 11:30 a.m., visitors will select a handmade bowl, fill it with food, and enjoy a meal until 2 p.m. Tickets cost $15, but additional donations are encouraged. Proceeds go to the Community Kitchen.

For more information, call Terra Cottage Studio at 270-908-0090.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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