Studio ‘bowls’ for good cause

By Zenaida Sengo • The Times-Independent

Desert Sun Ceramics in Moab recently hosted a “bowl-a-thon” sculpting workshop aimed at making several hundred bowls for their upcoming “Soup Bowl Fundraiser.”

Desert Sun Ceramics, a diverse art studio, home to several artists and new art students, is owned and operated by professional artist and retired ceramics professor Barb Gregoire, and runs a little like a hands-on cooperative. The studio, located on south Highway 191, houses multiple throwing wheels, a slab roller, a wide variety of hand tools, extruders, glazes and kilns.

“This community of clay people is beyond amazing!” says Gregoire, who maintains close friendships and mentorships with her members who range from preschool age to 85 years old.

The Soup Bowl Fundraiser is an event where one can buy a one-of-a-kind, handmade, ceramic bowl filled with soup donated by local restaurants, and is coming up on its second season in Moab.

All proceeds find a worthy cause, organizers say. Last year’s donation recipient was Moab’s Youth Garden Project. The money raised provided youth scholarships for students to attend summer camp. The fundraiser brought in over $5,000 and because many more people attended than anticipated, Gregoire and her voluntary team of artists and culinary experts ran out of both bowls and soup.

Gregoire began raising funds for charitable causes many years prior to arriving in Moab. She was affiliated with the Steamboat Clay Artisans Group and raised money for a number of organizations from local humane societies and food banks to wildlife conservation groups. This year her committee, known as CLAM (Clay Artisans of Moab) chose Seekhaven as the recipient.

Seekhaven assists people who are affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. After learning about the nature of food donations that Seekhaven receives, which primarily consists of canned and processed foods, CLAM decided they wanted to develop the goal of providing Seekhaven victims with healthy and nutritious food. This year’s Soup Bowl Fundraiser is partnering with local CSA’s, (Community Supported Agriculture organizations) to connect people who need Seekhaven with farm-fresh, local produce.

The Moab Arts and Recreation Center, which previously served as the “perfect venue,” said Gregoire, will be hosting the fundraiser for its second season and is expecting to see even more people than last year. “We’re aiming to make 400 bowls this year,” says Gregoire, “so we need lots of hands and creativity.” The free bowl-making workshops, called Bowl-a-thons, are “just like a fun party. Everybody loves it, and new artists aren’t inhibited by having to attach their name on the bottom of a piece. “It’s all for donation, it’s a bunch of fun, and it’s for a really good cause,” said Gregoire.

“It’s been super fun having new people coming into the studio and doing hand-building, and then seeing them getting hooked on clay,” said Audrey Pfefferman, a regular since the studio first opened two years ago. Her wheel-thrown work is a staple at Moab Made, a downtown gift shop that showcases many Desert Sun artists.

When asking first-time potter Justin Caggiano how he liked the new experience of working with clay, he said, “I’m hoping to expand my skill set and eventually move onto the wheel.”

Gregoire added, “With so many people making bowls together, quite a diversity of creativity comes about in unison. We will even have bowls harvested from native clay by local artist Roy Vaughn. Each bowl has many hands. One person might make a bowl, another trim it, and another might glaze it. It’s so fun to see people get excited about picking out a bowl they like. They feel good about spending $20 on a bowl of soup because it’s for such a great cause, and they come away with an original, functional piece of art.”

Bowl-a-thons are taking place every Friday from 1-8 p.m. at Desert Sun Ceramics, 1320 S. Highway 191. They are free and include all materials to make bowls that will be donated at the fundraiser to be held Nov. 3, 5:30–7:30 p.m., at the MARC. Tickets are $20 and include a handmade bowl of your choice filled with soup, bread, beverages and desserts.

Local restaurants can still sign up to donate soup and volunteers sign up to help. Contact Gregoire at 970-819-7938.