Pottery for poverty Published: April 3,2011
Hoping to throw a curve at poverty, potters and parishioners of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre have crafted and painted approximately 50 clay bowls for the upcoming Bowl Auction on April 10. The event is a live auction that will feature a variety of hand crafted wares from numerous contributors.)
Now marking its fourth year, the auction has grown into a labor of love for those involved. Using pottery to fight poverty, congregation and community members unite to raise money for REACH, a ministry of hope and a last resort for those in need. To date, proceeds raised have been $700 to $1,000 each year.
The Bowl Auction is the brainchild of Debra Kellerman, a Bear Creek Township resident, and member of St. Stephen's congregation.
Her commitment to the cause, which is housed at St. Stephen's, is evident.
"REACH helps people at the margin," she said. "The organization is the last hope for those who have very little hope."
Kellerman is also a potter. She has been studying pottery for the last 10 years. In a recent conversation, Kellerman told how her interest in pottery led to the annual community project.
Always intrigued by the John Denver song, "Potter's Wheel," Kellerman's curiosity was further peaked by an advertisement for pottery classes displayed on a music store wall. She signed up for the classes and has been throwing, firing, glazing and painting clay ever since.
The idea to hold a bowl auction was the result of a chance meeting and an abundance of bowls.
Five years ago while at the Luzerne County Fair, Kellerman met a potter from the Dallas area. She was impressed to learn that he donates proceeds from certain bowls sold in his shop to the Back Mountain Food Pantry.
Inspired by the potter's actions, and thinking of the extra bowls she had on hand, Kellerman decided she wanted to do something similar in Wilkes-Barre to help the community. She approached the Parish Life Committee and was happy to receive a great deal of their help.
Preparations for the project take about six weeks. Several weeks prior to the auction, after Sunday service, a bowl painting event takes place at the church. As one of the finishing touches in preparation, children and adults paint donated clay bowls.
Kellerman said the painting event has become so popular that by the third year, more adults participated than children.
In past years, organizers purchased commercially made bisque bowls ready to paint. This year however, the bowls were handcrafted from raw clay by Kellerman, her instructor, Jean Adams, of the Wilkes University Ceramics Studio, and fellow potter, Christine Pocono.
When Kellerman decided to craft the bowls herself, she consulted with Adams, who offered to help. Forty bowls were needed. Pocono heard about the endeavor and offered her help, along with 75 pounds of white earthenware clay.
On a chilly Saturday morning, the three friends got together and produced 52 thrown bowls ready to be bisque fired. Glazes used on the bowls were donated by Susan Barry, a recent addition to St. Stephen's congregation. Barry also offered to help the children paint bowls.
Kellerman said donations for the upcoming auction will come from varied sources. Stoneware bowls will be donated by the Wilkes Pottery Continuing Education Class. Adams will donate a functional pottery piece and Kathy Redmond has added sculpted pieces to two of the earthenware bowls.
To add diversity to the selection, potter Lyn Carey, owner of the earth and wears shop in Dallas, will donate a few pieces of stoneware jewelry. Mary Lou Steinburg, a local artist will contribute a fused glass piece and parishioner Wayne Harley will donate a few hand turned wooden bowls.
The Bowl Auction will be held at 12:30 p.m. April 10 in St. Stephen's Parish Hall, 35 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre. Registration which costs $2 or the donation of a dry/canned good begins at noon.
Kellerman said she hopes this year's auction has 60 or more people bidding. She would like the proceeds to beat those from previous years.
Speaking about all the large number of services REACH provides for those struggling with poverty, Kellerman voiced her concern about the possibility of the organization losing state funding if the current budget passes as is.
Passionate about the importance of REACH to the community, Kellerman said: "It's not just handing out money and saying, have a nice day, it's also saying, what else do you need?"
Passionate for her craft and happy her talent and skill can benefit others, Kellerman said fondly: "My mother always said I liked playing in the mud."Rebecca Brandreth, 4, of Kingston, paints pottery for the REACH auction.
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