“May You Never Hunger. May You Never Thirst.”

I’ve been working hard these past few weeks against a deadline. In mid-April I’ve promised to deliver 10 commemorative plates to the Ottawa Food Bank for their awards Luncheon. The plates are being given to do-gooders in the community who help the Food Bank in many ways. I feel extremely honoured to be doing this job.

I got involved with the Food Bank when I started working with the organization in 2005. There is an event that the Ottawa Guild of Potters puts on each year to raise money for the Ottawa Food Bank called Great Bowls of Fire. It was something that I’d started with the Guild in 2005 and I must say that I’m very proud to have done so.  It’s meant a lot to the potters, the city and to the Food Bank.

Great Bowls of Fire was inspired by a program started in the U.S. called Empty Bowls. A potter from Perth by the name of Jackie Seaton also started an Empty Bowls project years ago and I was inspired by the idea so much so that I resigned from my vice presidency with the guild in order to devote all of my energies to getting Great Bowls of Fire off the ground.

The flagship event is always the most difficult one.  You just never know what can happen, what you’ll need, how many hours you have to put into it. Well I discovered soon enough and I worked many long hours on making that event a success, as did a handful of other potters from the guild in addition to the many talented craftspeople who donated bowls, the 10 restaurants that came with delicious soups (donated) and the dozens of other businesses who donated bread and beverages and the musicians who donated their time and talent to make the event a huge success.  Imagine that!  We sold out our first year.  I was so surprised to see the line up of people in The Glebe Community Centre.  I really didn’t know what would happen, but something great happened that night and continues every year!

The name Great Bowls of Fire came from one of our past presidents – Chandler Swain.  I thought it was such a great name to call our event.  I googled it and found only references to chili cook-offs in the southern U.S., so we just went with it!

Since then the event has run with a rotating list of potters’ guild volunteers who step up to the plate each year to lend a hand.  We have raised in total, since the beginning, probably close to (if not more than) $75,000 for the Ottawa Food Bank.  The Food Bank not only services Ottawa but also the Gatineau area.

That first year I was invited to the Appreciation Lunch and the guild was honoured with a plaque and as Peter Tilly, the director of the Food Bank, took the stage to announce the donations that came in that year, he said that because of the potters guild and the $10,000 we’d raised we had, in effect, paid off the insurance on all of their vehicles.  What a rewarding experience!

Many years ago I met a woman who told me an old Celtic prayer:
“May You Never Hunger.  May You Never Thirst.”  I fell in love with that prayer and have carved it into many pieces of pottery since.  The first one was an oval platter that I gave to a good friend for her birthday.  Then I began carving it on the edges of bowls and about two years ago and started donating those bowls to Great Bowls of Fire.

Last year I was chosen to make and donate 30 bowls to Great Bowls of Fire and about 10 of the bowls I made had the Celtic prayer carved in to the bowl’s lip.  Honestly it’s tough carving that many words into leather hard clay.  I got a semi-permanent dent in my writing hand fingers, but it was worth it.

Imagine my surprise when I was called by our most recent past president, Colette Beardall who’d asked me to make commemorative plates for the Food Bank’s Appreciatation Lunch and that the Food Bank wanted “May You Never Hunger.  May You Never Thirst” inscribed on each plate!  Imagine the happy people who will receive a lovely hand made plate with that prayer instead of a piece of paper to hang on their wall!  I, along with 3 other potters received the honour of making those 40 plates.

I was very pleased indeed!  I started making my plates as soon as I could and now the first 4 are cooling in bisque kiln as I type.  I have 3 or 4 more drying and today I will put another two into my plate molds and keep on making them 2 by 2 until I have 12.  I want 12 just in case, ya know?  Kevin always said, “If you’re making a 4 piece dinnerware set, make it at least 6 because you just never know what’ll happen.  And he was right! Something comes up.  It could be a crack, the plate could end up  being warped, there could be a problem with the glaze, etc., etc.

Here’s a peek at the plates being carved.

Cleaning up the lettering

Ottawa Food Bank Appreciation Lunch 2011

Adding my special touch – my initials; “LM” to the back of the plate.

My stamp or "maker's mark."

The finished plate – leather hard clay.

This will get glazed - blue lettering, white background.

If you’ve read previous blogs, you know this plate is a style I call “Caveware.”  This is a 12″ plate that is meant to look uneven on the edges.  I roll out the clay with my huge rolling pin and then place it in a mold I made from discarded acoustic ceiling tile.  I trace an uneven edge then hand cut each plate with my fettling knife.  After it is set up enough to retain it’s shape when moved, I remove it from the mold, bevel the edges and smooth out the bottom then get to carving the lettering.

Although the plates ordered by the Food Bank do not need to be functional, mine are and are meant to be used.  Alternately they can be hung up on the wall with the aid of a plate hanger.

I intend to make a lot  more of these large plates, which would be nice as a serving platter since they are 12″ and of course more bowls with the same prayer carved into the lip. First things first though.  Commission for the Food Bank, orders from my customers that are still pending (and of course in progress!), and then the guild spring sale from April 28 – May 1 at which you will likely find said platters and bowls sans the tribute on the back.

Hey, did you know that the Ottawa Guild of Potters Spring Sale and Exhibition will be at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans this year?

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9 Responses to “May You Never Hunger. May You Never Thirst.”

  1. Emrana says:

    Oh my goodness, those are wonderful! Thanks for sharing them with us!

  2. Nathalie Payette says:

    WoW! Great work, Lisa-Marie! That’s the spirit. Thank you for sharing about your very worthy commitment to the Food Bank. I hope that I can make it to your Spring sale this time.
    Big Hugs,

    • potbelly@lablanchepoterie.com says:

      The spring guild sale is at The Shenkman Arts Centre this year from April 28 – May 1. Our 5th Annual Summer Sale is at Poterie du Lac la Blanche from June 24 – June 26. I’ll probably have your compost jar before that though. I’ll let you know when it is done. It’s very tall so didn’t make it into the firing this time around but will soon!

  3. Heather says:

    What an incredible way to give back! I absolutely love the scripted bowls. I can’t even imagine how much work goes into making the text uniform. Lovely 🙂

  4. bobi says:

    i love the idea of large plates! i can picture a huge salad with some excellent dressing 😉 your work is so beautiful and the personal touches are what really makes it special!!

  5. Toni says:

    I really appreciate the uniform lettering that you carved into the platters. Hard to do.

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