Empty Bowls: Made In China for Corporate Engagement

Strange headline?  Well, yes, I agree.  Many potters donate bowls to Empty Bowls programs, which tend to be benefits where potters donate bowls, restaurants/chefs donate soup and bread, and people make a donation to eat soup out of a bowl that they then keep.  Empty Bowls programs traditionally benefit food banks and other hunger-related programs.

The Capitol Area Food Bank has been a recipient of my bowls for many years, since my time living in DC.  A few weeks ago, I received an email from the CAFB, and this is what it said:

“Hi Joy,

The Capital Area Food Bank is starting an exciting new corporate engagement effort that will expose the work of one lucky artist to thousands across the Washington metro area.

As a way to expand the much loved Empty Bowls concept, we are inviting our top local artisans that we have worked with in the past to submit a design for a bowl that will be entered into the Empty Bowls Challenge.  We will select a winner, which will be mass-produced and then sold to our partners in the corporate community.  Companies will give their employees the chance to purchase a replica of the winning bowl, and the proceeds will go to the food bank.

Would you be interested in submitting a design? Please let me know if this sounds like an opportunity you’d like to get involved with.

Many thanks,

Now, I couldn’t resist responding for clarification, which came back as:

“Thanks for your feedback.  The bowls would be mass produced in China, and the artist would not be paid for their design.

 Let me know if this is helpful information.  I understand your reservations, and I hope to work with you for future Empty Bowls events!



To be clear, CAFB will continue to have artisan-made bowls for their Empty Bowls.  Always have, and hopefully always will.  This is a new initiative, focusing on reaching out to coprorate entities.  (thanks for the clarification by phone, CAFB!)

As for this new initiative, I realize that there are probably ceramic artists who would love to have their work reproduced in China, but I am not one of them. I love to ‘re’-produce my own work.  In my mind, a production potter designs their own form, produces it in large or small runs, and is often paid a ‘wholesale’ price for their work, which then sold retail, whether for a business or for a non-profit.   As an artist potter, I make work in smaller series, but have, on occasion, made larger runs for good reasons.

My work, mass produced in China? No way.  Is my strong reaction old-fashioned?  Am I missing something?  Is there really a benefit here that I am not seeing?  What’s the story here?



Do you have info?

Potomac Clay is always looking for info to get out to the larger community!  Events happening, kilns firing, clay digging, exhibits and openings, supplies for sale, get-togethers of any kind…..

Poetic writings and short stories, great images, feats of wonder….

Send ’em to joybridy (at) yahoo (dot) com

In the studio, tools matter, and make the work what it is....just as your ideas and content will make Potomac Clay sing....

In the studio, tools matter, and make the work what it is….just as your ideas and content will make Potomac Clay sing….