Ceramics guild doing its part to help hungry families

The ceramics guild at Anoka-Ramsey Community College is hard at work making pottery bowls and not just to pass the time.

Theresa Crosby and Nashton Erdnann throwing clay on a spinning wheel to form a bowl that will ultimately be auctioned at the North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf’s Empty Bowls fund-raiser. Photo by Eric Hagen

Theresa Crosby and Nashton Erdnann throwing clay on a spinning wheel to form a bowl that will ultimately be auctioned at the North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf’s Empty Bowls fund-raiser. Photo by Eric Hagen

Individuals and families who are having trouble affording groceries will see their own bowls and plates fill up, partially thanks to this club.

For the second consecutive year, the ceramics guild is making pottery bowls for the North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf Empty Bowls fund-raiser, which is March 21 at the Church of St. Patrick in Oak Grove.

The guild was originally formed in 2007 and made bowls for the Southern Anoka County Community Assistance’s (SACA) Empty Bowls fund-raiser, according to Mark Lambert, an art faculty member at Anoka-Ramsey Community College since 2004 and adviser of the ceramics guild.

By the time Kevin Eldstrom enrolled at the college a couple of years ago to pursue a degree in business, the ceramics guild was not really active from what he could gather.

Eldstrom has a passion for art and he wanted to help others, so he took on the role of president of the guild and got the group going again.

Unlike their predecessors, the group had much more space to work and store their art. A new 28,976 square-foot visual arts building opened at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in 2010. The guild is allowed to use a spacious room on the second floor. The old arts building was subsequently renovated to house the college’s music program. A skyway links the two buildings.

The ceramics guild made 53 ceramic bowls for the March 2012 NACE Empty Bowls event, which were auctioned off for a total of $745.50, according to Eldstrom. Every dime went to the food shelf.

“It’s an amazing thing,” said Shana Schmitz, outreach director for NACE. “It’s the literal representation of what we’re doing.”

The ceramics guild started working on the bowls for this upcoming Empty Bowls fund-raiser Monday. The club numbers about 10 people and Eldstrom hopes they can make 75 smaller bowls and six larger bowls this year.

As Nashton Erdnann finished a bowl, he did a little trash talking when he stated he just completed throwing his 18th bowl, which is the first step of forming the clay into a bowl on a spinning wheel.

When asked if they get real competitive, Erdnann replied, “I’m all about the competition. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t exist.”

Aaron Becker said, “I’m just here to make beautiful pottery.”

Dan Melberg chimed in, “I’m just here to meet girls,” which got a good laugh from the group.

They plan to work hard for the next month to get as many bowls done as possible. After they throw the bowls on the spinning wheel, they must solidify enough to allow them to smooth out imperfections without damaging the bowls. The next step is to put the bowls in a kiln to make it bone dry. Glazing is the final step.

After they are done making the bowls for NACE’s fund-raiser, Eldstrom said they have some potential projects lined up including making pottery props for the theater department and flower pots for the school’s greenhouse.

Lambert recently got a call from United Way asking if the ceramics guild could make bowls for their own empty bowls fund-raiser.

“I love volunteering,” Eldstrom said. “Anything I can do to help out anybody is a good feeling.”

It was Eldstrom’s volunteering spirit that led to Anoka-Ramsey students making bowls for NACE in the first place. Eldstrom was president of the Leos Club in St. Francis for a couple of years and he still volunteers with the St. Francis Lions Club.

This will be his sixth year volunteering to help at the NACE Empty Bowls fund-raiser. He has helped set up, serve soup and done almost anything else that was needed.

“It’s a good thing to do,” said Theresa Crosby of being able to make bowls for this cause.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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