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Creating Bowls to Fill at McLean High

McLean High School prepares for upcoming Empty Bowls event.

Mckenna Gurgo, 4, puts the finishing touches on her clay bowl at McLean High School Thursday, March 1.

Mckenna Gurgo, 4, puts the finishing touches on her clay bowl at McLean High School Thursday, March 1. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— On May 31, the community will be invited to McLean High School to select a clay bowl, fill it with the ice cream of their choice and donate money to help feed hungry people. But on Thursday, March 1, the bowls were just one-pound lumps of clay, waiting for dozens of students and faculty to turn them into bowls.

The National Art Honor Society and the Interact Club teamed up for their second Empty Bowls event at McLean High. Last year, more than 600 bowls were made, and more than $3,000 was raised for Stop Hunger Now, which provides nonperishable meals to people around the world.

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From left, McLean High School sophomores Amelie Van Tol and Alena Sheehan compare clay bowls at McLean High Thursday, March 1. When completed, the bowls will eventually be used to raise money for Stop Hunger Now at a May event.

"It’s much more than just an art project, what we’re trying to do is create activities like this that everybody in the McLean community can take part in," said senior Elizabeth McGrady, president of McLean’s National Art Honor Society.

The bowls started as spherical lumps of clay, and each artist began by making a hole in the clay with their thumb. Slowly, they would pinch the corners of the hole, spreading the clay thin into a bowl, or a "pinch pot."

PARTICIPANTS could mold their bowl into their shape of preference, and then use a variety of tools to mark and texture the surface of the clay.

"I made a bowl last year, and I definitely wanted to come back to support the cause," said sophomore Alena Sheehan. "I tried a little harder on my bowl, and really changed up the design, especially the inside."

Organizers reached out all over to attract bowl makers.

"We advertised at Longfellow Middle School and the local elementary schools, anything to get people interested," said senior Zhina Kamali, president of the Interact Club. "We’re open most of the day, so people can come in and out after school or work, and sit down and make a bowl."

Last year, ceramics students made about 10 bowls each, and there were some left over. This year, each made three, but that won’t stop Ceramics teacher Christina Carroll from spending the next 14 weeks firing the more than 800 bowls in the school’s kiln.

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Dozens of students, faculty and staff from McLean High School create clay bowls that will be sold during the school’s upcoming Empty Bowls fundraiser.

"We started with about 1,000 pounds of clay, and we’re going to try and get as many bowls as we can out of it," she said. "Soon I’ll be living, breathing and sleeping bowls. I’ll have to eat from plates for a while."

Carroll said she hopes the event, which will also feature student artwork for sale, will attract entire families looking for something to do together.

"We’re using art as a means to bring this community together, whether its high school, middle or elementary school, and it’s something that parents and kids can do together and both have a great time," she said.

FOR THE MAY 31 EVENT, guests will gather at the school, make their donation and then pick any bowl from the tables. They fill it with ice cream and various toppings, and all money raised goes to Stop Hunger Now.

"This helps us get the word out about the Empty Bowls event, but also creates a personal connection, because people who make a bowl will want to come back and see how it turned out," said senior Zoe Davidson, co-president of the National Art Honor Society. "Then not only do they have something cool to walk away with, but they helped a good cause."