Who We Are
Hub City Empty Bowls is one of Spartanburg County’s most respected and successful grassroots fundraisers. Its purpose is to use the making of pottery bowls as a means to raise money that will help feed local citizens who don’t have enough to eat. Each year, Hub City Empty Bowls raises tens of thousands of dollars that are given to a local charity that is aligned with this purpose. Hub City Empty Bowls is the charitable project of Carolina Clay Artists, a group of local potters, people and artists who make clay creations, such as a bowls, vases, and sculptures.
How We Do It
During the summer months, Hub City Empty Bowls hosts several “bowl-making sessions” for the public. These sessions are held at local pottery studios, such as West Main Artists Co-Op and Spartanburg Art Museum at Chapman Cultural Center. These session are always free and open to the general public. They are great family affairs. All of the studio time, clay, and professional instruction are donated. These sessions usually last about two hours and produce hundreds of unfinished pottery bowls of every imaginable design, from the primitive efforts of children to the museum-quality work of professional artists. The general public makes “hand-formed” bowls; experienced potters are given the option to use pottery wheels.
The unfinished bowls are left at the studio, where they are eventually glazed and fired by experienced volunteers. The goal is to create about 1,000 bowls each year.
With a fresh stockpile of bowls, Hub City Empty Bowls then hosts the annual Soup Day fundraiser n the fall. On Soup Day, all of the bowls are laid out or public access. Patrons are able to select the bowls of their choice in exchange for a $15 donation per bowl. Many people get several bowls and use them as meaningful gifts. In appreciation of patrons’ support, more than a dozen local restaurants donate gallons of gourmet-quality soup that is served along with bread, tea, live music, and fellowship. Traditionally, Soup Day is held at Chapman Cultural Center, and the soup is served in the lobby of the theater. Tables and chairs are made available in the lobby and the outdoor plaza, and serving is generally 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The restaurants set up serving stations in the lobby, and patrons are encouraged to have a simple and thankful meal on this day of giving and celebration. Local musicians provide live music, and a public drum circle has become a regular tradition. Most importantly, this is the time that people enjoy each other’s fellowship and share in the knowledge they are helping feed local citizens in need.
How It All Started
Hub City Empty Bowls started in 2009 when Upstate potter Jim Cullen spearheaded the effort in Spartanburg. Empty Bowls is actually a worldwide phenomenon that is purposely without a central organization. It is a concept that spreads from community to community organically. Hundreds of Empty Bowls projects are held around the world annually, all of them adhering to the basic concept of making pottery bowls to feed local citizens in need. All of the money goes directly to the targeted charity in the local community. Each community’s project is a little different in the details, but they all have the same basic design and purpose. The original Empty Bowl project was started in 1990 by an art teacher in Michigan.