Students in Cazenovia College’s kiln-formed glass and ceramics classes participated in the Interreligious Food Consortium’s “Empty Bowls” fundraising program for the first time this year, making unique bowls and donating them to help the organization raise funds to assist Central New York food pantries.

At just four weeks into their first semester on campus, new students in Kim Waale’s kiln-formed glass class created unique glass bowls to donate to the effort. More students in Shawn McGuire’s ceramics classes made and donated clay-fired bowl designs.

The Empty Bowls fundraiser taps the creativity and skills of area artists and students who make then donate handmade bowls that are offered for public purchase at a once-a-year event. The fundraiser helps restock area pantries, and at the same time, encourages buyers to be mindful of the privilege of having enough food to eat each time they use their bowl. The Consortium’s fall fundraising program has been held for 17 years, but this was the first time Cazenovia art students were invited to participate.

Professor Waale noted that students who arrived on campus in August had just a few weeks to acclimate to their art courses before being presented with the bowl project. The assignment presented them with a challenge, as well as a unique artistic opportunity. It was an undertaking that led to success and satisfaction for the students, both with their new artwork and with a chance to help the community.

“Kiln-formed glass bowls are a beautiful new, unique offering for Empty Bowls donors to purchase. First-year students, who are all very new to kiln-formed glass techniques, worked hard to design and fabricate beautiful bowls that donors to Empty Bowls would want to take home,” Professor Waale said. Ceramics Instructor McGuire added, “Empty Bowls is a wonderful opportunity for students to be of service to the community while using a skill set they’ve acquired in the studio arts program. Everyone was so enthusiastic to contribute.”

Interreligious Food Consortium Executive Director Kate Artessa, who invited the College to participate, was also pleased with the results of Cazenovia students’ creations. “We were blessed to have new additions to our bowlmakers this year as Cazenovia College graciously accepted our invitation,” Artessa said. “What wonderful bowls they contributed, making such a difference in providing us with great variety. Students again are the mainstay of this event. I am hoping this is the first of many years of participation by the Cazenovia community.”

Student Mitchell Turner was pleased to participate. “I thought the idea of the Empty Bowls program was great because it not only brought awareness to a serious problem, but also showcases local artist work. I approached the work as any other project, but there was most definitely some pressure knowing that the piece was going to have more purpose than just making a bowl for fun,” he said.

Marisa Codi, who’s taking the kiln-formed class, wanted to make a bowl that was interesting and unique, particularly because the fundraiser had never had glass bowls to offer before. However, she also was happy to contribute to a good cause. “As nice as it is to make a beautiful piece of art and then keep it, donating it to a worthy cause and knowing that my bowl went to someone who will appreciate it is a nice feeling,” she added.

In addition to creative satisfaction of making her bowl, Chieko Niwa, an exchange student from Japan, was able to incorporate elements of her heritage into her designs. Professor Waale suggested that the student consider using the Japanese technique kintsugi, a process meant to restore broken pottery. Starting with her idea for a star design, Chieko undertook those steps with a result much to her satisfaction. “It was a perfect finish; I had a precious experience,” she said.

Noel Lyman was glad to be part of something to help others, too. “It was awesome to hear that the glass bowls went super-fast when people got to choose them. It’s surreal to think that mine is sitting in someone's home now. But it was also amazing to be able to volunteer. This project really opened my eyes that I think a lot of people take for granted the "simple" things we have in life. Not everyone goes to bed with a full stomach, and no one should be left out.”

If anyone is interested in knowing more about the Interreligious Food Consortium, visit its website, email Kate at, or call (315) 474-8855.