When David Voorhees calls himself the village potter, he’s invoking “The Village Blacksmith” by fireside poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow — a craftsman who does honest work, and, knowing so, sleeps soundly: “Each morning sees some task begin/Each evening sees it close.”
The community-oriented Voorhees, who hosts an open-house art event in June, feels like that smithy when he throws pots and breaks bread with neighbors. So it’s only fitting that the Zirconia-based ceramist organized this month’s Empty Bowls initiative, an event dedicated to alleviating childhood hunger in Henderson County.
The concept — part of a national movement — is simple, says Voorhees. Potters, maybe even glassblowers and wood turners, donate around 200 handcrafted bowls. Caterers including AlyKat Deli and Hubba Hubba Smokehouse provide soup and bread. Guests select a bowl to take home, load up on bisque, and enjoy. Ticket proceeds benefit the Flat Rock Backpack Program, which feeds 150 to 200 schoolchildren per year who’ve been identified as being food deprived over the weekends.
“There are hungry people right here that we’re shielded from,” says Voorhees. “But our community is also home to socially conscious artists.”
M. Rathsack of M’s School of Art is one of them. Her clay dishes are better suited for walls than tables — “more decorative than functional,” she agrees — due to their process. Slurp soup from one of her bowls, and it might taste sooty. “Like a campfire,” she says. Western Raku, a twist on traditional Japanese pottery, requires wares be exposed to dramatic temperature changes after firing. Some artists blanch their pots in cold water like green beans, but Rathsack prefers to toss them into a newspaper-stuffed trashcan.
The final product is iridescent, showing “slashes of purple, blue, and bright copper,” she says. It’s like Wedgwood china with fire rather than frills: edgy ornamental. But Rathsack is temporarily subbing utilitarian for decorative so she can help Empty Bowls. Last month, she hosted a bowl-making afternoon at her school on Davis Street; the vessels made will be soup-worthy for the event.
“The point is to bring the community together around good food, art, and a cause,” says Rathsack.
Hendersonville’s artists are always eager to throw a little something into the pot, according to Voorhees. “We do what we do because our creative spirit requires that of us. It requires we make art even if our hands shake,” he says. As a village potter, his spirit also calls for neighborly camaraderie: “because that’s the essence of Longfellow’s smithy.”
Empty Bowls will be hosted at St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church (1905 Greenville Highway, in Flat Rock) on Sunday, April 30, 5-7pm. Tickets are $25 per person or $50 for a family. Guests can also buy artwork in a popup gallery. For more information or to purchase tickets, find Flat Rock Backpack Program on Facebook.