A Different Kind of Tea Party: Potters of Blue Ridge Create for Upcoming WHS Empty Bowls

Published Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 12:04 pm
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Hunger Coalition Executive Director Elizabeth Young (far right) Whit Whitaker and organizer of WHS Empty Bowls (second from right) stand next to Doe Ridge Pottery owner Bob Meier and the rest of the Potters of the Blue Ridge members who participated in the Teapot Challenge to benefit WHS Empty Bowls.

Editor’s Note: Keep an eye out for the online auction of the teapots leading up to the actual Empty Bowls event at Watauga High School. We’ll keep you posted .

Years ago, when people went to tea parties, they anticipated a purely social gathering comprised of dainty finger foods on lace doilies, a silver tea service and people dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes. Potters of the Blue Ridge has a different vision. Their version of Tea is a combination of community service, aesthetic challenge and extremely casual social gathering.

The group of local potters, formed in 2014 to increase positive awareness of handmade pottery made in the Blue Ridge mountains, gathered at Doe Ridge Pottery on Saturday, Feb. 27 for their own Tea Party, an event that is the culmination of their Teapot Challenge. The Teapot Challenge is an aesthetic assignment Potters of the Blue Ridge members and other local potters give themselves in which each potter makes all the parts of a teapot – body, lid, spout and handle – and then exchanges them with parts made by others. Everyone then uses these parts to design and assemble a teapot. The only rule is that you may not use any of your own original parts, although everyone imposes on themselves the guidelines that the resulting teapot must function well and look as good as possible.

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Elizabeth Young, executive director of Hunger Coalition, and Whit Whitaker, organizer of WHS Empty Bowls

The ten potters who participated in the Teapot Challenge, Cindy Pacileo, Theresa McGrath, Dottie Baker, Bob Meier, Nancy Graham, Maggie Black, Pat Morrison, Connie Cox, Becki Henderson-Gow and Carol King , have several reasons for doing so. Although the event has it’s obvious social component, they also do it to push themselves into new aesthetic territory. Over time, the work of most artists/potters evolves into a signature style – the Teapot Challenge forces a radical departure from this because someone else, whose style is very different from yours, made all the parts. Dottie Baker, of High Meadows Pottery, said, “This great for me because the nature of the process introduces design elements and ideas that I would never use. The end result is part me and part total surprise, and that’s great – the longer you work in any medium the harder it is to surprise yourself.”

Another component of the Teapot Challenge that is important to Potters of the Blue Ridge is that all the resulting teapots are auctioned at Empty Bowls, a charitable event that will be held at Watauga High School on March 19th from 4:30 – 6:30pm. This event, part of a nationwide effort held every year and organized in Watauga County by Whit Whitaker and his Watauga County High School art students, raises money for The Hunger and Health Coalition. People who purchase a ticket to Empty Bowls eat a delicious meal of soup, bread and dessert served in a handmade pottery bowl, and get to take the bowl home after the event.

Last year’s Watauga Empty Bowls raised $ 10,800.00 to help feed hungry people in the High Country. For more information, contact Whit at whitakerw@watauga.k12.nc.us. If you’d like a preview of the Teapot Challenge teapots to be auctioned, you can see them in the front window of Doe Ridge Pottery at 585 W. King Street, Suite D, in Boone until March 18 date.

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