Instructor and students sculpt for charity



Ceramics instructor Eric Thayer organized a Bowl-a-thon on Dec. 3 at Eastfield.

MOIRA MCINTEE, Managing Editor

More than 34 million people in the United States are food insecure, according to Feeding America. Eastfield ceramics instructor Eric Thayer understands that feeling because he’s been part of the statistic.

Burdened by student loan payments, low pay and inflation, Thayer found himself struggling to keep bills paid and food in his stomach many times in his adult life. Now he’s making it a priority to help others facing these same challenges.

Thayer spearheaded a Bowl-a-thon event on Dec. 3 at Eastfield to address the hunger crisis. Faculty, staff and community members crafted handmade soup bowls in F-217. The dishes crafted will be donated to the North Texas Food Bank Empty Bowls event on Feb. 23 in Plano.

Each bowl will be sold to an attendee, complete with a serving of soup or stew. All proceeds will support the food bank.

“I’ve been a poor artist for most of my adult life,” Thayer said. “I’ve utilized food banks; I understand their value. And this is where my skill set fits perfectly. This is the thing that I love to do, and I can use it to benefit the people who don’t have the things that I have. And I think that’s incredible work.”

Thayer produced 15 bowls himself, plus two other larger art pieces to be auctioned off. Each other participant created an additional six to 10 bowls. Trinity Ceramic Supply donated 250 pounds of clay to the Bowl-A-Thon.

The Empty Bowls event is the first since 2020. The last one raised more than $210,000 and provided 630,000 meals to hungry Texans, according to the food bank website. The Bowl-a-Thon ceramists ranged from novices to professional artists.

A few first-timers got to confront the power struggle between their hands, the clay and the spinning pottery wheel.

Art instructor Kim Russell shapes a piece of clay into a bowl inside Eastfield’s ceramics studio. (RORY MOORE/THE ET CETERA)

“I just want to participate,” part- time art lab specialist Peter Chao said. “And to try to figure out how to make a bowl for the first time ever.”

A seasoned freelance artist made it look simple just a few feet away. “I take [ceramics] classes for the community side of community college, not really the college side,” continuing education student Tori Solis said. “I have a studio at home, but I like to work with other people in the mediums that I work within. There’s a lot of value in working around and with other people.”

Other attendees were pottery hobbyists. Falling somewhere in the middle in experience level, they said they enjoyed the process of creating, even if the bowl fell flat as soon as it was removed from the wheel.

“I’m happy if it at least looks like something you can eat off of, drink out of or just set around the house,” continuing education student Katy Hubener said. Taking ceramics classes at Dallas College has turned into a family affair for Hubener.

“When I first got out of grad school I took a class at Cedar Valley,” she said. “Then my husband was like, ‘I hate my job and life is terrible,’ and I said, ‘Well, Dave, I think you should go and take a ceramics class.’ So, he took it at El Centro and he loved it. He loves the glaze chemistry.”

Supporting the North Texas community with his specific expertise makes Thayer feel like the Empty Bowls charity was tailor-made for him. “It’s so personal,” Thayer said. “I’ve been in the situation that a lot of people don’t want to be in. I can say with great confidence that without food banks I probably wouldn’t be in the position that I am now.”

He says that contributing to the community in a creative space might not be for everyone, but encourages people to figure out where helping NTFB and food-insecure individuals can fit into their own lives.

“I think that if people are intimidated by this process, there’s still a way for them to be involved and to help out,” he said. “I really encourage people to do this. This is an at-home situation. It affects your neighbors and affects the folks in your family. I hope that people take time out of their day to go and support these endeavors.”