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Pottery studio aims high with Empty Bowls fundraiser

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Karen Bressi’s Generous Earth Pottery studio is airy and full of light. It gets the creative juices flowing.

And those juices are really flowing this weekend: Generous Earth’s students are trying to make a big dent in Bressi’s goal of having 1,000 bowls ready for an Empty Bowls fundraiser for Channel One Regional Food Bank on Feb. 8 at Best Western Riverfront Hotel.

Saturday and today’s Bowl-a-thon at the studio will go a long way toward that goal. Staff and students turned 300 bowls on Saturday alone.

At the Empty Bowls event, each guest will donate $15 and select a bowl from the 1,000 that Bressi’s team of staff and student potters created. Disposable bowls also will be available for donors to use as they sample soups donated by Pogreba Restaurant, Ground Up, River Jack’s, Kwik Trip, Riverfront Hotel and Cedar Creek. Fayze’s will provide the dinner rolls for patrons to dip into steaming bowls of soup and soak up that last drop.

Channel One Regional Food Bank will receive all donations from the event.

La Crosse is one of many cities around the U.S. that hosts Empty Bowls fundraisers. About 10 months ago, Bressi and her colleagues, including manager Shane Lamb and instructor Jess Hetchler, began planning the Empty Bowls fundraiser. They threw numbers around. How many bowls did they need for the event? Five hundred?

Bressi suggested 1,000.

“If you have mediocre aspirations, then you will get mediocre results,” Bressi said. “We decided on making 1,000 bowls, and I think we might just do it.”

Bressi and her team have been working since Christmas to finish the bowls in time, receiving shipments of clay — one of them over two tons — and putting aside personal projects.

Bressi said Lamb can throw about 30 bowls an hour and has been a key player in the march to 1,000.

Generous Earth Pottery was filled with laughter, chatter and the sound of pottery wheels spinning  Saturday morning as students and employees prepared for the Bowl-a-thon. Bricks of clay awaited potters who turned them into earthenware.

Bressi said her staff and 70 students worked on the Empty Bowls project to support the community they’re all part of, generously donating both time and materials.

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