Northeast Tarrant

Area artists fight hunger through Empty Bowls

Karen Ahaus with her potters wheel in her home studio.
Karen Ahaus with her potters wheel in her home studio. Special to the Star-Telegram

Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger, and craftspeople in Northeast Tarrant County are making sure their art is represented.

Among those are Karen Ahaus of Ahaus Pottery in Grapevine (a teacher at Hurst Hills Elementary School), Kashmira Mistry of Keller and Ken Burghart of Burghart Woodworks in Southlake.

They are among those creating ceramic, metal and wood bowls for guests to take home from the 13th annual Empty Bowls campaign benefiting Tarrant Area Food Bank and its partner hunger-relief charities, including 26 in Northeast Tarrant County.

Empty Bowls 2015 is Feb. 20 in the Amon G. Carter Exhibits Building at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth.

“People can sample food from more than 30 area restaurants from high-end Italian Mediterranean and Cowboy cuisine to down-home barbecue, Tex-Mex and fruit pies,” said Andrea Helms, food bank spokeswoman.

At Empty Bowls, 2,500 or more ceramic, china, glass, and wood bowls handcrafted/hand-painted by Texas professional, student and recreational artisans will be available for selection by guests.

The basic premise is simple: Potters and other craftspeople, educators and others work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. Guests are invited to a simple meal of soup and bread. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to an organization working to end hunger and food insecurity.

Each $1 spent at Empty Bowls will help Tarrant Area Food Bank provide food for five meals to children and families in need of nutritious food. Empty Bowls Fort Worth helps TAFB and its 300 partner charities feed impoverished and low-income families and senior citizens in Tarrant and 12 other counties. Partner agencies distribute food each month as emergency groceries to 50,000 households and as more than 340,000 meals served at senior centers, after-school programs, soup kitchens and emergency shelters. Of all the individuals provided food assistance, 40 percent are children.

Giving back to community

Grapevine artist Ahaus, an art teacher at Hurst Hills Elementary in Hurst, said it’s an honor to help others.

“I love that I can give back to the community through my art,” she said.

Age 45, she can remember telling her first grade teacher she wanted to be an artist when she grew up.

She achieved that goal and, while teaching kindergarten and second grade for nearly 20 years, Ahaus earned her masters in art education. The elementary classroom was such fun, though, that art continued to be a hobby.

In 2011, she moved to Grapevine and with a pottery studio in her new home, she was able to create more of the pottery that she loved and be the artist she dreamed of becoming in the first grade.

Ahaus creates her work on her potter’s wheel using white stoneware.

“I love altering the pieces and creating something completely new and unique,” said the owner of Ahaus Pottery. “I consider myself a studio potter and not a production potter. My work is similar but no two are exactly the same because no two pieces of clay are ever the same no matter how systematically you wedge it, throw it, alter it, or carve it.”

‘Nature inspired pottery’

Ahaus said the cornerstone of her work is finding a place where function and creativity meet.

“I love making works of art that can be admired and used on a daily basis,” she said. “I create nature inspired pottery by adding freestyle hand carving of trees, vines, leaves, flowers, and fruit. Intricate waves and ruffled edges are added to other artwork through my own special technique.”

Empty Bowls events have taken place across the United States and in at least a dozen other countries. Many millions of dollars have been raised and donated to hunger-fighting organizations.

Each individual or group organizing an Empty Bowls event designs it around the needs of their own community and is responsible for their own event.

‘This is my passion’

"I love what it's doing for people," said Southlake artist Ken Burghart. "It helps me a lot in my own heart and soul to contribute to that."

Since his involvement, Burghart tries to make 30-35 bowls a year using wood he gathers from within Tarrant County. Each bowl is an individual piece and he likes to keep things simple and resemble organic shapes in nature.

"The simple ones are the classiest," he said. "If you try to get too elaborate they just look like a mess."

For Burghart, who is retired, providing the bowls allows him to dig into the craft he has honed for 40 years.

"I am retired so I find this my passion to work on a wood lathe and band saws," he said.

‘A great feeling’

“It’s my way of giving back to the community,” said Keller artist Kashmira Mistry, who made 10 bowls for this year’s event and has been participating about a decade. “It makes me feel whole and complete.”

Mistry is a Keller realtor who dabbles in art with plans to take her hobby to the next level when she retires someday.

“Right now it’s just a small business,” the artist said.

She loves the concept of Empty Bowls because it is a group effort of fellow artists.

“It’s a great feeling knowing you’re working for the same goal with other potters,” Mistry said.

Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367

Dustin L. Dangli contributed to this report.

If you go

▪ Empty Bowls 2015 will be presented by Tom Thumb from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Feb. 20 in the Amon G. Carter Exhibits Building at Will Rogers Memorial Center, 3401 W. Lancaster in Fort Worth.

▪ To purchase admission and raffle tickets for the event, go to Individual admission tickets are $50; an individual V.I.P ticket is $130 and provides early admission along with corporate sponsors.