Jim Halvorson spun a pottery wheel in the lobby of the Bloomington Monroe County Convention Center on Sunday evening. In a few minutes, another clay bowl grew under his hands, was shaped, etched and set aside.
Upstairs, about 600 handmade bowls lined white plastic tables, waiting to be chosen and filled with soup for the annual Hoosier Hills Soup Bowl Benefit.
Halvorson demonstrated the process for the crowd waiting about 90 minutes to be admitted.
“It helps people understand that the bowls they’re getting upstairs are made by hand,” Halvorson said. “Even though the potter may make a dozen of the same kind of bowl, they are all different.”
Halvorson’s wife, Suzanne, helped found the fundraiser 22 years ago.
He’s made bowls for about 19 of the fundraiser years and has been practicing in pottery since 1977.
In a little more than an hour, Halvorson shaped 13 bowls — fluted, curved or etched around the rim — to demonstrate the range of possibilities when working with clay.
Actually completing the number of bowls upstairs takes much longer to glaze and fire, he said.
“I can make 10 of these an hour, but for every hour I spend in these, I commit to 10 other hours,” Halvorson said.
His kiln at home holds 100 pieces.
Halvorson said it may take him four to six weeks to fill the kiln.
Every piece is handled at least a dozen times, and many are fired twice.
Suzanne Halvorson said in the beginning years of the fundraiser, the potters in Bloomington donated 10 bowls apiece for the fundraiser.
Now that the number of people to serve has grown, the Food Bank buys many more bowls wholesale to ensure they have enough for everyone.
“It’s become kind of a business for potters to make some money,” she said.
Halvorson made 29 bowls for this year’s fundraiser.
Julio Alonso, the executive director and CEO of Hoosier Hills Food Bank, said the event generates a recurring crowd every year, as well as much of the organization’s funding.
“It’s really been something that a lot of people look forward to and come to every year,” Alonso said.
Robert Meitus, the Soup Bowl’s co-founder, said he remembered when the event consisted of 100 people in the basement of a Catholic church at IU.
Now, the Soup Bowl serves about 700 people and sells out at least a week before the event.
One $30 ticket covers a handmade bowl and refills of soup.
Now in its 22nd year, Alonso said the Soup Bowl will leave them with a profit of about $100,000 after about $10,000 in operating costs are levied.
“It’ll help support our food distribution for the whole year,” Alonso said.
The fundraiser supports general operations like the Food Bank’s mobile clinic and food boxes for seniors, Alonso said.
The workers spent Saturday picking up gallons of soup donations from 41 restaurants, including Malibu Grill, Darn Good Soup and the Owlery.
Many restaurants also donated cookies and breads or wine, beer or coffee.
“We don’t ask the restaurants for anything,” Alonso said. “We rely on them to give us what they want and what they want to highlight.”
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