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What’s in a Bowl of Ice Cream?

This guest post is by Jean Frank Stark.

There is more in an ice cream bowl than ice cream when you purchase yours, September 16–17. You’ll enjoy the sweetness of knowing you’ve encouraged artists to experiment with creative ideas they might not have dared to try.

Madeline Nossiff hasn’t thrown on the wheel since she left college over a year ago. “Finding the time, space and excuse to do what you love is a challenge,” she said.

Because Madeline works in the office at The Art League school, she was able to take time off on slower hours to ride her bike to the Madison Annex, where the Ceramics studio is located. Her goal was to throw 100 pots for the fundraiser. As of this interview, she was well on her way, with 80 pots created for this special event.

“Clay is physical work yet requires a calm and meditative state,” she said. As she centered her thoughts and clay on the wheel, Madeline honed her skills and technique to make a variety of shapes for bowls that will hold just the right amount of ice cream.

Madeline’s perfected ice cream bowl shapes, right after being trimmed

Her personal preference for glaze colors are earth tones, but for this event she decided to use bright color combinations to complement flavors of ice cream. Because of her time on the wheel, she’s now thinking about making more pots for friends and creating an Etsy account.

An annual undertaking

Ceramicists affiliated with The Art League school are encouraged to donate 25 pots to the fundraiser each year. Each $15 bowl directly supports the expenses associated with running the ceramics department, which is considerable, with Old Town rents, three huge kilns that are constantly in use, and all the “furniture” that comes with a ceramic studio.

Blair Meerfeld, director of The Art League’s ceramics department, makes over 300 pots each year for this event. “My biggest fear is that I’ll run out of pots and the event won’t be over,” Blair noted, with a calm in his demeanor that is prevalent throughout the studio. Last year’s Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser sold over 1,600 bowls. Blair is aiming to be ready this year with 2,000 bowls.

Creative experiments

To help with that volume, David Flohr and Carla Amerau work on hand-built clay pieces. For this fundraiser, David experimented with the glazes. “It took me six different tries before I got the combination of glazes just right,” he said.

David uses a rounded plaster mold to press the clay onto. He then uses a blowtorch until the clay can hold its own shape. Just a few seconds with the blue flame and he’s ready to press another form. His bowls look more like small curved plates with a beautiful rust trim, and a warm creamy colored center.

David applies a red iron oxide wash to the bowls

“The Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser is an opportunity for me to experiment with glazes I might not otherwise venture to try,” Carla said. Carla made her own mold with a leaf. She pressed the clay into the plaster mold and uses the microwave to set the clay. She tried seven new combinations of underglazes and overglazes to come up with a new look that she likes and will use in her personal art.

What fits in a bowl

The Art League’s IMPart program (Injured Military Personnel + art) includes a familiar face in the studio. Rich works with his support dog, April May. When I asked what he got out of donating to the Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser, he was sitting inside a kiln helping to fix a broken coil.

“I just really appreciate the program and wanted to support The Art League for all it’s done for me,” he said. The dog wasn’t comfortable with Rich being in the kiln, but when he’s throwing on a wheel she is contented to sleep close by on her blanket.

Carla’s hand built leaf bowls and glaze experiments

The fundraiser is an opportunity for The Art League Ceramics Department to be financially supported by the surrounding community. Underneath that support are the creative ideas, experiments and constant learning that The Art League provides and is what enriches the community.

The artists who work to donate bowls have an opportunity to take creative risks which improve their craft. Patrons get more than a bowl with ice cream, they get all the great, calm energy and enthusiasm baked right into the clay. I will be purchasing my ice cream bowls on September 16, and I look forward to you joining me in a creative combination where everyone wins.

If, after you purchase your bowl, you find art is inspiring, The Art League’s ceramic classes begin the week after the fundraiser. Whether you prefer weekdays, weekends, mornings or evenings, working with clay is always fun, centering and innovative. Perhaps someone next year will be scooping ice cream into one of your creations.

The Art League’s annual Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser will be held September 16–17, 2017.

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Did you know: The Art League's Art Camp is the longest running visual arts camp in the area! We've been here for more than 30 years! While sadly we can't find any photos from the '80s (please let us know if you have any lying around), let's take a look back at the last several years of burgeoning kid artists and eight years of fun at Art Camp!

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Simply set The Art League as your chosen charity, and every time you shop at smile.amazon.com, a portion of your purchase will be donated to support our mission to share the experience of visual arts with the community.