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Serving up an education with ‘Ladles of Love’

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By Trina Ortega
Special to The Sopris Sun

Second-grader Abraham Marlow walked into the art room at Crystal River Elementary School (CRES) and found a set of salt and pepper shakers he had glazed the week before. He clutched the smooth ceramic shakers and gazed admiringly at the kiln-fired speckles of blue, pink, yellow and green. 
“It’s called kaleidoscope crackle glaze. I was looking for something with polka dots. I put on some blue first. I used two different colors and the kaleidoscope glaze. After they fired, it has a bunch of turquoise,” Marlow said. “It’s really amazing.” 
Every CRES student created a clay bowl or glazed a pre-made bowl or tableware item to contribute to the school’s first “Ladles of Love” fundraiser held Feb. 24 at The Orchard. Attendees purchased a ticket and got to select a student bowl, then filled the bowl with soups donated from local restaurants. Proceeds will be donated to Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE).
A silent auction and cash bar additionally raised money to fund school efforts, such as new playground equipment, outdoor education, literacy materials, science education, field trips, project-based learning and other programs. 
The main goal of the event was to bring together parents of CRES students for a fun-filled evening of food and entertainment. But students took ownership of creating the bowls, glazing the tableware, and researching and selecting a nonprofit to be the beneficiary.  
CRES art teacher Susan Annabel says the concept tied in many different elements, including the science of clay and glazes, how to craft a functional piece out of clay, what it means to be an artist (that you often let go of your creations), as well as learning about local nonprofits. 
“We’re doing project-based learning this year, and this fits really well into that concept,” Annabel said. 
During art class, third- and fourth-graders crafted “slump” bowls over their knees, then textured and glazed them with their own designs. Students in lower grades glazed pre-fabricated bowls, but Annabel still incorporated specific art techniques, such as using color schemes and painting techniques. Annabel fired them in the school kiln, located in a space the size of a closet in the art room. Nearly 500 bowls and ceramic pieces were created for the event. 
“It’s been fun. Some of the kids had a hard time thinking, ‘I’m not getting my bowl back?’ Their parents did have the chance to buy their bowl. But we’ve been talking a lot about compassion — that’s one of our habits of a scholar — and how that ties into helping others that are in need,” Annabel said.  
“Plus, part of being an artist is letting go of your work. Artists love to sell their artwork. So I’m trying to help them understand that being an artist isn’t just about making a piece and keeping it for yourself. It’s about how you share your art with somebody else, too.” 
Third-grader Sarah Cuc said she had used clay before but learned about glazes through the project. “I learned that the glaze isn’t just any type of paint. It’s a food-safe paint so you can use it for eating. You have to put it in the kiln so it gets shiny,” she said. 
Meanwhile, fourth-graders were tasked with researching 10 charities and organizations in the Roaring Fork Valley. They picked three finalists (CARE, Carbondale Arts, and Lift-Up) and presented them to the entire student body, which then voted on one to be the beneficiary. 
PTO President Katy Nardecchia was pleased with the outcome and aims to make it an annual event open to the public in the future. She said about 150 parents and teachers attended and enjoyed seeing all the student-crafted and glazed bowls. She estimated the event raised at least $1,000 for CARE. 

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Published in The Sopris Sun on March 2, 2017. 

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