Bowled over: Award-winning artist gifts her talent to Empty Bowl Benefit | TheUnion.com

Bowled over: Award-winning artist gifts her talent to Empty Bowl Benefit

Ashley Quadros
Special to The Union

"I can't leave a bowl alone. I love to carve it," said artist Yvon Dockter, her hands covered in clay as she prepared to throw another bowl on the wheel at the Curious Forge makerspace.

Dockter has been donating her beautiful bowls to the Hospitality House Empty Bowl benefit for 10 years now. The event on Saturday, March 23, is a chance for the community to come together in support of local individuals and families who are hungry and without a home. Every ticket sold helps those in need and includes soup prepared by local chefs, bread, dessert and a handcrafted bowl made by a local artist, such as Dockter. Fellow artist Chic Lotz, one of the original event founders, introduced Dockter to Empty Bowl and she never looked back.

"I enjoy serving the community," said Dockter. "This is my absolute biggest donation of the year."

She explained that she spends months making bowls to help ensure the event's success, including making one-of-a-kind pieces for the silent auction. For the first time this year, she and artist Bob Davis made over 30 vases for table décor as well—elevating the art itself to be a part of the adornment. Each vase will also be available for purchase with all earnings supporting Hospitality House, the only emergency homeless shelter in Nevada County.

"I feel really lucky to live in a beautiful place and doing service for others is a nice way to pay it back," Dockter explained. "None of us are exempt from becoming homeless."

Dockter's love affair with ceramics began while attending Sierra College in the 1980s. Her ceramics teacher, Dik Hotchkiss, inspired her and other students to think outside the box when it came to creation. Instead of relying solely on purchased bags of clay for work, as commonly done today and then, Hotchkiss turned to nature.

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"He took us out digging clay—digging for indigenous clay on fieldtrips," recalled Dockter. "We'd find the best clay. With ceramics, you're playing with mud and earth; it's grounding."

These experiences led to many more with Dockter encountering beautiful clay unexpectedly at times, such as when swimming in lakes or rivers. She would retrieve the clay and later turn it into a sculpture or other piece of art.

Dockter purchased her first kiln in 1989. The kiln was for sale in Carson City, Nevada but with no means to get it, Hotchkiss drove there himself and delivered it to her door in Grass Valley. With her own personal kiln, Dockter continued her studies at Sierra College, Davis, Sacramento and Incline Village.

She is both a teacher and an award-winning artist, taking home a merit award in the Feats of Clay International Exhibit in 2005 and winning "best of" at the Nevada County Fair, which in turn led to a featured display in the "best of show" at the California State Fair. She has also been published in Clay Times, and in the Lark Books Series, Figures in Clay Volume II.

The first piece of art Dockter ever made was a small handcrafted sculpture of a primal woman holding a basket. Thirty years later, this statue remains a part of her home with the basket filled with peppercorns.

Now her incredible talents are put on display at Empty Bowl, with each attendee hand-selecting a ceramic or wood bowl of their choosing, all made and donated by artists.

"It's so fun to watch people come and pick out their bowls. I love seeing the variety," said Dockter, who smiled as she recalled seeing some attendees juggling multiple bowls in their hands as they tried to narrow their selection down to just one.

After attendees select their bowl and enjoy their soup at this year's Empty Bowl, they'll hear from one of the 69 guests at the shelter that they're currently helping.

"It's a lovely community event," she added. "Service to others is really important to me. We all have to pay it forward."

Empty Bowl is just one of the ways in which Dockter achieves that; she also volunteers with One Source Empowering Caregivers, a cause near and dear to her heart.

Today, Dockter can be found teaching art at the Curious Forge, specializing in raku and sculpture classes. She also encourages her students and artists alike to help those in need by making a bowl or two for the Empty Bowl benefit.

Tickets for Empty Bowl can be purchased at hhshelter.org, at BriarPatch Food Co-Op and at Bread & Roses Thrift & More. To learn more about Yvon Dockter, or to enroll in one of our classes, visit thecuriousforge.org. Dockter's art is also on display and available for purchase at the Art Works Gallery on Mill Street.

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