Empty bowls help fill the shelves for needy

By Kile Brewer
Posted 4/18/18

ORANGE PARK – In Maristela Miller’s Advanced Placement ceramics class at Orange Park High School, your best is almost good enough.

Miller teaches an advanced lesson plan and expects students …

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Empty bowls help fill the shelves for needy


ORANGE PARK – In Maristela Miller’s Advanced Placement ceramics class at Orange Park High School, your best is almost good enough.

Miller teaches an advanced lesson plan and expects students to perform at a college level. Her demanding teaching style and love for creating things out of clay provides students with the same skills equivalent to a four-year college degree in ceramics.

“A former student graduated [from college] and told me she learned more here than at [the University of Florida],” Miller said. “They don’t teach them how to make the heads until their third year at UF.”

Miller’s students make heads in their first class with her, and continue through several other projects that Miller hopes will give them the full breadth and depth of a college ceramics program in only a few weeks.

“I love what I do, I love teaching these students,” Miller said. “By the end of the class I know each one and know how far I can push them. When they leave here each one of them is doing the absolute best they can do.”

In an effort to keep things fresh, Miller regularly attends workshops and classes to advance her skills so that she can impart that knowledge to her students. Her drive to teach others is profound and the respect her students have for her is obvious as she moves from student to student as they sculpt furiously during her classes.

Once the intensive course is over, Miller hopes that each student is fully-equipped to do anything they want with clay. This is when the pressure is taken off and they are finally free to create with their newfound skills.

Each year Miller’s students’ bowls are auctioned off as part of the Salvation Army’s annual Empty Bowls Luncheon where tickets grant participants a student-made bowl and soup. Ticket proceeds go directly to fund Salvation Army programs for the needy in Clay County. The bowls made by Miller’s students, however, are auctioned off alongside bowls from professional artists, each one going for at least $50.

“The pressure is tremendous in AP Ceramics, every eight days they have to complete a work,” Miller said. “After the pressure is off they make a bowl. Empty Bowls is a dessert for them because they have the skills to create and no pressure and they make a beautiful bowl.”

“The students’ bowls are mixed in with the artists’ and you can’t tell a difference between the students’ and the artists’ works,” Miller said. “My goal is for them to go as high as possible. If my students make them very beautiful, the bids will go very high, and it’s all for the Salvation Army.”

Miller mentioned that some students become attached to their bowls and don’t want to give them up, so she allows them to purchase their own creating for a $50 donation to the Salvation Army. She also said that sometimes students’ parents will attend the event and bid on their child’s bowl as well.

This year’s Empty Bowls event will again be held at the Family Life Center at Orange Park United Methodist Church next Tuesday, April 24 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Tickets are $20 and include soup, bread, water and a bowl made by Clay County students. In addition to the silent auction where Miller’s students’ bowls will be auctioned off, there will be a bake sale. Proceeds benefit the Salvation Army of Clay County and its food pantry located on County Road 220 between Fleming Island and Middleburg.


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