Using ceramics for good | Lifestyles
BELLOWS FALLS, Vermont — Shelby Stoodley, a senior at Union High School in Bellows Falls, had two needs: to come up with a senior project and to foster her love of ceramics. So she combined them.
After doing some research, she recently delivered ten handmade bowls to Our Place Drop-in Center in Bellows Falls for use in their upcoming Empty Bowl fundraiser, which will support the local food pantry.
“People don’t really know about my interest in ceramics,” she said in a recent interview. Her interest dates back to college, when she was introduced to ceramics by art teacher Mary Lou Massucco. “I still have that bowl,” she said.
As a freshman at BFUHS, she got a taste of the potter’s wheel with art teacher Anna Macijeski, but was disappointed that she couldn’t fit the full ceramics course into her senior schedule. “However, this devastation pushed me to realize something else… to do more than make ceramics, but to benefit the community,” she said.
With the help of Our Place board members Louise Luring and Sarah Campbell, Stoodley researched the event, learning that the first Empty Bowl fundraiser took place on a hot day in September 1998 in the old Rockingham Motor Inn, and that it became the organization’s main fundraiser. During the pandemic, Our Place had to move to a remote Stone Soup event, but they hope to return to the in-person gathering this fall.
As part of the project, Stoodley will present to a panel at the school, including research she has done on the history and societal benefits of ceramics.
“I believe that art and ceramics benefit society in many ways,” she said. “I believe the idea of giving someone a homemade gift made from your own artwork really makes a difference to people, making them feel loved and cared for.”
She sees art as a way to relieve stress and as an opportunity for non-judgmental expression.
In addition to ceramics, Stoodley is active in cross country and athletics events at the BFUHS and works at Village Square Booksellers. In January, she was named Elks Student of the Month, cited for her contributions to the school and for her community involvement with the American Legion, the Chamber of Commerce and the Rockingham Free Public Library.
The daughter of Lee and Doreen Stoodley of Westminster, she plans to pursue dental hygienist studies at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine in the fall.