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Potters Guild president/founding member: Support Empty Bowls!


Editor’s note: Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces’ (PGLC) annual Empty Bowls fundraiser for El Caldito Soup Kitchen is scheduled to be held 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 225 W. Griggs Ave. Purchasing tickets in advance is encouraged, with tickets available at El Caldito Soup Kitchen, 999 W. Amador Ave., and Save Mart, 495 N. Valley Drive, and from PGLC members. Tickets will also be available at the door. An auction will be held on the Mesilla Valley Estates website midnight Oct. 14-midnight Oct. 21. Visit www.facebook.com/emptybowlslc and @emptybowlslc on Instagram for the latest information. Tickets are $20.

Jan Preston Archey is one of the founding members and current president of the Potters’ Guild of Las Cruces (LCPG) and a long-time Doña Ana Community pottery instructor.

Archey remembers about 30 years ago, Cally Williams returning to Las Cruces from a conference with the idea of Empty Bowls, LCPG’s fundraiser for El Caldito Soup Kitchen. The first Empty Bowls took place 27 years ago.

Archey’s goal for this year’s Empty Bowls is to make 50 “unusual bowls,” along with glazing and firing many other bowls made by area potters for the event. She has organized Empty Bowls community workdays almost every year since 1992, as throwers and potters have gathered to make 175-275 handmade bowls for the event.

“It is such a fun time, visiting and doing what we love to do: play with clay,” Archey said. “The bowls are fired and often are sent to various studios for glazing. These community bowls often have at least 10 pairs of hands that touch them. During a usual year, I 'touch' about 350 bowls through the process.”

“I was involved in the very beginning of the soup kitchen, before it was called El Caldito,” she said. “I have always been concerned for the impoverished, and for me to share my talents to help feed others, it’s the best of both worlds.”

“Since my early art classes in high school, I knew from my first pottery class I would someday have a studio and be a potter,” she said. “It was not something that just happened. It has taken years to acquire the equipment, materials and the space. I enjoy making functional pieces because I know I am part of people’s celebrations and meals. One must experience the various steps of the process. Sometimes things work out, sometimes one must put the dry clay in a bucket of water and start over. Clay is forgiving and can be reused. Working with clay is a lesson in life teaching us patience.”

Archey has an electric kiln, a raku kiln and a propane-fired kiln.

“Having a gas kiln allows me to have glazes that are different from many potters,” she said. “I do my wet work in the back-studio area of our garage and my glaze studio is a utility trailer. I mix and formulate all my glazes, so they are nothing that can be bought in a jar. My space is a simple, one-person studio, and it has worked for me for 40 years.

Archey has been a DAAC community education program instructor “for decades,” she said. “I love to teach and to encourage my students to explore and learn about this wonderful medium.”

Jan and her husband, James, also volunteer in rescuing bees. They with Dr. Chris Cramer, a professor in New Mexico State University’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, and his wife, Krista Michael. It takes three-four people to gently vacuum up bees into a travel box that can be placed on top of an empty hive box, Jan Archey said. “The hope is the bees will take up residence in the hive and will thrive and can be used for Dr. Cramer’s onion-breeding program. The bees are necessary to pollinate the onion blooms to develop new onion varieties.” 

In addition to participating in the 2020 Empty Bowls event on Oct. 16, Archey invited local residents and visitors to donate to LCPG, a nonprofit.

“Clay, glazes, supplies and firing needs to happen, and donations can help immensely to keep the costs down, which benefits all,” she said. “A box of clay is about $25 and will make about 15 bowls.” A kiln firing is about another $25, she said.

To make a donation, and for more information, contact Archey at archeyjan@gmail.com. Visit http://pottersguldlc.org.