The origins of the Upper Valley Empty Bowls festival can be traced back to two motivated community members: Nancy Petersen and Jeff Hilton. While selling their Periwinkle Pottery at craft shows throughout the Pacific Northwest, Nancy and Jeff visited with folks running an Empty Bowls Project booth in Roseburg, Oregon where they received their inspiration to start such a project in their hometown of Leavenworth.

In love with the idea of building community and weaving art and community together to do this, they enlisted the help and ideas of Carl Florea, Sheila Bergren and Ann McClendon. Upper Valley Empty Bowls, originally called Leavenworth Empty Bowls Project, was born in October 1996 with 150 bowls thrown by Jeff and Nancy and a few potter friends. These were decorated mostly by Art in the Park artists. Over the next 3 years, the project grew to the scale of 400 bowls. Jeff and Nancy’s original intention was for folks (artists and non-artists alike) to make the bowls beautiful and then to let them go for others to purchase. But people’s preference to keep their own artwork soon superseded this original model. 

More local potters stepped up to share the work of throwing and firing these hundreds of bowls. The newly formed Empty Bowls Committee also saw to the glazing of these bowls, which they did at first with a unique style of brushed application. By year four, over 200 people were helping to run the Upper Valley Empty Bowls, soup supper and all.  Many years later Nancy and Jeff still speak of how they were moved by this beautiful testament to Leavenworth’s gracious community. 

After 4 years of serving as Empty Bowl’s directors, Jeff and Nancy moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where Jeff began training and work in air traffic control, and the evolution of Upper Valley Empty Bowls continued on. . . . . . 


More History Coming Soon. . . . . 

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