Nancy Petersen & 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.

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.  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  But people’s preference to keep their own artwork soon superseded this original model.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 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 Empty Bowls Project, 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. 

They soon expanded their family by adopting two children, Milo and Jay.  During these years, Nancy began the work of earning her master’s degree.  She now advocates for adults with disabilities as a speech language pathologist.  Through art forms like clay, painting and dance, her clients can access new and effective communication avenues. 

Jeff and Nancy still play with clay and are looking forward to glazing and firing shelves full of pots in their new electric kiln.