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Evansville potter provides handmade bowls for chili cook-off

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GINA R. HEINE
May 10, 2011
— The cube of clay hit the throwing surface with a plunk.

Matthias James started the pottery wheel with his foot, and the clay sloshed between his wet hands.


He formed the base of a bowl before the sides quickly took shape. In two minutes, James transformed the cube into a bowl that soon will be used to eat chili.


Over the last month and a half, James has been cranking out hundreds of bowls. He’s on his way to having 350 to 400 bowls ready for Saturday night’s annual chili cook-off. It’s Evansville Community Partnership’s 11th annual event, and each ticket includes one of James’ handcrafted bowls.


“I’ve probably thrown thousands of these over the last 18 years,” the local potter said while making a bowl. “Tens of thousands,” he added after he considered the art show circuit he participates in.


More than a dozen cooks bring samples of their best chili recipe to the fundraiser, he said. A panel of judges awards prizes, but everyone gets to vote on the Peoples Choice award. The winner takes home one of James’ giant bowls—19 inches wide and 6 inches deep.


James throws the bowls in the basement of his downtown Allen Creek Gallery and at home. He doesn’t use a template.


“I just use my eyes,” he said.


He can throw about 30 bowls in an hour, but that’s only a small part of a bowl’s process to become dishwasher- and microwave-safe.


After the bowl is formed, it must dry for a day and then have the edges trimmed. It sits until its bone dry before going into the bisque kiln, where it takes another day to fire. Each bowl is glazed, which adds color, and is then fired again.


“Even though they all look the same, by the time I glaze them … they’re all different,” James said.


Upstairs in his gallery, the bowls pile up on shelves and floor in many colors and designs.


People who have attended the chili cook-off every year have a full collection of James’ bowls, he said. For those who don’t want a bowl, a coupon for $12 off Matthias James Pottery will be offered instead.


The cook-off will be the first event held in the new community/senior center, Creekside Place.


“That’s kind of exciting,” James said.


“I think more than anything, it’s just something for people to do, to get out and have a good time.”


IF YOU GO
What: Evansville Community Partnership’s 11th annual chili cook-off, “The Heat Is On.”
When: 6:30-9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Creekside Place, Evansville’s new community/senior center, 102 Maple St.
Details: Judges will award prizes, and ticket-holders can vote for their favorite chili. Each paid ticket includes a pottery bowl or a $12 coupon for Matthias James Pottery at Allen Creek Gallery.

A spaghetti dinner will be available for children.


Evansville Youth Center will run a craft area for kids, and a cash bar/lounge area will be available for adults. Duane Worden will provide live entertainment and a silent auction, and 50/50 raffles will feature items from the event’s sponsors.


Cost: Adult admission is $17, and kids 13 and under are free with a paying adult. Tickets can be bought at the door or in advance at Piggly Wiggly, 8 N. County M, or Evansville Pharmacy, 21 W. Main St.

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