Pottery Partners: The Salvation Army’s Annual Empty Bowls Event

Every year, the Salvation Army’s Empty Bowls event gives hundreds of handmade pottery pieces to attendees. Most are made by the Salvation Army’s Women’s Auxiliary, others are donated by local potters.

This year, however, more than 120 of the pieces will come from Harry McBride and his apprentice, Bruce Johnson.

Johnson came to the art of pottery after suffering a stroke in 2010 that paralyzed the left side of his body.

“I had a real tough time adjusting,” he said. “I’m the type of person who’s never able to sit still.”

Johnson, originally left-handed, had to learn to operate with his right hand. Unable to return to his job as a management consultant, he started teaching himself the Chinese language, and penned a memoir about his stroke experience.

“I also got to know a lot of my neighbors. Before, I knew about five, now I probably know a hundred,” he said.

One of those neighbors turned out to be Harry McBride, a longtime potter who picked the craft back up after leaving his job. Over time, McBride converted his garage into a pottery workshop. It was his wife, however, who noticed Johnson zipping around the neighborhood in his motorized chair, and thought the two might make a pair.

“My wife always knows what’s going on with everyone,” McBride said. “I didn’t realize at first that he only had the use of his right hand, but I tried to make something with just one hand, and when I found I could do it, I figured he could, too.”

McBride said Johnson showed a natural aptitude for pottery through his strength and passion for the work.

“I did it once and fell in love,” Johnson said. “I’m kind of an artistic type, and pottery is something you can really lose yourself in.”

The two quickly fell to making plates, bowls, mugs and candle sticks. When they found out about the Empty Bowls event, they were more than happy to contribute.

“The Auxiliary was thankful for any help they can get,” McBride said. “They make bowls year round for this event.”

Empty Bowls is an annual Salvation Army fundraiser event to benefit The Salvation Army's Hunger alleviation efforts.

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