Six Bowls Project celebrates community, collaboration, caring

Posted in Culinary, Literary, More Stories, Visual Art

Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
Nov 13, 2013

When this reporter first heard about the Six Bowls Project, I must admit my first thought was, “What kind of hippie dippy Whidbey thing is this?”

After all, it’s pretty easy to be cynical.

But, after spending a few minutes with instigator Penny Keala Bauer, her infectious enthusiasm for her Six Bowls Project made it impossible not to be swept up in her vision.

“It’s really about the generosity of sharing,” Bauer said.

Which is a pretty powerful antidote to cynicism, in my opinion.

Here’s what Six Bowls is:  Six artists were asked to make a bowl. When completed, the bowls traveled to six writers, who wrote odes to the bowls. Now, each bowl and accompanying written piece will be circulated throughout the community for the next year in weekly intervals. Each individual, group, or family that keeps a bowl for a week is then encouraged to document how they used their bowl on the Six Bowls website. At the end of the year, all the bowls and all the participants will come together for a big potluck to share their stories and auction off the bowls. The entire community will be welcome at the event and proceeds will go to Good Cheer.

Annie and Nathaniel

Annie Jesperson and Nathaniel Talbot of Deep Harvest Farm and their bowl of abundance full of seed from their garden. / Penny Bauer photo

“What gets generated along the way are people sharing their wonderful stories,” Bauer said. “Through the website, people will share their gifts and talents with the community, be that a recipe or a beautiful photo, or a story or a memory,” Bauer said.

“We yearn for stories. People don’t tell stories anymore.”

Think of the bowl as a prompt. Perhaps the bowl will inspire a poem, or a gathering of friends, or a new dish. Perhaps the bowl will encourage a participant to think about how good it feels to have a bowl brimming with abundance, and how hard it can be when that bowl is empty. Perhaps the bowl will encourage someone to finally take that pottery class they’ve been meaning to take. However the bowl affects its sitter, participants can then log on to the website and upload what they’ve experienced—and share it with others.

“The site is very interactive, with multiple categories to upload your experiences with your bowl and uses for your bowl,” Bauer said.

Already up on the site are a handful of stories about growing produce, links to recipes, and a place to connect with local food producers. The site is a place to read, to write, to connect, to share; the goal being to create meaningful community engagement.

“I’m really hopeful that parents will take their children to the farmers market, or better yet, grow their own food, and then create a dish together to serve in the bowl, then write about it, take some photos, and post it to the website,” Bauer said.

Bauer, a photographer, got the idea for the Six Bowls Project after visiting a bowl exhibit at the Contemporary Museum of Crafts in Portland this past July.

“There were many bowls on display and a small installation of two bowls made by an artist from Fargo, North Dakota, who made them available through the library for people to check out, and use to cook a meal and share a recipe,” Bauer said.

“As we were driving home, I began to think that it would be possible to do something similar with our Whidbey community. The more I lived with the idea, the more ideas related to bowls and eating and sharing our gifts and food and art and stories came to me, especially the idea of poems or blessings to accompany the bowls. I hoped that in doing so, people would have the opportunity to share meaningful times together, enriched by poetry and stories.”


You may notice these bookmarks around the island that serve as a reminder that anyone can join in the Six Bowls Project.

“As soon as I started to talk to people about the project they would immediately start brainstorming, coming up with more great ideas,” Bauer said. “I’ve just been deeply touched by the kindness of these people showing up to help.”

Among those helping are Kim Tinuviel, Vicky Grayson, Michael Stadler and David Welton.

“We would not be talking without Kim. She was the first person I went to and she said, ‘Absolutely, I’d love to be a part of this,’” Bauer said. Tinuviel has spearheaded the social media, Stadler and Weston the photography, and Grayson the website for the project.

“I’ve always been a collaborative artist and this project is another way to make a commitment to talking about generosity, and sharing gifts and talents with each other,” Bauer added.

The bowl creators are Robert Adamson and Janis Swalwell, Carol Ann Bauer, Jodi Cable, Lyla Lillis, Inge Roberts, and Sharon Warwick. The writers are Judith Adams, Patricia Duff, Lorraine Healy, David Ossman, Victory Schouten, Joni Takanikos, and Judith Walcutt.

“Amazing things can happen when people say yes,” Bauer said.

When I mentioned that I’d like to be a bowl sitter, but I’d be afraid my kids or I would break it, Bauer said, “That may happen! But, don’t worry. We’ll have backups.”

So, how do I get a bowl, you ask? Go to the Six Bowls website, click on “Get a Bowl” and follow the prompts. Choose one of six locations from Coupeville south. Bowls will be available starting Wednesday, Nov. 13 for one week stints, and the project will run through November 2014.

Penny Bauer can be reached at 360-221-6021 or by email here.

Penny Webb is a writer, musician, gardener and mother of two fabulous children. She is currently amazed that her son has just turned 15! How did that happen?




  1. Thanks for the article, Penny. You have proven that cynical people have a heart, too.
    Although I’m not sure I agree with Penny (Bauer) that people don’t tell their stories anymore, I think her idea is a brilliantly fun way to encourage story telling, promote community, support a good cause and confound cynics, to boot.

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