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FARMINGTON —The San Juan College pottery students who spend the better part of a semester crafting hundreds of pieces for the school’s annual Hospice Charity Bowl Sale haven’t exactly reduced their work to an assembly line process, their instructor says.

But the amount of work the event requires certainly teaches them to become efficient.

“Every student is at a different level,” said Don Ellis, who has overseen the sale for the last 11 years and been a part of it for 18 years. “They do use it to test different glazes, and it provides them with a chance to improve their skills. Most of the bowls are the same size, but there are different shapes. And for a lot of them, it helps them with their throwing skills.”

The event, which returns to the college on Thursday, Nov. 10 and Friday, Nov. 11, raises money for Northwest New Mexico Hospice and has come to be regarded as one of the area’s more widely anticipated holiday customs. Many people return to the sale year after year to purchase one-of-a-kind bowls as Christmas gifts.

“For a lot of people, it’s a traditional thing,” Ellis said. “They bring the whole family to pick out bowls.”

Ellis’ ceramics students produce approximately 1,300 bowls each year, with some of them beginning work on the project over the summer. He said 34 of his students volunteered to work on the bowl sale this year, and as of Nov. 3, they had turned out 983 bowls — so they still had some work to do this week as the event approached.

The sale attracts a steady turnout from year to year, Ellis said, with buyers paying $10 for each bowl and receiving a fill-up of homemade soup from the on-campus restaurant Mary’s Kitchen to go along with it. The event allows the school to make a $10,000 donation each year to the hospice organization, and 20 percent of the proceeds raised from an accompanying vendors sale featuring Christmas ornaments, pottery, scarves, beadwork and other items, as well as the school’s annual fall students art show, also goes to the nonprofit group.

A portion of the proceeds is retained by the school to cover the cost of the materials used in the production of the bows, Ellis said. But if sales are particularly good, and if the hospice group has a special project in mind, another donation is made to cover that, he said.

Ellis said the event’s association with Northwest New Mexico Hospice means a great deal to many of the people who long have been a part of it. He said the late father of Farmington artist Cindy McNealy, the former coordinator of the college’s on-campus art gallery who was largely responsible for launching the bowl sale, was a hospice client before his death.

Although Ellis’ mother died earlier this year in Seattle, she, too, received the benefits of care from a hospice organization there. So Ellis said he appreciates the work such organizations do across the country, not just locally.

“I think a lot of people have had hospice help them over the years,” he said.

The two-day sale also will feature music from Ryan Woodard and Eric Campbell.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: The annual Hospice Charity Bowl Sale

When: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10 and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11

Where: The 9000 rooms on the San Juan College campus

Price: Each bowl purchased for $10 comes with a free fill-up of soup from Mary’s Kitchen

For more information: Call 505-566-3486

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