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He’s fighting food insecurity with wood and creativity

Michael Mittelman, a Brookline artist, crafts hand-turned wooden bowls, which he gives to people who make contributions to food banks and pantries

Bowls hand-turned on a lathe by artist and furniture maker Michael Mittelman of Brookline.handout

Michael Mittelman, a Brookline artist and furniture maker, transforms wood and hunks of fallen trees into hand-turned bowls. He crafts his one-of-a-kind vessels with flowing grain patterns using woods like bloodwood, jatoba, red padauk, sapele, and also elm, maple, or birch. They might fetch $100, maybe $125, and often way more. But he doesn’t sell the bowls — he uses them to raise money. Through his organization Bowls For Food, Mittelman sends bowls to people who send him a photo of a donation receipt to a food bank or food pantry. So far, he’s raised over $21,000 for groups like the Greater Boston Food Bank, Arlington Eats, Dedham Food Pantry, Food Bank for New York, and comparable associations throughout the country. Crafting bowls is a hobby for Mittelman, who owns M. Stahl Design in Boston. He often uses the wood scraps left behind from the furniture he creates with 3D digital programs that take months. “Spinning wood into bowls is something I can do in a couple of hours. It’s a cathartic experience,” he says. The idea for the project was sparked during the pandemic lockdown when his adolescent kids felt bored stuck at home. To have something to do, he brought them to his Ashburnham garage workshop, where he keeps his lathe, and began to teach them the craft. “Acquiring food became a source of anxiety,” says Mittelman. “If we were feeling this, then we knew that people with food insecurity were really overwhelmed.” So far, 160 bowls have been sent out — and there are more eventually on the way for the waiting list of donors. “I sign and date each so people can remember the time not only as a difficult time, but a time when there was also hope,” Mittelman says. As for the beautiful bowls, he claims they’re not perfect. “But imperfections are OK,” he admits. For more information about Bowls For Food, visit bowlsforfood.com.

ANN TRIEGER KURLAND

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Bowls hand-turned on a lathe by artist and furniture maker Michael Mittelman of Brookline.handout

Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at anntrieger@gmail.com.