- Associated Press - Saturday, April 23, 2016

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Every April, hundreds of people flock to First Presbyterian Church to enjoy some soup, help the Facing Hunger Food Bank and take on the ever-challenging task of picking out the perfect bowl from more than a thousand unique options.

There are some bowls that are bright and some rustic, some are patterned and some plain, some are perfect in shape, some with charming imperfections.

Many Huntington groups sacrifice their time and contribute in different ways to make the Empty Bowls event a success each year, and at Marshall University, there’s one man who guides the art students who put thousands of hours into this community project - Frederick Bartolovic, an assistant professor of ceramics who has been at Marshall since 2011.

The 41-year-old gives all credit to his students, who every year go through the labor-intensive process of making bowl after bowl after bowl. The process includes making a clay wedge, throwing the pieces on the wheel, drawing, doing an initial firing and then decorating and glazing them and firing them again and sometimes more. Marshall students always contribute at least 1,000 bowls for Empty Bowls event, often more, Bartolovic said.

“It’s a very intense process and takes a unique student who is drawn to ceramics,” he said. “Ceramics are a 3-D medium and attract a person who is very tactile and a maker of some sort.”

He likes that the Empty Bowls project not only helps the food bank but also fosters a sense of community among the students themselves, because different students help with different aspects of the project. After creating a bowl, a student might pass it off to another to load it into the kiln, for example.

For him, teaching ceramics at Marshall has been a perfect way to combine his love of art and working with others, though it took him some time to find his way there.

A Wheeling native who spent some of his childhood in Florida but mostly in New Hampshire, Bartolovic attended the University of Arizona with initial plans to major in photography.

“As soon as I touched clay, it was like the romantic tale you always hear,” he said. He fell in love with it. It was process-oriented, like photography, but felt more earthbound. He earned an undergraduate degree and then took a job with a handmade ceramic tile factory in New Hampshire, Trikeenan Tileworks, and eventually became its vice president.

“As vice president, the part I liked the most was training new people about the process of ceramics,” he said.

Still, it was hard work, and he grew a little restless and decided to go back to school, this time attending the Rhode Island School of Design and earning a master’s degree. After that, he became a working studio artist, living in downtown Toronto and selling sculptures professionally for a couple of years.

“I found that experience to be kind of lonely, so I decided to teach,” he said.

He got hired by the State University of New York at Oswego, SUNY Oswego, located near Lake Ontario, and had a great experience as a visiting professor for more than two years. There, he realized how great it was to be able to both create art and help students learn and solve problems. From there, he came to Marshall.

He’s enjoying life here in Appalachia, teaching at Marshall as well as sharing a ceramics business and a farm with Michelle Strader. Their business is Silver Run Ceramics, found online at www.silverrunceramics.com, and their farm is in Boyd County, Kentucky.

“We have a horse, a goat, chickens, a dog and two cats,” Bartolovic said.

Their products are inspired by nature and take them to different shows in the region, as well as being sold on etsy.com.

Bartolovic is thankful for his journey and his diverse geographic background.

“I think travel is vital to successful art,” Bartolovic said. “Soaking up different cultures is important to being able to speak to as large an audience as possible.”


Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, https://www.herald-dispatch.com

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