The Pottery Place teams up with Marshall to provide online alternative to fundraiser Empty Bowls

The Marshall University School of Art and Design is partnering with The Pottery Place to sell bowls online as an alternative to the Empty Bowls fundraising event, which was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jessica Stone, owner of The Pottery Place in Huntington and Charleston, has listed over 500 bowls and T-shirts on The Pottery Place website at https://www.thepotteryplace.biz, with proceeds going to the Facing Hunger Food Bank. Bowls and T-shirts cost $15 apiece.

“The general idea is that folks can look through and order bowls online, and through the Pottery Place’s efficient pick-up service, folks can swing by and pick up bowls or T-shirts,” said Frederick Bartolovic, an associate professor of ceramics who coordinates the Empty Bowls event each year. “Purchases will provide art to patrons and relief to the food bank, all while still complying with the stay-at-home order in effect, because of the Pottery Place’s pick-up service.”

Empty Bowls was planning its 17th annual event this year, an event which has provided over a million meals for the Facing Hunger Food Bank since its inception. Last year’s Empty Bowls event raised a record-breaking $17,995. The proceeds of each $15 bowl represent 112.5 meals served.

“The goal of all this is to help out the food bank by what we are hoping can be weekly or bi-weekly checks,” Bartolovic said. “Though it may not be the event we all look forward to every year, it is something that I hope will make a difference and continue to fight hunger in our community at large.”

Stone is a 2004 graduate of Marshall University and was part of the group of ceramics students who launched Empty Bowls 17 years ago.

“While at Marshall, I was part of the Keramos Club, the driving force behind bringing Empty Bowls to Huntington,” she said. “I was one of those students that kept my hands busy so others could keep their bellies full. How the years have changed. I am now a business-owner keeping many hands busy to keep lights on and bellies full.”

She’s impressed with how much the event has grown over the years and has loved helping out when she could. When her husband, Deacon, told her that Empty Bowls wasn’t going to happen this year, she was heartbroken.

“I remember those nights of making bowl after bowl, and doing my little part of such a good cause,” she said. “We started brainstorming about how The Pottery Place could help. I had an empty studio due to the stay-at-home order, where we only prep our Party to Go Kits to bring curbside, and employees willing to work.”

It’s a wonderful way to save a project that this year’s ceramics students had been working toward, Bartolovic said.

“In many ways, the students did not get the opportunity they usually have,” he said. “Though they got the experience of making the bowls, many students did not have the time to finish their bowls before school was shut down due to the pandemic. The other more obvious experience that they did not get to take part in was the interaction with patrons at the event. This may be the saddest part, because this is the moment where they get a sense of affirmation for all their hard work.

“I am just hoping we can find a way to finish some of the half-finished bowls in the studio right now and make another delivery to The Pottery Place so we might have a Round 2 restock, and some additional choices for our patrons, which will equal more help to the food bank.”

The Pottery Place website can be found at https://www.thepotteryplace.biz. Anyone interested in buying a bowl as part of the alternative Empty Bowls sale can scroll to the bottom of the website’s home page to find links to the sale.

The Pottery Place secured sponsorship from Edward Jones and Fifth Third Bank to cover transaction fees for online purchases.

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Photo: Marshall ceramics students, President Jerome A. Gilbert (second row, fourth from right) and Associate Professor Frederick Bartolovic (first row, right) posed with some of their bowls in progress for this year’s fundraiser benefiting Facing Hunger Food Bank.