Tennessee Tech News

Clay professor preparing for final Bowlathon before retirement

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Vince Pitelka has worked as head of the Appalachian Center for Craft’s clay department and lead Bowlathon, benefiting Habitat for Humanity, for more than 15 years. Sept. 16, 2017, will be his last before retirement.

The annual Bowlathon at the Appalachian Center for Craft is a tradition for many and for more than 15 years, head of the Craft Center’s clay department Vince Pitelka has been at the helm.

On Saturday, Sept. 16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Pitelka will lead his final iteration of the event.

"It has been an honor to conduct the Bowlathon for so many years, but I will retire at the end of the academic year, so this is my last Bowlathon at the Craft Center,” said Pitelka, “I'd love to see a record turnout and record numbers of bowls!"

During Bowlathon, volunteers wheel-throw or hand build bowls, which will be donated to Putnam County’s Habitat for Humanity to be sold at the organization’s annual Cooking on the Square fundraiser in the fall.

“My students all get in the spirit of it,” Pitelka said. “We all believe strongly in Habitat for Humanity’s mission and community involvement is something we should be conscious about.”

Volunteers with clay experience, using either wheel throwing or hand building techniques, will create bowls. Beginners can wedge clay or can help weigh balls of clay to be used that day. After the bowls are made, they will be glazed and fired so they can be sold to fundraiser attendees.

The number of bowls produced at the event each year varies, based on the number of volunteers and their level of experience, but Pitelka remembers one event that produced 1,500 bowls in a day.

“We have given it our best each year,” he said. “It is a very spirited event with people talking and making bowls and catching up with friends they haven’t seen since the year before.”

This year, Pitelka hopes to find many of his former students and friends joining him for his final Bowlathon.

Clay is provided and volunteers are provided with breakfast and lunch that day.

The Appalachian Center for Craft is located approximately six miles from Interstate 40 at exit 273 (Smithville/McMinnville). Go south on Hwy. 56; turn left immediately after crossing Hurricane Bridge. This drive leads to the Craft Center. For more information, call 931-372-3051 or visit www.tntech.edu/craftcenter/.

The 2017 Cooking on the Square will be on Friday, Oct. 27 around the courthouse in Cookeville and is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Pitelka at 931-372-6884 or wpitelka@tntech.edu with Bowlathon questions or to volunteer.