Functional pots are the arena for my ongoing study of pattern and form. My research focuses heavily on Silk Road traditions where Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures where influenced by Chinese porcelain that was being traded throughout the region from 900 AD onward. These pots have a playful innovative energy that comes from copying objects that represent wealth and status. As a kid in southwestern Virginia I saw fabric go through a similar process as it was turned into quilts. Scraps taken from old clothes were combined with store-bought fabric to create vibrant quilts that were both practical and highly decorative. This process gave the old fabrics new life as they were incorporated into the domestic life of my family. By blending floral motifs used in Appalachian quilting with the decorative language of historical ceramics, I work to create new hybrid patterns that enliven the surfaces of teapots, pitchers, and dinnerware. The forms are made from a rich terra cotta clay, which is covered in white slip before being carved and decorated with translucent glazes. Much like the Silk Road potters I attempt to elevate the status of my earthenware, giving it value through the labor of multiple layers of intense decoration. The combinations of materials and motifs mimic the colors seen in the early days of a spring garden when the cycle of growth is at its highest. I look to this verdant time in nature as a metaphor for the hopeful potential of new relationships that are formed around the dinner table when the pots are in use.
Ben Carter is a studio potter, workshop leader, and social media enthusiast based in Santa Cruz, CA. He received his BFA in ceramics/painting from Appalachian State University and his MFA in ceramics from the University of Florida. His professional experience includes being an artist-in-residence at the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Art in Asheville, NC, as well as Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, CO, the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT, and the Ceramic Research Center Guldagergaard in Skelskor, Denmark. From 2010-2012 he served as the Education Director of the Pottery Workshop in Shanghai, China. He has lectured and presented workshops at universities and craft centers in the United States, Canada, China, Australia, and New Zealand. He has exhibited internationally in numerous invitational and juried shows, and was named 2016 Ceramic Artist of the Year by "Ceramics Monthly" and "Pottery Making Illustrated." In addition to his studio work, he is the creator/host of the Tales of a Red Clay Rambler blog and podcast, where he interviews artists about their craft, creativity, and lifestyle. He is also the author of articles featured in such publications as "Ceramics Monthly" and "Studio Potter" as well as a full-length book, "Mastering the Potter’s Wheel," published by Voyageur Press in 2016. To view an online portfolio of his functional pottery please visit www.carterpottery.com.