Piedmont Artist: Ben Owen III

Ben Owen III

Ben Owen IIIBen started learning the art of pottery when he was 8 years old. Every afternoon, he would come home from school and watch his grandfather, Ben Owen, make pots. Although his grandfather had already retired as a professional potter by that time, he spent afternoons and weekends teaching his grandson how to work the clay, prepare it and turn it on a wheel.

"It was quite an experience," Ben Owen III remembers. "He was quite a mentor for me to be able to learn the basic skills of working with clay and learning to control and manage the clay and eventually make something that looked useful instead of a door stop or anchor weight."

Ben Owen III's PotteryBen's father, Ben Owen, Jr., inspired him to reopen the pottery in the 1980s, a few years before his grandfather died. From that point on, Ben's father took over where his grandfather had left off, showing his son how to work with clay. Ben's parents encouraged him to pursue a college education in addition to pottery, and Ben enrolled in East Carolina University to study color, design, carving and woodworking. He was one of the first Seagrove potters to learn the art both in a traditional setting and from formal training at a university.

"I think those things really helped me to carve the niche and style of what I do today," he said. "I still draw upon many of the shapes and forms that my grandfather and dad did."

Ben also studied abroad in Japan, Europe and Australia, adding to his repertoire of pottery culture. But he still values his place at Seagrove. "I believe Seagrove has one of the unique niches of pottery, being one of the largest concentrations of potters in the state. I think it has the unique opportunity to show that we have a wide variety of styles of pottery and continuing the heritage of our state."