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Interview with Ben Owen (Part 1), November 6, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Ben Owen (Part 1), November 6, 2003
Date:
November 6, 2003
Description:
Ben Owen, a potter based in Sea Grove, North Carolina, was raised with his hands in clay. After learning the essentials from his grandfather, he studied ceramics at East Carolina University and abroad in Japan. Today, he owns a pottery studio and shop, where he operates a wood kiln. In this interview, Owen discusses his techniques, influences, and goals, while his wife, Lori Ann, recalls their courtship, marriage, and birth of their two daughters.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Owen, Ben (Part One) Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman / Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  11/6/2003 Series:  Arts Length  55 minutes

 

Sherman Hayes: With that signature, that gives us permission to transcribe this. And that’s kind of how were at as far as seriousness goes. Turning on. Okay. This is Sherman Hayes, University Librarian at UNCW in Wilmington. Today we’re interviewing Ben Owen. And what’s the actual city address here Ben? Is this Sea Grove?

Ben Owen: Well we’re in- well we’re part of the Sea Grove- Sea Grove area. [crew talk]

Sherman Hayes: And coming down now is Paul Zarbock, also from the university. And our guest analyst today is?

Taylor Haines: Taylor Haines.

Sherman Hayes: Taylor?

Taylor Haines: Taylor Haines.

Sherman Hayes: Taylor Haines. Thank you. [crew talk]

Sherman Hayes: And we’re going to informally today get a sense of the potter’s role and process from Ben. Okay, so what you were saying is I could point this in and hope it doesn’t burn out.

Ben Owen: I won’t be able to say anything right now, but uhm..

Sherman Hayes: Whew. [sound of shoveling]

Ben Owen: I’ll take this out. [sound of shoveling] It’s bricks expanded because of the heat. You can probably see. I wouldn’t get it too close.

Sherman Hayes: Well actually we’re looking here and this is just a kiln, this is what-- after you’ve thrown the pot and applied the glaze?

Ben Owen: Yeah the- the whole batch of pots in this firing are uhm.. work that I’ve done over the past two weeks, and from there uh.. they go through a drying cycle. Then we actually fire them for the first firing in- in the electric kilns, and..

Sherman Hayes: Okay.

Ben Owen: ..this is where I’m bisk firing them. And then from there we glaze them uh.. depending on what kind of finish we want. And then we load them in the kiln. And we would just walk straight through this whole area becomes on brick and we can walk through, it’s just a channel to get in there. And then we load the kiln from the back to the front. And then we uh.. prepare the fire box in there with a grate system where air can come up through the..

Sherman Hayes: Uh-huh.

Ben Owen: ..block and supply air to the- to the fire. And then we brick up the door and then we just have this door on a counter weight..

Sherman Hayes: Oh..

Ben Owen: ..where we can open it and then we can, as you’ll see in a minute, when we throw the wood in.

Sherman Hayes: And what kind of temperature? You’ve got a little device up here, is that your temperature right there?

Ben Owen: Yeah. It’s- it’s you know..

Sherman Hayes: Close.

Ben Owen: ..off a little bit. It’s actually a little bit warmer then that.

Sherman Hayes: Uh-huh.

Ben Owen: And uhm.. we’re-- our goal is to reach around twenty-four hundred degrees Fahrenheit. But it’s about twenty-three f- fifty. Twenty-three twenty-five, twenty-three fifty right now.

Sherman Hayes: And I see behind you all your wood. Is this oak mainly? Or what do you burn in there?

Ben Owen: Mixed hardwood just uh.. from the local sawmill and- and we take the mixed hardwood and we cut it. It comes about eight feet long and we just cut it with a chainsaw in half, and- and from there we’ll just let it season under the shelter here for anywhere from six months to a year, depending on how- how green the wood is. And then we uh.. we used the mixed hardwood all the way up to, well in this case, this firing, we use up to over twenty-two hundred degrees, and we’re still using some. ‘Cause the hardwood burns longer, it doesn’t get quite as hot compared to pine..

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: ..or a softwood, but- but we use the pine just to kind of give it more of a nudge. The rosin in the wood uh.. it-- and it burns up a lot quicker, so it gives a little quicker burst of heat compared to uh.. hardwood. So we mix it up, and I think that’s the best balance. It’s kind of like uh.. mixing chocolate and peanut butter I guess [laugh]. You know, it gives a little more enhanced flavor I guess.

Sherman Hayes: Now are you actually logging each time the success at temperatures and so forth? Are you trying to keep kind of a historical sense, or is it more spontaneous each time?

Ben Owen: Well we keep records and we keep notes of, you know, kind roughly how the- the firing has gone. And uh.. you know, its- its an approximate thing, but, I mean, it- it’s just like loading the kiln and- and unloading the kiln, it’s always beneficial to take some photographs. I mean, digital cameras have helped so much..

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: ..in that sense now. And I actually video tape and see where certain pots are coming out of the kiln. So next time-- and you can’t keep everything up here in this database and know exactly where it all goes.

Sherman Hayes: [laughs]

Ben Owen: But uhm.. if you- if-- most of the time, if you do it frequent enough, but some of the glazes we only do two to three times a year. So you have to uh.. refresh your memory no matter how many times you done it.

Sherman Hayes: Now this is a very large kiln, is it not? Or are there bigger ones that you’ve seen around?

Ben Owen: Well, this kiln has been in our family, this- this-- we've used for three generations and we’ve just rebuilt it in the same location that my grandfather and my dad had it here. But- but we use it and it’s- it’s kind of a medium size. I mean, we’ve added the- the kiln on the back.

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: Which we don’t have any pottery in it today. But- but that’s the nice versatility about a kiln like this, or our other wood kiln, that you can look at in a minute. But it’s-- this kiln..

Sherman Hayes: All right. So is that a separate kiln, or a continuation?

Ben Owen: It’s connected and it all leads to the chimney. So you actually piggyback a firing, and then from there you can use the excess energy to preheat the next chamber. So you don’t have to start room temperature.

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: So it’s- it’s a technique that was used in China and Japan and- and in Korea too. But uh.. they would build what’s called a hill climbing kiln. And so they would build chambers on a hill and because heat rises, it would just flow into all the up, and eventually reach to the chimney. So in the same sense with this, before this kiln was just a one chamber and it had a chimney behind it. But we thought “Well, lets add another kiln on the back.” We can fire two different types of glazes if we chose to do so, and then we could have more variety coming out of one firing. Well that kiln on the back, we used it for salt glaze for many years, and it’s really deteriorating now because the salt will eat it up just like salt will eat up a car.

Sherman Hayes: Now what is salt glaze? Help us with what-- that's a technical term, right? Salt?

Ben Owen: Well let me uh.. throw a bit of wood in here..

Sherman Hayes: Oh, do your- do.

Ben Owen: ..and then I’ll explain. Give you a better idea of it. But you can see the pyrometric cones? Those little pointed uh.. cones in there, and that’s what actually tells more of an accurate temperature in the kiln. [crackling sound of fire]

Sherman Hayes: Whew. Now how many pieces would be an efficient number to justify putting all this work together?

Ben Owen: Well we’ve got about 160 pieces in this firing and [sound of shoveling] uhm.. I like to fire at least, well, I really don’t like to go by numbers.

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: I go by the space that’s filled because some of the bigger pots, one big pot will be equivalent to ten or 15 smaller pots.

Sherman Hayes: Right. Good point. That’s a good point.

Ben Owen: So I- I think you have to realize that at the same time. But uhm.. but roughly, I mean, the fewest pieces I’ve ever had in there are maybe 50 pieces.

Sherman Hayes: All right.

Ben Owen: But uhm.. to answer your question a while ago about the salt glaze, a salt glaze process was developed in Germany in the late 14th, early 15th century. And a lot of people have asked, “Well how did they know how to throw salt in there? Why didn’t they throw sugar in there or pepper or whatever?” So uhm..

Sherman Hayes: Maybe they did.

Ben Owen: Well, yeah, maybe they did do that. So, you know, if we could only go back in time and ask them the questions, well. You know, as-- just like anything handed down information, but uh.. but I think the most logical explanation probably is that first they fired the kilns with wood. And they probably were gathering wood from whatever source they had available, and they probably got some barrels, which was common in some of the areas where they would have the saltwater fish brought in. And so the salt or salt brine would get into the wood and when they threw the wood into the kiln, then the salt brine would affect the- the pots. So they probably discovered it in that fashion. At least what people have indicated. The researchers have.

Sherman Hayes: Paul’s dad came over from Germany, and he’s from Northern Wisconsin, but was pottery a big deal at all in that? Culturally you didn’t?

Paul Zarbock: No.

Sherman Hayes: Yeah. Just curious.

Ben Owen: But uhm.. but the- to complete the process of salt glaze, today what we do is we heat the kiln up to set- s uh.. set desired temperature like we have right now.

Sherman Hayes: Uh-huh.

Ben Owen: And then from there, we can begin to throw ordinary table salt in the kiln. We buy it with a 25, 50 pound bag. I mean, as- as you can see here, we’ve got like a 25 pound bag there. And-- but what you-- when you throw the salt in, it- it melts and it becomes a molten kind of lava, but then that, because of the temperature you have to take it up to, to make it melt thoroughly and become a vapor. So really it’s the vapor. Uh.. in the old times, when they would salt, they would throw the salt in literally over the top of the pots, over the archway, and you had to be careful doing that because you could-- you had to place your pots in the kiln, and if you put a bowl underneath there you’re going to fill up the bowl with salt..

Sherman Hayes: With salt.

Ben Owen: ..and it won’t complete melt out of the-- and it’ll mess up the glaze if you’ve got glaze on the inside already. So we throw it in the fire box today and the- the fumes will go over it and- and the- the sodium and the salt unites with the silica in the clay and the more you put in the kiln, it develops kind of an orange peel texture. It’s just the reaction it has with the silica. And it was a- it- it was and is still today, a very durable surface to use for-- they would use it for pickling or, you know, or-- and the salt wasn’t really, you know, affected pickling in a sense, but uhm.. they would make containers for pickling or kraut or..

Sherman Hayes: Yeah. Well I take it that that chemical then started to eat away on the inside of your whole uhm..

Ben Owen: Yeah. I mean, it- it eats up metal. You can see my roof up there where over the years of salting the kiln, the metal has started to rust, but..

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: You know, it- it’s just a byproduct of it. A- a lot of people ask, “Well why fire with salt when it really-- the kiln doesn’t last as long?” Well it’s- it’s been just a technique that we’ve enjoyed and we love the finish and- and there’s a lot of things you can do with it, it’s really versatile. You can apply glazes to the surface, and then you can let the salt act as kind of like the bleach. Like Clorox would a pigment in cloth, or you know, clothing. So uhm.. it’s just a technique that’s really given a wider pallet of things you can do and ex- explore just like a painter on a canvas using pigment or other materials to- to uh.. build up the surface or take away from it.

Sherman Hayes: Now what time did you put these pots in? Earlier this afternoon, correct?

Ben Owen: No, we loaded yesterday and we started the firing about seven o’clock yesterday evening, and we fired overnight. I had different people on different shifts last night, and uhm.. and one local fella, he’s helped me for many years firing in the early stages and then uh.. one of the guys that helping us build the house, he watched it for three hours while I slept. I slept for about five hours from about nine o’clock ‘til two.

Sherman Hayes: God.

Ben Owen: Then I took over at two o’clock and fire ‘til about 8:30, and then Taylor came and- and he’s taken over the firing and he’s been firing it until lunchtime and then we’ve just been coming, shifting back and forth and, but Taylor always likes to..

Sherman Hayes: Taylor what?

Ben Owen: ..do some carving or..

Sherman Hayes: Now when he’s talking about taking over and doing the firing, that’s continually putting in wood to keep that fire at kind of a-- within a range of temperatures?

Taylor Haines: No. We’re actually, when I was over here, it was at a lower temperature and we began to raise the temperature. And the- the hours that I was with him, I was actually raising the temperature until we’d reached a maximum, which is about where we are now. And when Ben came back after his nap, we pretty much had it the [inaudible].

Sherman Hayes: And you don’t want that to shoot up too quickly?

Taylor Haines: That’s right. So you kind of manage it. [crew talk]

Sherman Hayes: Whew. [crew talk]

Sherman Hayes: Those are great. Now the people that are doing the electric stuff, they are trying to not have any ash, I mean that’s part of the process, right? Go ahead and do your thing, yeah.

Ben Owen: I’ve got to open the door again shortly. You can come down here and you’ll be able to take a look and you just kneel down and you’ll go-- you'll be able to see the pots.

Sherman Hayes: Okay.

Ben Owen: So just don’t go any further then the orange board. So I’ll put my line here where you can’t go any further.

Sherman Hayes: [laughs] Oops. I’d better get back.

Ben Owen: No, you’re right there.

Sherman Hayes: Very interesting. Just for a minute. You have to bend down.

Woman 1: You do?

Sherman Hayes: Yep.

Ben Owen: Just kneel down.

Woman 1: Oh my, it’s so hot down here.

Ben Owen: And if you could-- however you want to step down, you can step down there.

Ben Owen: Ready?

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Woman 1: [inaudible] Amy, can you see in there?

Woman 2: Uh-huh.

Sherman Hayes: Look now.

Woman 2: Uh-huh. Oh my god. Wow.

Woman 1: Oh my goodness.

Woman 2: Uh-huh. That is some heat. Check this out.

Woman 1: How long do they stay in there?

Ben Owen: Uh.. they’ll be in here ‘til Saturday morning.

Woman 1: Saturday morning?

Ben Owen: Yeah, we’ll finish the firing-- by five o’clock Saturday.

Woman 2: Uh-huh. And how many things do you have in there?

Ben Owen: Uhm.. a little over a 150 pieces.

Woman 2: Uh-huh. Is that right.

Ben Owen: Well it just depends on the size of the piece. You know, based on what consumes the space. And we make, you know, larger and then medium and then smaller things. Kind a- kind a like packing your trunk, you’ve gotta- gotta get everything to fit in there in a certain way.

Woman 1: Now where does the- where’s the color come in? Do you-- will this put a particular-- are you doing a certain color in their now?

Ben Owen: Well it actually does both. You actually do the firing and you get color from the firing process, and that’s from the smoke and the flame and then the actual wood ash, like the, you know, off the coals, and just floats over and sticks to the pots at the end of the firing. It’s actually happening about the whole time, but that wood ash will affect. Like in this firing, we’ll have some of them come out somewhat similar to this, maybe a little different color, but the ash will accumulate then it will melt. On the side that has the salt will uh.. you know, give more of the color. We throw ordinary table salt in there.

Woman 1: Is that what you’re using?

Ben Owen: Yeah. We just have some here we’ll put in at the very end.

Woman 2: Uh-huh. What does salt do?

Ben Owen: And that gives the, you know, orange peel texture because the sodium in the salt unites with the silica in the clay, and the more you put in there, you can see where it’s thinner there, and that was the front side where it’s facing the flame there. And where the salt came from. ‘Cause it’s a cross draft, everything goes in one direction instead of it being hit from all different directions like other kilns we have. So uh.. you have more of a, you know, one side will look one way, then the back side looks different. And the same thing with this pot here, this pot had no glaze applied to it at all. This was fired in our new wood kiln, but this was fired for uh.. almost four days for the process. And I’ll show you the front side. This was the front of the pot, and that was the back, and you see more of the warmer tones are usually away from the flame, but the- the ash tends to overcoat it, or overlap it. And you can actually see some crystals, and that was titanium in the wood, or it maybe some impurities in the clay. And those literally grew as a natural crystal in the firing ‘cause we held it there for two days at peak temperature.

So uhm.. you- you can get a lot of colors just from the natural clay without putting a glaze on the surface at all. And you let the kiln and its-- enhance that color at the same time. And then up..

Man 1: [inaudible] is kept going ‘til Saturday morning?

Ben Owen: No, no. We’ll finish up about five o’clock. We’re just- we’ve been at temperature since about lunchtime, so we’re just soaking and holding it here at temperature for the next several hours. And that way it assures that everything has melded thoroughly, it’s- it’s bonded to the surface well and- and just as good measure. You know, it’s kind like, you know, you don’t want to bake the cake real fast, you wanna make sure the inside gets uh.. baked as well, so. But I brought this pot out here too to kind of show-- like this was uh.. this side was facing the flame, it actually got a little hotter there, so it bleached out some of the color. And this was actually a glaze applied to the surface before we put it in the kiln. And it’s a copper pigment, and that was the backside. So usually where the flame hits it, it will wash it out sometimes. So it’s hard to get every piece to come out solid. Some places in there you see are, you know, all solid and uniform color on it, and other ones are washed out. But I like the ones that have more then one personality.

But some people still like the, you know. And I tell people if they want a pot to come out exactly the same, solid and all around, you’ve got to go up to Walmart, so. You know, it’s a, you know, it’s handmade, it’s one of kind, so you, you know, that’s what we try to emphasize on.

Sherman Hayes: My goodness Ben, you’re popular today. [sounds of people leaving]

Sherman Hayes: Is this someone I should meet?

Ben Owen: Sherman, this is my wife, Lori Ann.

Sherman Hayes: Hi.

Ben Owen: Sherman Hayes from university Wilmington.

Sherman Hayes: Good to see you.

Lori Ann Owen: Nice to have you here.

Sherman Hayes: Thank you.

Ben Owen: Paul..

Lori Ann Owen: Really honored.

Sherman Hayes: Paul Zarbock.

Lori Ann Owen: ..that’s coming from your direction.

Sherman Hayes: Yes, well we hope it’s an honor, but you make of it what you like.

Lori Ann Owen: Well it is.

Ben Owen: Paul, this is my wife, Lori Ann.

Paul Zarbock: Hi.

Lori Ann Owen: Hi Paul.

Paul Zarbock: I’m Paul Zarbock.

Lori Ann Owen: Glad to have you here.

Paul Zarbock: [inaudible]

Lori Ann Owen: Well, okay, they’re both napping right now.

Sherman Hayes: Oh good. They’re okay?

Lori Ann Owen: Yeah. I believe they're going to make it.

Paul Zarbock: That’s the thing about children, they’re dying one minute, the next [inaudible].

Lori Ann Owen: That’s very true. That’s very true.

Sherman Hayes: I’m hoping that you’ll be able to come out in February.

Ben Owen: If you want to come now and take a look inside the kiln, if you’ll just stay on that side of the orange board.

Sherman Hayes: Does this happen all the time?

Ben Owen: Uh.. maybe just a group of you at a time.

Sherman Hayes: Do people just come in from town?

Ben Owen: And uh.. you can see..

Sherman Hayes: Which is great. That’s—- we were talking to some people about one of the dilemmas for the fine, fine artist, is that they work by themselves, and then they sell their product. They don’t create a physical process that people find fascinating. And so the artist..

Lori Ann Owen: It’s not the case here.

Sherman Hayes: No, but for any of them. I mean, anybody who can handle someone seeing the creative process, all of sudden adds value to the visitor.

Lori Ann Owen: Oh certainly. And I think uh.. I mean there are people who come in who’ve never been here before. And if Ben is on the wheel, we’ll say, “Well go on out and watch him.” Well they’ve made a once over of the shop and didn’t see anything, you know.

Sherman Hayes: Yeah. Right.

Lori Ann Owen: They’re not a buyer. And they come out here and they spend 20 minutes in awe watching him, and they come back in and buy a pot. So, you know, it creates a customer.

Sherman Hayes: Oops, I’m sorry. We’re way in the back. And as soon as he throws that log in, there they go.

Lori Ann Owen: Yeah, there goes the smoke.

Sherman Hayes: We’re trying to just get some video record of who he is so that we have more of a historic record.

Lori Ann Owen: Good.

Sherman Hayes: What we found was that the living treasures, the people that were selected..

Man 2: That cone thing way, way in the back, is that one of those things that melts and tells you it’s at the right level?

Ben Owen: What, the pyrometric cones? Yeah. They’re like these. That’s how we tell more accurate temperature. And they’re made out of specific clay and- and a _____________ and they melt at that exact temperature. So it’s more accurate to go buy one of these than the- the temperature gauge up there. We use the temperature to know the rise and fall. But this tells you how the heat is working on the pots and the actual temperature [inaudible] by how it’s melted.

Sherman Hayes: That is so interesting.

Lori Ann Owen: It’s such a fascinating process. I’ve been around for six and half years and I’m still in awe of it.

Sherman Hayes: Have you tried your hand at this too?

Lori Ann Owen: Oh yeah. I’ve sold some of my pots.

Sherman Hayes: Oh great.

Lori Ann Owen: Uhm.. then we started having children, and I haven’t gotten back to it like I would like to. But uhm..

Sherman Hayes: Do you still have any for sale?

Lori Ann Owen: Oh yeah. Well, I don’t have any for sale, they’re all sold.

Sherman Hayes: Oh rats.

Lori Ann Owen: Yeah.

Sherman Hayes: Well think of us. Next time you do some, think of us. Because wouldn’t that be a nice addition to our collection to have one from you and one from him?

Lori Ann Owen: Wonderful.

Sherman Hayes: I mean that’s..

Lori Ann Owen: There was a uhm.. a article in Bon Appetite last month about this area and Ben was in it. And uh.. someone came in with the article and said uh.. “I heard that you made these pots.” And there’s a picture of my pots in there.

Sherman Hayes: Oh yeah.

Lori Ann Owen: I was very honored.

Sherman Hayes: Now did you, did you know him at ECU? He went to ECU or not?

Lori Ann Owen: I met him at Pfeiffer when he was a freshman.

Sherman Hayes: I don’t know where that is, I’m sorry.

Lori Ann Owen: Pfeiffer University is between Admiral and Salisbury on Highway 52.

Sherman Hayes: Okay.

Lori Ann Owen: It’s a Methodist college. And that’s where I was in college and he was in college the freshman year.

Sherman Hayes: And then what did he do? Transfer to ECU?

Lori Ann Owen: He transferred to ECU the next year.

Sherman Hayes: Well, and we’re pointing out to people the fact that for UNCW to give a special award to somebody, you know a background from ECU is a very [laughs]..

Lori Ann Owen: Oh, this is a big step.

Sherman Hayes: [laughs]

Lori Ann Owen: Uh-ha.

Sherman Hayes: I mean, he has to be really good..

Lori Ann Owen: Very deserving.

Sherman Hayes: ..from ECU to get something from UNCW.

Lori Ann Owen: I can see that. Yeah.

Sherman Hayes: They use to be in our athletic conference and it was really, you know, peers.

Lori Ann Owen: Big rivalry.

Sherman Hayes: But they moved on to kind of a much bigger level. But there is that, we’re both on the east side of the state..

Lori Ann Owen: Right.

Sherman Hayes: ..and we compete for the same students.

Lori Ann Owen: Sure.

Sherman Hayes: So many times if they don’t come to our place, they go there and vice versa. So it’s a friendly rivalry.

Lori Ann Owen: Sure.

Sherman Hayes: In fact, we always end up having people back and forth, so I don’t think it’s that bad.

Lori Ann Owen: I used to work..

Sherman Hayes: In fact, our new Chancellor was the Dean of Arts and Sciences for seven years out at Western Carolina University.

Lori Ann Owen: Oh yeah, that’s where my brother went. Yeah.

Sherman Hayes: So we obviously don’t hold any..

Lori Ann Owen: Absolutely not. You’re really all one big system [inaudible].

Sherman Hayes: That’s right. And Doctor Leutze, the Chancellor of Americas, was just a very, very popular professor at Chapel Hill.

Lori Ann Owen: Oh, I see.

Sherman Hayes: So gee, I guess we don’t [inaudible]. Man you guys get a lot of traffic here, don’t you? Is this a truck route? I mean, that’s a lot of trucks I’ve seen.

Ben Owen: Oh, you mean commercial?

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: Yeah, there’s a lot more uh.. it’s been a short cut for a lot of people coming through this area and they go on down to Southern Pine that way, or down to Robin [ph?].

Sherman Hayes: So tell me a little history here about this kind of process of the world coming to visit you while you work. Is that okay? I mean, you do great with it, you’re kind of an educator, a pottery educator, but is that the case with most of the potters in the region now? It kind of comes with the territory that you talk?

Ben Owen: Well I- I think it’s something it-- where it began for me was with my grandfather and my dad and uhm.. I’ll never forget, we had the- the old studio where our new studio is, we’ve replaced the old one in recent years, but uhm.. I would throw pots back there when we first reopened the pottery. And- and uh.. my grandfather and my dad would start sending people back there after we’d opened the doors and started selling pots again. So I would always try to find an excuse to go and- and go do something or whatever when I saw customers come. I didn’t want to be on the wheel ‘cause I was kind of nervous to throw in front of ‘em. To make a pillar or whatever.

Sherman Hayes: Do you mean at 10 and 11 you were doing?

Ben Owen: I was about 12, 13 years old then.

Sherman Hayes: 12, yeah okay.

Ben Owen: But- but uhm.. it-- and my grandfather and my dad told me, they said, “You’re gonna have to get used to working and- and showing, you know show people about the work because they want to know what it’s about, and you know, the process that goes into it and- and uh.. to really finish it.” I’ll throw some more wood in.

Sherman Hayes: Go ahead.

Ben Owen: And I think over time my- my grandfather told me, you know, you’re gonna- you’re gonna make mistakes on the wheel, you’re gonna, you know, not every pot’s going to be successful on the wheel, so even if you’ve got somebody there watching you on the wheel, or uh.. you know, somebody asking you a question when it’s the difficult part of making the pot, you just do the best you can and uh.. if you mess up, then just grab another piece of clay and start over. Because its, you know, you’re only human. You can’t expect to make every single pot perfect. But uhm..

Sherman Hayes: Well plus the fact you put the pot in the fire, you’re gambling on what it’s gonna come out then too, right?

Ben Owen: Well the destiny of, you know, what’s gonna happen with that pot after the- the whole series of chapters that it goes through. You know, from preparing the clay to, you know, throwing it, to drying it, to firing it the first time, the glazing and then putting it in here and then-- you know, as I was telling that uh.. the- One of the visitors that we just had recently, he was asking me, “Well how do you feel after a kiln comes out? I mean are- are there bad times when, you know, things don’t turn out?” I said “Well, what we call it is a post firing depression.”

Sherman Hayes: Oh god.

Ben Owen: So it’s kinda, you know, you never know what’s gonna turn out and, you know, it could be a bad day, or it could be a good day. But you- you celebrate the good days and- and you take the- the days that are not as fortunate and- and uhm.. you know, learn from them.

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: And- and just like anything in life and..

Sherman Hayes: Well were both your father and grandfather outgoing people? Did they enjoy those crowds that came by, or did they have to train themselves to kind of become a teacher?

Ben Owen: I- I think they both, I mean, they had their own unique way of uh.. you know, reading the public. And my dad loved it, to greet the public, because he uh.. you know, his c- famous thing or people would ask him, they’d say, “Well what is your job?” They would ask my dad..

Sherman Hayes: [coughs]

Ben Owen: ..you know, “What- what’s your take? What do you normally do around here?” And it’s like, “Well I wrap up the pottery and take the money.”

Sherman Hayes: [laughs]

Ben Owen: So it’s kind of, you know, that was his, he’d talk to them and, you know. And uhm.. he’d give ‘em some history and then show, you know, the technique and stuff and then I fill in wherever I need to as far as, you know, show them about the pots or whatever I’m doing at the time. But my grandfather too, I mean, he- he was quite a character. I mean, he was a jokester. He was always uh.. you know, he always found something humorous, anything you did and it had some sense, but uhm.. but he was, I mean, both of them were great mentors to me as far as learning and- and uh.. about not only the process, and how to make a good pot and uhm..

Sherman Hayes: Now have you seen a change in the sense that, you know, we just had a busload go through here. Is that a more recent phenomenon where you really have, you know, busloads of folks? Or maybe it’s always been that way. I don’t know if you?

Ben Owen: No, we’ve had tour groups all along the way and- and more in recent years. I think there’ve been more because Sea Grove has been a- a point of destination for- for groups to come because they uh.. learn and hear about the area and they want to know more about the- the pottery. What’s going on today and then what’s been going on in the past, and so they can go visit North Carolina Pottery Centre, and then they can go visit the individual potteries, and- and that’s really the foundation of this area. So you have tour groups come from everyone, from churches to universities, to art students, to uhm.. other countries. They come from research triangles, from Charlotte, Mecklenburg, and Piedmont triad. And putters too. You know, they come and play golf and..

Sherman Hayes: Oh do they? Oh that’s right.

Ben Owen: And they could be, you know, they can go either way. A lot of people think, “Well the men are playing golf, and the women come up here and pottery shop.” Well there’ve been groups that have basically come up here where the men come up and pottery shop and the women go off and golf. So I guess they take turns or whatever.

Sherman Hayes: As long as they come to the pottery shop.

Ben Owen: Yeah.

Sherman Hayes: That’s the key. That’s great.

Ben Owen: But you never know. I mean the-- some of those people that are in those groups, there’s- there’s kind of like a seed. You know you- you give them information and uhm.. and a little bit about the area and- and they, a lot of them come back. I see some of those group, “Well we were with that group from such and such place, and we decided to bring our family back and- and come and spend a weekend and go to the North Carolina Zoo and- and see the- see the area.”

Sherman Hayes: Well I think part of it, I was talking to your wife about the fact that the fine artist, the painter and the water colorist, in many ways is a solitary process. It doesn’t have to be, but people don’t seek out seeing that artist in action.

Ben Owen: Yeah.

Sherman Hayes: Particularly for the potter, which has both individual, I don’t know, what would you say? Your own individual creativity, and then almost a technological process that you get to go through to make it happen. People are interested in that process. I don’t know if I would go and watch somebody paint. Maybe it would be all right.

Ben Owen: Well I j- I- I think there are a lot of things that work well in that- in those instant- instances where, you know, you need the time to work on a painting because you’re not gonna see a lot of progression in it, and it takes time to build up the canvas or, you know, even a uh.. a basket maker or a weaver or the sort, but uhm.. I think that with pottery, you know, what’s so surprising for some people when they see a pot made on the wheel, is uh.. how fast the forming of a pot can be. You know, that’s-- you- you make a pot in a- a short time frame when in actuality it takes more time to uh.. do the- all the other steps to really complete the pot.

Sherman Hayes: Yes.

Ben Owen: So, uhm.. it’s like a glass maker, you know, in a sense is a little different too because they can form and fashion the glass, but then they have to go through a whole cooling process to keep it from cracking or causing structural problems in the glass. But..

Sherman Hayes: Where to you is the most creative point in the whole process? Is there one more so then another, or do you just view it as a whole?

Ben Owen: Well I think it’s all uhm.. all important as far as the creative process. Because without uh.. it- it’s just like writing a book. You know, you- you read all the chapters and then why leave off the last chapter or, you know, where it tells the summation or the, you know, the ending in the book or the work would be a complete surprise or it’s just a- a summary of everything that’s gone on in the previous chapters. But uhm.. in the sense of making a pot, you go through all these chapters from, like I described earlier, the- the, you know, gathering of the clay, the preparation, the mixing of it. Uh.. the making of it, the drying, you know, handling, trimming, carving, decorating or whatever, and then the first firing and then the second firing and uhm.. and then the end product. And really the finished product is someone enjoying using it at home, is the last chapter of it. Uhm..

Sherman Hayes: Which you don’t really get to always see. I guess you probably have seen some of them in someone’s home, but I’m saying most of them are..

Ben Owen: You know, I mean uh.. I- I go and visit some and-- or I see in different places.

Sherman Hayes: Good.

Ben Owen: But uhm.. you know, my wife and I, we talk about on Christmas morning, we think about, “Well I wonder how many people, you know, actually opened up a present this morning that- that uh.. had one of our pots in there and how they were, you know, what were the questions about it?” Well, you know, did they know me already or were they, you know, they didn’t anything about my work, or, you know, that kind of stuff. And then how they-- whether they liked it or the color or the design of it. So it’s always interesting to know those responses and what they are. And- and I hear a lot of those in the following weeks afterwards. You know, like, “Well I got one of your pots for Christmas and I want to add this,” or whatever to it, or whatever. You know, they come in and ask for some more, or “I want to learn some more. Can you show me how you make a pot on the wheel?” And..

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: And from that point on. But I like- I think I like all the steps. I- I- there are some that I like greater then others, but uhm.. the- the throwing and doing the detailed work like that, and the firing are probably my two. As well as, you know, getting to know people and..

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: You know, and what- what they like or what they- what they find unique about what we do and-- so you- you learn a lot and, it’s not just in the sense of being a potter and I’m going to make whatever I want to make.

Sherman Hayes: Right.

Ben Owen: Well, I try to make a balance out of and make pots that people enjoy uh.. using or for decoration or actual for functionality. Uh..

Sherman Hayes: You consider yourself a practical potter, then, in the sense of..

Ben Owen: Well.

Sherman Hayes: Although not..

Ben Owen: I- I’m not gonna be static, but I’m-- at the same time I’m gonna- I’m gonna experiment and try some new things. And, you know, there are a lot of influences, and I’m just like artists in other media as well. I mean they’re always drawing from different things and the recent thing in the recent years for me has been uh.. things from nature. And- and we’re always, I mean of course the clay comes from the ground and the- and the earth and the fire and the water, I mean that’s all I need in a biblical sense, but also, you know, how you put it all together to make a rock. You know, you take this clay that was once a rock or a molten uh.. lava, and then going from there and- and then turning it back into a rock, you know, in your own fashion. But how you create it and what style and what color you put on it, and those things are, I think when you look at things in nature, there are a lot of things to draw from, and that’s what I’ve been doing in recent years. Whether it’s things in the garden, or uh.. things that I’ll see at the coast. I mean, I’m always in- interested in types of shells or, you know, like crab shell or different things like that.

Sherman Hayes: Well I think you’re wife said you come over to the coast of North Carolina quiet often? Not enough I’m sure. But where do you come to?

Ben Owen: We got to Sunset.

Sherman Hayes: Sun Beach, yeah.

Ben Owen: Sunset down from uh.. Wilmington, and- and uhm.. but we like going there because-- well now with a family, a one-year-old and three-year-old, they- they have fun on the beach.

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: But I have my fun too out there. And it’s kind like a humungous sand box. So it’s..

Sherman Hayes: [laughs]

Ben Owen: You know, you- you have your place to play, and..

Sherman Hayes: And you know you have a lot of raw material that’s not gonna go away there, right?

Ben Owen: Yeah. Yeah. So I’m always on the search for different types of shells or unique things. Uh.. just like Taylor when he goes and- goes on hikes or different places, he’s actually gone and researched some places where he’s identified all of the wildflowers, even some for the state that haven’t even been able to identify.

Sherman Hayes: Is that right?

Ben Owen: So, you know, it’s always in the same sense. You know, you’re- you’re looking for something that’s unique or different.

Sherman Hayes: Right.

Ben Owen: And- and uhm.. how it can inspire you, whether you’re actually using your work, or you think about the, you know, the structural makeup.

Sherman Hayes: Yeah. And in a word, formally asking you philosophize and it’s not necessary. It’s internalized, right? In other words, you’re talking to us about it, but at the same time I think any artist is changing as their outside world changes.

Ben Owen: Yeah. You know, people ask me, “What- what is your goal 15 years from now? What do you want to be doing?” I say, “Well, I have some ideas of things I want to work on, but uhm.. I can’t tell you exactly what I’ll be doing. [sound of door closing] I mean, other then I hope to still continue to be working in clay.”

Sherman Hayes: Yeah. And you’re voluntarily placed. I mean your roots are here and you feel strongly about this part of the country.

Ben Owen: Well, I’ve had- some people have asked, “Well you could have set up a studio in lots of different places, so why did you set up in Sea Grove, other then just the- the simple fact that your family’s been here and you have a strong tradition?” Well I- I think the latter is the most important because of what people know of our family. But at the same time uhm.. the foundation that my grandfather and my dad left here and working in clay, that how I’ve been able to have some freedom to take it on a- a different direction, or you know, keep some of the things that we’ve done in our family, but add my own style and design, whether it’s from influence from being in college, or uh.. overseas in Japan or visiting other countries. So uhm..

Sherman Hayes: Well I hate to put this on the tape, but where did you go to college?

Ben Owen: Well I went to East Carolina University.

Sherman Hayes: Oh, ouch. [laughs]

Ben Owen: And it was a rival for you guys at Wilmington. But uh.. we-- I did look at UNC Wilmington, but uhm..

Sherman Hayes: They have a great school there. Did they have a fairly large faculty in your area that you wanted to do?

Ben Owen: They have a very- a very good uh.. program in ceramics..

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: ..and all kinds of other media too. So I felt like for what I needed, I really needed to go somewhere where I could do my research and study in that sense. But uhm.. I had taken chemistry and other things. I actually went to college at Pfeiffer College, but now it’s Pfeiffer University. By attending there, I did a lot of the basics, and I took a lot of chemistry ‘cause I knew that would be uhm.. something I could always use in- in this field. And so I took that and used that when I went to East Carolina..

Sherman Hayes: Now then..

Ben Owen: ..and did a lot of glaze research and color.

Sherman Hayes: Now did ECU have kind of a fine art bias? I mean, you know, more of a sculptural bias? Or were they comfortable with more a traditional pottery emphasis? Or maybe they didn’t care.

Ben Owen: They had a good balance.

Sherman Hayes: Did they? Good.

Ben Owen: And I- I think that’s one of the things that- that drew me there was uh.. the whole concept of, you know, I could have influence from both sides. And, you know, how could looking at sculptural work or, you know, things in the sculpture department or whether it’s in clay.

Sherman Hayes: Yeah.

Ben Owen: Sculptural or uh.. the painting department. You know, how could I take something from a painting class and use it uh.. as an implement in my work.

Sherman Hayes: Good.

Ben Owen: And- and really uh.. think about how it can enhance my work or take it in a different direction. So I- I think that what they had to offer really-- and being close to my home studio here had a big difference.

Sherman Hayes: Yeah. [Break in audio]

Lori Ann Owen: Well don’t start yet, ‘cause I want to finish my history of Pfeiffer. [laughs]

Paul Zarbock: Okay.

Lori Ann Owen: ‘Cause I do love the school. [crew talk]

Lori Ann Owen: In 1885, in the mountains as a school, a grade school [baby noises] off limits, so girls could come and black kids could come. And uhm.. the mountain folks weren’t real happy about the black kids coming, and some of them weren’t happy about the girls, and her school was repeatedly burned down in the middle of the night. And eventually she, at her wits end, got her children and herself on the train and headed toward the Piedmont, and got out in Misenheimer Springs because that’s, she was a smart lady, that’s where uhm.. rich northern folks came to vacation in the hot springs. So it was a resort of s- sorts in the late 1800s. And she stopped there and was an excellent fundraiser and raised money and uh.. started her school back up. And as the public schools began to take grades, she went up with her grades until, well she passed away too. But the school continued and uh.. and went up to be a junior college and then a college, and now a university with a pretty large graduate program and MBA, MHA, that sort of thing. Uhm.. and is in Misenheimer, North Carolina, to this day.

Paul Zarbock: I’ll be darned. Okay.

Lori Ann Owen: And we were real proud it was founded by a woman.

Paul Zarbock: Sure.

Lori Ann Owen: That early, you know?

Paul Zarbock: Absolutely. Are you ready?

Lori Ann Owen: Yes.

Paul Zarbock: What sort of potter-- warm me up a little bit.

Lori Ann Owen: Okay. Uhm.. I met Ben in and then of course, I wanted to get my hands on the clay. And uh.. began to make pots. I could get a couple of mine and put them on the table.

Paul Zarbock: Would you do that? [Lori Ann Owen goes to get pots]

Lori Ann Owen: Here’re some of mine. Tell Ben, that gold bowl, I’ve had three requests for that color this week over the phone.

Paul Zarbock: Let’s start again.

Lori Ann Owen: I’m Lori Ann Owen, from Randolph County originally, I was a little growing up, and uh.. lasted two years in the classroom as a schoolteacher, which is what I thought I wanted to be all my life, and found out short handedly that uh.. I didn’t. Uhm.. went back to Pfeiffer in uh.. Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving and then to Randolph Community College in the same sort of capacity. And then married Ben Owen, which was the best thing I ever did in my whole life. Uhm.. before I- I had never been into pottery. Uhm.. had been raised on a Tennessee Working Horse Farm, and Ben got me interested of course, as he will get you interested too if you hang around here for very long. And he taught me how to throw some, he taught me some simple uhm.. some basic procedures. And uh.. I just began to play with it. And as you can see here, these tiny little bowls uhm.. are about as far as I’ve gotten. Uhm.. but they’ve sold really well as uhm.. soy sauce bowls or saucer bowls or something like that. And some people tell me they- they keep their salt in it for a pinch of salt. And others just stack ‘em and look at them.

Uhm.. I do still have a lot of requests for them, but we uhm.. we started our family about three years ago and it’s- it’s just been impossible for me to get out here and really produce any body or work.

Paul Zarbock: No, I think that’s an important point. One of the interesting things about pottery is, it can be utilitarian, and it can be absolutely aesthetic, and a combination of each.

Lori Ann Owen: Right. And I hope mine are both because uhm..

Paul Zarbock: Put sauce in it, put salt in it, put a candle in it.

Lori Ann Owen: Sure.

Paul Zarbock: Or as you said, stack it up and admire it.

Lori Ann Owen: And I’ve done, like Ben, uhm.. I always put my name and the year that I make the pot on the bottom. And you’ll find that every pot Ben makes, he does the same. Uhm.. and sometimes he’ll even put a special [loud truck noises] symbol that would symbolize a certain firing. He may use a special symbol, like when he fired his uhm.. Nobori Gama [ph?] kiln for the first time, he drew a little picture of the kiln and put a "1" beside it. And if you have one of those uh.. in your collection, you’ve got a really special pot.

Paul Zarbock: Now he studied in Japan too, didn’t?

Lori Ann Owen: Yes he did. Uhm.. before he and I got together, he- he graduated college and the next year, I believe it was, he uh.. he spent six weeks at a workshop, IW Kat [ph?] was the name of the workshop. And it wasn’t just Japanese folks, it was people from all over the world that went to live in Japan for that summer. And he came home with enriched ideas and experiences and it r- it really took off. It- it shows up in his pottery.

Paul Zarbock: But the two of you met with your hands in the clay?

Lori Ann Owen: [laughs] Well we actually met at Pfeiffer College when he was a freshman and I was a sophomore, although he is older then me, I’ll go ahead and put that in there. [clears throat] Uhm.. and there was a show in the art gallery of his work, along with his grandfather’s work, and I just went to see the show, and met him in the process. And we talked for a minute and uh.. I left there thinking, “Well, now there’s an artist with a good head on his shoulders.” And you just don’t find those very often. So uh.. I left with a lot of respect for him. That was in 1987. We were married in 1998. So 11 years later [laughs] life brought us back together. In fact, it was through my work with Pfeiffer that we uh.. that we were brought back together because I was the director of Alumni Affairs, and was starting up a uh.. an auction for homecoming. And so I was going around to all the alumni who- who made things and asking for a gift. Anyway, we ended up meeting at Pfeiffer and then marrying after uh.. [break in audio] --down for the record. Yes, the women asked Ben out. And uh.. we’ve been together and happy ever-- [break in audio]. You’ve got a red light now?

Paul Zarbock: Yeah.

Lori Ann Owen: Uhm..

Paul Zarbock: So lets start from..

Lori Ann Owen: It looks like it’s stopped.

Paul Zarbock: Sure. We’re out of battery. [crew talk]

Paul Zarbock: Okay. Any difficulties that have been experienced-- all of the difficulties that have been experience in the last few minutes have been the result of the operator. My name is Sherman Hayes, I lied about that, and we ran out of battery. So I’m going to ask you got go back. So you met this wonderful person, you were a sophomore, he was a freshman in school, 11 years later did you say?

Lori Ann Owen: 11 years later we got married.

Paul Zarbock: You got married.

Lori Ann Owen: When we were both 29, knocking on 30s door. So uh.. I think we both uh.. are really happy that we waited ‘til that age to get married because we just had a whole life of experiences before our marriage, and I think it- that enriches who you are when you go into a lifelong commitment. And that’s what ours is. But anyway, about Ben.

Paul Zarbock: Yes.

Lori Ann Owen: Let me tell you some secrets. [laughs]

Paul Zarbock: Okay. And I’ll never tell a person.

Lori Ann Owen: Never. What attracted me-- well, lots of things attracted me to Ben, but uhm.. one of the greatest things that’s in Ben’s corner is his patience. And I think uh.. I- I first realized that when uh.. when I would come and ask him for a pot to put in my auction at Pfeiffer, and he says, “Well you need to come back again and- and get on the wheel when you’re not in a suit and dressed for work.” So I ended up coming back and uh.. and he put me on the wheel and was just so patient and uh.. and so descriptive and understanding about me as a novice working with the clay. And I found him to be a very patient person over the past six and half years, almost seven years we’ve been together. And uhm.. he- he’s a good communicator and somebody who won’t let the uh.. the sun go down on anger. And I think that’s a good uhm.. it’s a good way to live a long time. And I- I hope we both do that.

Paul Zarbock: He’s now the father of two children.

Lori Ann Owen: Yes.

Paul Zarbock: What sort of father is he?

Lori Ann Owen: Oh [laughs]. He’s the best father, in my opinion. He uh.. he spends a lot of time with our children, and it’s-- we're really blessed to have our business right her beside our house because we’re 45 steps, baby steps, away from- from the business. And the girls and I come out to the studio and spend time with him during the day, during the afternoon, sometimes we have three meals a day together on a business day. So that’s a- it’s a real blessing and part of the culture here that children are raised in clay. It’s not just a cliché, it’s- it’s true. You’re raised in clay when you live around here, and our girls see a pot turning, you know, several times a week. And it’s just a natural part of who they are. And I’m starting to learn how, when you are raised in clay, it becomes a natural thing to do for the rest of your life, which is certainly where Ben got his love, right here on the same little stretch of land. He began to love the clay.

But he’s an excellent father, we’ve-- the funny thing is I- I told him before we got married that I was good for up to four kids to get one of each sex. [laughs] So far we have two girls and uh.. we’ll keep trying. Hopefully we’ll get a- a boy soon. And uh.. we want to name him Benjamin Wade Owen the Fourth, and we want to call him IV, for the I and the V in fourth. Just sort of a little creative way to uh.. to mark the fourth.

Ben is uh.. is a-- I- I think he’s one of the most balanced artists I know. And I’m-- what I mean by that is he- he can be very uhm.. artistic. He can be very practical, and he knows how to run a business. He can make smart business decisions that aren’t necessarily what he wants to do as an artist. You know, he- he’s gonna make decisions to make the business run, which affords me the leisure of spending more time with my children than if I had to work a full-time job. Uhm.. I help out by doing bookwork and payroll and that sort of thing. And we have a good accountant who does the hard stuff. [laughs]

Paul Zarbock: This is a happy place.

Lori Ann Owen: It’s a very happy place. Uhm.. I think it’s a high-stress place when Ben’s working on uhm.. deadlines, because he’s a- he is a kind of person who wants to please everybody. He hates to say no. And he loves to make customers happy. So when customers are coming in and saying, “Well where’s the red? I want red pottery. All you have is Chinese blue.” He feels the pressure to get in there and throw red. So sometimes that makes him a little stressed out, but then that’s counterbalanced with the fact that he has no commute to work. He uh.. we have a- a great restaurant across the street, so there’s not stress over dinner and uh.. we have a- a school next door that’s a kindergarten through eighth-grade school right now, so hopefully uhm.. it will stay that way and our daughters can go there. And uhm.. so yeah, it’s high stress and low stress at the same time, a good mix of both.

Paul Zarbock: How does he, and do you contribute to the design of the pots?

Lori Ann Owen: Well obviously his- his first pots were rooted in history. His family’s history. And he turned many pots that were very similar to his grandfather’s work. Uhm.. and then as he grew and began to experience the influx of other uhm.. cultures and influences, uhm.. including his going away to college, as well as his going away to Japan and studying Asian pots, uhm.. he began to make his own mark. Uhm.. historical shapes uh.. that his family has turned for years and years. And I think most recently perhaps, his greatest influences are coming from nature. Uhm.. where he took a, what his grandfather would make a egg vase, and Ben has evolved it into a melon egg vase, and made vines coming up, sort of like a cantaloupe. And then over the years, those lines start to swerve. So it’s a swirling cantaloupe. Uhm.. he’s done some work which is in our museum, uhm.. like a sea biscuit. You may have seen that in there. Uhm.. when I was pregnant, he made [laughs] he made a pot that uh.. it looked like two pots, or a very large women, bodacious. [laughs] And uh.. he’s done some surface treatment that looks like uh.. sea grass, just scratches on the pots that look maybe like grass uh.. flowing in the wind. Uhm.. he’s- he’s done some leaf patterns uh.. carved into pots. And uh..

Paul Zarbock: But I hear you saying he’s still evolving in his techniques, and in his work.

Lori Ann Owen: He’s always evolving. I think when you’re static as an artist you’re- you’re on your way out. Yeah [laughs]. He’s- he evolves as an artist with what he does with the clay, and he evolves as a businessperson, a person who loves technology, with the way he advances his process. So he’s- he’s certainly not afraid to pick up a new uhm.. easier way to do things. And he’s not afraid to use electricity and modern technology and computers to run kilns and that sort of thing, when that is effective and time effective. Uhm.. but, at the same time, today we’re sitting here at one of the most ancient forms of finishing pottery, out of wood firing. So he certainly loves- he loves the- the history and the tradition, as well as he has a vision for expansion in the future. So..

Paul Zarbock: Do you think of yourself? Your self concept, do you think of yourself as an artist?

Lori Ann Owen: No. I always tell people "Ben is the artist, and I’m a craftsperson." I think there’s a big difference. Uhm..

Paul Zarbock: And what is the difference?

Lori Ann Owen: Uhm.. I do exactly what he teaches me to do with clay. I don’t have a great huge creative wing in my personality and uhm.. I just feel like I’ve learnt this like my grandmother taught me to crochet. You know, I can learn- I can learn things. I can read a recipe and cook a cake, but I’m not a chef. Uhm.. I think probably my highest calling has been motherhood, and when I brought my first daughter home from the hospital, to me I said, “Lord, this is my highest form of worship, is holding this baby and being a mother.” And that truly has been my true calling. So far.

Paul Zarbock: What a privilege to meet you.

Lori Ann Owen: Thank you. Nice to meet you too

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