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Studio Snapshot: Ben Edwards

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will be closed Monday, May 13, to prepare for the visit of Antiques Roadshow. We will return to normal hours of operation Wednesday, May 15.

Sgraffito ceramic vessel by Ben Edwards

Today’s post was prepared for us by Kiara Page, a summer intern for Crystal Bridges’ Public Programs department. 


This summer I got the opportunity to work as an intern at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in the Adult programs department. Throughout this internship I mostly focused on studio classes and gallery experiences with Moira Anderson, an Associate Museum Educator in Public Programs. One of the largest programs that I helped with was the coordination of artists to demonstrate their art techniques in our new exhibition: American Made: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum.


These demonstrations were not only a learning experience for me, it was also a great way for local artists to gain exposure to Crystal Bridges’ guests that they might not otherwise have had. With our programming, we connected with a wide variety of artists that ranged from painters and ceramic artists to fiber artists and wool spinners. During the process of recruiting the artists, Moira and I got to step outside of the museum and were invited to visit the places that creative minds treasure: their studios. This lent us a “behind the scenes” view of how artists create and live, and each one is unique in its own way.


Ben Edwards' Studio

Ben Edwards’ Studio

In late July, Moira and I visited the studio of Ben Edwards, a local ceramic artist, owner of Ben Edward Pot Factory. He joyfully welcomed us into his studio and home where he showed us up close the intricate process he undergoes to refine his clay. He thoroughly understands the properties of the clay in local areas and uses his knowledge to craft his pottery to be unique and purposefully characterized. His techniques are developed based on those of older cultures that created pottery by using readily available materials, which varied depending on the geographical location. Once he harvests the raw minerals, Edwards processes the clay using a variety of traditional and innovative techniques, and then he uses that clay to form masterfully crafted vessels.


In Sgraffito, a slip is applied to a ceramic vessel

In Sgrafitto, a slip is applied to a ceramic vessel

During our studio visit, Ben demonstrated the technique of Sgrafitto, a traditional decorative process seen on ceramics in the American Made exhibition. Sgrafitto is the process of coating a form in slip or a glaze and then carving away details and designs to reveal the colors of the layers below. The process is fairly simple, but with it one can achieve beautiful results. In these pictures you can see how Ben masterfully scrapes away the top layer of slip he had applied to a vessel.


Sgraffito startIn late August Ben is coming to the Museum to demonstrate hand-building techniques at the entrance to the American Made exhibition. He will also be conducting a mini-workshop, and will join us for Craft Squared: Stenciled Steins, a class that pairs artmaking with tasting craft beer.


You can join us for any of these programs, or simply visit the Museum to talk to Ben outside of the American Made exhibition during his demonstration. Watching his work can lend you an interesting mix of history, tradition, and creative flow that I witnessed throughout my own conversations with this artist. We are excited to host Ben’s creativity in and out of our studios and hope you can learn as much as I did in the short time I visited his studio.


On a personal note, I am nearing the end of my internship soon and I could not be happier about my time at the Museum. I was welcomed into the Crystal Bridges family and I believe I speak for all the interns when I say that the Museum became our home away from home in the short time we worked here. It was amazing to see how all the different departments collaborated to create an experience that guests will remember.


Editor’s Note:  Crystal Bridges has a robust internship program.  Internships are offered in various departments during the summer as well as during the academic year.  At present, there are two internship opportunities open:  an exhibition design internship, and an internship with the Crystal Bridges team of preparators.  Keep your eye on the Museum website for more internship postings as opportunities become available!