Carbondale artist deals in function and beauty
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE, Colorado ” When describing Ben Stout’s ceramic work, flashy adjectives just don’t seem right. It’s more calm, connected ” homey, even. The asymmetrical cups, bowls and plates feel youthful and creative, and yet subtle.
Actually, those all sound like good words to describe Stout himself.
Recently, the 24-year-old was sitting in his studio at the Carbondale Clay Center. As he talked, he was painting a messy, geometric design on a white cup. He seemed at ease.
“Family’s really important to me,” he started. “I love people’s kitchens and living rooms. So I make things to be involved in domestic life.”
While his pieces are unique, in a way, they blend together. Many are white, decorated with simple, airbrushed patterns, some with a swath of pastel pink or green added somewhere. About half started out as simple, wheel-thrown cylinders, but he’s manipulated them by adding bottoms or lids or pulling them into an entirely new shape. He became most passionate when talking about the need of “inviting” spouts and lips. He feels that’s what gives his work its intimacy.
“The things that we have in our home, that we use in our daily domestic life ” it’s important that we like them,” he said, “that we like using them.”
He imagines people gathered around his pots, he went on. He wants his glasses to have solid foundations, to have handles that are easy to grab. He admitted that the atmosphere of a household scene can be “challenging,” but it’s also just what he wants to serve.
But, really, why?
“I get a lot nourishment from my family,” he said. “It’s not that I grew up with great pots. I grew up with a great family, and I wanted to make what families use.”
He described the Detroit home he was born into, with two siblings and parents who’ve now been married more than 40 years. They’ve all “aimed high,” he said, and he kind of laughed when he mentioned how they’d supported his decision about art school (at Missouri’s Kansas City Art Institute). He felt their support when he moved to Carbondale, where he’s been a resident technician at the clay center for about a year. He feels it again now as he looks into the future. He’ll be attending a grad program at Ohio University in the fall.
“I’m not a troubled artist,” he admitted.
And he didn’t seem a bit broken up about it.
“I don’t need to lose everything to make something great. You just have to be inspired and moved.”
In Carbondale, it looks like he’s created an atmosphere to do just that. Though he moved to the valley alone, he soon met Katrina, a local woman and mother to Forrest,10, and Jada, 6. He knew that being around their real world “call for useful things” has had a profound effect on him.
“It’s about how much integrity we want the stuff in our house to have,” he said. “Whether we look at them or we use them. It doesn’t matter if they hang on our wall or go into our dishwasher or whatever.”
He kept on about how his current home-life is the “idyllic domestic situation.” It seems his girlfriend, her children, have pushed him to a level of reality and sensitivity that he might not have known otherwise. The ironic thing is to further his work, he has to leave this warm little nest. He paused on this, acknowledged it, and admitted he didn’t have an answer about the dilemma.
He didn’t seem worried though ” just contemplative. In college, he said, he’d studied ceramics because he “didn’t want to do anything else.”
In that moment, it seemed hard to imagine that changing.
Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111
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