Ben Jordan | Episode 381
Ben Jordan was born and raised in the American Southwest. Ben earned a bachelors degree in Sociology at Northern Arizona University before discovering a passion for clay in 2006. After completing a Bachelors of Fine Art in ceramics at Northern Arizona University Ben went on to work and apprentice in the city of Groningen, in the Netherlands. After finishing a residency at the Red Lodge Clay Center in 2014, he went on to obtain his Masters in Fine Art in ceramics from Virginia Commonwealth University. After graduate school Ben completed a year long ceramics residency at Pocosin Arts in North Carolina. In September of 2017 Ben will be headed to Montana to begin a long term residency at The Clay Studio of Missoula.
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How do you find the drive to make even though it is not financially viable?
Well I try to think of the financial viability of my work as secondary. I would prefer to make my work and keep my work challenging to myself first and foremost. And if it’s not financially viable I will deal with that later. Right now I want to make the best work that I can make.
How do you pick a good residency?
I would say the best residency is based on stipend. It is pretty financial, but also how established the residency is. For example the residency that I did before wasn’t very established but they had a really good financial package. I didn’t have to pay for housing, I didn’t have to pay for firings, I didn’t have to pay for materials but no one knew what that residency was. It is kind of a toss up of whether the financial situation is worth it or if the prestige is worth it.
What makes a good residency?
Honestly, I think it comes down to people understanding what you are trying to do. Because I have been to residencies where it is mainly metals, or a different material residency, still a craft residency, but not necessarily clay-centric. I think for me, being in a residency where it is a clay-centric residency was so beneficial because I didn’t have to explain things, I didn’t have to talk to people about what I needed. They just got it and that community was so seamless.
What should be a goal of joining a residency?
I think for me personally, my goals in my last residency was to try to apply to a bunch of shows and try to get into those shows. I see a residency as a stepping stone. A residency is a place you can feel safe, make a bunch of work, challenge yourself, ask yourself questions, and apply to a bunch of stuff and try to get in to it.
How is a residency a stepping stone?
I will give you an example. I cam out of grad school and I was making very sculptural stuff and very conceptual work and coming out of that I didn’t know where I was going. I survived grad school and thought, What do I do now? All of a sudden I have an opportunity for a show so I am going to make this work. So it is a stepping stone in the sense that I didn’t have to have all these voices telling me what was not correct. I was just able to make functional work that I thought was the best work that I could make.
You were featured in Ceramics Monthly magazine. How does a feature like that affect your career?
Well, first of all I was really thankful to have that article. It was a big deal. As far as my career goes, well for one it was just really satisfying. I always wanted to be in Ceramics Monthly. I was super excited. And secondarily, on a financial perspective a lot of people have been hitting me up and asking me for pots and mugs. But more than anything it is the connection I have with the editor, with Jessica. To be able to establish that connection where we can email each other and talk to each other and have real conversations. And maybe I can propose another article about ornament or whatever. Now that avenue is open. I think that is the best part of it.
In four sentences what would your dream life look like?
I have a tattoo across my chest that says: Follow your dreams. I got that tattoo when I was living in the Caribbean. I was pretty young and I think about that tattoo in a different context now. It’s not just ceramics, it’s a lifestyle. I want the lifestyle of having animals, it’s sort of the lifestyle of the epitome of the country potter. I don’t want all this bureaucracy. I don’t necessarily want this teaching job. I just want a simple life.