Joe Bennion’s pottery is the first art I ever collected. I fell in love when I was 18 and now 17 years later every piece is just as precious to me as the first. I had nine pieces at one time, and I feel fortunate that I’ve only had one break over the years! I’m amazed that several pieces in my collection even survived dorm life and many moves during my college years. It’s because of Joe’s work that I fell in love with functional (and dysfunctional) pottery and been inspired to follow the careers of other ceramics artists as well.
Joe lives a quiet, introspective and focused life that I envy. He and his bride, Lee Udall Bennion moved to Spring City, Utah in 1977, wanting to create an art community in this small Mormon town. I think it probably took a lot of bravery for them to turn their backs on the pressure to get a “real” job and instead do what they love.
Joe’s pieces are domestic, plain, quiet and understated. I believe his work has been the foundation for much of my own aesthetic, especially where pots are concerned. He avoids the hustle bustle of arts festivals and the competition of juried shows, instead spending his time at his foot-powered treadle wheel. He works to bring people to his community and studio. I love this because it gives the collector a full experience of seeing his wheel, the charm of his town and the quiet pleasure that he gets from working with clay.
My hope is that as a result of this post, and seeing my collection of Joe’s pots, some of you will make the drive to Spring City and support his work. I think everyone should have the pleasure of lifting a hand- thrown tea bowl to their lips as they sip their morning coffee. Joe keeps his studio door open, and you can go in at any time and buy a pie plate or bowl, leaving your money in his coffee can. Here’s a quote from Todd on the topic of my Joe Bennion pottery:
“There’s something special about Joe Bennion’s cups that a lot of other pottery can’t live up to. I always try to get one of Joe’s tea bowls from the cupboard every morning, because it is such a pleasure to drink from.”
Spring City, if you are not familiar, is a quiet, rural art community, located about 2 hours south of Salt Lake City, in San Pete County. It’s a little northeast of Ephriam and Manti. Fairview lies to the north and Moroni to the west. Nearby, Snow College and Wasatch Academy provides an educational environment for the surrounding community.
Joe had this to say about the way the community where he lives influences his work:
“Living in small place with space and quiet is conducive to the creative process as we see it. The home with it’s garden, the tree-lined streets and pioneer architecture the mountains and the ordinary people who live here all are part of the paintings and pottery we make.”
I really admire the way Joe has committed himself to a life of quiet, spiritual introspection as a potter. As much as I enjoy the crazy life of PR, marketing and events, I have always dreamed of retiring to a village and focusing on making hand crafts, maintaining a home and taking care of my animals. It takes a lot of courage to support yourself entirely on your art. Joe has done this for way more than a quarter of a century.
Coming up is Spring City’s Studio Tour. The 30 artists who call Spring City home will open their studios to the public between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets are available at the Spring City Arts Gallery at 79 South Main Street for $10. More info is available at: springcityarts.com/events/AST_2009.html
And for more information about Joe Bennion, visit: www.horseshoemountainpottery.com/joe/index.php
And my favorite, to see his gallery, visit: www.horseshoemountainpottery.com/joe/gallery.php