The North Carolina Visitor Center




Ben Owen III

Ben Owen III is a well known potter from Seagrove, North Carolina and was named NC Living Treasure by his home state in 2004.  His family has been working in clay for several generations operating Ben Owen Pottery and using the local materials of the area to produce functional and decorative pieces.  His grandfather, Master Potter Ben Owen Sr., and father, Ben Wade Owen Jr., taught him at an early age the importance of clay and how to focus on form and design.  With outside influences from China, Japan and Europe directing them in their style, they were able to create a unique identity through distinct colors and designs.


Ben spent many after school hours with his grandfather and grandmother, where over time he was introduced to pottery making.  Ben Sr. adapted a wheel so that Ben could reach the foot pedal.  He guided Ben’s natural curiosity, encouraging him to explore and enjoy working with clay.  By age twelve, Ben was producing a modest amount of work.  He apprenticed with his grandfather 1977-1983.  Ben Wade Owen Jr. re-opened the workshop as Ben Owen Pottery in 1981.  Ben Owen Senior passed away in 1983.  That same year, at age fifteen, Ben completed his first two commissions, a presentation piece for the Reagan White House and candlesticks for the Governor’s Office, State of North Carolina.


In 1987, Ben enrolled at Pfeiffer College, also instructing in their ceramics program.  He continued to throw pots on the weekends in Seagrove, glazed and fired by his father.  Ben decided to move forward in his education in ceramics and transferred to East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.  While there, Ben worked with ceramics professor Chuck Chamberlain and other professors in a range of studies and graduated with a BFA in 1993. He continued studies at Penland of  Art  in 1995 and the same year was awarded a grant to study in Tokoname, Japan.  Ben decided to travel abroad, particularly to Asia because of the culture’s powerful influence on his work as well as his grandfather’s work.  Travel to visit potters in Australia, New Zealand, China, and Europe followed.

With abiding respect for the traditions which shaped him as a young potter, Ben’s work has evolved to include the mark of other cultures, a synthesis of elements he makes his own.  Learning early the importance of technical proficiency in glazing, clay making, and firing, he is comfortable experimenting to expand his field of knowledge.  Gracious in the public spotlight, he unfailingly supports the community of potters.  In 2005, he was one of six potters invited to exhibit in The Potter’s Eye, the first major exhibition of North Carolina pottery presented by the North Carolina Museum of Art.  Ben’s work is in many major public collections including the Boston Museum of Art, Dallas Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Tokyo Japan, Boston, New York and Charlotte.  Noted private collections include Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Perry Como, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Selleck, Arnold Palmer, James Taylor, and the NC Governor’s Mansion collection.  He has been featured on Good Morning America, PBS (numerous times),  Japan TV,  Korean TV and TV shows in China.  Ben has also recently been featured in the November 2009 issue of Southern Living Magazine.

Ben Owen III
2199 South Pottery Highway 705
Seagrove, NC 27341