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hl next level 2018: ceramicist ben orkin

Trevor Stuurman


A few years back, Ben Orkin was running an acclaimed food blog. Then he switched to clay, and now creates ceramics that are at once original and inspirational: all his pieces sold out at his first showing at AKJP Collective. Ben, who is inspired by being outdoors, says he’s ‘attracted to shapes and forms in the city and in nature, which I like to reimagine and convert into ceramic vessels’.

in your own words, what do you do?

Make lots of things to make me happy. Particularly doing ceramics at the moment, but I also make photos, clothes, foods, bags, beadworks, mosaics etc.

how did you get started?

I got into ceramics because my mom is a ceramicist and I’ve been watching her work my entire life. I made a few random sculptures when I was younger, but only started taking it more seriously this year when I began making ceramic vessels.

did you always want to be doing what you’re doing now?

100% yes, for sure. But I didn’t really think it was possible. Everyone around me made me think it was impossible to be an artist.

do you have particular ‘favourites’ among the works you’ve created, and do you ever tell anyone that a specific work holds this special status?

I couldn’t actually choose. I’d probably have to say my next piece because each time I make a thing I learn new things and then apply these new things I’ve learned to the to the next thing I make.

what’s your defining career moment to date?

The journey of getting to this moment. I’ve loved making things that I want to make and meeting people who I want to meet simply by me doing what I love and putting myself out there.

are there any other creatives on your radar right now?

All my beautiful friends, because all my friends are beautiful and all of them are amazing creatives who inspire me every day.

any artists you look up to?

Jody Paulsen. Such an amazing inspiration to me!

where do you find your inspiration?

Generally being outdoors and in the world inspires me. I’m attracted to shapes or forms in the city or in nature and then I like to imagine how I could convert these shapes into ceramic vessels. I find the process of making inspires me as well. Nothing ever really goes to plan so I usually create something completely different looking to how I imagined it would be. A piece could be inspired by an architectural façade, but end up looking like an imaginary creature or human like form.

what is your earliest visual memory?

Getting a beautiful glittery blue butterfly painted on my face at one of my friends’ birthday parties when I was younger, then seeing all the other boys faces, which had ugly pirates or superhero things painted on them. I remember then associating my visual preferences in relation to other people’s visual preferences as me being different.

what’s the oddest piece of art you’ve ever seen?

Probably just when people make problematic artworks. It’s so odd to me. I know I am and have been guilty of this too, but being at art school I’m learning the importance of who tells what stories, why they are telling the stories, and who is given access to the stories.

hat is the next project that you are working on?

A collaboration with someone really cool!

Learn all about the game changers who are taking things to the Next Level in our #HLNEXTLEVEL2018  issue.