Design for the Soft Surface with Ben Carter

In this edition of the Ceramic Arts Daily Presents video series, Ben Carter shares his methods for integrating surface design with altered wheel-thrown and handbuilt pottery. Referencing pillows, tufted furniture, and quilts, Carter imbues...(Scroll for more.)

$47.97 — $52.97

Runtime: 3 hours

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…his pots with softness in a variety of ways—from altering freshly thrown pots to create volume, to stretching soft clay into foam slump molds. Using this overfilled aesthetic as a metaphor for the comfort of southern hospitality, he complements the soft forms with slip and underglaze decoration using sgraffito, slip trailing, and painting techniques. Original List Price: $69.97

Three videos in one

Ben’s techniques can be sorted into three distinct areas—throwing, altering and decorating. In each area, Ben provides tips and techniques to be successful by showing you in easy-to-follow step-by-step sequences how to throw or handbuild forms, how to alter them, and how to decorate them with slips and underglazes.

Clear instructions

If you’re just getting started or struggling with throwing or handbuilding, Ben’s instructions for throwing and trimming a cylinder and bowl are among the best ever recorded. His explanations of each pull and every detail will help you learn or improve your throwing. After forming a cylinder, bowl and ice tea pitcher, he alters them with simple yet elegant techniques that breathe more life into already interesting forms.

Handbuilding with foam forms

For adding volume to flat handbuilt pieces, Ben demonstrates his technique incorporating rigid foam for a mold. He begins the technique by showing you how to create a form then how to prepare and alter the clay and finally how to finish the details that will set the piece apart. You’ll be able to create unique forms that result in soft pillowy surfaces of your own design using this technique.

Surface Decoration

Ben is well known for his surface treatment and he demonstrates each step of the process so you can get started right away on your surfaces. He works with earthenware at the low end of the firing range, but the colored underglaze technique can be used at any temperature range with a suitable transparent overglaze for the range you work in.

Artist Statement

Color, form, and pattern are used to create nostalgia for a time when communal meals were the core of familial relationships. An early 20th century color palette of denim, cream, and terra cotta links the viewer to a sense of tradition within the pieces. Manipulating clay with pillowy bulges and decorating with a flowery regional aesthetic captures sensation that reconnects people to their physical and cultural landscape. My work evokes tradition and community, embodying personal times that are a counterpoint to our work-centered individual-first society.

About the Artist

Ben Carter is a studio potter from Roanoke, Virginia. He holds a BFA in painting and ceramics from Appalachian State University, and an MFA in ceramics from the University of Florida. Carter has been an resident artist at the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Art, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, and the Archie Bray Foundation. In 2010, he moved to Shanghai, China, to be the educational director of the Pottery Workshop Shanghai. Recently, he moved back to the United States to set up a studio in Santa Cruz, California. To learn more visit,, or check out his blog and podcast Tales of a Red Clay Rambler at



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