Master of an Art Form, Potter Ben Owen

Ben Owen at his wheel in 1928. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.On June 4, 1904, potter Ben Owen was born in Moore County.

Owen learned to turn clay from his father, potter and farmer Rufus Owen, and by age 16, he was a proficient potter who produced lead-glazed utilitarian earthenware for his father and for neighboring shops.

In 1923, Owen was hired as the second known potter to work at the newly built Jugtown Pottery. Under the guidance of Jugtown founders Jacques and Juliana Busbee, Owen developed a classic pottery style that blended old and new forms, incorporating the principles of restraint and simplicity inherent in both native folk and Oriental traditions.

Owen was the sole potter at Jugtown from the early 1930s until 1959, when he left to found the Old Plank Road Pottery. He produced the same forms and glazes until his retirement in 1972. His son and grandson revived his work, opening Ben Owen Pottery to produce pottery based closely on his unique style.

Owen’s work has been widely exhibited across the state, nation and world. His pieces can be found in the permanent collections of the Mint Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre among many others.

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