Bennett Bean

Is a ceramic artist from the United States. He is most frequently classified as a studio potter. Some would classify him as a sculptor and painter as well. Bean’s ceramic creations are asymmetrical, non-functional, and flowing in appearance, as is his style. Bean’s influences are Japanese pottery, Native American, and English pottery.

In addition to ceramics, Bennett Bean works (best known for) in a variety of media including stone, precious metals, wool and silk weaving, and painting. He is best recognized for his handling of vessels after firing (treatment of vessels post firing), but he also works in other media, such as painting and sculpture.

Where Was Bennett Bean Born?

Bean was born on March 25, 1941, in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. The doctor who raised Bean was serving in the army at the time of his birth. He went on to become the chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Iowa State University, which was the university’s previous name before becoming the University of Iowa, in 1949, when Bean was born. Bean spent the rest of his childhood in Iowa City, Iowa.

Where Did Bennett Bean Go To College?

He began his art studies at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, before transferring to the University of Iowa to continue his studies. Although Bean studied both drawing and painting while at the University of Iowa, he was lured to the ceramics department, where he was charmed by the throwing method and enticed by the university’s ceramics professors. A bachelor’s degree in arts from the University of Iowa was awarded to him in 1963.

A semester of graduate study at the University of Washington, where Patti Warashina was a student, led Bean to travel to California, where he continued his art studies at the Claremont Graduate School, where he worked under the direction of artist Paul Soldner. In 1966, he graduated from Claremont Graduate University with a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Bean also met and married Cathy Bao, a Claremont graduate student in philosophy who was a classmate of his. In the following year, Bean acquired a post as an assistant professor of ceramics at Wagner College on Staten Island in New York City, where he remained until his retirement in 1979.

Bennett Bean’s Career

Bennett Bean pair of painted and glazed white earthenware pots with 14k gold leaf, designed by Bennett Bean Studio.

Details: Bean experimented with minimalist sculpture while studying at Wagner College, employing acrylic glass and cast acrylic as mediums. One of his minimalist sculptures was purchased by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1967, and he was included in the Whitney Biennial the following year. Despite his first success, Bean decided to shift his attention to ceramic vessels.

Bean has been working as a self-employed studio artist since 1979. He has been an artist-in-residence at Artpark in Lewiston, New York, in 1980, and at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Indiana in 1981, among other places. In 1980, he was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Penland School of Crafts, located in North Carolina, later hired him as a member of the faculty.

Bennett Bean’s Style

Bean has achieved tremendous success with his pit-fired earthenware bowls, despite the fact that he has worked in a variety of other media and forms. In the mid-1960s, Bean created a manner of throwing bowls and other pottery that was influenced by Japanese culture. The majority of Bean’s work was basic pottery with minimal surface decoration other than the spontaneous patterns characteristic of the pit-firing technique, as was the case with most potters of the time.

Over time, his forms and surface decoration have become more intricate, despite the fact that he has remained within the vessel tradition throughout his career. Among his many accomplishments is the development of many post-firing techniques for embellishing pottery.

For the interiors of the bowls, he has traditionally used 24-carat gold leaf, which he has done since 1983. Additionally, since 1982, he has applied vast abstract designs on the exteriors of his buildings by painting them with acrylic paints and glazing them with various glazes. Because he began working with bowls in the mid-1990s, he has generally grouped them in pairs or trios, painting across them to create the illusion of continuity between separate, autonomous pieces.

Also working in other ceramic mediums and stepping outside of the pottery realm to develop a wide range of other art objects such as pedestals, rugs, and garden tools, he has a diverse body of work.

Japanese pottery, Native American pottery, English pottery in the tradition of Bernard Leach, and contemporary American pottery, such as the work of George Ohr, have all been influences on Bean’s work during the course of his career.

To understand an object I want to connect with it, to live with it, to have it around me. I’ll buy one if I can afford it but some things don’t exist anywhere but in my head. Those I have to make. In making I learn what’s there. The things I make influence what I buy and the things I buy influence what I make. From this process, objects accumulate. Then comes the problem of “putting a thing in the world.” How do you present a pot, a painting, a piece of sculpture? You need someplace to put it. So I work on the house. I don’t make any distinctions between making things, cooking, gardening, and building houses. Elements from the garden appear in paintings and the surface obsession of the pots appears in the house as consciousness of each decision about the material and finish. Each cross-pollinates. Curiosity about how to express identity results in having my DNA done. That image then surfaces in collages and then again in rugs. The paintings and the pots have both contributed their imagery to the rugs. It’s a dance where ideas are applied in different ways depending on the medium.”

-Bennett Bean

Museums And Galleries

According to the latest news: The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, located in Massachusetts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, located in Pennsylvania, the Smithsonian Institution (fine art museums) in Washington, D.C., the Newark Museum, located in Newark, New Jersey, the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton, New Jersey, the JB Speed Art Museum located in Louisville, Kentucky, Racine Art Museum and the Whitney Museum (Los Angeles, San Francisco) of American Art located in New York City are among the museums that have Bean’s work in their permanent collections.


  • Editorial Award, “Design 100,” Metropolitan Home, 2003
  • Purchase Award Winner, Hammonds National, 1996
  • Editorial Award, “Design 100,” Metropolitan Home, 1990
  • New Jersey State Council On The Arts Fellowship, 1978 and 1988
  • National Endowment For The Arts Fellowship, 1980
  • Wagner College Research Grants, 1968, 1970, 1977, and 1978

Images pinterest = Bennett Bean

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