About the Artist
Ben Smith started out in his career by become journeyman carpenter, like is father and grandfather. He has been around woodworking for as long as he can remember, and recalls as a kid playing with wooden blocks left over from his father’s projects.
Ben's first job was working in a cabinet shop doing general cabinetwork. Then he took a job as a journeyman carpenter in Birmingham, where he worked for 24 years and was never once laid off. He would still be in carpentry if not for a 1996 bow-hunting accident that left him wheelchair bound. But that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he loves. “I’d rather be out in the shop,” he often says, sometimes even getting up in the middle of the night to work on projects.
Ben sells his pieces at art shows throughout the South. Visit our calendar of events to see where he will be showing next. Or contact us for a private showing or to discuss a special order or tribute piece.
Ben lives in Jemison, Alabama with his wife, Mary Ann, and they have three adult children, four grandsons and one granddaughter.
About the Process
Segmented turning is turning on a lathe where the initial work-piece is composed of multiple glued-together parts. The process involves gluing up several pieces of wood to create patterns and visual effects in turned projects. Segmented turning is also known as polychromatic turning.
In traditional wood turning, the template is a single piece of wood. The size, grain orientation and colors of the wood, will frame how it can be turned into an object like a bowl, platter, or vase. With segmented turning, the size and patterns are limited only by imagination, skill and patience.
While the vast majority of segmented turnings are vessels of one sort or another, strictly speaking, any turned object comprising multiple pieces of glued wood could be classified as a segmented turning. Examples include pens, vases bowls and some wood jewelry. By cutting and re-assembling pieces after they are turned, unique forms can be created, crossing over to pure art. In addition to design skills, segmented turning demands precision woodworking skills as well as turning skills. Design and construction of a bowl blank—the wood piece mounted on the lathe for turning a vessel—requires angled miter joints cut to tolerances of as little as a tenth of one degree or better.
By combining components, Ben can create just about any shape or size by arranging different wood species, he use many exotic and domestic woods in this piece, including hickory, black walnut, red oak, padauk, and yellow-heart among others. Ben can create just about any type of surface design. There are few art forms with this much freedom. This lack of restriction keeps his wooden projects creative and free flowing. Ben has always loved working with wood and this art form gives him the opportunity to work with woods from around the world. Beautiful wood is almost a magical substance; visitors who see his pieces have an urge to touch and feel the surfaces. They just make people happy. Many of Ben’s designs require innovative assembly solutions, much like puzzle solving; there is great joy in inventing assembly techniques. Ben has said “I do what I do because, I love it and I feel called to it" – he enjoys the designing, the joy of working with wood, the puzzle solving, and the inter-action with other people.