There are some artists who if I won the lottery, I’d buy enough of their work to consider it a collection. Let’s see, I would buy 20 or so of Kem Alexander’s concrete shoes, six or seven more of Hunt Slonem’s birds and, of course, a new painting from his Bayou collection and enough serving pieces and bowls from Ben Caldwell to dazzle and delight everyone at my next dinner party. I already have three to four of his serving pieces — my first purchase being a large hammered spoon which he said his Mom used all the time, so I bought it.
Ben Caldwell has been a resident artist at the Caldwell Collection (I know, Caldwell, Caldwell. But, no relation.) forever and his work continues to evolve and amaze — in my opinion, the sign of a great artist. (See details at the end of this post for an upcoming event with Ben Caldwell at Caldwell Collection this week.) For those of you that do not know his story, here’s a condensed version: he is the prodigal son of some of Nashville’s most formidable art collectors, Dr. & Mrs. Ben Caldwell. He was born in Nashville and actually went to University School of Nashville, a place where I also have a vested interest. The Caldwell house was filled with lovely art and silver from all over the world and they adored local artists like William Edmonson, Red Grooms and so many more.
As in the case with many artists, he wasn’t in sync with the mainstream due to his dyslexia and decided to march to the beat of a different drummer. He found solace and comfort in art, graduated from college and began painting. A detour, which I am sure served him well, was his decision to learn to build musical instruments. Then, another magical thing happened to Ben: he found a mentor and teacher in Terry Talley, a renowned silver and coppersmith master from Bradyville, Tennessee. Through his association with Terry, Ben learned one of life’s most valuable lessons: find fulfillment in your work and the rest will fall in place. Bingo! Don’t we all wish we had found a mentor like Terry when we were young and impressionable? Ben has defined his career as an artist and now has a lovely family more precious than any collection.
Ben’s process is complicated as he starts with a large sheet of copper and applies powdered enamel to create a design. The enamel is torch fired to the copper section by section at temperatures between 1500 deg. F and 1800 deg. F. This allows the copper to oxidize and mix with the enamel and change color. After the copper cools, it is then shaped with a hammer. It is then re-enameled and shaped while still red-hot until the final shape and color are achieved. The true bottom line is that his copper and silver pieces are exquisite, gorgeous and acquisitions you will never regret purchasing.
The Caldwell Collection will have an open house so you can meet Ben Caldwell and see his work on December 11-12th from 10AM-5:30PM. To see more about this event, and special guests, click here. The Caldwell Collection is located in at 2205 Bandywood Avenue, Nashville, TN.
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