Ceramics and mixed-media artist, Ashley Benton, creates her work as an expression of her own experiences and to create dialog to connect to with other people. Encouraged by fellow artists to sell her unique sculptures to the wholesale market, she took the plunge two years ago — although she has been a ceramicist for five years and an artist for the past 20.
“I wanted a more consistent flow of income to help maintain my studio,” says Benton. “I had been traveling to juried art fairs for a few years and it just wasn’t paying off.”
Benton started with a small display as a part of another artist’s booth and decided to “go all in” and participated in her first wholesale show three years ago, ACRE Philadelphia, where she won an award for Best Emerging Artist. “The Atlanta Gift Show in July was my second [wholesale] show. I still have a few galleries, but the art fairs are on the back burner for now,” she says.
Ashley Benton Fine Art
Personal reflection yields success
Benton says she went into business for herself because she felt it was the best way “for me to be successful as a human.” She elaborates, “I never feel like I am at work; I love that. I work every day [in my studio] because it is where I love to be the most. I never have much of a plan. The work seems to flow a little better for me that way.”
Benton has been a painter for many years and she says she brings a painterly quality to the surface of her ceramics. She says: “There is so much to learn and it is a challenging process that keeps me excited to work.”
Benton creates all of her hand-built ceramic sculptures in her Atlanta, Georgia, studio. Her most popular items are her cups. “I tend to think of them as the gateway to the rest of my work,” the ceramicist explains. “When they really ‘get it’ they go all in for sculptures as well as the more functional items. My work isn’t for everyone and that is OK with me.”
The reward of diligence
Owning her own handmade business has raised some challenges for the budding entrepreneur. She explains, “It’s been like raising my son — so challenging, but hands-down the most rewarding. I can’t choose one thing because it’s just so difficult. I am grateful to have had a lot of help and advice from fellow artists, friends, and family. It’s a process that I just take one day at a time and just keep rolling along.”
The artist says it can be laborious to connect with galleries when looking for representation as a fine artist. “That is a completely different animal,” she states.
Benton says that wholesale selling has come a bit easier to her. “The market shows are a must — even if it is just a couple per year. It seems to me where you connect with the most buyers. My advice is to decide to do it and do your best, keep showing up for yourself, and it all will work out.”
When it comes to the importance of sharing her unique artwork with others, the talented artist says, “It’s all about connection. It first helps me to connect to my higher self — my authentic self. I hope the people who see my work experience the same connection.”
Ashley’s Words to the Wise
- Do your best, whether it is photographing your work, promoting your business, or the actual work itself.
- Be authentic; it’s good to be inspired by other artists, but when you aren’t doing your own work people can tell.
- Be willing to fail. Get up and keep going.