Faith in her new Fire Works Pottery studio with several glazed pieces ready for the kiln.Faith Benedict is a potter and teacher, operating the Fire Works Pottery studio in Penn Yan, NY. Her journey in art began with meeting artist Dexter Benedict at Ottawa University in Kansas who introduced her to the world of art. In 1970, Faith and Dexter moved to Dallas, NC when Dexter became a professor at Gaston College. Here, Faith began taking adult education classes in ceramics and studied with ceramic artist and sculptor Frank Creech. When Faith first sat at a pottery wheel during these classes, she became hooked on pottery. At Gaston College, she continued her self-education in pottery, attending a workshop with British potter, Michail Cardew and Nigerian potter, Ladi Kwali.
“[Throwing bowls] becomes something that overtakes you,” Faith says, describing her love of pottery. “As the sides of a bowl come up and take shape, it’s like your hands are reaching out. These are spiritual moments for me.”
Dexter and Faith decided to move with their two young daughters to Penn Yan to build a home and studio in 1974. Faith continued to teach herself pottery, taking more adult education classes at Keuka College, in Keuka Park, NY. Here, she studied with ceramic artist, John Smolenski. The experience encouraged her to finish her education at Keuka College. She graduated with a BA self-initiated major in Ceramics and a minor in education, Summa Cum Laude, in 1981. She then opened her studio, exhibiting and selling her distinctive work in art galleries throughout the Finger Lakes region in featured shows, craft shows, and from her own studio.
After 14 years of work in the studio, Faith sought a new challenge. In 1995 she took a break and went on to pursue a master’s in art education from Nazareth College. She graduated in 2000. The opportunity to teach in her own hometown began in 1998 with Superintendent Gloria Carroll creating an art position for her in the Penn Yan Central School District. She retired from that position in 2013 having taught at the elementary, middle school and high school levels as well as serving as Department Chair and coordinator of the Yates County Student Art Shows at the Art Center during her tenure.
Keuka College asked her to take an adjunct position teaching ceramics classes the following fall, and Faith remained in that position until 2017. She has also conducted pottery classes for the Yates County Art Center. And through all of this, Faith helps run the Fire Works Foundry, owned by her husband, Dexter.
Looking back over the years, Faith has tried to share her love of art and ceramics with her clients and students. As a potter, she makes functional stoneware that she glazes using a soft airbrush effect over organic shapes: shapes found in nature, and shapes that surround in her flower beds and woodland home setting. Faith often juxtaposes these organic shapes with geometry. Her goal when making her wheel-thrown pottery has been to make pieces that are sturdy, functional, oven proof, dishwasher safe, and microwavable, while speaking of the beauty found in nature. As Faith has said, “It turns out that I’m meant to be a lifelong potter. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Today, working out of the newly-rebuilt Fire Works Foundry and Pottery studio, she continues to create, exhibit, and sell pottery, all while giving local Mennonite children lessons in in her beloved medium, pottery.