Panama City's sparkling blue waters and breathtaking sunsets are the perfect inspiration for creativity. As a result, talented artists of all stripes and colors call Panama City home. Every month we feature the handmade objects and inspiration of this creative core. This month, meet ceramics artist Ben W. Liggin Sr.
Meet PC Artist Ben W. Liggin Sr.
How long have you been doing this and how did you get started?
I have always had an interest in Native artifacts and history. Born in Georgia but, having been raised in South Africa for 8 years as a youth. I developed and pursued a keen interest in indigenous cultures. This made for an easy transition to artifacts and fossils of Florida. In the late 1990's my wife and I opened a ceramic art gallery in Seaside representing a lot of artists, but I didn't create anything myself. Tom, who helps curate and exhibit the gallery with me, gave me a piece of modeling clay one day and that's where it started. I began creating little amusing critters. After getting frustrated trying to create a flat base of a turtle. I decided to start over and folded the clay in half and I saw a face in the clay. That's how the Na-tive Spirits Series was created.
How did you learn the craft?
My first time handling clay was in 2000. Tom handed the clay to me and asked me to create something! I am self-taught.
How has your work and technique evolved over time?
I started out making amusing animal forms which evolved into the Native Spirits Series. Each one is basi-cally the essence of something like motherhood, watchman, beauty and love. In addition to the Native Spirits, I also create pipes and will soon be moving into wall art.
What are your current focuses or themes?
I incorporate driftwood from St. Andrews Bay, Choctawhatchee Bay and other natural elements to my work to give it a unique look and provide a way of displaying the piece. I get inspiration from what I see around me. I was at the beach one day and saw a father and child taking a picture. The father was hold-ing the child up in his arm with the sun setting behind them. I used this as inspiration for one of my Na-tive Spirits, the Proud Father.
How does living here in Panama City influence your work?
I moved here in 1976, and have always had an interest in Native artifacts and history. In the mid 80's, I joined and became active in the Northwest Florida Anthropological Society. In the 1990's I helped curate Artifacts Museum & Gallery in St. Andrews.
At what point were you inspired to share skills with others?
When my 3 children, Christy, Katy and Chip were in grade school. I would go to their classes every year and share my knowledge and show my artifacts. Now that they are all teachers, I get to keep up the tra-dition.
In the future, I would like to recreate on property a typical village scene of the Native Americans who lived here during the shell mound period. In the museum we will have examples of stone, bone and shell artifacts found here in St. Andrews Bay. As well as other parts of North Florida, South Georgia and South Alabama. You can bring in your artifact and/or pottery shards and we will identify them free of charge.
This is one museum where you can actually touch some of the artifacts and exhibit. Come, step back into the past, and learn about the incredible pre-history of historical St. Andrews Bay!
Ben's Native artifacts may be purchased at the Native Spirits Museum & Gallery in historic St. Andrews in Panama City. You can learn more about his work and see his designs online at www.facebook.com/nativespiritpc.