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three skull pipes

Drink from ghosts. Smoke from skulls. Meet Cape Cod’s Scrimshaw Pottery.

LanternOctober 25, 2022

Spooky szn is upon us. To celebrate, we've partnered with our bud Ben at Scrimshaw Pottery on a Halloween giveaway treat for Lantern customers (!!).

Follow @GetLanternNow + @ScrimshawPottery + tag a bud on our post to enter to win a handmade skull pipe + ghost mug, October 25 - 31.

Who's Scrimshow Pottery, you ask? In Ben's words, “a small little business being run out of a basement on Cape Cod, by a dude who just wants to make pottery that looks like it would be found in an old abandoned lighthouse, or a medieval castle where Dracula hides out." We like the sounds of that.

Read on to learn how Ben grew a love for clay into his own ceramics business + brand, plus other BTS goodies.

Follow @GetLanternNow + @ScrimshawPottery + tag a bud on our post to enter to win a handmade skull pipe + ghost mug, October 25 - 31.

How did you get started in ceramics?

I took my first ceramics class sophomore year of high school. I didn't even know what "ceramics" was before that.

Ended up loving clay so much I knew I wanted to continue working with it so I applied to art school. I received my BFA from Maine College of Art in Portland. I had no idea what I was going to do with that degree or how it was going to get me a career, but I didn't care. I was having too much fun.

For the next 7 years after graduation I worked at a few different pottery-related jobs in Providence, Newport, + Plymouth, all while working on my own style and brand in my free time. I had a potters wheel + some tools working out of my parents basement. I didn't have my own kiln yet so I had to go to work early with a tote full of pottery + sneak it into the kiln there without anyone seeing me.

I was primarily making nautical/scrimshaw inspired work because I knew it would sell well in the coastal areas around me. I ended up rebranding myself from Ben Gaboury Ceramics, which wasn't easy to remember, to Scrimshaw Pottery which was pretty self explanatory + easier to search online.

About six years ago I really started to use social media as a marketing tool to showcase my art work and try to build a brand around the name. I ended up building enough of a following to where I could sell my pieces directly online + didn't have to rely on wholesaling to other stores or galleries.

This really gave me the creative freedom to expand away from just nautical themes but to find inspiration elsewhere + incorporate other imagery. I started drawing ghosts, skulls, wizards, dragons, horror characters, etc. I could start to focus on pieces that I really liked to make, and not what just sold well in a retail environment. I was able to quit my 9-5 job five years ago and I've never been happier.

Favorite piece you've made?

My favorite piece that I have made, + still currently make, are my Skull Teapots. Ever since I started out in ceramics, teapots have been a favorite form of mine. For potter's, a teapot is the most complex piece to make because of all the parts involved. You have the body of the teapot, lid, handle, + spout, + you have to make all those pieces work together to form a cohesive design.

Because of all the parts though, it allows for a lot of creativity + exploration with the clay as a material. My skull teapot is a ceramic skull, slightly scaled drown from life size, with a baroque/victorian style gold handle, spout, + lid. It's an elegant, simple, but very detailed piece where even if no one ever uses it for its intended purpose its still functions perfectly as a wonderful display.

What went into creating the two pieces for the Lantern giveaway?

The two pieces in this giveaway were both made with very different techniques.

The Ghost Mug starts out as a 1 lb ball of clay the shape of the potters wheel. Once slightly dried out overnight I attach the handle + coffin shaped cutout on the side. That completed mug form must dry completely for 4-6 days before getting fired in the kiln in what's called the bisque firing. The firing process, from raising in temperature to cooling off takes 24 hours.

Once out of the kiln I use underglaze, which is essentially a ceramic paint that doesn't burn out in a 2,000 degree kiln like regular paint would, + I draw with it using a small squeeze bottle. The imagery on all my pottery is hand drawn using that technique. When the drawing is complete I brush on a layer of wax over it so the glaze doesn't adhere to it and cover it up. Then the glaze is applied. A glaze is essentially the ingredients of glass, in powder form, suspended in water. I can either dip the mug in glaze or brush it on. When the glaze process is complete it gets fired in the kiln again but to a higher temperature to harden the clay even more + to melt the glazes.

For the Skull Pipe, I had to custom make a four-piece plaster mold around a miniature skull. With a completed mold I can then pour in slip (a liquid clay) + as that sits in the mold the plaster will absorb moisture from the slip at is in contact with the walls of the mold. The longer the slip sits in the mold the thicker the walls of the clay skull with get. After about 20 minutes of having the slip in the mold I pour out the excess slip + let the skull dry overnight before opening the mold.

I then create the bowl on the top of the skull + punch holes for the carb + draw hole. Once the skull is completely dry it goes through the same two firing processes as the mug but then it gets a third additional firing in which a 22k gold luster is applied to the skull's teeth.

Who are other artists you admire?

I admire a few different artists for a number of different ways. I admire these artists for how they developed their process or technique, how they market themselves, or how they choose to display or show their work, + also just in visual beauty and enjoyment.

Hammerly Ceramics, CJ Henry, Susannah Montague, Peter Pincus, Mike Stumbras. Also Seth Rogan for being an advocate for ceramics + influencing my pipe + ashtray designs.

Weed strain or product you're currently loving?

So I personally don't smoke. I haven't since high school. I never found it to be for me. I do know a lot of cool people who do however, + I wanted to be part of the experience without actually taking part. So, that's why I started to design a "Scrimshaw Pottery" version of what I saw being used to smoke, both the pipes + ashtrays.

Want to win a handmade ghost mug + skull pipe from Scrimshaw Pottery? Enter our giveaway between October 25 and 31. Follow Scrimshaw Pottery on Instagram for more spooky szn inspo + dope ceramics BTS content.

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