A Columbia man said he finally found his passion for sculpting after his hands and eyes just started working together. Now his bronzes, statues and monuments have landed him with big honors, including an unveiling of two statues in Nashville and being featured in Rolling Stone magazine.
"I sculpt the foam, and then I smear the clay on and then work the details in," Ben Watts said as he circled his current project. "I go around and around, and I don't do one part at one time."
Based on his work, you wouldn't believe it took Ben Watts 39 years before he stumbled upon his calling by playing around with his wife's clay. She is a potter.
"Lori said, 'I think we're on to something here, so I went to another workshop and another," Watts said. "I studied with Blair Buswell, who does all the work for the NFL Hall of Fame. He did the Jack Nicholas for Augusta Georgia."
Always seeing the world through artistic eyes, Watts said sculpting is literally where things all came together for him.
"In the afternoons, I would go to my grandmother's house and would draw, cut it out and tape it together and make 3-D images in third grade," Watts said. "I've actually been a 3-D artist all my life, and I've always been interested in faces."
Bridging together bronze to bring legends to life, his most recent honor is impressive. His creations depicting country music icons Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Monroe were unveiled at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee during a ceremony commemorating the Ryman's 125th anniversary.
"The article was in Rolling Stone magazine," Watts said. "Brad Paisley left us and went straight to the Today Show with Kathy Lee and Hoda and said it was a remarkable likeness and that was great."
These sentimental outdoor statues continue to open doors for the artist.
"I sent an email the next day to man where a museum was opening and said I would like to do some work for them," Watts said. "He had already seen my work and said he just didn't know it was me who did the statues!"
Reeling in recognition from the greats, and now nationally acclaimed, Watts is happy his hands could create so much opportunity for his family.
"These went nationwide quickly," Watts said. "I grew up in the clothing business. I would never have all this recognition but art has taken m there. It's taken my kids and wife all over the country."
As for the future, the clay holding together Watt's passions is far from dry. He is still putting together portraits that will soon be unveiled.
"It's in the works, but I can't tell you about it," Watts said as he showed off a pink dog in the works. "It's coming soon!"