Spend a few minutes talking with Ben Carroll and his passion for his craft is unmistakable. We stumbled across Ben’s work after seeing his latest timber sculptural piece – a commission for landscape designer Rick Eckersley.
The story of Made By Ben
Ben’s love for making from ordinary objects emerged at a young age. From about 4 years old his curiosity and obsession with materials and making were evident. “One of my earliest childhood memories was making a boat out of an old pig’s iron feed trough”, he says.
Since then, Ben has scavenged for old materials that could be transformed into something else, giving them a new lease on life. Telegraph lines, demolition materials, old bridge timber became the starting point for sculpture and furniture including tables and lights.
In more recent years, Ben has mainly reused materials from the marine environment such as jetty timber and frames from demolished yachts and cray boats. “It has been an ongoing passion,” says Ben. “If I’m not creating in the workshop, I feel like I’m wasting my time.”
Creating moulds to form shapes, Ben covers these in thousands of timber blocks to achieve a tactile quality with a patina that will age and change over time. Using small blocks helps create a visual language of curves and bends; a task that’s impossible to achieve on such a scale by carving timber.
Out of a couple of sheds on the Mornington Peninsula, Ben can be found buried in his work crafting commissioned pieces, artwork and furniture which he primarily sells in the Cook Street Collective located in Flinders.
Ben is humble about his professional successes. Amongst his private commissions for furniture, sculpture and interior fit-outs, Ben has received several prestigious accolades including the Winner of the 2017 Montalto Sculpture Prize – a highlight of his career to date.
The inspiration behind the craft
Crafting beautiful objects from discarded and used timber has become second nature to Ben and his desire to evolve as an artist continues to grow. “Sensible people don’t want to build bigger and more complex things”, he says. “Crazy people like me are always trying to push the envelope and increase the level of difficulty as I go.”
“The inspiration behind my work is pretty practical”, Ben explains. Many of the ideas for Ben’s work come from the crafting process itself. “Everything I make, at least three ideas come from the thing you’re making at the time. It’s actually endless.”
Much of the inspiration for Ben’s work also comes from music. The curves in his woodwork are an interpretation of lyrics and titles from songs illustrated in the sculpture.
His latest timber sculptures commissioned by Rick Eckersley for his upcoming book ‘Art of a Garden’ were inspired by several influences. The forms of the towering poles with kinks that add movement and evoke curiosity were greatly inspired by an incredible leopardwood tree growing in Lightning Ridge where the straight trunk bends sideways to the left before returning straight again. When Ben explored Rick’s garden at Musk Cottage, he noticed similar bends in the mass planting of rushes growing in the wetlands.
But it’s not just the landscape that inspired his latest forms. “In Rye, there is a lamp post that has been painted with the saying ‘this moment is more precious than you think’”. Ben explains, the kinks greatly relate to the recent life-changing events Rick has experienced as well as his unique and “quirky” personality.
Ben Carroll’s craft not only takes time and skill but also an emotional investment. Often found sleeping in a swag in his workshop to maintain momentum, Ben labours over his form and the finish of sculptures until he’s realised his vision and already conceiving the next project.
Rick Eckersley’s ‘Art of a Garden’ is expected to be released by URO Publications by Spring 2018.