I (Ben White) started creating practical projects between England and Nicaragua in 2004, following two years of general research in 2002/3. The main aim of my work is to create long term economic, social, cultural and environmental projects in Nicaragua, and then turn those ‘projects’ into individual businesses in wealthier countries like the UK. The profits from sales are then re-invested back into Nicaragua, allowing me to strengthen existing projects like La Cerámica and create new projects like The Luthier. This sustainable and maverick approach to my development and business work means that I’m not dependent on charity or development funding, giving me much more freedom to express myself and stamp my inimitable mark on all of my projects.
As of 2012, we have a beautiful range of arts, crafts and other home and garden based products, ranging from world class ceramic art to floor tiles to boutique guitars, all handmade by my internationally acclaimed and handpicked team of Nicaraguan fine artists and craftspeople. Aside from the ceramic art of the ‘International Masters’ which is priced accordingly, all of our products are also very affordable, often half price of my competitors, and the quality is often superior. For example, you can purchase beautiful ceramic art, sculpture and lighting from the Pueblo Potters for £10 to £150; stunning acoustic guitars from £225 to £750, which is 40% of the cost of a guitar made by a Western luthier, with the same parts and superior wood; and quality pre-sealed terracotta tiles for £30 to £45 per m2. From day one I have been committed to developing affordable and exclusive products, and I will continue with this approach. I maintain affordability by using common sense business practices such as keeping all overheads as low as possible, and by operating on a ‘reasonable’ profit margin (ie. not being greedy). You can view most of our arts and crafts etc on the Clay Boutique web-site, but we may have a wider selection at our base on Romney Marsh.
My endeavors are also much more complicated these days, since I finished my long term ceramics apprenticeship in San Juan de Oriente (Nicaragua). I’m now a full time ceramic artist, working mainly with Enmanuel Maldonado, and we travel the world together selling our work and promoting the international arts project La Cerámica. Visit the Enmanuel & White section to learn more about the ceramic art of Ben White and Enmanuel Maldonado.
All of this means I’m very busy these days, especially as I’m always looking to expand my many projects, but somehow I and everyone associated with The White Lodge seem to survive every year!
To give you a crash course in my work in Nicaragua, I currently run approximately 15 projects, ranging from small micro-businesses to larger long term development projects. All of my projects are ‘grass roots’, in that I work with normal, everyday Nicaraguans, and the main aim of my work in Nicaragua is to improve the quality of talented people’s lives. The projects I run are very diverse and cover many fields of international development – creating long term employment; international trade and the opening of new markets; arts & culture; fine arts; product design and purchasing; small business development; research and publication etc. The White Lodge also has interesting human policies such as investing in youth and young talent, refusing to work with people with alcohol or drug problems and terminating projects with people who don’t invest their finances wisely.
The individual projects are usually interesting if not challenging affairs, reflecting my own personality and interests and my desire to work with young, gifted people. La Cerámica involves working in one of the World’s most talented artist communities (San Juan de Oriente), and being the first major project I ever set up it will always be close to my heart. The ‘Crafts & Interiors’ project in the Masaya region is also great fun, working with eccentric crafts people in what is a world class artisan area, full of amazing products and artisan communities. Probably the most exiting recent addition to The White Lodge’s activities is The Luthier, which involves working with two of Nicaragua’s most gifted luthiers and investing in sustainably harvested exotic hardwoods. If you would like to learn about TWL in detail, simply click on The White Lodge link and other links throughout the site.
As already explained, once the development projects are ‘finished’ in Nicaragua, we turn the projects into professional small enterprises in the UK and beyond (including Nicaragua, Europe and the US). We currently run approximately 15 such enterprises, many of which are established, with others to be launched in the coming years :
Romney Marsh Art & Craft Gallery : Located in the unique environs of Romney Marsh in South Kent, we have a permanent display of approximately 200 La Cerámica pots and lamp bases, and you can also view our other exclusive crafts and interiors. We also hold special annual events such as a Nicaraguan pottery weekend in summer and a Christmas weekend in November. We are generally open most of the time, but it is best to make an appointment (tel. 01303 870861). Click on the Visit Our Galleries section to learn more.
The Whitstable ‘Beach Hut’ Gallery : Part of the Whitstable Harbour Village retail project in North East Kent, this extension of our main gallery is a fun weekend enterprise. Although quite small, we have a good selection of affordable ceramic art and lighting, woodturning, hammocks & deckchairs, guitars and even our floor tiles. Open April to December on weekends and bank holidays. Please contact Anna White at email@example.com for info.
La Cerámica Gallery (The International Masters): This is the gallery and project name we use for high end art and craft gallery shows around the world. The gallery was created to represent the leading international ceramic artists in San Juan de Oriente in the UK and beyond. The artists in question are Gregorio Bracamonte, Miguel Maldonado, Luis Gutierrez, Enmanuel Maldonado, Santos Gutierrez, Ben White and the ‘Enmanuel & White’ partnership. As well as purchasing world class ceramic vessels, collectors can also work with Ben White to commission specialist vessels from any of the artists above. The gallery / project is also set up to work with museums and cultural centres, mainly by the (joint) curation of specialist exhibitions; and we also tour the project at outdoor art and ceramic shows in the summer. For further details contact Ben White at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clay Boutique Web-site: The new Clay Boutique web-site was launched in late 2011, and consists of a beautiful online shop / gallery and many additional features like short films, newsletters, artist profiles etc. The new site is certainly the best online resource in the world with regards San Juan de Oriente. You can also learn about all of The White Lodge’s projects in detail. Although the online shop is UK based, we send items all over the world. We also intend to launch the web-site in the United States in the coming years.
Regional Tour : Although our regional tour is much smaller than in previous years, we still participate in events in Kent, Sussex and London to sell and promote our projects and products. This tour takes place late April to mid-December, and includes Christmas fairs. We no longer travel further afield to general shows around the UK. View our ‘Events’ page to learn more.
Enmanuel & White Tour : Ben White and Enmanuel Maldonado participate in leading art and craft shows in the UK, Europe and USA. Visit the ‘Enmanuel & White’ section to learn more about this world class ceramic art and creative partnership.
Classic Terracotta : You can view and purchase our top quality pre-sealed terracotta floor tiles at our base on Romney Marsh. You can also purchase online, and we also participate in tile trade shows in the UK. We can send the tiles anywhere in Europe via pallet courier. Visit the ‘Classic Terracotta’ section to learn more.
The Luthier : You can view and purchase our beautiful handmade acoustic guitars at our base on Romney Marsh. You can also purchase online, and we also participate in guitar retail shows in the UK. Visit ‘The Luthier’ section to learn more.
Ebay : We also back up our Clay Boutique web-site with a few specialist shops on Ebay, mainly to cover the more commercial side of things (ie. our floor tiles and luthier woods). However, we don’t promote La Cerámica and our other crafts on Ebay and never will. As a rule I can’t stand Ebay, but it brings useful traffic to my web-site.
Advertising, PR & Publications : Starting in 2012, we will also be backing up all of our projects with a greater amount of advertising and PR. This new addition to our sales and marketing approach will include written articles, press releases, advertising in quality magazines, the production of documentaries and short films, and the publication of our own exclusive art and craft literature.
Nicaraguan Businesses : Starting in 2011/12, I’ve also started to develop various small businesses in Nicaragua. These include the new gallery in the Enmanuel & White studio in San Juan de Oriente; special exhibitions and general promotion at foreign embassies; and a range of micro-businesses which raise funds for personal living and infrastructure costs.