This is part of a series called “Outside of the game.” Other featured BYU student athletes are Adam Hine, Erica Owens, Kyle Rose, Brock Whitney and Taryn Lewis. The complete, interactive iBook is available for free in the iBookstore.
With a killer hand and a 6-foot-8-inch frame, Benjamin Patch fits the perfect mold for an opposite hitter on the BYU men’s volleyball team. And for a potter.
“People don’t believe me at all because what 6’8 athlete or any athlete does ceramics here? Not that many,” said Patch, a freshman studying pre-business. “People think that I don’t even get my hands dirty, but I love it.”
The abnormally tall, Provo native’s love for ceramics came even before volleyball crossed his mind when he signed up for his first pottery class in eighth grade.
“I was planning on going to BYU first for pottery,” Patch said. “I had a portfolio and everything.”
According to Sara Phillips, Patch’s ceramics teacher at Provo High School, he was not always that tall, but she always saw Patch as a talented artist. When he had a growth spurt toward the end of his senior year, the visual arts department had to make some adjustments.
“Because he was growing so fast, we had to keep changing the wheel,” Phillips said. “We would have to put the wheel up on bricks or adjust his chair. He started on the regular wheel like everyone else. But by the end, he had a wheel and chair specific to him because we had to lift everything up and adjust it to him.”
However, class time didn’t seem to be enough for the yearning artist. Phillips said Patch would spend extra hours in the studio, skip his lunch break, watch the older students and ask lots of questions. Long nights in the studio and years of mastering how to wedge and center on the wheel earned him several national awards — including one for $300.
“It’s great to see that someone else recognizes your hard work and effort that took weeks and long nights,” Patch said.
Although he has plenty of happy memories throwing on the wheel and winning national competitions, Patch also has plenty of nightmarish and crisis moments that he can remember, too. One time he created a four-foot-tall ceramic pot for a Springville art exhibit, only to have it collapse on itself just a week before the show.
“I was really stressed and I was in the studio all night remaking multiple pieces of the same size to try to have a couple extras in case it happened again,” said Patch, shaking his head.
Patch said he finds harmony between his sport and hobby. “You need good angles. It takes a lot of diligent work and focus in order to become good at it. In volleyball, you have to master each skill and refine it. You do the same in pottery.”
Even Phillips agrees that harmony exists between the two. “I think athletes do really well in something physical like ceramics,” Phillips said. “When you’re athletic, you have a lot of dexterity. You do know how to see things and move.”
So when he’s not on the volleyball court in the Smith Fieldhouse, spiking and blocking opponents or earning all-American honors, Patch just might be busy refining at the wheel in the ceramics studio.