UPDATED: October 12, 2012

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The recipient of this year's Lawrence ArtWalk Featured Artist Award, which was voted on by his fellow ArtWalk artists, is glass-artist Ben Kappen.

Ben Kappen grew up around the Lake of the Ozarks area in Missouri. As a child he remembers first seeing glass workers blowing glass from a furnace at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri; and, later, a torchworker working at the
Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, Missouri making wonderful glass animals and flowers. He would spend hours watching the magical sculptures come to life one by one, becoming more and more fascinated by the minute.

Ben moved to Kansas in 1988, where he graduated high school in 1996, then spent three years studying illustration at the University of Kansas, before leaving to pursue a career in glass. In 2000 he began to learn how to furnace-work soft glass with artist Darren Davis at Rainbow Fired Glass in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Using what he had learned there with soft glass, he bought a small torch and began to 'lampwork' glass in early 2003. During this time he also began building his own equipment in order to open a soft-glass studio in Lecompton, Kansas. Over a six-month period he built an array of annealing ovens and reheating equipment, along with a 250 pound capacity hot-glass furnace. The furnace was first fired in June 2004 and marked the grand opening of Illuminated Glass.

In 2011, Ben began working with Brad Chun, a former student of the legendary Bob Snodgrass, who's regarded as the godfather of the modern hard-glass movement. With Brad's encouragement, he spent this time reinventing his approach to glass and developing a new visual style. Armed with an emphasis on sculpture, and inspiration drawn from the Kansas Plains, he then felt able to remake the magic he remembered seeing as a kid in Missouri.

In 2012, Ben launched his own glass-blowing school. With Brad and himself instructing, students are provided with an incredible opportunity to learn how to torch-work or furnace-work glass at a variety of skill levels. Lessons are given in jewelry making, sculpture, vessel forming and marble making, among others.

Ben also operates a glass-pipe business on the side called Kaw Valley Peacepipes, in which he makes the same beautiful sculptural pieces but in pipe form.

Ben's work can be seen currently at Headz West and The Kultured Chameleon in Kansas City, The Glass Shack of Hawaii in Lee's Summit, and 3rd Planet in Lawrence.

More of Ben's work may be seen on his Lawrence ArtWalk 2012 artist's page.

The Lawrence ArtWalk Featured Artist Award, which is now in its eighth year, comprises a cash honorarium and the artistís artwork featured on Lawrence ArtWalk 2012 promotional materials.

Congratulations, Ben!