Ruther Glen, VA 22546
Benjamin Sunderlin was born in Lafayette, IN and developed as a fine artist throughout his high school years, earning numerous national grants, awards, fellowships, and was even featured in an Oscar nominated documentary. After high school Benjamin enrolled in the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, Indiana where he discovered bronze foundry work. It was there that his fascination with bells and Campanology began.
While engaged in a travel and research grant to study traditional bellmaking in the United Kingdom, Benjamin learned many different aspects related to the bell industry, including: molding in swept-loam, casting practices, design, tuning, and the construction methodologies for frames and fittings. Upon Benjamin’s return, he constructed all of the requisite equipment and tooling necessary to mold and cast a traditionally made bell in the foundry. Metal for the project was sourced from an early eighteenth-century bell that was originally cast by Thomas Lester in 1728. The casting of this bell marked the first time that a bell had been made in a swept-loam mold in the United States since most of the original foundries closed in the mid-twentieth century. This bell was then later tuned under the guidance of Andrew Higson and marks the first time that a bell has been cast in swept loam and tuned to a five-partial standard in the United States.
Benjamin continued to research traditional bellmaking practices before graduating. During this period, Benjamin became active as a contractor in the United States bell industry. Further trips back to the United Kingdom as well as to France, Belgium, and as far away as Croatia, enabled Benjamin to learn different European methods for making bells traditionally. He then continued his education by enrolling in a master’s program at the University of Notre Dame, furthering his skills as a bell maker and Campanologist.
It was at this time that Benjamin received numerous grants and continued funding to travel throughout Europe. His most recent trip was to Basse-Normandie to study with Virginie Bassetti, noted sculptor who designed the decorations for the new bells of Notre Dame de Paris. Under her instruction, Benjamin gained personal insight and knowledge into this unique project.
Since graduating from Notre Dame, Benjamin has since established his own full-service bell foundry in Ruther Glen, VA, and remains the only bell foundry in the United States that continues to mold in swept loam. Here, Benjamin hopes to preserve the nearly lost craft of traditional bellmaking in the United States and to deliver a superior service in the bell industry to his country and the rest of the world.