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Ben Hammond dazzles with lifelike sculptures of NFL players



Brynn Carnesecca | Lehi Free Press 

Since 2007, American Fork resident Ben Hammond has created over 50 lifelike sculptures of football players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hammond’s sculpting talent is remarkable as a professional sculptor of over 23 years. In addition to his sculpting, Hammond has been on the Fine Art Committee at the Harrington Center for the Arts for six years. 

Growing up, Hammond had an immense passion for art. “I was the kid who was good at it, and every Christmas morning, I remember there was usually a ‘How To Draw’ book under the tree. Drawing was really my first love,” Hammond said. 

When Hammond turned ten, his mother purchased five blocks of colored modeling clay for him. “When I got that, I didn’t like that there wasn’t enough clay in one color, so I mushed it all together and made a gray mess,” Hammond laughed. “Looking back, I realized I wasn’t as interested in color as I was in form.” 

In his senior year of high school in Idaho, Hammond had a life-shaping experience. “My teacher took me and several other students, including my future wife, to visit Blair Buswell’s studio.” Sculptures of famous athletes Terry Bradshaw and Oscar Robertson caught Hammond’s eye. “They were so lifelike,” Hammond said. “I didn’t realize there were still living human beings doing this traditional realism in sculpture. That stuck with me very strongly.” 

Following a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hammond returned to Idaho to attend Rick’s College and was exposed again to the sculpting world. Taking many sculpting classes, Hammond honed his talents and fine-tuned his craft. 

After his time at Rick’s College, Hammond worked at a foundry before interning with the famous sculptor and his inspiration, Blair Buswell. 

“Early on, Blair asked me if I wanted to make a living or be in a museum,” Hammond recalled. “I said that I wanted to do both. He told me to become good enough to be in a museum, and the rest would take care of itself. I try to focus on being as exceptional as possible in my field, and everything else works out.” 


Hammond worked at Buswell’s side for ten years, soaking up every bit of knowledge from the experienced professional. “I took a lot of criticism,” Hammond said. “You have to open yourself up if you want to be good. When you’re a young artist, you don’t even know what you don’t know. There is such a huge gap between someone with an art degree and a professional artist.” Hammond also gained valuable insights and constructive criticism from the many talented artists in Utah. 

In addition to working on local projects and commissions, Buswell has been a head sculptor for the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1982. He has created hundreds of lifelike sculptures, or busts, of the Hall of Fame inductees. Once Hammond had spent five years mastering his craft at Buswell’s side, Buswell declared Hammond ready to join the Hall of Fame’s sculpting team. 

“During the first several years, I still needed a lot of help,” Hammond said. He recalled moments anticipating Buswell’s reaction to seemingly “perfect” pieces. After a few moments of analysis, Buswell helped Hammond correct and adjust the pieces to be as lifelike as possible. 

“The criticism lessened throughout the years, and after about four years of doing busts for the Hall of Fame, we became more like colleagues,” Hammond shared. Today, the pair continues to help each other adjust and perfect their art. “He has always been a great colleague and mentor,” Hammond said. “Many apprentices and mentors in the art world always have that sort of relationship where the teacher has a hard time accepting the student as a colleague.” 

To create the realistic busts, Hammond first receives measurements of the inductee’s head. “Once I have that locked in, the inductee comes out and sits for me for a day,” Hammond said. The process can be tedious for the inductee, who usually must sit for over eight hours. “I encourage them to get up and walk around. I need to get every angle of their head. That time I spend with them gives me two things. One, what they look like, and two, their personality. Between those two things, I can breathe life into it.” 

During the process, Hammond piles clay on the post and meticulously forms and shapes every aspect of the inductee’s head and shoulders. The bust is cast after the clay fully dries, giving it the finished metallic look. When he first began, a single bust took between 80-100 hours. Today, Hammond can finish a bust in 30-60 hours. 

When creating the busts, Hammond occasionally hits a wall. “Sometimes, the likeness is elusive,” Hammond said. “You really have to trust the process and keep looking at it.” 

While creating two busts last year, Hammond ran into one such instance. At the time, he was creating busts for Joe Klecko and Joe Thomas. “Within 25-30 hours, the Joe Thomas statue was done and looked amazing,” Hammond shared. “For the Joe Klecko bust, I kept working and could not get it right. It got to the point where I told him to ask his wife and kids to look at the bust and figure out what didn’t look right.” After hours of hard work, Hammond eventually completed the statue and captured Klecko’s likeness perfectly. “That’s always a good feeling because sometimes it is so frustrating,” Hammond said. 


After the painstaking process, the inductees are always blown away by Hammond’s work. “It’s not something they see every day,” Hammond said. “We don’t comprehend how much work they put into becoming exceptional athletes, and they can’t comprehend how much work goes into forming clay into a likeness.” 

He expressed that the greatest compliments come from the mothers of the inductees. “If the mom is happy with it, it’s right,” Hammond said. 

Once the bust is finished, it travels with the inductee to his ring ceremony and any additional parties or awards. After the festivities, the bust moves to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. “It’s definitely a pinch-me moment,” Hammond said. “To think of that 17-year-old kid who visited Blair’s studio in 1995. Here I am, further along in my career. It’s a justification that hard work really does pay off.” 

In addition to the busts, Hammond has created lifelike sculptures for Thanksgiving Point, a Martha Hughes Cannon statue for Washington, D.C., and works on commissions. For more information and to see Hammond’s creations, follow his Instagram @benhammondfineart or visit his website at

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