In the Loop
Alumni News : Nov 29, 2017

From roofing to ceramics

Q&A with SAAH alumnus Brett Beasley

By Francesca Zepeda

Brett Beasley (B.F.A. Art ‘14) is a full-time studio artist in Iowa who focuses on utilitarian pottery. He has a solo exhibition with paintings and wall sculptures at Iowa’s Chamber of Commerce Ames and teaches ceramics at the Des Moines Art Center and the Octagon Center for the Arts. He was awarded second place in the Dimensions Exhibition in Winston Salem and also received the Acquisition Award in the Juried Art Show at the Imperial Center. Every Saturday he sells his wares at the local farmers market.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I wanted to do something for fun. I had a roofing job in Florida and that wasn’t as exciting as you’d expect. I remembered in high school how much I loved pottery. It was relaxing, even if I was really bad at it. So I started to visit this local pottery shop in Ormond Beach, Florida, called Mud Monkey Pottery Studio. I began to take night classes there and eventually befriended the manager. In exchange for mopping the floor and doing standard studio upkeep, I could go whenever and make whatever I wanted. Long story short, my experience there opened up a lot of opportunities for me, even landing me an apprenticeship somewhere else.

What does your creative process look like?

There are so many ways to look at a creative process. I am currently self-employed, so I try to structure my days around what is most important. So many facets go into the process. It’s more than simply manipulating materials into an object, like forming clay into a cup. A lot of it is going to festivals and actually selling you what’ve made. I make all kinds of references to the history of ceramics in my work, from physical disabilities to geological phenomenon.

What is the best artwork you have ever created?

Well, three years ago, the work I made was the best I could. Right now I am making the best work I can. I’m always thinking, “Eh, I can do better.” There is always room for improvements. Art is an ongoing thing. As you grow and evolve from meeting new people or traveling to new places, the way you look at art develops. You are always going through change, so your work is going to change.

How do you feel your time at UF helped prepare you for your field?

Ah man, the faculty there! I can’t say enough great things about the faculty. First and foremost, you have to work hard. Hard work proves to your professors that you are serious. Working really hard helps you keep these strong bonds. These bonds will lead to great opportunities. From their teaching philosophy, I learned how to pay attention to detail. The interactions I had with instructors became long-term professional and personal relationships. I wouldn’t be where I am without the mentors I met at UF. I’d love to give a huge thanks to Linda Arbuckle, Nan Smith and Anna Holcombe.

What advice would you give to current students?

Listen and respect your elders. You think you know it all, but you need to accept that your instructors know more than you. Also, before you go to graduate school, take time off. Go and do actual real life. Do an apprenticeship, do a residency, join a band, go dance or whatever your focus is. This will help you clarify what you want to do and get real life experience.

What is the most rewarding part about being an artist?

Being an artist! I can tell any story I want. You can say anything you want, whether it be through paint, clay, sculpture or performing arts. That is the greatest thing about all kinds of art. For me, I happen to make object-based art. There is beauty in the material itself that has its own meaning. Let’s say I’m at a farmer’s market, and I’m trying to sell you a mug I made. Then, you see a kid riding a llama because there is a zoo at the market. When you buy that mug, you will look at it and always tie it to the time you saw a kid riding a llama. I think art and memories are strongly related. That is why I love what I do.