Artist Blayze Buseth on Finding His Life's Passion Half a World Away
It began half the world away, in Jingdezhen, China. The Porcelain Capital of one of the world's oldest empires, this millennium-old city is the origin of the expression "Fine China," and it was here in 2013, amongst the great masters of this ancient art, that Fergus Falls artist Blayze Buseth knew he had found his life's passion.
Scribbles and Squats
Buseth was born in Henderson, NV, part of the casino-laden southeastern sprawl of Las Vegas. Looking to raise their family away from those flashing lights, his parents relocated while he was quite young to Fergus Falls, near to his father's family. For more than two decades, his father, Blaine Buseth, operated New Beginnings Family Fitness, and young Blayze grew up amidst the barbells and sweat-soaked towels of a gym. Whether by design or happenstance, it taught him discipline at an early age.
"I started training when I was between six and eight years old – I was starting to get my physique fine tuned, learn how to squat and all that," he recalls with a smile and a laugh.
He found art at the youngest age, and drawing and painting would share his schedule with clay sculpture by middle school. The habit took root in high school when he threw his first pot on a potter's wheel. Like a runner for a marathon, Buseth trained without waiting on inspiration or the perfect weather. He says he "knew that it took practice. I knew that—for me to be able to get to where I want—it was going to take me spending three hours a night, every night."
He didn't have a destination in mind yet, but practice would teach him to separate "good" work from "better." Some of his early pieces didn't meet high praise, but he used every critique as an opportunity to learn. His artwork became lighter, cleaner, and more likely to catch the eye from across a room. He suspected he might want to live as an artist.
The Porcelain Capital
Following high school, Buseth enrolled in a ceramics program, along with a friend, at Minnesota State University Moorhead. By his second year, an arts professor with West Virginia University—Fergus Falls native Robert "Boomer" Moore—had arranged a study abroad program in Jingdezhen, China. Buseth was among the convoy of students.
The young artists spent a week in Shanghai, with a population of roughly 20 million people. Then, they traveled to Jingdezhen and the sculpture factory. There, these students who had received a broad arts education that included sculpting, trimming, glazing, firing, and other essential elements of pottery making, met masters who committed their entire careers to a single skill.
"For two-and-a-half months, we learned how the city worked, we toured the different workshops, and had demonstrations – we'd have artists coming in and showing us their techniques," he remembers.
Giant statues and vases, transparent porcelain pieces, and art more refined than anything he had seen firsthand, in China Buseth found master artisans who developed a level of skill well beyond his own. He took it as a challenge to improve.
"I wanted this," he says. "For so many years, I didn't have the technical ability, but there's still so much more to work on."
The trip to Jingdezhen was one of two. The first convinced Buseth to open a workshop at home in Fergus Falls in 2015. A residency in Indiana shortly thereafter inspired a second trip east, which he funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign in July of 2019. He returned to China that August for another three-month stay and left before coronavirus threw the world into confusion.
Business at Home
At home with the world in lockdown, Buseth passed time sculpting in his parents' front yard. When he moved into an apartment of his own, his landlord tipped him off to a downtown retail space perfect for a workshop (with a little renovation), but he hesitated.
"For me it was confidence," Buseth says when asked what held him back. He had practiced with some of the world's great talents, but the business side of operating a pottery workshop was unfamiliar. Buseth reached out to Greater Fergus Falls, who paired him with a business mentor. He learned how to plan for sustainable profitability and anticipate expenses he might otherwise have neglected.
"A lot of artists could actually create their own income if they just learn the business side of things," he says looking back.
He launched the Creation Shop in April of 2021, and he describes the response as beyond his imagining – especially from patrons seeking hands-on experiences. "Before I knew it, people were really interested in the activities here. It has been extremely busy. I didn't foresee teaching nearly this many workshops," he explains.
This year marks a number of milestones, including the 150th anniversary of the founding of Fergus Falls. Buseth is contributing to that celebration by producing a limited edition set of sculpted tiles which launched for pre order only a week ago (you can learn more here). This year also marks the first anniversary of the Creation Shop, with the big day this coming Saturday, April 23. Buseth has planned a special open house with food, beverages, and birthday surprises from 1 to 6 P.M., at the North Mill Street location.
And he's planned a lot more to come. He recently opened his studio to classes hosted by other expert teachers and anticipates more in the future. He wants to take on more projects like the anniversary tiles, which could mean additional staff and an eventual expansion. Equally, he wants to provide a place where people can connect following the isolation of the pandemic.
For Buseth, art is inseparable from a philosophy of respect and kindness, and he says all the effort of converting a lifelong hobby to a functional business hasn't done anything to dull his passion.
– R.C. Drews for Greater Fergus Falls
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