BYU art graduates defy odds with aspiring careers

Natalie Ottley working on the
Natalie Ottley works on a pottery wheel. Ottley graduated from BYU’s 3-D studio art program. (Natalie Ottley)

Art students hear horror stories regarding the lack of relevant jobs available after graduation. However, BYU graduates Alison Stosich and Natalie Ottley are former art students who put their degrees to artistic use.

BYU studio art alumna Alison Stosich works at the Springville Baer Bronze Fine Art Foundry and is a studio assistant for artist Brian Kershisnik, who studied ceramics at BYU.

Stosich creates collages and uploads them on instagram. (Alison_created)
Stosich creates collages and uploads them on Instagram. She uses social media to share when and where she is selling her art at local shops. (Instagram/@alison_created)

After graduating from her program, Stosich wanted to pursue a career where she could use both her degree and her creativity. She was inspired by the book “What Color is Your Parachute,” which talks about how people can find careers that interests them.

“One of the things it said was that people who love their jobs usually don’t find the jobs that they love,” Stosich said. “They create their dream job.”

Stosich did exactly that; she was able to create a job she loved by being persistent. Brian Kershisnik didn’t have a studio assistant until Stosich called him persistently.

“Artistic jobs are out there and you really have to search for them,” Stosich said. “I love having a creative job. You have to seek those things out. I worked at a job that didn’t exist until I called him every day.”

Natalie Ottley, who also graduated from BYU’s 3-D Studio Art Program, lives in Seattle and works at an artisan hand crafted ceramics tile company.

This ceramic piece is part of the Ottley's 2013 Burnt ring series.
This ceramic piece is part of Ottley’s 2013 Burnt ring series. (Natalie Ottley)

“I stuck to my parameters; I wanted to do something where I was learning a new skill and anything that was related to art,” Ottley said. “Always look for jobs that fit your requirement, because you could get stuck not learning anything or not headed towards your goal. Don’t settle for doing a job that has nothing at all to do with what your goals are.”

Art graduates may face difficult times searching for careers in their field. According to Artists Report Back: A National Study on the Lives of Arts Graduates and Working Artists, which uses data from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, only 10 percent of 2 million art graduates nationally make their primary earnings as working artists.

The report also shows that only 27 percent of 715,000 working artists have an arts-related degree. This data may discourage people from pursuing a degree in the arts.

Current illustration major Ashley Smith spends a lot of her time in the studio.

“I spend about an average of 12 to 15 hours a week; it’s pretty extensive,” Smith said.

It may be daunting to students who need to start looking for jobs.

Natalie Ottley is shown working in the studio. Ottley is a BYU grad who studied 3-D studio art. (Natalie Ottley)

“It is concerning to think that you might not be able to work in your field because you spent so much time into what you are studying,” Smith said. “It just makes you think, ‘What are society’s expectations?'”

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