100 Creatives

Tempe Ceramicist Tom Budzak on the Best Book for Aspiring Artists

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 74. Tom Budzak.

Much like their maker, Tom Budzak's ceramic pieces work hard. 

The Tempe-based sculptor crafts functional porcelain pieces that are inspired by historical ceramics, covered in tiny dots, and then layered with china paint decals. 

"An average workday for me would be four to six hours of throwing on the potter's wheel and/or hand building, followed by as many hours as possible decorating work," the 37-year-old says. The multitasker cycles through audiobooks, podcasts, and movies while working, pausing to document the process in photos on Instagram (where you'll find him @budzak) and through Periscope videos (his handle's @tombudzak). 

Though he feeds on the energy of other media while working, it was a book he picked up as an undergrad at Arizona State University that helped propel him into the career of a professional artist. And Budzak still counts William V. Dunning's Advice to Young Artists in a Postmodern Era as his favorite. "It really made me feel like I could be an artist," he says, "and it gave me confidence in myself as an artist." 

That confidence took Budzak to New Mexico State University, where he earned his MFA. He placed first at the "History in the Making IV" art show, was a finalist in the Zainesville Prize group show, and recently became a member of independent artist network Art Axis.

Whether you find his work online or at Central Phoenix shop Practical Art, it all comes back to the work for Budzak. "I started at an early age making art," he says, "and somewhere along the line I just decided I needed to figure out how to make a living in the field I loved."

I came (back) to Phoenix with the idea of teaching ceramics as an adjunct professor and spending the rest of my working time perfecting my craft. I grew up in the Valley and went to undergraduate school at Arizona State. I went to grad school at New Mexico State University and had the feeling I'd
most likely move back.

I make art because I feel like I have to, like I don't have a choice in the matter. I really feel compelled to make art.

I'm most productive when I have a deadline to meet. I work well under pressure.

My inspiration wall is full of sketches, lists of ideas, postcards from other artists, and random Star Wars images.

I've learned most from trial and error. I usually get an idea and if I don't already know how to do something I figure it out the hard way.

Good work should always be cool! If artwork needs the artists' statement to be appreciated, I feel there's something missing. I think all good work should allow the viewer to be able to like it on the surface immediately.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more of a national presence. I believe the more creatives have a presence outside of the state, the better it is for everyone in the creative scene.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins