The Illinois Artisans Program focuses national attention on the rich heritage of the fine crafting that exists in Illinois. Our juried artists participate in art sprees, craft festivals, exhibitions and other events held at our locations in order to promote their work.


What happens after 10,000 hours for an artisan?

An interview with Artisan: Gary Beaumont, Champaign, IL


The 10,000 hour-rule by Malcolm Gladwell is a bench mark often cited when trying a new skill. So what happens after an artisan puts in those hours? Ceramic artisan Gary Beaumont put in his hours while work another job and then in last 10 years turned to ceramics full time.

Guess what? It appears that practice really does make a difference. Beaumont brought up the bench mark while speaking with staff of the Illinois Artisans Program,

"I think I have reached 10,000 hours and things are jelling. I’m getting to the point I can think of something, make it, and it works… For artists is really is true, experience makes a difference. For something to look and feel right, but also works and is beautiful."

Gary Beaumont taught and worked in communications and public relations at the University of Illinois for many years. During that time he began taking studio ceramic classes at the University. Trained in architecture, Beaumont found a new visual language in ceramics, and purchased a wheel and kiln.

After the birth of his first child, Beaumont set aside the studio practice temporarily. After his children left the nest and retirement, Beaumont picked up where he left off. That was 10 years ago, and Beaumont dedicated himself to putting in his 10,000 hours.

Working in the studio on a daily basis, Beaumont developed a signature style. Beaumont cites the generosity and community of other potters he studies with— particularly Don Pilcher, Sally McMahon, and Michael Schwegmann. But Beaumont stressed the importance of taking in the information and inspiration from other sources, then making it his own style. Beaumont’s work found that distinction with mastering the crystalline glaze and clean functional forms.

"Glaze work is a lot of checking and experimentation. But the thing about crystalline glazes is that is it really finicky. You can put two pots thrown and glazed the same way in the kiln and get very different results. Every piece is unique."

However, the patience pays off: “the pieces are bright and the glaze stands out because of the contrasting colors. It really pops on a wooden table.” That pop distinguishes Beaumont’s work.


Even after completing his 10,000 hours, Beaumont still pushes himself to try new glazes, including a lava glaze. His experience allows Beaumont to be creative. “I can image the different shapes and how the glaze will affect it. But also the other way around, find the piece that will show off a glaze.” Beaumont’s upcoming projects involve casting which allows work to be non-symmetrical. Juried into the Illinois Artisans Program in 2004, Beaumont’s work can be found at all three gallery locations.

This April, Gary Beaumont is part of the window exhibition "Tea for Two" at Illinois Artisans, Chicago. The exhibition features 15 Illinois Artisans who create tea pots, tea sets and service. Drop in and explore the social aspect of tea, served for two. Feature details and more images here.