Brandon Boetto: Concrete Artist
Brando Boetto is an Arizona-based concrete artist crafting everything from one-of-a-kind art pieces to custom sinks, tables, and more at his studio, SlabHaus. We are thrilled to learn more in depth about his journey to become an artist in such a specific and special niche.
Tell us more about yourself, your work, and what are you working on right now.
I am a 32-year-old, third-generation Arizona native, who currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2001, I received a degree in Multimedia Design. Similar to 70% of the US population, I received a degree in a field that I didn’t actually end up working in. I won’t say it wasn’t worthwhile though, as it did give me an incredibly good understanding of the process behind creative problem solving.
What it didn’t give me was a fulfillment of creating with my hands. I had a pretty long run as a Graphic Designer, but I always knew that something else was calling me. I had always enjoyed working on cars and welding, but it definitely didn’t seem like something I wanted to pursue full-time. One day, during one of my many daily stints on the numerous architectural design blogs I frequented, I happened to run across some incredibly inspired concrete sinks. They just completely blew my mind. I had no idea how far concrete had come and the complex shapes you could now form it into. From there I found a local training class with Concrete Design School, and have never looked back. I’m admittedly still finding my own style, but enjoying the process of experimentation. If I had to categorize my work, I would say that it definitely lends itself to more of a contemporary feel than my counterparts. One of the current projects I’m most excited about is a modular outdoor seating area for the Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix. I also have a few conference tables for some local architects and I’m in the middle of wrapping up the designs for my very first product line as well! I am incredibly excited for the next few months. There are some great things on the horizon, and I can’t wait to continue pushing both myself as well as the field of concrete forward.
What led you to become a full-time artist?
That’s an easy one. I was laid-off. Most people would make up a story about “leaving” their full time job to fulfill their life’s dream of becoming an artist. I’m not that type. It’s what happened and I’m not ashamed of it. I was at a large format printing company for 8.5 years. We printed everything and anything for some pretty major clients. When I first got there, I was around the fifteenth employee hired, and when I left we had expanded to over 120 employees. I learned more about small business from working there than I ever would have going to school. I owe a lot to those people. We both knew that I was on a different path in life and my time had expired there. I had already been doing concrete design in my garage for a year previous to my departure and they knew that. I had done everything except incorporating my business. I was absolutely devastated when they let me go. The owner told me that it was probably the best thing that could have happened for me because it was the extra push I needed to start my company and give it everything I had. He was 100% right.
Did you grow up in a creative household?
I definitely didn’t grow up in a creative household but my parents did always encourage me to explore new hobbies. They were all about getting me to try new things and see what I liked and didn’t like. Growing up I took pottery and painting classes, and played numerous instruments throughout my younger years. I feel like trying all of those different avenues while I was younger really shaped my approach to life as I grew into an adult. Creativity doesn’t have to be limited to artists. Creative thinking can obviously be used for everything in life.
Have you had any creative mentors?
I have been absolutely blessed with some of the best business and creative mentors anyone could ask for. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today without them showing me the way. The crew over at my previous job taught me so much about how to start and run a successful small business. I was able to get a very close-up view of the ups and downs of running a small business.
In addition to my business mentors I was fortunate enough to have one of the best concrete artisans in the country live in my city. I took some classes of his through Concrete Design School and that propelled my knowledge of concrete creation tremendously. I also have the greatest friends in the whole world. It is 100% impossible to run a successful decorative concrete company with only one person. I am constantly calling on friends to come over and help flip a piece with me or help with an installation. I am so grateful to have such an amazing circle of talented friends.
What does your typical day look like?
The best part about being an entrepreneur is the fact that every day is completely different. For the most part my days start with the lifeblood of creation…coffee. I feel like my best creations come in the morning so I usually start off at a coffee shop on my computer sketching and designing. I have a 24-hour turn time on quotes and estimates so I make sure to tie up any loose ends from the previous day during that time as well. From there I’ll make sure I have all the materials I need before heading into the shop to work on the day’s projects. Typically I spend the rest of the day at the shop working into the night. It’s a chaotic symphony of creation that involves cutting wood for form building, fiber glassing molds, as well as mixing and spraying concrete.
What are you listening to right now?
At this very moment I am listening to Sbtrkt. Music is probably one of my biggest inspirations. All songs paint a scene in my head that I can literally use to guide my design process. I also have a weird fascination with adding my current surroundings to a music video that’s playing in my head. I can play a song and all the sudden I can picture how that would look if I made it into a music video for SlabHaus. I really hope that one day I can have the budget to bring to life some of these SlabHaus music videos I have roaming around in my head, because you wouldn’t believe how crazy some of them get. I’d love to share a little of that insanity with the rest of the world. Other artists I have been obsessed with over the years include Ghostland Observatory, Onra, Tycho, The Cave Singers, Sufjan Stevens, Deftones. Honestly, my music tastes can be all over the board depending on my mood.
What do you consider your greatest strength? weakness?
I think my greatest strength is my passion for what I do. I love talking to new clients about projects. I think they can feel my excitement and it gets them excited to work with me. My biggest weakness is my lack of sales experience. I have a marketing background so I feel like I have a good grasp about how to market my products, but my lack of sales experience is definitely something I need to work on. Luckily in my industry it isn’t a complete deal breaker, because it’s an industry where the quality of the product can essentially sell itself. Art often inspires an instant reaction. People will either like or hate a piece as soon as they see it, so half of the sales process is already done by the time I meet with them. If they’re talking to me, I already know they’re interested in buying.
Why do you create?
I love seeing the emotion that can be inspired by something I create. Whether it's negative or positive, the fact that a piece of metal, concrete, paint, etc. can cause us to think in an entirely different light is pretty amazing. I also really love collaborating with fellow artists, it's almost like we can transport into a different world when we’re deep in discussion and bouncing ideas back and forth.
What message do you hope you are conveying through your work?
I hope to convey that you don’t have to go to the best world-renowned design school to become a great and successful artist. Education without passion will always lead to a dead end. Most people learn theory and design but will never create. I find a lot of people scared to try and it reminds me of a saying I heard, “The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.”Use your passion to follow your dreams and your success will be inevitable.