Shoulder Pads and Chinese Phone Commercials Lead Jessica Buck Down the Art Production Path.

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So often people want to know the story behind the photographer or the creative on a project, but what about the art producer?  Art production is such an interesting job to say the least. The people I know in this position come from such rich and diverse backgrounds and rarely do they follow the same path to become one. Understanding this, I thought it would be fun to host a series of interviews with art producers that doesn’t just address how to get their attention, but instead celebrate the art producer for who they are, where they came from and what is important in their life.

Thank you Jessica Buck  for agreeing to be part of this series.  Jessica is an Art Producer at GSD&M.   Whenever we hear from her she is always happy to take the time to catch up and hear how we are doing.  You can hear her smiling through the phone.  If you haven’t worked with Jessica, keep her on your list, because when you do, it will be a fantastic experience!

Here is what she had to say:

What did you “want to be when you grew up?”  Are you surprised where you ended up?
I actually wanted to be a designer when I was a kid. I remember making elaborate floor plans on poster board and detailing what each room would look like in terms of furniture and decorations. I think each house had at least 4 stories and 2 pools. Ah, childhood dreams! With all those planning skills, I’m not totally surprised I ended up in art buying. 

What was your path to becoming an Art Buyer and what was that first moment of inspiration when you knew you would work in a creative position?
When I graduated from grad school, I had no idea what an art buyer was. I had applied to be a merchandise buyer for a clothing company and found out two days before graduation that I didn’t get the position. So I packed my bags and headed to the land of opportunity… Minnesota! I spent the summer applying for jobs and finally was able to get a data entry job at Target to help build a model database. That turned into a Merchandise Coordinator position which then turned into an Art Buying position and I’ve never looked back! I think the first moment I knew I’d actually do well in a creative position was when I was working on the model database – being the one to select which images would make the cut gave me a satisfaction of helping curate the site’s creative look and feel. 

Growing up, what were your creative interests?
I was big into playing dress-up with my Mom’s amazing 80s teacher wardrobe. She could rock a shoulder pad like nobody’s business! I also loved creating DIY tchotchkes like homemade frames, jewelry, and embroidered tea towels – plus, it was a win/win for having go-to holiday gifts.  

Do you have a personal aesthetic that comes through in the photographers whose work you are drawn to?
In general, I really love photographs that highlight the natural beauty of the scene or person. I do appreciate the high sheen of stylized photographers, but I think a shot lit beautifully with natural light and an interesting depth of color and texture draws me in every time. 

Are your talents being needed in ways that you didn’t expect?
Since I helped built the model database at Target and I’ve got a bit of a photographic memory, I became pretty skilled at helping the creatives select talent for projects. This also came in handy when I moved to Taiwan for a couple years and helped out as a scout for a local model agency! But in general, it’s such a collaborative process in terms of creating a successful shoot, that I’m always up for helping wherever I can – whether that means getting the craft services together, manning the reflector or helping entertain clients. 

How have your life experiences influenced your job choice?
I think most people would agree that I’m pretty adventurous. Ditch Nebraska for Minnesota without a job? Sure, why not. Opportunity to move half way around the world?! Yes, please! I think this openness to change is a good fit for our industry – deadlines, budgets and details are constantly changing and we’ve got to be able to roll with the punches and make it happen seamlessly and with a smile. I love that my job allows me to work on so many different projects and helps me to continue in developing my creative arsenal. 

How do you describe your job to your mother or someone not in our industry?
I tell people that I organize all the elements that go into putting together a photo shoot – sourcing and negotiating photographers, stylists, locations, models, etc and act as the ring leader that keeps all the pieces working together. 

Where do you look for inspiration? Stay inspired?
I love falling down the Instagram rabbit hole. I’ll start on a photographer’s page, which takes me to another, and then another, and somehow I eventually land on a Japanese cycling team’s page.  I also love to visit museums whenever I’m in a new city. My latest surprise was the excellent art museums in Fort Worth, TX. 

If you could change one thing in the creative industry right now, what would that be?
I would love the request for endless options on a shoestring budget to change! It feels like we’re constantly being asked to do spec work or come in at unrealistic numbers for what a project actually requires. I’d be surprised if photographers and reps aren’t feeling the same thing. 

Favorite way to spend a Sunday?
I’d get up early and walk the dog to the coffee shop before heading out on a bike ride with my husband and a couple of our friends through the Texas Hill Country, followed by a much deserved beer and pizza at one of our favorite local breweries, Jester King. 

One thing people reading this would find surprising about you?
That I grew up on a farm in a town with about 1000 people. And I was in a Chinese phone commercial.

If you weren’t an art producer, what would you do?
I would be running an ice cream shop with my husband! We make a mean balsamic banana salted caramel ice cream.

Latest discovery?
An amazingly hilarious podcast by a couple of kick-ass women at my agency: Last Week’s Balls. They are SO FUNNY and you should totally check them out:

Thank you Jimi Stine for help with the post.

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