DOWNTOWN — A local artist is ‘Making It.’
Downtown Brooklyn resident and artist Jessie Bearden will be making her television debut on hit NBC competition show Making It for its season premiere on Monday, Dec. 2.
Now in its second season, the show, which is hosted and produced by actors Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, has makers from across the country take on a variety of handmade projects as they try to impress Poehler, Offerman and judges Simon Doonan and Dayna Isom Johnson with their creativity.
According to NBC, every show revolves around a central theme that draws inspiration from hugely popular, nationwide trends in crafting and DIY the whole family can enjoy.
Bearden, a multi-disciplinary artist known mostly for her portraits of pop culture icons using non-traditional materials, joins a diverse group of makers from woodworkers to balloon artists and calligraphists to costume makers.
She talked to this paper about the show and her experience on it.
“The show is really fun because it’s a competition, but the reason I wanted to do it is because you’re creatively challenged and the competition part is the no-stress part,” she said. “It’s really lighthearted and fun. It gives you an outlet to make a bunch of different things and there happens to be a prize at the end. For me and a lot of other people, that was the appeal. A fun and happy show.”
Bearden’s casting people reached out to her and asked if she was interested. Although she enjoyed the first season, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be part of the competition.
“I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to do it because it’s different than what I normally do, and I try to do more artistic things versus crafty, so I wasn’t sure exactly what that would be,” she said. “We ended up going through the casting process and did a demo type thing just to get a feel of what the show would be like, and I decided to do it and I’m glad I did.”
One of the highlights of the experience, for Bearden, was how the friendly competitive show tested her boundaries as an artist.
“We are pushing ourselves to the limit, and now I feel confident when I have a limited amount of time or can’t run out and get new materials,” Bearden explained. “You just have what you have and you have to do your best with it, so I think that being forced to problem-solve was really one of the coolest things about the show and one of the most rewarding things.”
She was also starstruck when she met Poehler, known for her work on “Parks and Recreation,” “Baby Mama” and “Saturday Night Live,” and Offerman, who has been in films such as “The Founder” and also on the television show “Parks and Recreation.” He is also a New York Times best-selling author with his volume about woodworking.
“Having Nick and Amy coming by so casually was such a surreal experience, and it was an honor to have them and the judges critique my work. It was great,” Bearden said. “Going into it, I thought when I met them I was going to be very flustered. But because I was so in my element, working on things which I love to do, that when I did see them. I was a lot more relaxed than I expected, and they were just so normal and exactly what you’d expect.”
After she graduated from college in 2013, Bearden moved to New York and worked on several projects, including an ESPN commercial and a Taylor Swift music video.
“I worked with a set designer named Marla Weinhall — she’s worked with everyone and is amazing,” she explained. “She let me work with her and one of the first things we did was the Taylor Swift music video. I did paintings for the music video which were featured in it and from there on, I kept doing set design and more of my own artwork. My other favorite is an ESPN commercial I did for the U.S. Open last year. I did gigantic portraits out of tennis balls.”
Trying to impress the judges was a challenge for the Brooklyn resident.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking, especially among all the other people that are really great at what they do,” Bearden said. “All of us make such different things that it’s like, how are they going to compare one thing to the next when they are so different? I think it was always unexpected. Because of that, it was nerve-wracking. Of course, you want to impress them and you have no idea if you’re on the right track or not. You just have to follow your gut.”
She is also nervous about watching herself on television.
“I know the show is super light,” she said. “It’s not drama or anything like that. But I’ve never seen myself on TV more than like a short blip. I’m nervous. Some of the people are doing huge parties, but I honestly have to work myself up even to watch it. Maybe after the first episode, once I see it, I’ll feel more comfortable.”
Season two of Making It airs on Monday, Dec. 2 at 10 p.m. on NBC. For more information www.nbc.com/making-it.