Beau Rhee is a designer & artist. She founded ATELIER DE GESTE in New York in 2012, after completing her MFA at the Haute école d’art et de design (University of Art & Design) in Geneva, Switzerland. AdG is a poetic combination of her artistic vision, commercial art & fashion background, and Swiss design & production training. She is trilingual, fluent in English, Korean and French.
My Definition Of Success | When I was younger, I thought a successful career would be more quantifiable, such as having degrees or grades. Now, I think success is a very difficult thing to be measured. As we well know, many creatives who were talented and famous were not necessarily wealthy, and those that are wealthy are not necessarily talented or successful. So, these ideas do not seem proper measures of success to me.
I would start off by saying that success means gaining the respect of the people one respects. Success means being able to delve yourself into something that is meaningful to you & the greater community around you. Success means having time and resources to be kind, generous and giving to others. Success means having meaningful relationships with friends and family and spending time with them. Success means living a life that feels authentic in some way, not having to pretend to be somebody you are not.
The Difference Between Good And Great | I would say a lot of it has to do with being self-content. If you are content with being good or mediocre, that is where you will stay. People who are great or excellent at what they do might be a bit more tortured (i.e. never self-satisfied) but I think it is the inner fire that pushes them to greater achievements. People who can stretch themselves beyond what is comfortable, I think, are the ones who inspire others to greatness. The motivation level is different.
A Key Talent | Even as early as my freshman year of college at Barnard College, Columbia University, I knew I was more arts-inclined. However, nobody was immune to the general requirements, and so I took Economics 101. I was genuinely interested in the subject, I really truly studied, and (I kid you not) I could never manage to get above a C+ in this class. My brain was just not wired this way. It was not intuitive. I was twisting myself into knots! In Art History, however, I studied hard and wrote papers off a gut instinct about various paintings, sculptures, cultural artifacts. The grades started at an A-, and they stayed there generally throughout my major with ups and some downs. It was intuitive to me, I understood the ins and outs of visual language, and I was good at it without having to force myself be somebody I was not. I use this anecdote to say, I think that the first step that is extremely important is: be honest with yourself and understand and who you are intuitively. (This is how I even managed to get cum laude or distinction despite the Cs!) Pinpointing ones strengths and spending time on developing them is the first step. Throughout the years, I think, one has to do this constantly. How am I spending my energy? How can I be the best me? How can I augment what I am good at? How can I most effectively contribute to the world with my talents? It is kind of like gardening. You have to prune your own dead leaves and branches and give your energy to your strengths.
The Characteristics Of Success | I give a lot of credit to my dance background. Dance to me is a source of both inspiration and mostly discipline, and to grow up learning from my strong and vibrant dance teachers has given me the dual skills of joie de vivre & good plain hard work. You learn early on that if you don’t do your plies, tendus and the basic boring warm-ups that the more advanced moves will be impossible (and painful). That kind of training instills a steady determination to just grind at the mortar every day. Not looking for instantaneous glamorous gratification, but having that humility and drive to do boring things over and over again is important. That being said, I think keeping that joy and inspiration, the movement is crucial to flaming the inner fire and drive.
Critical Skills I Develop | Communication is key. One could have the most brilliant idea in the world, but how to communicate it to others determines whether it is a flop or a win.
Details make the whole: when working on executing a new design or performance project, asking all the right questions to consider all the variable details and honing in on how to avoid mistakes and pitfalls.
Oftentimes, observation is more valuable than doing, or just random self-expression.
There is only one you: I try to ask myself what is something unique to me or my vision and try to augment that.
How I Use My Mind | I try to be very grateful for the good daily small things, like a good coffee and croissant, and there are always these.
I have come to accept obstacles, and try to brush off the bad small things. Obstacles (small and large) are there to strengthen your original intention, your original design, that deep inner goal. I think that roadblocks in projects can often lead to great solutions, which are more interesting and valuable than the plain old vanilla plan.
I think it is also important to be flexible and creative. If something is not working, take a step back and examine why, listen to the universe. Being able to be creative is being able to change your approach, or the materials, or the framework. As they say, the flexible branches of the tree are the strongest!
Lessons I Have Learnt | I will share some simple ones: Don’t compare yourself to others, work on being the best you! (There will never be another you, to quote the jazz standard) Less is more in emails. Dress the part. Your consistency and kindness to people will come back to bless you.
Dealing With Doubt | I think these monsters find everyone all the time. They come find me pretty often, usually before I have a big meeting or presentation, or before a show. The worst thing you can do when performing, though, is to tense up. Tension and anxiety generally make everything else worse. At those down moments, I generally have to just conquer the crushing doubts by trusting in my hard work, and try to enjoy the moment, again being grateful for an opportunity or just thankful for life in general. Speaking of the moment, I love jazz, and I love the strength of jazz. To me, that ability to improvise, to make each moment new and surprising, to enjoy the unknown, is really a life force and strength. Listen to the jazz masters when you are doubtful or fearful, and their creative force will knock it right out of you!
Performing At My Peak | One big thing is to surround yourself with people who inspire you to keep peak performance! I also learned from living in Geneva for 2 years, when I was doing my M.F.A at the Haute Ecole d’art et de Design, that a long morning of hard work always deserves a true lunch break, and that a laborious afternoon always deserves a true coffee break. Peak performance is directly related to being able to focus energy, and I believe that rest is important to be able to do that! There are many studies that show the effectiveness of 20 minute cat-naps as well. Be kind to your mind and energy, and they will be giving back to you.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I read the news during transit times in the subway on my iPad, but in 3 languages: English, French and Korean. Reading in different languages gives you different sets of eyes to see the world and its issues. I try to read the newspapers of languages I do not really know but can eke out (like Italian); it tickles my brain, it’s great! I love reading the journals of artists and designers, to stay connected to their daily struggles, ambitions, and inspirations as a way to gain perspective. I am currently reading the Journal of Nijinsky. In NYC I am lucky to be able to attend many openings at galleries, museums, boutiques to keep my mind and eye open and stimulated.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | In the context of Atelier de Geste, I have bigger ambitions for more performances involving unique costumes & props, as a way to continue exploring movement, but also as a way to showcase new designs and creations. As the studio grows in the next few years, I want to host more events and give back more to the community (movement workshops, color/design seminars, mentoring & teaching college students). In the next decade of my life, I can’t wait to be a mom and I can’t wait to start building my own home/atelier closer to nature. At some point, I would love to write a book about the history of lesser known 20th century women designers & artists. Hmm, I can think of many more projects on the wish list but I will leave it at that.