Introducing Ryan Barrett: The Model Potter
Photography: Chantal Dusting
Ryan Barrett is one of those rare people – becoming an instant hit within the fashion industry it could’ve been all too easy to let it all go to his head, yet he didn’t let it phase him. Instead, he remained humble as he completed his studies while embracing a career in modelling. Now he finds solace in pottery, while still modelling, and has recently won BBC’s The Great Pottery Throw Down, which has caused a stir on social media (largely thanks to his good looks). As a certified veteran in the modelling industry, I want to ask him more about his career, his highs and obviously his love for ceramics.
“I’ve been with Models 1 since the beginning,” the 31-year old explains, “I started with them when I was eighteen so I’ve been modelling for nearly twelve years - it’s been a long time!” He has gone from strength to strength. When I ask him what his highlights have been, it seems that this man who has hailed from humble beginnings in Ipswich has had too many to choose from. “One of the biggest shoots I’ve done was with Gisele Bundchen for a Versace campaign - it was a big shoot for me and she was quite a character, in a nice way!” A Versace campaign stands as one of the most coveted campaigns a model can land. Once you have the seal of approval from Donatella Versace herself, you know you are going places. Yet for Barrett it isn’t all about the big names and major brands. “There’s the memories that you’ll never forget - your first ever catwalk show, your first ever shoot - they sort of stick with you from day one really. I’ve done some interesting things in my career...it’s an interesting world the fashion industry, especially coming from Ipswich.”
Barrett knows though, that times are changing for the modelling industry, especially for men. Today brands are looking for that young, almost pre-pubescent look. “You used to get to Milan and with a beard you could book Armani, Dolce and Versace. Now you’d be lucky to book one with a beard! It’s all clean, young and very different” he tells me. Yet that hasn’t stopped him from booking jobs. Chatting to him today, I find out that he has actually just come from a photo shoot and has more planned for the coming weeks. He has cemented himself amongst the likes of Florian Van Bael, Jarrod Scott and Johannes Huebl on the Models 1 Main Board and things only look to be on the rise.
One thing I notice about Barrett is his appreciation of what he already has – he is content with the things he has achieved and anything else in the future will be a bonus. This is a rare quality that I can only assume is a result of his upbringing. When I ask him if there is anything he wishes to achieve with regards to modelling, he exudes a sense of ‘what will come will come’. “Dolce and Gabbana was a brand I loved for a few years and then I got to walk for them” he muses, proving again that he is consistently thankful for the opportunities he has had rather than wishing for something new or another brand to work with.
Yet for Barrett, modelling hasn’t been his only job. While many models think that modelling will almost definitely result in instant money and fame, he has been wise to go about things differently. Since leaving university (he studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths), he has built his own business. “When I finished my degree I freelanced in textile design and so I designed prints for fashion companies like Topshop and Zara.” I ask him how he fitted this in with a growing modelling career. “When you model you have a lot of down time” he explains, telling me about how when on set he’d have time to check emails, make business plans and more. “I met my business partner and started Vooprint, which is an online e-commerce platform, but for design.” To you and I, Vooprint is essentially the Net-A-Porter of the design industry and was the first of its kind. It has grown into a flourishing business, with brands such as Calvin Klein reaching out to them. “I’ve got nine full-time staff and eight freelancers - plenty to keep me busy and they give me headaches on a daily basis! Modelling gives you opportunities to do other things so why not do them?”
With that said, we move onto his most recent venture, The Great Pottery Throw Down. For those who don’t know, the show is the BBC’s sister programme to The Great British Bake Off, only it focuses on pottery. “We had to do loads of interviews and a practical - they put a challenge on us like they would on the TV”, Barrett explains. Personally, I always thought these shows were structured differently, spread out over months during which time the contestants could practice. “They put cameras in front of us to see if we could actually talk and throw - the interaction of doing both is a tough thing to grasp. It’s filmed 3 days on and 2 days off for the clay to dry. It’s quite intense - it’s all back-to-back and filmed over two months in total. They do that I think so you don’t get time to practice – you’re thrown straight into the show.” To me that sounds pretty hellish – let’s not forget that Barrett maintained a modelling career and a full-time business while he was on the show. Yet it is this optimism and attitude towards life, which makes me really like him. He is consistently looking at the positives and not the faults. “The show has really improved me as a ceramicist – speed-wise I throw two hundred percent quicker than I threw before. On the show you have to do everything in about one minute and you don’t even think about it.”
Why pottery though? How did he fall into this almost outmoded hobby? “I actually went on a date and then fell in love with it - I took a girl to a pottery studio. The next day I went on E-bay and bought a kiln and wheel. Put it in my grandma’s shed - she loves it, I give her company and she feeds me.” What about the rest of his family? Have they tried their hands at pottery? “No one has had a go at it - I’ve tried to get my grandma to have a go at it, but she says ‘oh no it’s too dirty.’ There’s been a lot of accidents with the pottery (blowing up kilns, blisters, burns, etc.) and so they see that it’s a good achievement in that sense, I guess”.
Of course it’s a good achievement. Again, the humble side to Barrett is all too evident. He downplays his achievements in a way that is now so rare in a world where people are consistently showing off on social media. Despite all he has achieved he is focusing on the now and again, that laidback ‘what will come will come’ mantra. “I have no expectations, just going to take it as it comes. There was no motive behind the show to gain anything, it was more about the challenge, the excitement of the show and my love for pottery really.” “If I love something I just do it and if something happens it happens and if it doesn’t it doesn’t - that way I haven’t lost anything. I look at life that way.” To me that sounds like a good way of looking at things.