Jake Brady’s art is everywhere around town, but its presence is not obvious. Walk into Social on First, the IceHouse or Art Center Sarasota, to name a few places where he currently has installations, and see if you spot it. Here’s a hint: It’s not hanging on the walls or sitting on a pedestal like art in a traditional sense.
Take Social on First, for instance. In the restaurant, there’s a 12-foot-long concrete parsons table with “Be Amazing” written in red concrete. Stylishly dressed Sarasotans sipping specialty cocktails rest their elbows on a concrete bar, or they lounge outside around a concrete table with a flame stemming from its middle. Brady designed and created all of these specialty concrete pieces.
Jake Brady Concrete by Design specializes in custom planters, bar tops, vanity tops, benches, fire tables, fire gauntlets and tables seen at many hot spots and developments around town.
But, let’s get one thing straight — it is not cement. Brady will politely correct you if you call his work “cement.”
“Cement is the flour, and concrete is the cake,” he says. “Cement is merely an ingredient in the concrete.”
His “cake” is made up of glass fiber, sand and water that he makes into any color of the rainbow. Because of the glass fiber, it’s relatively lightweight and customizable compared to material such as granite or marble that is used in similar fashions. He’s one of few people in the region who specializes in the art form, and with its surge in popularity in interior design, local developers and contractors keep him busy.
Brady’s art is in Guy Peterson’s $22 million Ohana house on Longboat Key. He created every countertop in the award-winning Josh Wynne’s The Pearl on Oyster Bay, which won NAHB Platinum Award for green-built home. Brady is currently working on what will be a similarly big-name project on Casey Key that he won’t disclose any more information about. But he can talk about the project he’s doing in Miami with Ian Schrager, the co-founder and co-owner of Studio 54 who partnered with Marriot to create a luxury boutique hotel in Miami. Brady is doing all of the hotel’s bars.
The arts people around Sarasota appreciate his work, too. While visiting Art Center Sarasota in spring 2013, he noticed the venue had standard-looking Mediterranean benches in its sculpture garden, and thought it could use modern, industrial, sculptural benches more appropriate for their location. So, he made and donated them. He made large benches for the IceHouse’s audio-video room and common area of the new gallery, too.
Last March, Brady hosted Art Off Palm at his studio in the Rosemary District. It featured his own concrete frame-encased paintings, a collaborative effort with Alaska-based artist Eric Miller. He invited artist friends to showcase their work in a shared opening. Nearly 400 people attended.
But business has not always been so abundant. In summer 2008, when he first started his business (then called Concrete Countertops Etc.) he had to sell his motorcycle and a few other belongings to get it off the ground. He even had to moonlight as a waiter at Roesslers.
“I always said, ‘Someday, I’m going to have that motorcycle back,’” he says. Now, parked outside of his studio on Florida Avenue is a new red Ninja sports motorcycle.
Because Jake Brady Concrete by Design is doing well, he has declared 2014 as the year he will venture even further in his artistic expression; he plans to focus more on his own personal art, rather than custom pieces.
He has already started creating and selling concrete sculptural work. He just picked up a pink inversion table, which he will use to create concrete casts of women’s torsos. He also plans to create lightweight sculptural wall hangings. And he’s in the process of working out future collaborative efforts and outdoor installations with a few notable artists in town.
“It’s exciting to talk to artists like that and have them call me an artist,” he says. “It’s pretty cool.”
Brady only recently started initialing his work. He still uses air quotes when referring to himself as an artist, but he’s getting more comfortable with the designation. Just as an artist would sign the bottom corner of his work, if you look along the sides or near the edges of his, you’ll find a small “J.B.”
“I finally have that self-confidence and realization that it is art that I create,” he says. “And I feel very good about signing those pieces.”
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