Ursula Beatt Follows Her Creative Impulses to Form a Life She Loves

Taking shape.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Marlene Stang
  • Photographed by
    Monica Orozco

Even as a child in Germany, Ursula Beatt wanted to explore the globe. She studied French language and culture as a young adult at the Sorbonne in Paris and eventually returned to Germany to earn a business degree. She began an exciting career at Porsche AG—a job that led her to Los Angeles. In the decades that followed, Ursula’s adventurous streak (and artistic creativity) would be reignited by every subsequent twist and turn in her life.

 After her two sons went to college, a period of deep introspection ensued during a six-month sabbatical to Bali. There she reconnected with her creative side, uncovering a passion for photography that took shape when she began perceiving her surroundings with new intensity. No longer just a way to document her trip, photography became a vehicle for sharing the world she was discovering with others. 

In 2015, while on a yoga retreat in Rome, Ursula was besotted by the warmth and rich culture of the Italian people. The joy she experienced inspired her to study the Italian language in Florence for two months in 2016. Ursula eventually moved to Florence for five months in 2020 and decided to revisit an art form that she had first explored in Los Angeles: sculpting.  

Ursula shares that in 2010 she took a sculpting class led by Tanya Ragir. During that time, she discovered a love for detail work when she endeavored to recreate a cow’s femur using clay. Since the femur is the strongest bone in the body, Ursula says that project became a metaphor for learning to stand on her own.

Ten years later in Florence, memories of sculpting came flooding back to her. In the first class she took there, Ursula recreated Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker, referencing only a photograph. The project became a study in improvisation when she was inspired to reshape it, free-form style, in the middle of a rainy piazza.

A friend introduced her to Raffaello Romanelli, a sixth-generation sculptor. She recalls the awe she felt first entering his studio.“There is a little old wooden door with a brass handle leading you into a magical, small winter garden—glass ceiling, sculptures everywhere and a few tables for the students to sculpt,” she says. Ursula has studied with Raffaello for two years now, and under his tutelage she is learning to replicate masterworks.

She describes sculpting as an addictive art form. “When you start a sculpture, you build the shape to copy from nothing. There is the excitement of the challenge and the fear of failure.”

At the beginning of her latest project in June, Ursula was filled with anxiety to the point of wanting to give up. “The size and quality of the woman with a head wrap I had chosen overwhelmed me. But I kept going, one fistful of clay at a time,” she says. “Then the fun starts. Your eyes get honed to truly see. I love the scent of earth each morning when I unwrap my wet sculpture. I love the utter sense of peace I feel when I am fully immersed in working. The world outside stops. Time stands still.”

Ursula shipped her latest piece, Fortuna, to her Manhattan Beach home, where she spends the fall and winter months. The ocean is just a few feet from her front door and is one of the reasons she calls Southern California her “healing place.” When she returns to Florence, Romanelli’s studio awaits, along with her apartment’s view of the Basilica di Santo Spirito and whatever will inspire her next project.   

Ursula believes that something good will always come from deciding to explore—whether it’s another country or one’s unique creative impulses. “In midlife, our souls need to be fed. Being artistically creative is food for the soul. There are no bad artists. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Paint with tomato sauce on your counter while cooking, then take a photo. That’s art! Don’t be afraid. Don’t hold back. What could possibly go wrong?”

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