Dennard native finds art passion through Ozarka College’s Mountain View campus

By Lisa Burnett Published November 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Beth Bensuk of Dennard, a 2011 graduate of Clinton High School, started decorating her own mini top hats two years ago after her mother encouraged her to pursue her interest. Bensuk began her own business through a Facebook page, Mini Top Hat Emporium.

MOUNTAIN VIEW — Beth Bensuk of Dennard got into art “really early.”

“I started drawing in middle school, and through the years, I’ve gotten better,” she said. “When I got to high school, I started writing stories to accompany my art.”

Bensuk is a student at Ozarka College’s campus in Mountain View. Though her style of dressing up in costumes on a daily basis and her business, Mini Top Hat Emporium, might make fellow students think she’s an art major, she is pursing a degree in library science.

“I don’t want a career in art,” she said.

Her fascination with mini top hats started when she used to buy them from retail stores, but she realized she could make some money if she started making her own hats.

Though the hats may look like they would fit on the heads of dolls, Bensuk said she and the people who buy her hats wear them on their heads.

Her style, which she describes as “steampunk,” gives her an edge that intrigues others, she said. Steampunk is defined as a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

“People say, ‘I can’t wait to see what you do next,’” Bensuk said. She enjoys watching anime and participating in “costume play,” where participants dress up as characters from comic books, anime or video games.

Bensuk graduated from Clinton High School in 2011 and wasn’t sure which college she would attend.

“I really liked the atmosphere of Ozarka. The teachers are so nice and open,” she said.

Though she’s pursuing her degree in library science, Bensuk said, she is minoring in art. Her top hats take up most of her free time, she said.

“It takes me about two days to make one,” she said.

Bensuk used to use preformed hats before making her own from skeins from crocheting. Her mother crochets, so she recycles the materials her mother would normally discard.

“My hats are also very hefty,” Bensuk said as she dropped one on the floor to show it wouldn’t break apart.

She said there are other people who make mini top hats, but there aren’t many out there.

“Not many make the hats to the extent I do them,” she said. Along with making the forms herself, Bensuk decorates each hat according to a theme, and names them all. “Vampire Knight Mini,” “Gothic Lighthouse” and “Alice in Wonderland” are just some of the names for the hats on which she works.

She’s been making hats for about three years and has entered some of them in the Van Buren County Fair.

“This past year, I won first place in the fair for handicrafts,” she said.

Through the art department at Ozarka, Bensuk said, she’s gotten inspiration for different forms of art, along with developing more ideas for her mini top hats.

“I’ve been learning more about thinking in a 3-D way,” she said. “You really have to put it together in your mind.”

In her art classes at Ozarka, Bensuk said, she’s learned different depths that go into art as well.

“There’s a lot of critical thinking that goes into art,” she said.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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