CVPA - Alumni - Brian Ferrell
BRIAN FERRELL - MFA in Jewelry/Metals, 2004
On his work:
In late 2006, I moved back to my hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, after living in Massachusetts since 2001. Ultimately, my plan was to expand my studio, which at the time was in a partially dirt floor basement of my Haverhill, Massachusetts apartment. Soon after my relocation, I began teaching as an adjunct instructor at Seton Hill University (a small liberal arts university) here in Greensburg and putting together a studio. My time is divided between part-time teaching, renovating my house, and working in my studios.
I recently purchased an old art deco era house in the old glass/steel town of Jeannette, and beyond renovations, I am in the process of putting my metal shop in the basement. My woodshop is on the upper level of a barn located out in the country, which is used as a body shop by some of my family.
A typical day for me usually consists of teaching for half of the day (I teach a few freshman foundations courses, and a metalsmithing course). After that I spend the rest of the day at my woodshop.
On his recent accomplishments:
As I only graduated 4 years ago, my recent career is brief. Directly after graduation I began working full time as a studio assistant for Dan Dailey in Kensington, New Hampshire. After living in Boston for a year, I moved to Haverhill and managed to put together a small studio where I was able to continue with my own work. The studio was small and bare bones so to speak (as the previously mentioned dirt floor indicates). When making a larger piece of furniture, I would have to send all of the parts into the back yard through a coal chute to assemble them so I could make my adjustments and continue. The space was adequate enough for me to make the work for my first solo show at the Small Works Gallery in Haverhill in October 2006.
Recently, my work has been on display regularly at the Society for Contemporary Craft store in Pittsburgh (where I am a workshop instructor), the Meredith Gallery in Baltimore, and the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York. These shows have also provided several commissions, one of which was for an employee of the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Some of my upcoming shows include the Biennial Exhibition at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (with a two-person show at that location in 2010), Craftforms 2008 at the Wayne Art Center in Eastern Pennsylvania, and a solo Exhibition at Lock Haven University in February 2009. Also in the works is a show that I will co-curate at Seton Hill University, which coincides with the release of a book next year on contemporary pewtersmithing that will have images of my work (by Lisa Slovis Mandel, published by Lark Books).
I was the sabbatical replacement for the metals department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for the 2007-2008 academic year.
On his proudest achievement as an artist:
This past summer I was the first artist to have a solo exhibit at the Fallingwater Visitors Center (the Frank Lloyd Wright house). The exhibition space is a new addition to the visitors center, and I was able to work with the curator on the arrangement of the space. The final estimate based on the sign-in book was that approximately 6000 people saw the show over the course of 8 weeks.
I think the intensity of the MFA program at UMD gave me the confidence, both visually and conceptually, to achieve my goals. The emphasis on both the visual and written aspect of conceptual creation cannot be understated. For example, during my last show, I received numerous comments on the concise and insightful nature of my artist statement. This was reinforced when the fine arts department at Western Michigan University requested permission to use my statement as an example for their students to follow.
The faculty members in the metals studio were exceptional. The steady tag-team guidance from both Susan Hamlet and Alan Burton Thompson generated some outstanding feedback that helped shape my work. Their intelligent professional demeanor helped me, and definitely influenced my approach to working and teaching today.
On lessons learned in the "real world":
I have learned a lot about the business of being an artist. Having the opportunity to work for Dan Dailey gave me invaluable insight on how a professional artist 30+ years into their career operates. With that, and the help of my father-in-law who runs an incorporated business, I am able to run my studio like a business. Given that my ultimate goal is to make a living from the work that I make and sell, this sets the framework.
Advice for today's students:
Take advantage of the facility. Learn as much as you can. Your peers are your support group, and you should take advantage of their knowledge and friendship. A perfect example—during critiques, we did our best to help each other even if it meant being forthright. Conversely, during late night studio sessions we would take a break and eat ice cream.