BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Justine Ferreri, February 4, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with Justine Ferreri, February 4, 2008
Date:
February 4, 2008
Description:
Interview with local artist Justine Ferreri. Here, she discusses her background, her aesthetic and preferred mediums, and the business of being a professional artist.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Ferreri, Justine Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview:  2/4/2008 Series:  Arts Length  90 minutes

 

Hayes: Greetings.

Ferreri: Greetings.

Hayes: My name is Sherman Hayes and I am the university librarian at UNCW Randall Library, and today-- with that creaking walk above us-- we are talking to Justine.

Ferreri: That's right, I guess everywhere I end up is a little haunted.

Hayes: Justine, and your full name is?

Ferreri: My name is Justine Ferreri.

Hayes: Justine Ferreri, and Justine is an artist, we are going to speak to her about her art today, and we are down at her retail shop and also production studio at one side, and it is in Chandler's Wharf in Wilmington.

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: But before we jump into kind of your finished product as a famous artist, why don't we get started a little bit with where did you grow up, where did you get started, how did you end up in Wilmington?

Ferreri: Well, I moved around a lot with my parents being in the military. I was born in Japan.

Hayes: Oh my goodness.

Ferreri: Yes. And then we moved all over the United States, different kind of bases and actually, I really feel Wilmington is my home because I've been here 20 years and that is the most I have ever lived anywhere, but I lived in Florida and California and New Jersey, Pennsylvania.

Hayes: Well, let's see, 20 years, that means you came back to or were at--

Ferreri: Right after college.

Hayes: Which would have been--

Ferreri: 1976.

Hayes: 1976. Okay. Because today is February 4th, 2008, my staff always yells at me because I forget to put down what the date is, so I've been trying to save my back to my boss. So, anyway, your dad was in the military; your mom was in the military?

Ferreri: My father was.

Hayes: What was his name?

Ferreri: William Corcoran, he was a major.

Hayes: Oh, wow, in the army?

Ferreri: In the army.

Hayes: And your mother's name?

Ferreri: Frances Landis Rosenberry-Corcoran, and they were quite the characters because in Japan-- they lived there 12 years and I was at the end of it so we tend to grow up with the things that are our childhood, and we had so much Japanese art and oriental influence in our house and what we did and how we ate.

Hayes: Wow, so you didn't live on the base, you actually had a--

Ferreri: Yeah, we had a house, but we lived on the base when I was a real small child, and then he actually retired 25 years and then he got another job and retired again. But when he retired we moved permanently to Florida and it was a wonderful place to be as a child, grew up in the swamps playing with, catching snakes and alligators and all kinds of terrible things. And then we moved to New Jersey as a young adult and we lived in an interesting place, it was Wildwood Crest, which was sort of like living in Wrightsville Beach except it had a huge boardwalk and in the summertime there was so many people you could hardly walk, let alone drive a car. And then in the wintertime, every light was turned off. We had one stoplight in the whole place that was working and, actually, we were so bored to tears that we would pretend that all the other lights worked and we would just drive and stop and pretend that the light worked. There was nothing to do, but it was--

Hayes: This is a teenager speaking.

Ferreri: Right. I mean the closest McDonald's was in Atlantic City and we would drive up there for an order of French fries. The boredom was really bad, but it was a great place to grow up because everybody had a job and there was a time in my life where, and I found that I am a workaholic and that's why as an artist I think that 90 percent of why I do so well is that I work so hard. And I know so many artists that are so much more talented I think than I, but they have no discipline, and I think that's the thing that in my life that has been--

Hayes: And you think you got that early on?

Ferreri: Absolutely.

Hayes: What were your jobs, I mean, when do you have, is this--

Ferreri: In fact there was one summer where I made more money than my father and I was so proud, because I had three jobs. I had a job as a, I threw pizzas, from 11 to 4 in the morning I threw pizza, and at 4:00 o'clock I would go to the beach, fall asleep for three hours, get up, help pick up the trash behind the break and then, what was my other job, and then I would walk down to Diamond Beach and help a friend rent surfboards out. And then I would go to my other job, which is popcorn/candy girl in the theater. So it was real fun. And it was enjoyable, you know how when you are young you just think you can do everything, and I think I always learned that you could do anything if you really worked at it. You know, you may not do it well in the beginning, and you may not do it as best you think you can, but at least you've tried, and then if you keep trying eventually I think you get better at it.

Hayes: You get better.

Ferreri: Yeah.

Hayes: But you still need some talent I think in there somewhere.

Ferreri: Yeah, I think so, but I think more of it has to do with not being afraid to try. I think that's really the thing.

Hayes: Was there art early on at all, did you have any sense of--

Ferreri: No, not at all, actually I had studied ballet and I played in a little band and, you know, I did like the coffee houses, back then they were all coffee houses, you play guitar. And, so, I always felt like art was important, some kind of art, you know, that you have that creative outlet. But in high school I felt like art was like that kind of clash, you shouldn't do art because that's like taking home economics. I mean, who is going to need it? So I took like architecture and I tried engineering, things that were more sharp and more disciplined for your mind. And I feel bad that I didn't do art, because actually, the school where I went to high school was very small and the art class went on at the same time that the architecture class was. And I used to kind of watch my friends and be like sort of envious that they were like doing these things. But I realized that for my mind it was better to learn how to make squares and whatever I was doing in architecture.

Hayes: So college, did you ever do college?

Ferreri: I did a year of college in Stockton State College, and then my parents bought a restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, and that's how I got to North Carolina. I came down to help my sister with that. And then at that time I went to Uke [ph?].

Hayes: So your parents were in the restaurant business?

Ferreri: No.

Hayes: They were just backers.

Ferreri: Yeah, they just backed my sister, my sister was in the business, and it was a very successful restaurant. I still have people that come in and they talk about it and say, oh, my God, you worked there?

Hayes: Really?

Ferreri: It was phenomenal. We had a line at the door the day they opened and I don't know, I wasn't there when they closed, but it was unbelievable-- and it was like sandwiches and pizzas and stuff. But I moved to Charlotte, and I loved Charlotte, because it was actually the first big city I had ever lived in and it was an interesting city because it was fairly southern, and I think it still is one of the most southern cities. That's where I met my husband. And at that point I was actually doing dance, we had a small thing called, we called ourselves, gosh, now I forget this, the Charlotte Street People, and we used to sell ourselves, there were six of us that would go to a festival and we would put these little poles up. And I was the dancer and there was a juggler, and there was a guy that did Shakespeare, and we would perform for 20 minutes then move to the next pole and perform and move to the next. So, you know, it was kind of fun. So I would do dance freeform, contemporary dancing to a little tape I had, and I loved it, it was great.

Hayes: And people put money down?

Ferreri: No, actually, we got like fifty dollars, I think.

Hayes: Oh, from the festival itself.

Ferreri: Yes, from the festival, and it was nothing, but we just wanted to perform. And it was a challenge because you are performing and really no one is watching it, you know, and then eventually they realize you are doing something, and then they would say, oh, she is acting really strange. And then they would actually say, oh, she's dancing. So it was fun. And my husband, when I met him, he was in the food business and he was also very into theater.

Hayes: What is your husband's name?

Ferreri: Guy Ferreri.

Hayes: Guy Ferreri.

Ferreri: Yeah, and we hit it off so well because between talking about food and art and music, which were all the loves in my heart, it was just like simpatico, we were like soul brothers and sisters and family and everything, he was everything to me. And we have been together for 28 years now. It has been really good, a good ride.

Hayes: So where did art start?

Ferreri: Well, being in the restaurant business, we moved to Wilmington, and at that point we were going to build a restaurant here. We had found a space and we were on the construction part of it and everything, and it was sort of an odd restaurant, because it was in the back of a building, so you didn't have like the visual frontage that you could like walk down the street and say, oh, look, there's a restaurant, let me go in there. So I had to, I really started thinking, I have to come up with something so creative and so beautiful that people will want to come, and then they are going to tell their friends and they are going to want to come. And, besides that, have really good food.

Hayes: What was the name of the restaurant?

Ferreri: It was called Justine, and it was an Woolworth's building downtown. It's now Szechuan 130-something, like 132.

Hayes: Oh, is that near the post office?

Ferreri: Yes, it's right at the post office. We were in Charlotte driving around and we drove by this gallery on Trilon [ph?] Street and I looked in the window and I said, oh, my God, Guy, stop the car. And he stopped, and we looked in and it was an exhibit of paper mache, but they were kind of like stick people, they weren't really incredibly detailed or anything, but I said I know what I'm going to do for the restaurant, we'll get paper mache, large pieces, build it up and make it really look interesting. So we called the gallery the next day, I think it was Ponches and Taylor [ph?] Gallery, and we had got in touch with the artist, and he was like wanting a thousand dollars apiece back then, in the 1970's, no, it was the early 1980's, and I said that's a little much, you know, because we're not like really, restaurants are tough to start. So I said to my husband, I said, "I'll make them." And he thought I was nuts because I don't think he was used to me just staying stuff like that; now he is. Then he said, "You'll do what?"

Hayes: He doesn't still think you're nuts.

Ferreri: Oh, yeah, he does. But he said, "You'll make them?" And I said, "Yeah," and he was really like "No, you can't do that." I said let me make one, and if you hate it, I won't, but if I can make it then I will make more. So the first one I made, I wish I had still, because the one thing I've learned in this business is you always keep the first attempt at anything because, you know, the first bowl that I threw, which was awful, I still have that, but I didn't have that piece of paper mache which was, it said loves for hands, one eyeball was larger than the other, she was kind of grotesque, but she was the first, and my husband loved it. It was an Italian woman sitting there how they do in Italy, they all sit, you know, after their siesta they get up, go to the window and look out. That was my first one.

Hayes: And that was out in your front window as kind of--

Ferreri: I actually made the inside of the restaurant like people looking out into a courtyard, and over the bar I had the three pasta eaters that were sitting there, they had a pasta eating contest and I sort of made the whole restaurant about the Festivus, which means the festival of the rest of us. Where, if you watch Seinfeld, it's the best of us that sort of made it into that, but festival niantre [ph?] was a festival in Rome where it had nothing to do with anybody but the moment and it was just a party, a big party out in the piazza.

Hayes: And those stayed up through the life of the restaurant, correct?

Ferreri: They did.

Hayes: Oh, that's great.

Ferreri: I had pigeons and I had women sitting in some tables eating cappuccino.

Hayes: Did you paint all of these besides--

Ferreri: They were all painted and they were all life sized and I had palm trees, I made palm trees.

Hayes: Did people try to buy them from you?

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: I thought they might.

Ferreri: They did, and actually that's how I got into my very first gallery was New Elements gallery and Merriman really liked them and she came in and there was a spice company that wanted me to make all the spices out of paper mache for their walls and it was rose spice and it was kind of boring because, I mean, what can you do to a piece of cinnamon stick? I mean, that's what they wanted, you know, there were some more exciting ones like a piece of ginger is kind of pretty but...

Hayes: Big, big pieces?

Ferreri: Big stuff, like the ginger, this was about the size, about a four-foot piece of cinnamon, and the ginger was about three feet and there were garlic heads.

Hayes: So you had a mention out, paper barge, paper mache.

Ferreri: Yeah, and then I started making paper mache globes of garlic for her gallery, and all kinds of stuff.

Hayes: So you were selling those.

Ferreri: Yeah, I started selling with her.

Hayes: And what was the paper mache technique, just like we all know?

Ferreri: Yes, chicken wire and flour and you boil it.

Hayes: And newspaper was your [inaudible]?

Ferreri: Newspaper, uh-huh, used a lot of newspaper.

Hayes: So the real creativity, then, came in the shapes and the vision that you had of what it could look like, right?

Ferreri: Yeah.

Hayes: Because they weren't, you weren't trying to do necessarily replicas of this or that.

Ferreri: No, and I was trying to do, you know, I really wanted to start getting into the male and female form because really I love people and I love caricatures of people, and eventually I got to a point where I could do a pretty good person, but never perfect, always a little off, which I kind of--

Hayes: Purposely off.

Ferreri: Yeah, I kinda liked it that way. I mean, I didn't want to be, you know, there are such great sculptors, and I didn't feel like, and my niche I really felt was more about color, and that was the great thing about the paper mache that you could use all these colors.

Hayes: What were you using for pink, was that acrylics?

Ferreri: Uh-hum, acrylics, then I learned that paper mache is not as-- it's very fragile and it does tend to fall apart after awhile, so when I started putting the casting material that you use when you break your arm, I would put that all over the whole thing.

Hayes: And that strengthens it up.

Ferreri: Strengthens a whole lot, and then I started using fiberglass and lacquers and anything to make it more substantial because they were so large.

Hayes: And you were running a restaurant at the same time.

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: So this was--

Ferreri: It was a hobby for me.

Hayes: --hobby, fun thing to do.

Ferreri: Yes. And there was another tendency that I have that's really bad, I work better under pressure, so I tend to let, like if I have a show going on or something, I'm like-- not that I wait until the last minute, but I wait to the minute where I know the pressure will make me more creative because it is sort of like, it's like a feast when you are being creative, you're like you can't wait to eat it all at one time instead of like being good and having like a little here and there. I really like--

Hayes: Pressure?

Ferreri: Pressure, yeah, because being a workaholic and pressure, two really bad things for normal people to be.

Hayes: Do you drink a lot of coffee, too?

Ferreri: Not really, just one cup a day probably.

Hayes: That's good, I thought maybe this was going to extend.

Ferreri: But, you know, it helped. But that's really how I got into it.

Hayes: Well, how did you feel about it, I think that's kind of interesting that when somebody from the gallery came and said we really want to do that, I mean that must have really been a reinforcement.

Ferreri: Oh, yes.

Hayes: Which says something interesting about galleries, that they are usually bombarded by people--

Ferreri: Artists.

Hayes: --people's willingness to do that.

Ferreri: Absolutely.

Hayes: But their goal is to kind of have an interesting mix, so that was a compliment that she came and said--

Ferreri: Absolutely. And the thing, too, is I think one of the hardest days, we had a little tiff, Miriam and myself, and the next day, I think I cried that night, it was like oh my God, I don't have a gallery, but the next day I had to do what they call cold calling, to buy all this work I was making. This is actually when I was into clay. Yeah, we had been together, oh, a good eight years probably, and you have tiffs with people, you can't always get along. So I went cold calling, and I actually, a good friend of mine went with me, because I felt like, I don't know, your ego is so fragile as an artist because you are putting your, you really put your soul out there on the platter.

Hayes: So cold calling in a sense you were going around to people saying please buy this?

Ferreri: No, I was going to other gallery and trying to find another gallery. I'd never been there; I had never had to go like, you know, and walk in and say here's my work and here's my resume. And I think that's probably the hardest door for an artist is that one door, and I knew my stuff was selling, so it wasn't like I was an artist that didn't know that much.

Hayes: Right, right, you weren't so vulnerable, but you still wanted a gallery.

Ferreri: Yeah.

Hayes: Is that here locally or did you have to go out of the state?

Ferreri: Yes, locally. No, locally, because this is where my people were that were buying my work and I walked all through the cotton exchange, talked to a couple, and it was really sad because a lot of them, you know, I'd walk in and they'd say, oh, we're not interested in anybody, not even, it was just a total cut. And then I know now that you should have, there's like a letter you send, I mean, there is a way to do it now, you send a letter, I'm going to be in this town at this time, may I have-- because people in galleries are busy, I mean, I'm one of those people now.

Hayes: You used to be on the other side, and now artists are coming to you saying--

Ferreri: Yes, and I think I am very sensitive to artists because I have been there, and if I see somebody work and I really think it is very marketable, and the real thing is most artists to me don't know their market, they need to find, you know, they're not thinking as a business.

Hayes: But they aren't trained to do that.

Ferreri: I know, and that's a sad thing, because I wasn't trained. I was trained in the restaurant business and I think that is why I am successful as an artist because I realized that you have to know who your client base is and you have to cater to them, you know. And you have to be a service person, you can't be, I mean, you can, I guess, if you are an artist that's going beyond, and I hope that I'm never not caring enough for my person.

Hayes: You know, we are talking around the subject here but you now have a gallery and shop, right?

Ferreri: Uh-huh.

Hayes: And you don't just carry your own work here.

Ferreri: No, in the beginning I wanted it to just be about me, you know, I was being very selfish, but I realized I couldn't produce enough for the volume that comes in this store.

Hayes: And people have different tastes.

Ferreri: Absolutely.

Hayes: You want them to see different things and come back and maybe when there is another time, right, I mean, I think that's a real problem sometimes, people think they're just me, right?

Ferreri: Right, absolutely.

Hayes: And then a visitor comes in and doesn't want your stuff walks right out the door, right?

Ferreri: Yeah, and I think that this is tourist area so I have to think about that person that's not familiar with things in Wilmington. I try to make the store about, like I have a show every month in the middle about a subject, like right now there is a jazz show going on because the jazz festival is here. Last month it was about games, so we did all kinds of games and stuff. And I think it helps me in my work to in my head to focus on the certain grouping of work, because in my head there was a million things wanting to be made, and I have to like sort of catalog and hone in onto something.

Hayes: Can we go back to, you have so many different facets here, and I want to get--

Ferreri: I know.

Hayes: That's good, that's good, and I want to get to the clay part. In other words, is that today, have you got some piece, are any of those yours or not?

Ferreri: No, actually, the little ones are right there.

Hayes: Just bring one over so it's on the camera. Is this yours?

Ferreri: It's my chicken.

Hayes: Yeah, bring your chicken over, that's fine. And this is evolved over the years--

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: --and this is your product of various sizes, you do from small to quite large, right, which, different markets, and I would say kind of a whimsical humorous approach; is that conscious?

Ferreri: Yes, I think so.

Hayes: That's my judgment; maybe that isn't your judgment.

Ferreri: Well, I think that, you know, there are a lot of different parts of me, sometimes, like everybody, there's like, I have three different things actually going on in my art. I have the little piece that someone can buy for ten dollars, but someday they may buy something for fifteen, and then twenty, and on and on, but at least they're starting, and it's not from China, and it is made locally, and it's like a little, they can take a little piece of Wilmington with them.

Hayes: But it is not tourist in the sense that your subjects are Wilmington.

Ferreri: No, it's not. It's just that they are buying something from the artist and it is from here, and then there is the second part of me, which is what this chicken is, actually, is that you don't always have business, so this is my wholesale line. I have a wholesale website and I sell to probably 30 galleries across the nation.

Hayes: Oh, really, how long have you been doing that?

Ferreri: I have been doing that for about three years, and it's a great place, I think there are like 1400 artists on it, and the great thing about it is I can get an email on my computer and it will be like just yesterday we sent something to California, and I will get something from Chicago.

Hayes: You are a wholesaler to?

Ferreri: A gallery.

Hayes: Other galleries or gift shops or both?

Ferreri: All of them are pretty much galleries because they are all buying handcrafted from the United States.

Hayes: And they sell it under your name, right?

Ferreri: Right.

Hayes: In other words, they are not hiding who did this.

Ferreri: No, no.

Hayes: You're selling as Justine from Wilmington, but you had to sell them substantially less than you do in your shop.

Ferreri: Yes, and so there are things that I have learned to make faster and more on a production scale, like that is a production piece, and then the next level is the pieces that I make that are, I really make them for me but then some people buy them because they think, well, that's pretty cool.

Hayes: Do you have one handy?

Ferreri: I do. Actually, I have one here.

Hayes: Now when you said production, that has kind of a bad connotation. You don't mean that you are a factory or anything, you are just saying that you have a more formulistic approach that you get to them?

Ferreri: Yes, absolutely. It just means that on my cut of pattern to start it, it means that I do have an assistant that helps me, and so she may paint the color for me so I don't have to sit there and paint every single thing.

Hayes: Yeah, but you designed it.

Ferreri: I designed it.

Hayes: You have the concept.

Ferreri: Yes, absolutely.

Hayes: And now you have got one in your hand. Let me describe it, it's about 20 inches tall and it is an African-American lady.

Ferreri: It is. It is actually Ethel Waters.

Hayes: Oh, tremendous, the singer.

Ferreri: Yeah, this is the show about jazz that is going on right now, and I did Ethel Waters because they used to call her Sweet Mama String Bean because she was so skinny and tall, and so her dress I made out of green beans and then I have this little bowl of water with birds on it because she is Ethel Waters, and I thought that would bring the water element in. And the interesting thing about her to me was she was so phenomenal because in the 1930's, she was making $2400 a week as a singer, a black singer.

Hayes: A black singer in America making-- did she stay here or did she have to go to Europe?

Ferreri: No, she was in New York City; she was down on Broadway. So, I mean, that is so amazing to me, and that is why I actually did here, because she was very elegant.

Hayes: Now this one is almost a figurative sculpture, most of yours, you are not really operating from a--

Ferreri: No, I'm not usually.

Hayes: [inaudible]

Ferreri: Yeah, usually I make up all kinds of things but--

Hayes: Characters that you create.

Ferreri: Right.

Hayes: Like the chicken, it's not a real chicken, is it?

Ferreri: No, it's not. I just thought her story was so interesting.

Hayes: Yeah, now this one, it doesn't matter what prices are, but this is two or three times more because it is a unique piece, you only do one Ethel Waters.

Ferreri: Right.

Hayes: And what are we talking about, hours and hours of work here?

Ferreri: Probably it took me two days to make that.

Hayes: Wow. And let's talk a little bit about technique. Are you then a ceramic artist, a clay artist, what?

Ferreri: I work with clay, so I consider myself a sculptor. I work with clay, but I do use a lot of the techniques that like ceramic artists would use, like I use a slab roller to roll clay thin, I use an extruder to make squares and circles.

Hayes: Okay, you build a lot--

Ferreri: Right, I do use--

Hayes: You're not just patting this together.

Ferreri: No.

Hayes: You have various pieces that you put together.

Ferreri: Yes, and I use a lot of different techniques so I am pretty much doing a lot of different things. And I never really know what I am going to do in the morning. I write a list of the things I need to do, and I know that I think there are creative blocks, and a lot of mine is, you know, if I'm exhausted, maybe I drank too much wine last night, or things like that, and I can't get the creative going, I will work on the chickens and all the little stuff. So I will always be working on my work.

Hayes: Let's talk about the chicken for a second, I mean hold that up again, you know, for the person who has to listen to or see this without seeing it. You know, we got the wild red comb, its got polka-dots instead of, black polka-dots and the giant feet. Are you just having a good time with this?

Ferreri: Oh, I love this. And there are beads.

Hayes: And in the creative process like this it doesn't just come to you finished like that, you go through, what, 10, 15, 20, I mean, how many, you do a lot to get to something like this.

Ferreri: I think the very first one looked just like this.

Hayes: You're kidding. Wow.

Ferreri: The only thing that I had worked with because of the weight of it, how large the feet should be and the base, but the first one looked--

Hayes: And this is mainly solid clay?

Ferreri: This is hollow, actually, what happened, really why I made the chicken because I do craft shows also, or I did, the gallery sort of stopped me from doing a lot of them, but I did a show in Key West, and I don't know if you have been to Key West, but there are chickens everywhere. I mean, it's fun.

Hayes: On the street.

Ferreri: On the street. And I was really excited with my very first show in Key West in January which it's just wonderful there, and I made these beautiful parrots with the cage, I mean they took me like three hours just to put the cage together, and I made no money on them because, you know, the cost of how I make a cage, and, oh, the parrot had the Jimmy Buffets, they're gonna be there, they're gonna love these. I sold like two out of like eight. Everybody said, do you have any chickens? So I said next year when I come back I'm going to have chickens, so now I'm making chickens.

Hayes: You are kidding, they said, do you have chickens?

Ferreri: Yes, because they all want chickens because that is what, that's the symbol of Key West, forget the parrot head.

Hayes: That's funny, chickens, you gotta know your market.

Ferreri: Yeah.

Hayes: And you sold the next year a lot of chickens.

Ferreri: A lot of chickens.

Hayes: A lot of chickens. And has this been a very good one for you--

Ferreri: Oh, yeah.

Hayes: --nationally?

Ferreri: Yesterday I sent out three.

Hayes: Wow. Well, it's a spot, I mean, I think that's it.

Ferreri: Yes, and they are all different colors, so, you know, they are not all the same.

Hayes: Oh, you do a lot of different chickens.

Ferreri: Oh, yes.

Hayes: Oh, my goodness, I'm turning this over here to some of the chicken flock. Is that what it's called, the chicken flock, flock of chickens? Okay, that's good. Now you also do some really large pieces, right, occasionally, I mean, what, two or three foot tall?

Ferreri: Yes, like I did Uncle Sam, it was pretty big, he's about three feet large.

Hayes: And like those go for hundreds of dollars, right?

Ferreri: Yes, actually, I think I have $900 on him.

Hayes: Wow, okay, so those are really large. You can come in.

Ferreri: Oh, these are my friends, he is a wonderful artist, he just moved here.

Hayes: Okay, we're back, we had this surprise visitor and when we are done you can chat with them. You construct these sculptures, then, and we'll spend just another minute or two on the techniques, then.

Ferreri: Okay.

Hayes: So clay is your body that you are working from, traditionally same clay or various clays depending on what--

Ferreri: I tend to use the open ware clay, and I have a lot where they put grog in it, and grog is actually a stabler, makes it so that I can take the clay to another level without cracking, grog is used for larger sculptures to hold things together.

Hayes: And are you using underpinnings inside? I mean, some of yours get so large that you have to put something to help--

Ferreri: Sometimes. My real problem is a lot of times I want it to go, because I've never taken a class, I tend to go over what it should do, I blew up a lot of stuff in the beginning, I mean, I had some incredible stuff just-- because I didn't know any better.

Hayes: Yeah. Do you have others besides, though, that just fell apart?

Ferreri: Well, the kiln, you know, the kiln can be explosive. There is like this little time between like the 600 to 800 degrees where you just sort of have your ear to the kiln because you know that that's like if it makes it past the 800, you're safe. Because with sculpture, you really, you know, little tiny air bubble, if you are putting arms together and there is just this little thing, it could totally blow so you have to be real careful about that. And then actually how thick it is, it has to be, it can't get any thicker than so much.

Hayes: You are probably using Whippet Kiln.

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: Because you do a lot.

Ferreri: I do.

Hayes: In the end, I mean, if you have a wholesale/retail and you also do community work, you must have followers, if people want something.

Ferreri: I do have commissions and right now I am really behind on this one that in my brain I see it, and she wanted it for Christmas.

Hayes: Whoops.

Ferreri: We missed that deadline, but it's like I said, you know, if you have-- I wasn't well around Christmas, I couldn't do it, so, and hopefully when I get it done, if she doesn't want it, it's fine because I will sell it.

Hayes: So you have been doing the sculpture stuff, what, ten years--

Ferreri: Ten years full time.

Hayes: --as a serious--

Ferreri: As a full time sculptor, yes. And it was hard because in the beginning my husband was working at restaurants or country clubs, and every time a chef or anybody quit I would have to jump in, so it got to a point where I said, Guy, you have got to get out of this business so I can do my business. So now we work together and it's great, but it puts a little more pressure on me because I'm like supporting him.

Hayes: So does he help you with the wholesale things?

Ferreri: Yeah, he does all the shipping, it's just amazing how, you saw Ethel Waters, think about putting her in a box and sending her to California.

Hayes: You don't want it to be broken.

Ferreri: Right, yes.

Hayes: But they are substantial but--

Ferreri: Not a bit fragile.

Hayes: And they're not solid clay.

Ferreri: Right, a lot of them are hollowed. He does all the shipping and billing and, you know, it's a partnership all the way. He really runs the gallery and then I get to do my art. And I also teach classes.

Hayes: Well, tell me about that, what do you teach classes in?

Ferreri: Well, it's fun, usually it's a project specific class. I do, like we did Christmas presents and it was really a lot of fun because I get these women that come in and have never done clay before and feel like they can't, and they come home with things that are like oh, my God, I can't believe I made this. So I really think that I'm hitting this level of person that is afraid and then giving them the power to--

Hayes: But you don't have to teach them, you know, bowl technique--

Ferreri: No, I'm not, and I don't want to because--

Hayes: It's more of a construction thing.

Ferreri: Right.

Hayes: And anybody can come up with something in their mind, right?

Ferreri: Right. And there's fun because some of them get creative and go to the next level and then I send them, I say, okay, here are your places, you've got Dawn, you've got Hiroshi you got the university, so if you like what you are doing, go there.

Hayes: You mean they may want to move to--

Ferreri: Right.

Hayes: --more traditional pottery.

Ferreri: Actually, yeah.

Hayes: But the other thing is, it seems to me that because you, yourself, will try any subject and can be both serious and humorous, I mean, either way, but you give them a license to try lots of things, right?

Ferreri: Absolutely.

Hayes: You don't have to come and--

Ferreri: Yeah, and I have like people, too, that like, one person will not want me to-- I'll sort of find, you find out a lot about people when you're teaching them. One person may not want me to even touch their piece, yet the other person pretty much wants me to make it for them. And you don't want to do that, but you learn that, you know, there are some people that don't want help, some people that do, some people that know it already. But all I'm trying to do is get them excited enough that they will do it again. I have another class starting up, we are going to be making lamps and sconces, world sconces.

Hayes: Interesting. Now how does that work, you put an ad out and you say--

Ferreri: I do.

Hayes: --please come in. And how many can you handle, then?

Ferreri: I only can do-- the most in a class is six, which is very small.

Hayes: Small, and what would be a pattern, they come once a week, twice a week?

Ferreri: Usually a whole session will take about four days and they will do like, they will do two days of making it, one day of glazing.

Hayes: So how many hours a day?

Ferreri: We're talking about three hours a day. So it ends up being about a ten-hour class.

Hayes: And then you charge them a fee for that.

Ferreri: Right. And they run like, I think, $120 to $150 depending on a project, and it's fun because by the end of the week they have something. It's not like they are waiting weeks and weeks. And the people that I have had, the last class, most of them will do the next one, and it goes like that, and they tell their friends, so it's kind of small niche of people.

Hayes: Yeah, but it's fun.

Ferreri: Yeah, it is.

Hayes: And do you find that you get creative ideas from them, I mean, that interaction is--

Ferreri: Oh, absolutely, yes.

Hayes: --kind of like oh, I never would have thought of that.

Ferreri: Absolutely. And I just get so much, the best thing I get is that at the end of the class when their eyes light up like a kid in the candy store, they're like, oh, my God, I can't believe I did that. They inspire me when they excited. Like I was excited the very first time I ever made something.

Hayes: Have you thought of going for the kids angle or not?

Ferreri: The kids in here right now it would be dangerous because the stuff is so fragile.

Hayes: That's true.

Ferreri: If I had a space where it would be more on a classroom, but this is really a gallery.

Hayes: Yes, it's a gallery. Let's talk a little bit about that other aspect. So your restaurant world, and then you switched to become a full time artist, and that was mainly about creating things and selling them through craft stores, no, through the tour of various--

Ferreri: The crafts show.

Hayes: Show market, how many would you do in a year?

Ferreri: Oh, when I was crazy, I did about 24 a year.

Hayes: Up and down the east coast?

Ferreri: Uh-hum.

Hayes: You know, someone said to me, who is doing this now, that this is actually a great place to be centered for that.

Ferreri: It is.

Hayes: Do you have the same sense?

Ferreri: Yes, I do. Well, my work is, and I have done some mountain shows this year for the first time, but with the color I find that the people at the beach have that palette of the colors that I use. But now that I have gotten to this point, and I never would before, I _________ the big shows, the art shows.

Hayes: Tell me about that.

Ferreri: Well, like every, I do the Virginia Beach show, last year I won third place sculpture.

Hayes: Oh, you actually compete in these shows.

Ferreri: Yes, these shows, first just to get in is an honor because at the Virginia Beach show they usually get 1400 applicants.

Hayes: Now are these of the same ilk or all types of art?

Ferreri: All types of art.

Hayes: But it is art, finer.

Ferreri: It fine art.

Hayes: Is it high in craft, too?

Ferreri: High in craft and painting.

Hayes: Right, but you're not just an amateur.

Ferreri: No, you have to-- just to get in is an honor, and they have like the first place is $20,000, $10,000, they have big money.

Hayes: Oh my goodness. That's not a purchase award, that's just--

Ferreri: That's money, that's just cash.

Hayes: Wow.

Ferreri: And there is a certain sect of these people that go and just do these shows for the money, so you've got like your normal craft person, like I call myself, and then there are the icons of the craft world, that make five or six incredible pieces and they go to these shows just to get first, second and third place.

Hayes: Wow, so how much was third?

Ferreri: Third for this one, because that was a huge show, that was $300, but that was just for my medium.

Hayes: Oh, I see, so they have categories.

Ferreri: Right, I was in sculpture medium. But first place I think won $12,000.

Hayes: But then that still could be a gamble, I mean, you couldn't make a living.

Ferreri: Yeah, you might not sell one thing, but then he is going to go to-- and there's like, you can do the Boca Raton museum show--

Hayes: I've heard of that one, that's supposed to be--

Ferreri: Coconut Grove--

Hayes: Isn't there one in Miami?

Ferreri: Yeah, the Coconut Grove. And they all have these cash awards.

Hayes: But the real goal is to sell, do you physically go there?

Ferreri: I do. You cannot not be there.

Hayes: How long does that one last?

Ferreri: That one lasted four days.

Hayes: And how many pieces would you take to something like that, I mean, 100, 200?

Ferreri: Well I do it by monetarial value, I guess, but the very first time I went there I only had a minivan and with your display and everything, I had about an inch probably above the car when everything was packed properly, and the tires were about, sort of looked like mushrooms. But I made it there. I sold all but three pieces.

Hayes: Wow, that's good.

Ferreri: Yes, it was wonderful. And then the next year I came back with more. I have applied for the show probably five times, and I've been in it, and I've not gotten in twice.

Hayes: [inaudible] balance of how many they have in each category.

Ferreri: Right, and what your--

Hayes: Different styles are like.

Ferreri: Right. Your feathers have to be incredibly good, I mean, if you even want to think about being--

Hayes: And are they looking at your track record, too, do you have to do a retest with them to show that you are not just--

Ferreri: Some of them ask for like what awards have you won and what is your resume, and, to be honest with you, my resume doesn't look great because I did not go to the school for art, but--

Hayes: Even if you have entered a lot of these--

Ferreri: I have won a lot of awards.

Hayes: And what about, do you go all the way up to Boston even?

Ferreri: No, I haven't gone that far.

Hayes: There was one, boy, I remember when I lived in Boston, they just had some huge ones that were great. Well, Leeds must have a very large one, too.

Ferreri: Actually, there is a wonderful show called ________ in Murrells Inlet, and it is one of my favorite shows. This will be my ninth year in it.

Hayes: Excellent. Now do you take a whole mix to these shows?

Ferreri: Sometimes. I try to take, I try to do a theme and I just sort of work on that theme.

Hayes: Like jazz; you are doing jazz right now.

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: And that might be a whole theme you take down.

Ferreri: Right. Because I sometimes, if you looked at my work, you would get confused by a person that can make a chicken and then is making, you know, Ethel Waters, because--

Hayes: Right, Uncle Sam.

Ferreri: Yes, you've got to be, you have to have like a consistency of work.

Hayes: But don't you take some chickens just to sell, too?

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: Oh, you do. Okay.

Ferreri: Yes. And then that's fun because see, where there's a jury and they look at my booth, they go, like, boy, this person doesn't know what the hell she's up to, and they walk away. But then if it is a juror looking for a particular piece, then I would possibly win because on a piece by piece.

Hayes: Yes, they have competition for the whole booth, too, you mean?

Ferreri: Yes, some of them just look at the whole booth.

Hayes: Then you don't win.

Ferreri: I don't, but then if they are looking for a piece then I will have at least a chance to win.

Hayes: That's funny.

Ferreri: Really, it's so exciting. I don't even go to win, and when I win, I'm always like oh, my God, it was like I was shocked, in dismay, you know? I can't believe this.

Hayes: So do you see yourself broadening that particular skill because it probably is a good way to get your name out there.

Ferreri: It is, and that's why I really started it, because a lot of people come in the store and they bought something from me in Florida, and they go, oh, my God, I can't believe it's you, you know, or they bought something--

Hayes: There's the collector, you know, the person who does all things. I mean, I had a friend once who, I mean, he collects all kinds of things, and fine art could be like that, too. It's your passion to collect. I had a friend who did anything to do with pigs, you know, and he loves sculpture. And after awhile it got hokey, so he would go for a high end sculpture but it had to be--

Ferreri: A pig.

Hayes: So if you think about the person who could buy 20 of your chickens or all of your chickens, I mean, that would be a good--

Ferreri: Oh, yeah.

Hayes: Unless you are out there and they see it, how do you--

Ferreri: Well, I think that's why I think that the craft shows are really, you know, and it's a shame because there are a lot of artists that thinks that's like a hokey way to get there, you know. But it's the way I got there, by doing the shows.

Hayes: Well, there's a pecking order, you start with lower level ones and--

Ferreri: Right, I mean, I did the River Fest and the Azalea fest for years.

Hayes: But you can sell a lot there, too, though.

Ferreri: My very first show I ever did was the Azalea fest, and I was actually trying to help my friends who had a kiln, they had a kiln, and they didn't have a lot of money, and I had just been given a snake, somebody gave me this snake. So I said to them, I said, let's make snakes and let's get a booth and we will sell them. And we sold them and that's how I got hooked. I've gotten so much fun sitting out there, first of all, you are kind of camping out, you are sitting on your chair and you've got your cooler, you know, and you're watching the people go by, you're not having to walk yourself.

Hayes: Do you know Patrick Sullivan?

Ferreri: I love Patrick.

Hayes: You know Patrick Sullivan.

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: And he moved to Texas, and he did the circuit.

Ferreri: Yeah, he did.

Hayes: So I'll tell you the story just to give you an idea, but it is also in the context of the interview. I am supposed to be interviewing you instead of talking so much, but Patrick, I'm out at the shopping center at Christmas.

Ferreri: He has a booth.

Hayes: He has a booth. He was here for five weeks and did very well. He came all the way up from Texas. But there is a thought for you, with enough quantity, even though you have another shop, could you go someplace at a seasonal point to be in the traffic? Art has to get to where the people are at.

Ferreri: Oh, absolutely.

Hayes: But it was an interesting idea, and I said--

Ferreri: Plus he has such a following here.

Hayes: He has a following.

Ferreri: Yeah, he probably sent cards out and all that.

Hayes: Well, he was selling little ones and big ones, and he has his thing designed up, of course he had to be away from his family and he rented a house, but I thought that was an interesting idea that art has to get where people can see it. Given that, your kind of entrepreneurial nature, which I think came out of your years and years of working in restaurants and your husband. You really seem to have that spirit. Has the internet made a difference to you, too?

Ferreri: You know, because I'm at that age before the internet, I'm not as capable of it, but it has as far as my wholesale website.

Hayes: That's what I'm saying.

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: And you belonging to a large cooperative where people--

Ferreri: Right.

Hayes: --from various places can dip in and look and see what they want and then they contact you. And you pay a fee to that cooperative?

Ferreri: Yes, it's like a yearly fee, it's very little, actually.

Hayes: And you can put as much as you want?

Ferreri: I can, and I don't put out that much because it's not a lot of stuff I want to make a million of, I don't want to be China, I don't want to be sitting there making--

Hayes: Isn't that the interesting conflict?

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: I mean, Gayle Tustin, do you know Gayle?

Ferreri: Yes, yes.

Hayes: I don't know if you know it, but one time she had kind of a custom tile business and she said the same thing, after awhile she was--

Ferreri: You make a lot of money but what's your life if you are not enjoying it?

Hayes: Cranking, cranking, cranking, cranking the same thing, because people want the hand-crafted, but they don't want to have to pay sometimes, so now they want it mass produced but they still want it--

Ferreri: Yeah, I know.

Hayes: That's a tough one, isn't it?

Ferreri: I know.

Hayes: And you sign yours Justine, do you put a date on it?

Ferreri: I had a symbol, but I change every year depending on what's going on in my life. So the bigger pieces I use my whole name, Justine Ferreri, with the stemple [ph?] and then, the symbol changes. I think the dates are kind of, you know, like we have a painting right now at the gallery and it says 89 on it, and people are saying oh, man, that painting has been there since 1989. You know, if nobody buys it I guess it's mine to give, but that's not true, it's a very wonderful artist. And, so, I feel like that's how the mentality of a lot of people are. So I figure it is simple, it makes it kind of intriguing because it's sort of, I know what date it is, and then, you know, it also is something sort of about my life, like last year it was a house, and I didn't even know, but this year I knew. So last year I moved and it was a house. This year it is a music symbol, but I'm not sure, because I don't usually change the symbol until my birthday, and that's coming up, and so I have a little longer to figure out.

Hayes: But also the date that your sculpture was done short of 50 years from now, it doesn't matter, I mean, a year or two. Fifty years from now it might make a difference.

Ferreri: Yeah, but, you know, and I think it is just kind of fun because I will look on the bottom of something that somebody brought in and I'll say, oh, my God, you have had this for eight years. They're like, "How did you know?" I'm like, "because of this symbol."

Hayes: Let's end with the other aspect of your life. So you've done the things, you have done custom, you have done wholesale, and I know you are retail.

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: And you have the whole world of being on that other side where you are the gallery owner and how do you decide what to put here? In other words, you have your own work, but what is your criteria for what--

Ferreri: Well, I was trying to be mostly 3D because I felt like because I am a 3D artist, that's who I wanted to--

Hayes: You mean three dimensional.

Ferreri: Three-dimensional, yes. I have 2D only these are personal things that I own and just enjoy. But its people actually that I feel more complements mine or is so different than mine that it's a complement. Like the pocketbook lady, I think her work, she uses the same colors as mine.

Hayes: Right, but, see, and I thought it could have been yours.

Ferreri: Exactly. A lot of people say, wow, Justine, I didn't know you made pot stuff, and I says, well, wow, I really don't, somebody else does.

Hayes: It's whimsical, it's interesting, it's unique.

Ferreri: Yes, and it's female. I think most of my buyers are females. It's funny, I always said, I'll be at a crafts show, I can see my buyer about a block away. She has beautiful shoes on, she's about size four, she is a professional, and she is between 40 and 50.

Hayes: Oh, gosh.

Ferreri: And it's so true.

Hayes: Well, I bought two. Just kidding.

Ferreri: But, I mean, that's my focus.

Hayes: I'm not a size four. Well, that's interesting because now your business side is coming through, thinking about--

Ferreri: Yes, it is.

Hayes: --years of doing this.

Ferreri: Right.

Hayes: And how long have you been in this particular location?

Ferreri: Oh, I have only been here ten months.

Hayes: Ten months.

Ferreri: And we did have a gallery in Southport for about three years.

Hayes: Oh, did you?

Ferreri: Uh-hum.

Hayes: Did that work fine?

Ferreri: It was fine.

Hayes: Long distance is always the challenge?

Ferreri: Well, we lived there but I think we closed it up for 9/11, it just died after that, you know.

Hayes: Really? You could really see the difference.

Ferreri: Big difference.

Hayes: You don't live in Southport now, you live--

Ferreri: No, we moved closer because the ride was much--

Hayes: Yeah.

Ferreri: But, I don't know, the gallery experience is kind of fun because I'm not, I think, I've been in galleries and I am in galleries where when you walk in, it's like you have gone into a church. No one talks to you, and it's like very solemn.

Hayes: But some of that is from the type of work you have. It's [inaudible]

Ferreri: Oh, yes, and laughing.

Hayes: And pick it up--

Ferreri: Absolutely.

Hayes: --and ask who is it? That's the other advantage of having loads of people is you get discussion about where they are from.

Ferreri: Right.

Hayes: So you have artists from beyond the immediate region.

Ferreri: Yes.

Hayes: But mainly North Carolina; is that true?

Ferreri: Mainly North Carolina and I get artists that I just love pretty much.

Hayes: Well, for the historical record, who are your artists now, why don't we get those down on the vinyl, I mean the--

Ferreri: Well, I have Charles Buckhead, who does these little kind of sand people. I love them because--

Hayes: And where is he from?

Ferreri: He is from Raleigh.

Hayes: Okay.

Ferreri: And I have the pocketbook lady is from Rock Hill, and for some reason I've lost a complete head for her name.

Hayes: It will come back.

Ferreri: Yes, and then I have _____ Hewitt, who is actually a local sculptor, and she is, to me, like my mentor, even though she doesn't have the discipline I wish she did, but she is just incredible. And then I have, let's see who else, I am looking around the room. Oh, we have Melissa _______, which she is an interesting artist, she is from Florida, though, and she has a collection of antiques and she makes antique robots out of them. She does a sculpture head and head--

Hayes: Those are great.

Ferreri: Yeah, and we are going to do shows this year, it's going to be really good.

Hayes: Well, I wish you well for--

Ferreri: Thank you.

Hayes: --kind of an interesting found career of very different levels, and thank you so much for talking to us.

Ferreri: Oh, it has been so much fun.

Hayes: All right, thanks a lot.

Ferreri: Thank you.

Hayes: Bye-bye.

Repository:
UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign