FRAMED: A Conversation With Featured Artist Holly Farrell

In today's lesson on six degrees of separation, we present to you ceramicist, painter, and illustrator Holly Farrell.  

We first discovered Holly when one of Jen's friends Instagrammed her adorable lady-inspired ceramics (thanks, Sanja!). After just a few clicks down the social media rabbit hole, we were hooked, and needless to say, Holly and Jen happen to have a handful of mutual friends because the world is actually teeny tiny, and that's just life. 

Holly is a 25-year-old artist currently living in her hometown of Lancaster, Pa., and for the past year and half, she's been spending her time making pottery and ceramic sculpture at the Lancaster Clay Studios in Landisville, Pa. In 2012, she graduated from Tyler School of Art with a BFA in painting and drawing. And through all of that, she never touched clay. She found herself often dismissing 3-D disciplines since, in her mind, painting was really her strong suit. 

Let us just go on the record saying we sure are glad that she gave ceramics a try. Her pieces feel so relatable and accessible, like a modern day folk art. The ladies are a little lumpy, a little left-of-center, a little bit just like how we see ourselves -- and we absolutely love that about them.

We caught up with Holly about her background, her process, and why she draws a whole bunch of inspiration from spring break culture.

You said your background is in painting and illustration. What do you enjoy about ceramics compared to the other mediums? What keeps you creating and trying new things?

I was getting really frustrated with painting, and I thought that it would be a good idea to switch up mediums in the hope that it would reignite my motivation to return to paint. What I enjoy about making ceramics is the idea that the finished piece exists as physical objects in the world. There is another element of interaction, and of course functionality lends itself to this. I felt such a true sense of accomplishment when I finished my first batch of pots and I could actually use them for something. What keeps me making ceramics is the extensive amount of techniques you can learn. There is an overwhelming amount of possibility.

What inspires your work?

For as long as I can remember, gender has always been a huge inspiration in my work. Temple U offered a lot of really interesting sociology/sociology in film classes in college that really challenged the binary system and the ways in which female sexuality is "consumed."  I was specifically inspired by the idea of gender as performance and began analyzing the ways gender performance and sexuality intersect. In 2013, while a resident artist at Millersville University, I made a series of drawings and prints that served as the precursor for some of my ceramic work. I drew from spring break photos I found online, omitting males from the photos. In the absence of men, the lewd acts of spring break I was illustrating felt empowering, ritualistic and even communal. Thus, the inspiration behind my ceramic figurines.

The visual style I work in is definitely inspired by children's artwork. Their hand is always really evident, and theres a sense of truth and naivety, which is something I try to bring into my work.

In terms of my more functional pieces, textile design and repeat patterns is a constant source of inspiration. I love the way it can transform the surface of a piece, and change the way the three dimensional form is viewed. 

I also love John Waters and his films. I think his influence is a driving force in the kinds of themes I am drawn to. 

Who doesn't love Female Trouble and Pink Flamingos?

What’s your process like?

The figurines and ring dishes are all hand built, and the lady "bud vases" are formed from a press mold I made (the form is created by pressing soft clay into the mold). Painting on the faces is the best part of the process. I never have anyone specific in mind as a reference, but there have been several incidents where I had painted a face on a figurine or ring dish that looked like someone I know or had seen before. 

Other than that, I don't have a very strict or rigorous studio process, and I don't do a whole lot of planning. Once I get to the studio and get my hands in some clay I sort of just let it unfold. I don't always know what I'm going to churn out that day, which keeps my process pretty open to experimentation. 

How do you spend your time outside of making super sweet art?

I like to travel when time and funds allow for it. I am fascinated by landscapes that feel foreign to me. I'd love to go out west more and spend some time in the desert.  When I'm not making art I'm trying to get better about cooking for myself. For 2016, I'd like to expand my cooking skills outside that of the breakfast burrito and maybe even use a crockpot. 

In addition to ceramics, I am pursuing a career in textile design, creating repeat patterns for home and apparel. I currently intern and freelance for a textile design studio once a week in West Chester, PA. I think they're going to hire me.

Opening Reception

Sunday, February 7th

 11am to 4pm

Stop by to meet the artist, drink some wine, and score some super sweet deals on select vintage -- just in time for Valentine's Day!

Can't make it? Holly's work will be up through the end of the month, and we'll be staying open until 8pm on 3rd in the Burg (February 19th) to keep this lady party moving.

photos by Rob Reed