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SPOTLIGHT: Sheila Ferri, Lower Division Art Teacher

TOO MUCH ON MY PLATE: Sheila Ferri at the “Me, Myself, and I” exhibit, next to her featured art work.

TOO MUCH ON MY PLATE: Sheila Ferri at the “Me, Myself, and I” exhibit, next to her featured art work.

TOO MUCH ON MY PLATE: Sheila Ferri at the “Me, Myself, and I” exhibit, next to her featured art work.

Eliza Poster

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Lower Division (LD) Art teacher Sheila Ferri spends weekdays in her art classroom, where students’ ceramic pieces glisten under the sunlight that bursts through the windows. However, during her free time she creates her own works of art, one of which is being displayed at the “Me, Myself and I” exhibit at the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, N.Y.

Ferri’s piece is titled “Too Much on My Plate?” It is composed of a woman’s head surrounded by several loose pieces of ceramic sculpted into images which represent different aspects of her life. These include an apple, a wedding ring, and a paintbrush, which illustrate her role as a teacher, a wife, and an artist, respectively.

After reading a series of articles exploring female identity, Ferri was inspired to examine her own. This included her experiences while starting as a sculptor.

“When I went to Art school, very few women were doing sculpture,” Ferri said, “At the time, men were very resentful of women working in this art form. I always had to find ways of working where I didn’t need to have a guy helping.”

Her introspectiveness about the various roles she plays in her life led her to begin creating the piece displayed at the exhibit.

“It’s about trying to balance your life between your work, taking care of your family, taking care of your home, having a husband, and wanting to do your artwork— not as a hobby, but as an artist.” she said.

Ferri’s love for art began far before she began teaching. Growing up in Philadelphia, she was influenced by her artist mother. In high school, she took a ceramics class and went on to study at the Tyler School of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design.

“I’m really not a potter: I’m a sculpter, so I work in all different medias,” Ferri said. Throughout her eclectic career, she has experimented with numerous techniques, including wood carving, figure modeling, and bronze casting. She even pursued glass blowing with the renowned artist Dale Chihuly.

After graduating, Ferri realized that the resources that were available to her at school were no longer at her disposal, so she decided to resort to more elemental mediums.

“When I left art school, all of the sudden all the equipment that you get— a kiln and all the different machinery, was gone,” she said, “I couldn’t do any work with my glass anymore, but I worked with wire. Wire you could do anywhere.”

When she began teaching, a small kiln was available to her where she worked before coming to the school, and she was able to delve back into the ceramics art form once again.

In the midst of her 34th year at the school, Ferri has introduced countless students to ceramic arts, some still reflect fondly on their experiences in her class.

Working with clay gave students the capability to create something with their own hands, Jessica Thomas (10) said.

Thomas recalled crafting ceramic birds in her class, she said. The birds still maintain their vibrant pastel hues in the arboretum on the LD campus.

“It was one of my favorite ways to express myself in lower school,” Rhys Shepherd (9) said. “[Ferri] gave us an outlet.”

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SPOTLIGHT: Sheila Ferri, Lower Division Art Teacher