We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachael Ferris and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachael, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I have always had a creative side, but it wasn’t until 2019 that I found myself having consistent major depression and anxiety that led me to discover my artistic passion for building miniatures and making props. I was having a rough time at my job as a building manager at the time, and my partner suggested I get myself a hobby to help take my mind off things. He noticed a dusty little model of a theater stage I had built in my scenic design class I had taken back in 2010 while I attended The Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UC Irvine, and said that I was pretty good at making miniatures, why don’t I try more of that? Once I started building my first miniature out of scraps of trash and recyclables, I couldn’t get enough. I fell in love with the process pretty quickly as it was the creative outlet I had clearly been desperate for. I became obsessed with my own creativity, and it gave me a sense of control at a time when I felt my life was out of control. Once I decided it was time to leave my job, I boldly reached out to several fabrication shops in LA County with my extremely limited (at the time) Instagram portfolio, crossed my fingers, and within a few weeks, I had gotten a call to build miniatures for one of the fabrication shops I had reached out to. From that moment on, up until March 15, 2020, when many of the fabrication and stop motion productions closed up shop due to the pandemic, I was extremely fortunate to have fairly consistent fabrication and set dressing work, working side by side with some of the most talented fabricators and artists, improving my skills enough to the point where my miniature fabrication is now being commissioned by high profile clients in the film and television industry. This whole creative journey has led me down an incredibly artistic road that I never saw clearly for myself, and I’m so grateful that I’ve discovered what truly fuels me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Although I greatly enjoy working in the stop motion industry and building miniatures and props for film and television, being a self employed miniature artist where I can work from home has been an incredible dream come true, especially during a pandemic. I have an astute eye for detail, and even though my perfectionism can hinder my work sometimes, it leads me to add levels of detail in my miniatures that many might not have the patience or desire to do. Albeit my recent commissions are of realistic locations and homes, some of the pieces I’ve made that get the most praise and inquiry are my cartoon house replications like from Bob’s Burgers and Duncanville. It’s a fun way to have my favorite cartoons come to life. I tend to get lost in my miniature builds because it’s a fun way to live vicariously through someone else’s reality, even just for a brief time. The level of detail I put in brings the pieces to life compared to an uninhabited architectural model. The emotional and touching responses I receive from my clients when I deliver a custom piece is one of the most rewarding experiences. To know that something I handmade has so much sentimental value to someone else, brings me so much joy and satisfaction.
I’m mostly a self-taught miniature artist, but working alongside the brain trust of accomplished individuals that I’ve had the pleasure of learning from, has helped my skills and knowledge more than I can say. I’ve had the honor of working for and with people that have been in the miniature fabrication industry for decades. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked for clients such as Disney, Adidas, Spotify, Old Spice, and Philip Glass, to name a few. My biggest accolades to date (that aren’t under NDA still), would have to be my opportunity to work on one of the creatures in Disney’s The Mandalorian, my miniature model work on NBC’s Small Fortune, my prop fabrication on The Boston Lyric Opera’s production of Philip Glass’ The Fall of the House of Usher, and my time as a helper for season 3 of NBC’s Making It. Creativity is great when it’s flourishing, but during a deadly pandemic, it’s been difficult to stay artistic while wading through a sea of uncertainty. I was in a bit of a creative slump when I was called to help out on Making It, and once I was back on set surrounding myself with other creatives, I found it effortless to start making things again. There are ups and downs in every industry, but I find that when I surround myself with other artistic people, it’s easy to get back into the groove of things. Having a support system of maker friends has been a huge asset to my creativity, and definitely something I rely on consistently. In addition to surrounding yourself with other makers and artists, my main advice for anyone wanting to pursue an artistic career is to: JUST GO FOR IT. If you are passionate about something, there’s no one holding you back but you.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As an introverted homebody, I find it hard to break away from creating in my little shop at home. When it is time to socially recharge though, I love that LA has so much to offer, be it the beautiful gardens and parks, museums, restaurants and amazing food trucks. My go to’s tend to be the incredible farmer’s markets, including the infamous and permanent fixture that is Farmer’s Market at The Grove. Any open air venue is always a great option for getting out of the house, and places like Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market and Melrose Trading Post are a fun way to discover unique art and home decor, where you can usually find a delicious food truck to check out while you’re there. Walking the shops on Larchmont is definitely a favorite for me, as I love all the unique little boutiques and eateries like Lemonade and Jeni’s Ice Cream. Walking the Melrose strip is also a must for anyone wanting to treat their eye to some street art. There are so many murals and art pieces there if you know where to look, and there is always something new to discover. As far as restaurants, LA is so diverse, so we’re lucky to have a plethora of delicious vegan joints around like Lotus Vegan or Gokoku Vegetarian Ramen Shop. My favorite restaurant for atmosphere though, is Home Restaurant, where you can dine and drink specialty cocktails on the patio where it feels like you’re eating in a treehouse. If I really want to get away from it all, a nice drive through the canyons or Angeles National Forest for a couple hours always delivers exceptional and breathtaking views and really helps me recharge.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shoutout to my incredible and talented business and life partner, Richard DeAlba. He has always been so supportive when it comes to my creative journey, and pushes me to think out of the box. Our artistic styles are very different, I’m a perfectionist, and he likes to make things grungy and rugged. This contrast in styles though, has made me more comfortable loosening up a bit with my own techniques. In addition to all the talented makers I’ve encountered on my creative journey, creative reality shows like Making It deserve a shout out as well. These types of shows and even crafty Youtube channels and Instagram portfolios are a wonderful resource for inspiration, for learning new artistic techniques, for finding motivation, and have personally helped build my arsenal of skills over the years. And to my college improv teacher, Wedndy Wisely who taught me the power of just saying YES.
Other: Tiktok: @rlilcreations
Joel Benner Fon Davis Rachael Ferris