I recently had the opportunity recently to speak at length with Preston Farabow. Preston is a skilled metalworker who brings an artistic touch to his trade. Over the course of his career, he’s created beautiful trophies, sculptures, furniture, and more. You can learn more about Preston and his work on his website, at http://www.prestonfarabow.com/.

I asked Preston some questions about his work and his passion for art. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: How would you describe what you do for a living?

A: I make pretty things for rich people. But I’ve always hoped I would be able to do something more important.

I bend metal for a living, and I create sculpture and custom architectural and ornamental ironwork. In some capacity, I’m a blacksmith, a designer, an artist, and a therapist. During the course of the day, I wear a lot of different hats. But the glue of what I do is metalwork.

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Preston’s creative vision is expansive, and runs from Nascar belt buckles that feature lug nuts welded together, to left over cod.

Q: Have you had success finding something more important, in your view, to do outside of your daily work?

A: My desire to do something better has given rise to my new business, a nonprofit school of metalwork. In metalwork, nothing is irreconcilable. You’re taking scrap metal, wreckage, and turning it into something beautiful. The larger lesson from that is applicable to many demographics, especially to at-risk inner city populations. Metalwork is a vehicle for that lesson.

The name of the school is the Ferre Beau School of Thought. Ferrebeau is the original form of my last name. It translates from French to “Beautiful Iron.” Somewhere back in my genealogy, there were metalworkers.

Q: So does your foundation focus on work in the inner city?

A: Yes, and I’m about a year and a half into the development of it. I’m writing the first set of curricula. It’s probably going to be aimed at the drug-addicted and alcoholic youth. It’s not limited to those populations, but those are the groups I’m going to start with. Everyone is at risk of something.

I’m not entirely sure what the foundation is going to end up being, but I’m certain, more than anything, that it’s what I’m supposed to do.

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A custom headboard with light fixture, made by Preston.

Q: What are some things that make metalwork, more so than other forms of art and craft, relevant to a target group seeking new direction?

A: Metalwork is about transformation. It’s a little bit dangerous, which has a certain appeal to it, especially to men and boys. It involves fire. From my experience, when you light a fire, you have everyone’s attention. I think metalwork has a lot of lessons to offer that transcend the actual craft.

I have a luxury in my chosen field in that I can make mistakes on a daily basis, and do. And I can redo it. Woodworkers don’t have that luxury. If they cut a piece too short, they have to start over. I can weld and recut steel when I make a mistake. I can shape and reshape the materials in my work. Part of my business is that we’ve given ourselves the luxury to make mistakes. And as long as we’re not repeating those mistakes over and over, it shows that we’re pushing the limits of our medium, and that we’re going to arrive at a discover eventually. And for all students, there’s a benefit to the physical labor of it.

The product that makes it to the pages of my website is refined and perfect. The story behind them is not perfect. I’ve set my hair on fire, I’ve broken things and cussed, I’ve had a lot of failures in my work. And I stand back from those failures and celebrate them. I think that resonates with at-risk students.

Preston takes a break at this shop with some of his men.

Preston takes a break at this shop with some of his men.

Q: How is the Ferre Beau School of Thought doing so far?

A: It’s been very well received. I’ve started out just teaching classes on an individual basis. Ultimately, my one-year goal is to have my nonprofit status in place, start teaching larger groups, and hiring staff. Initially I was just going to build a custom vehicle so that I could go anywhere and set up shop, at a corporate headquarters or a trade show. I think this is relevant to a large audience. I don’t know anyone, anywhere, who’s not at risk of something.

Red Bull Air Race Trophies

These three trophies for a Red Bull air race were designed by Preston Farabow.

Q: How will metalwork help your students, especially the ones who end up following a different career path than metalworking?

A: It’s not my intention to produce cutting-edge metalworkers through my school. But it is my goal to empower people to think creatively. And metalwork helps me reach that goal. The power to think creatively, no matter what you do, if you’re a lawyer, an accountant, or an artist, helps you a lot.

I hate hearing people say they don’t have a creative bone in their body. We’re all born creative, we just educate that instinct out of us when we’re told what to do in life, through school, through churches, and just through growing up.

Q: I hear artistic ability runs in your family. How does your creative spirit live on in your children?

A: Some of the most creative ideas I’ve ever witnessed came from my children when they were three years old. Like I said, we learn barriers and limits as we grow up.

I have two sons. Liam is sixteen; he’s the cerebral one. He’s the thinker. Aidan is eleven; he loves working with his hands. Every opportunity he has to work with me in the shop, he takes it. Between these two sons, I’ll have labor and management covered for my business someday.

My children are my muse. They are my inspiration, and they are why I strive to get better every day, as a person and as an artist.

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An ornamental staircase that features not only the guard rail, but a suspension system that supports the entire structure.

Q: What inspired you to become an artist? Did you have any formative influences from other artists?

A: I was pre-med in college. I went to an art event in Charleston, South Carolina, and I saw Phillip Glass perform. From that point on, I did an about face and decided I wanted to be an artist. I love his work, and it soothes me. If I had to name one inspiration, someone who works in the creative field, it would be Phillip Glass, the musician.

Preston poses with one of his creations in progress.

Preston poses with one of his creations in progress.

Q: How do you motivate yourself to keep getting better at what you do?

A: There’s a quote on my website I go back to often, which says that my passion for beautiful ironwork far exceeds my ability to produce it. That inspires me to continue to strive to produce beautiful ironwork. It’s in my blood. It’s in my DNA. I’m fortunate to be able to do that for a living. It’s a rare thing.

 

For more stories like Preston’s, keep checking in at the Royal Robbins blog!