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Philip took a new direction to follow his passion

Philip Ambrose decided to attend East Carolina University to hone his craft working with metals, even as he realizes art is not the easiest calling.

“Not a day goes by that I’m not frustrated with what I’m doing or not doing, can’t do or can’t do yet. But I think that’s art in general,” said Ambrose. “If you become really happy and content in art, then you’re not working hard enough.”

Ambrose took many paths in search of what he was most passionate about. He remained bored and frustrated at other jobs – in bookkeeping and as a video store cashier, for instance – because he wanted to find something better suited for his creativity. During his time working with a stained glass company, he was able to begin learning about handcrafted art.

His curiosity about metals began with a fascination with old weaponry and lingered until he could no longer resist. “I got a chance to take a workshop (where I) worked with metals like tin and small bits of steel and after that, I was hooked,” said Ambrose.

While Ambrose searched for an educational institution to focus his new passion, he spoke with ECU graduates from the School of Art. “I starting meeting some of the people who were graduating from here and seeing the work that they did. Then after meeting the professors from here, I said ‘this is it.’”

In 2010, Ambrose enrolled in the art program at ECU, which allowed him access to a culture of metalsmiths. Ambrose works with copper, steel, brass and silver to create his pieces. Silver is his favorite metal to work with because it’s smooth and malleable.

“With everything we do, the closest thing to a machine that we use is when we print out a pattern or transfer an image. They (the metals) are either sawed, filed or hammered by hand. A lot of this technology has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years,” he said. Over four years he learned more about the techniques involved with metalsmithing and has transformed the lessons into creations. His art and jewelry were displayed in four different exhibits over the last two years.

Despite the angst that may come with pursuing a career in art, Ambrose said he is happy. “Even as uncertain as it is, it’s probably the best time I’ve had in my life.”

Ambrose is currently working on his senior show, which will be on display later this semester, and preparing to graduate in May.

“At this point, I don’t see myself doing anything else for the rest of my life,” he said.

Why did you come to ECU?
My family is not far (from Greenville) and I started meeting some of the people who were graduating from here and seeing the work that they did. Then after meeting the professors from here, I said, ‘This is it.’ I mean this art school is known as one of the best on the East coast.

Do you feel like you have built a good foundation at ECU?
Yes. There’s a large emphasis on honing your craft to make it as well made as you can, but also experimenting with different materials and different techniques. It’s what ECU is known for. People who come here get a very hands-on knowledge base.

Describe the type of jewelry you create
If it’s a highly polished shiny thing, I usually don’t make those. If I can beat it with a hammer, I’ll make it. It’s more traditional that way. A lot of techniques we use come from blacksmithing, forming or raising – which is how they make bowls and pitchers.

When do you feel you make the best pieces?
That depends on the object. Some processes work better if you’re intensely focused and some work better when you’re just constantly experimenting and you’re not sure what you’re doing.

What are your plans following graduation?

Going straight to grad school is the plan. I’m thinking about three programs right now. I’ve enjoyed my time here but it’s always better to learn from new people.

Written by: Jamitress Bowden
Photography by: Cliff Hollis

"At this point, I don’t see myself doing anything else for the rest of my life."

- Philip Ambrose