“I dabble. I guess you could say I’m a dabbler.” Lopez artist, Kenny Ferrugiaro, interrupts listing his catalog of interests and accomplishments with this interjection.
Throughout the past few years, Ferrugiaro has carved wood, sculpted stone, been a spinner and a weaver, rendered a series of sharply political drawings, baked Lopez Island’s famous “Kenny Bread,” produced a CD of original music, and fashioned much sought after hats.
This man is serious about his dabbling.
Frequently inspired by his politically activist views, Ferrugiaro begins almost immediately talking about the passion that underpins and inspires his drawings.
Believing government to be inefficient at best and corrupt at worst, he says he tries “to create work that throws darts at government, big business, those things in our society which aren’t right.” “Maybe it’s grandiose, but I like the idea that I’m creating something useful in the fight for freedom, something that puts me out there in the fray.”
Okay, that explains his drawings and his music, but what about the hats?
At this, Ferrugiaro’s already broad smile inches even wider. “I wanted something else to do and I was already learning how to felt. What it really amounts to is that at the time, I needed a warm hat.”
Because of the interest he’d already developed in both design and fabric and his “need” for a good hat, Ferrugiaro decided to make his own.
“People saw it and kept coming up to me, asking me to make them a hat. I don’t consider myself a hat maker, but that’s what I’ve been doing lately.”
A sampling of these hats is currently on display at the Lopez Island Library. Anyone interested in purchasing any of the hats being shown may contact Ferrugiaro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As with any conversation with Ferrugiaro, this one quickly shifts back to politics. A stint at Santa Monica College in the early nineties provided him with a background in art, design, and sculpture, but it was the campus radio station that opened his eyes to the need for activism and social and political change.
“I volunteered at the station and the stories I began to learn from being there opened me up politically. The news I encountered wasn’t the news I’d been hearing on television and I started to get really mad about things.”
Ferrugiaro pauses, as if to catch his breath. “I started out as a sculptor, because I liked the tactile sense of making something in 3-D. From there, I got interested in spinning and weaving.”
Indeed, it is as a spinner that Ferrugiaro is profiled in Iris Graville and Summer Moon Scriver’s 2009 book “Hands at Work.”
“It’s satisfying—and I think it’s important—to understand where things we live with in our everyday lives come from. Spinning, weaving, doing those kinds of things connect me with that, with the way people used to do things.”
Another connection with the important elements in everyday life is Lopez itself. Being a part of the Lopez Community Land Trust has provided a home at Innisfree for Ferrugiaro, his wife, Mia Yip, and his stepson, Preston, as well as what he agrees is a necessary “sense of place.”
While living on Lopez didn’t engender the strong political feelings that inform his illustrations, the people here have provided Ferrugiaro with support and validation for his viewpoints and beliefs.
“My desire to create any of my art or my crafts is there because I feel strongly about something. But my weaving, my hats? They come from a more gentle place than my drawings.”
Whether he’s talking about his love of working with fiber or his love of justice, the intensity evident in Ferrugiaro’s drawings is equally manifest in his bearing and his words.
“I just want to do my part. Every little bit helps.” There is never a reason to ask Ferrugiaro: “Well, Kenny. How do you really feel?” Nor is there ever a need to doubt that, bit by bit, one drawing or one hat at a time, he’s doing his part.