Ben Ferencz spends at least part of his days in a stylish office with big windows, perched eye level with his G4 Mac and its 23-inch screen. He spends a lot of time on the phone, he says, helping clients, some in far away places, create an image, a look, a graphic identity.
Sometimes, when his phone rings in the pocket of his jeans that are too big in that I-care-but-I-want-to-look-like-I-don’t kind of way, he’s not in his office and he’s not walking the streets of midtown Manhattan. He’s on the farm he shares with his wife Julie Pavlock.
In some ways Ferencz’ dichotomous and seemingly dissimilar pursuits embody a new crop of people who are moving to Montana, coming back after a long absence or choosing to stay for the foreseeable future. He brought some of his work with him and, along with Pavlock, he’s also been creating it since he got
“I feel really lucky to be able to do this,” he says of working as a graphics designer and part-time farmer. “I get to spend everyday with my wife, come in and out. It is funny sometimes to answer the cell phone and to talk to someone in New York while I’m standing by the barn, but it
caters to my personality.”
It may be a little hard to believe that you can sometimes find Ferencz-graphic artist, native New Yorker, style-on-the-speed-dial kind of guy-feeding pigs and milking goats, but he does, he says, as his wife’s assistant.
“Julie and I joke that she’s a farmer and I’m her assistant and I’m a designer and she’s my assistant,” he says.
Like the graphic images he creates, he’s direct and articulate when he speaks, whether it’s about making goat cheese or the socially responsible design studio he created three years ago. At 27, while living in New York he started The Design Cooperative, which helps organizations establish a graphic identity. As the creative director, he works with clients in New York, California and, more increasingly, Missoula. And he does it now from his home in rural Montana.
“We want to help organizations find graphic solutions in a socially responsible way,” he says. “Lots of organizations need help creating a concise image that looks professional and polished, yet they can’t afford it. We want to help them harness their message.” And when it comes to
organizations in Missoula, Ferencz says he wants to build long-term relationships that help clients create a sense of place and community.
Ferencz is networked, wireless and plugged in even in St. Ignatius, Montana, a town of 700, where the nearest post office is three miles away and if he gets there by 2 p.m., the post office can get his packages to New York by noon the following day.
He first came to Missoula from New York in 1995 as a college student and has lived in Missoula on and off ever since.
“I felt like I was no longer willing to make the sacrifice to live in New York. I worked a ton and met a lot of interesting people but Julie and I always wanted to live outside the city in a more mountainous and rural setting.”
So after traveling and interning on farms from California to Vermont to Wyoming to Oregon learning how to make cheese, raise goats and garlic, and work draft horses, Ferencz and Pavlock moved to St. Ignatius, to seventy acres and a farm house, a year ago. Peaks of the Mission Mountain range rise up almost from their backyard.
“No other place seemed as perfect as here,” Ferencz says.
And to mark their return to Montana, Ferencz opened his first show of graphic art this month at the Clay Studio on the Northside in Missoula.
“The show stemmed from me wanting to celebrate our return and do something fun. I think the pieces are things I can share with people, things that they can take with them,” he says. “I wanted to recognize the fact that there is a large group of people here interested in things that don’t usually exist in Missoula as far as creativity goes.”
That’s why Ferencz included items in the show such as journals and T-shirts, and in collaboration with his friend and Clay Studio director Jayson Lawfer, sake cups and rice scoops. He says these keep the art accessible and obtainable.
Ferencz’ show is a bit of a love letter to Missoula but with a metro-hip twist and shake. The pieces he chose seem to combine his worlds, his passions. In one piece he mixes a wall of color-pink-with his love for cycling and the words Giro di Montana. In another he takes the well-known I love NY image and tweaks it to his new place bringing a little New York into Montana, just like Ferencz himself.