Named after Elmira College’s president from 1987 – 2012, Thomas K. Meier, Meier Hall is a residence hall on Elmira College’s campus. Completed in 2012, it was designed by QPK Designs and constructed by local company Welliver. Designed in a traditional collegiate gothic style, it is meant to match the other buildings on Elmira College’s campus built in the late 1850s.
Adorning the exterior are many limestone relief and three dimensional carvings completed by master stone carver Wayne Ferree, based out of Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. Wayne describes how he started carving on the college’s campus back in 1993.
When I first came here, I met an architect at the University of Scranton and got a few restoration jobs. I used to drive around with little sculptures I made in the back of my van. I’d go around and sell them anywhere I thought might want them: garden centers, architects. I sold something to one architect, and another was looking for a stone carver at Elmira College. He had my carving on a wall and he said, “I know a guy!” They contacted me and we went to the college. I met with the President and his team, and I gave them some ideas and some drawings, and I sold them. I got this contract to do the carvings on the buildings. They kept using me and using me. Every couple years I’d get a nice contract from them. The last contract I had was with a residential hall called Meier Hall. Meyer was the president’s name. My son helped, too. That was from 1993-2011 or 2012. He’s retired now. He was a special kind of man, the president. That was really fun because after the 20 years prior experience that he had with me, he just showed me the spaces and said, “Do what you want.” The parameters were include the college logos: the iris, octagon and golden eagle. As long as those symbols were in the design, we were good to go. The gargoyles were 3D, and there were other 3D things in other buildings. But it was mostly 2D, high relief, carved 3” down. I like to carve really deep, especially on high buildings, because it really needs to stand out. That building had gargoyles, portraits.
Wayne’s journey as a stone carver began when he was 22, working with pen knives and exacto knives on soap stone. After about a decade he bought his first hammer and chisel set from Sculpture House NYC. Shortly after, he and his wife moved East, where Wayne apprenticed under Vincent Palumbo at the National Cathedral in Washington DC, learning how to architectural limestone carving in a gothic style. Later, raising a family in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Wayne worked with Julius Tomasetti of Tomasetti Cut Stone in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Wayne discusses his experiences learning his craft:
My wife and I were offered jobs out east. While I was out working a job. Horrible. Locating cables for cable company. My wife heard about the Cathedral. They were hiring stone carving apprentices. 4 months later I got the job. That’s how I learned to carve on an architectural level: Gothic design, crockets, angels, gargoyles. Lots of fun. Not much money. Start at 7:00 am. Carve from 7-3. Run home and shower, then wait tables til 10 or 11 at night. I paid a lot of dues back then, but I had a family to support. You do what you have to do. That was about 3 years.
From the first day I was just going. I had already been doing it. I was like a kid in a candy store. All of a sudden I was able to produce stuff really fast. I had the whole 3D thing down. The pay was commensurate to productivity, and I had a family to support, so I was in there going to town, producing the best work I could as fast as I could. And I was doing it.
When Wayne isn’t creating architectural sculptures, he makes statues, benches, moldings, entryways and more for homeowners. He describes what he considers when beginning a new project:
I really like traditional things. Renaissance things I grew up with and aspired to. I can and do modern design, but I tend to really like – Trained in Gothic at the cathedral. Always intriguing to me, but probably out of style now. Probably never was. I like things that are graceful, easy, and fun to look at.
Depends on the situation: what the application is? Site looks like? What client wants? I use my design skills to come up with something that they like that still pleases me. There’s gotta be enthusiasm. It’s a creative process. In order to do it well, you’ve got to be into it.