Cardinale Montano Makes Bags From Her Hands — And Heart
By Lisa Green
Cardinale Montano is a maker, a seeker, and proof that if you follow your passion, a path will open up. It might lead you to places you didn’t quite expect to find yourself. But in a good way.
Montano’s journey, which one senses she will always be in the midst of, currently has her creating a line of handmade bags that are slowly but surely seeping out into the consciousness of women in our region and beyond. “Handmade has a different energy about it,” she says, and her customers are no doubt picking up on that energy.
With her company, Lineflax & Roving (the name refers to fibers and textiles), she’s a bona fide entrepreneur now, but she’s always made things. Her mother and grandmother were knitters, and she learned to sew at an early age. She attended a Waldorf school in Spring Valley, New York, which had a strong emphasis on handwork. She made her own clothes, harvested from her garden, created her own face cream.
Born in Hartford, she and her now ex-husband visited friends in the Berkshires, where she found a group of like-minded artisans. They settled in Housatonic, Mass., and she worked as a cook and in management at Baba Louie’s for 20 years. In 2012, when her two sons were older, it was time to exercise her maker muse.
“I totally threw myself off a ledge,” she says. “I didn’t know how long I could sustain it, but I just had to do it.”
She was primarily interested in doing something with linen and wool, but she also considered interior design. She catered. She played around with what she had on hand. When fabric shopping in West Springfield, she picked up a vinyl remnant that caught her eye, and made a “crude” tote bag out of it.
The muse had a good — and principled — eye: After some research, Montano found that the fabric she plucked from the remnants bin was made in the U.S. from GREENGUARD certified vinyl, which complies with strict indoor emissions standards, meeting with her desire to stay ethically strong in everything she does. And it’s perfect for a bag: tough, washable, oil resistant and breathable, not to mention pretty darn good looking.
Along her journey, she says, women have shown up and been supportive and helpful. One offered her work space for a while. Others chipped in financial support. Another helped with her website. Montano refined her first designs, and two summers ago began selling them at the Great Barrington farmers’ market, where they were a hit. One Mercantile in Great Barrington was the first retailer to sell them. A few stores in Hudson will be carrying them soon, and she’s got some possibilities in New York. The bags are also available through the website.
The BOAT bag. Photo courtesy Lineflax & Roving.
Every bag in the line is simple and functional. Her first design, the SHOP bag (each style has a name) was an open tote with an outer pocket, ideal for city to country. Based on feedback from customers, she’s expanded into both larger and smaller styles, ranging from the ETC bag at $28 to the capacious BOAT bag at $325. Thanks to the environmentally sound vinyl, each size is lightweight but stable. Depending on the size of your picnic, there’s a bag here that says Tanglewood all over it.
Up to this point, Montano has singlehandedly crafted each bag in her attic studio lined with antique and just plain old industrial sewing machines (she uses all of them). Demand is increasing, but as successful as she may get, Lineflax & Roving will expand only as much as sound ethics allow. “It’s not only where they’re made,” she says,” but who’s making them, and under what conditions?”
Keeping it local is important, and Montano is bringing in two women who will put together the pockets, zippers and strapping. Then she and her son will finish the pieces together. It’s hand (and heart) intensive, the way she wants it to be.
Reminder to self in the studio.
For Montano, a deeply spiritual person, the bags are a means to making other things happen, one step in her journey. Farther ahead on her path she envisions starting a program to pass on the maker tradition.
“I sense a real hunger for people wanting to make things,” she says. Her program — paid by donation — would bring people to her Garden of Eden-like property for workshops, where she’d coach them in knitting, seeding, cooking — any maker skills they want to learn. She’d like it to happen in the next three years. And if it takes longer, she’s alright with that, too.
“That’s the most challenging thing —to really be patient, be okay with the time it takes,” she says.
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Cottage+Camp: Americana From Its New Home, To Yours
John Krynick and Francis Nestor
By Lisa Green
Cottage+Camp has been one peripatetic purveyor of folk art, Americana and 19th- and 20th-century decorative arts and textiles. The owners, John Krynick and Francis Nestor, have been in the business since 1989, selling on the antiques circuit while living in Boston. Through the years, they have moved their collection to Woodstock, Hudson, Philadelphia and North Egremont, Mass.
Some of their businesses have been strictly through shows or online, and others were actual storefronts. Just last week Cottage + Camp again became a brick-and-mortar concern with the opening of its new shop in Millerton, New York. Now those of us who have been drooling over the goods on their Instagram feed have a place to get up close and touchy-feely with the curiously compelling, sometimes quirky remains of American art and objets.
Until now, the duo has been selling out of their home in North Egremont — a Carpenter Gothic former church.
“We found this church and thought it would be a great place to live and have our studios,” says Krynick, a textile artist whose specialty is knitting (but not scarves and vests; think giant hand- and machine-knitted installations). Nestor is a painter. “We opened by appointment but we realized it didn’t seem like a destination.”
They love living in the church, but considered moving the business to Millerton. The spots they looked at weren’t quite right, until the corner of Center and Main opened up in April. They got calls from other shop owners: “You have to take this space.” Krynick and Nestor were encouraged by the retailers’ open arms and relocated in the antiques-centric village. They announced their opening on Instagram, and had a great day. Somehow they managed the renovation and move in between preparing for, working at and returning from Brimfield, which they attend every year (you’ll find them at the New England Motel).
The scope of Americana plus decorative arts is wide ranging. “We’re not gallery precious,” says Krynick. “It’s all stuff we really like.” Recent finds include a c.1860 carved and painted jelly cupboard and mid-19th-century printing blocks for labeling fabric.
Though they’re back in shopkeeping, the duo still plans to travel to a couple of small shows a year along with Brimfield. Next up is one featuring antiques, jewelry, decorations, lighting, garden, prints and paintings at The Marketplace at River Walk Pavilion in Washington Depot from June 1-3.
The day I visited, Krynick and Nestor were expecting an after-lunch flow of visitors from the rainy Trade Secrets show.
“We put out a bunch of garden-related things a few days ago for our Trade Secrets customers,” says Krynick, “but everything already sold.”
Looks like Cottage+Camp has made the right move.
20 Main St., Millerton, NY
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BerkChique! 2018: Shopping For Good Yields Great Buys
You hear it a lot during the season. Compliment a woman on what she’s wearing and the response is likely to be “I got it at BerkChique!”
The Berkshires’ premier annual pop-up clothing sale and fundraiser function, BerkChique! ushers in the season and helps us get our wardrobes in order for the busy months ahead. Returning for its 7th year, the “shop” will be held at the West Stockbridge Historical Society this weekend. WAM Theatre is the host this year.
The donated merchandise — new and gently used clothing and accessories — has come out of some of the most fashionable closets in the Berkshires, as well as the “The Bonnington Collection” from the area’s preeminent fashionista, Vicki Bonnington. She, along with philanthropist and businesswoman Nancy Fitzpatrick, conceived of BerkChique! as a fun way for donors to clean out closets in support of local nonprofits. Since its inception, the event has donated over $150,000 to organizations.
This year there are five beneficiaries: WAM Theatre, Berkshire Humane Society, Community Access to the Arts, and IS183 Art School of the Berkshires.
“Every year it’s a different store,” says Bonnington. “First, you never know where it’s going to be. It’s difficult to find a venue when you need at least 3,000 square feet, a place that’s warm and dry, with parking…for free. And, of course, there’s always new clothing and accessories for sale.”
Rack at a previous BerkChique!
What could be better? You’re shopping for a good cause, and the prices beat retail. Just be sure to wear presentable undergarments; the dressing room’s a communal one. But that’s part of the fun. People form camaraderie in the dressing room, so no one’s going to let you go home with anything you probably shouldn’t.
“Every year is a little bit better and bigger. We’ve actually gotten a lot more donations than in previous years, probably due to the ‘WAMily.’“ Bonnington says, referring to WAM’s director, Kristen van Ginhoven and her network of fans.
What happens to the merch that’s not sold?
“None of the stuff we collect gets thrown out,” says Bonnington. Unsold items and those that don’t make it into the sale are donated to the Berkshire Humane Society’s Catwalk Boutique, Shakespeare & Company, the Soldier On Women’s Program, Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Suit Yourself.
West Stockbridge Historical Society
9 Main St., West Stockbridge, MA
First Dibs Shopping Party: Friday, May 11, 5:30-8:30 p.m., $100 (Tickets here or at the door.)
General Shopping: 6:30-8:30 p.m., $25 for 1 or $40 for 2
Weekend shopping, free admission
Saturday, May 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sunday, May 13, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
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SuMoNo Collection: One-Of-A-Kind Wearable Art At Darryl’s
By Jamie Larson
On Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29, an exhibition of some brand-new garments will be unveiled and available for purchase at Darryl’s in Rhinebeck, New York. Created by Susan Kotulak, the “SuMoNo” is a raincoat constructed from traditional Japanese kimono fabric that’s been laminated. The result is a beautiful and useful piece of “wearable art” that seems designed to appeal to the sartorial styles of RI-region women.
(If you can’t wait until Saturday, Kotulak clued us in to some exclusive intelligence: the coats will actually be going up on display today. So you’ve got two days to get a sneak peek before the opening.)
Kotulak’s love for Japanese style began with pottery. She then fell in love with the bold patterns of kimonos and other Japanese fabrics, old and new. While the story behind the SuMoNo is long, the result is simply striking and feels at home on the lawn of a gala but is also edgy in a way that fits in seamlessly with modern street wear, which is increasingly incorporating Japanese elements.
“Kimonos are extremely interesting from a textile perspective,” Kotulak said. “There are a huge variety of patterns that incorporate world style trends through the years, which wash through them in beautiful ways.”
Kotulak grew up in New Jersey. Her father was blue collar and her mother sewed out of necessity.
“We were fairly strapped for money so I learned to sew,” she said. “Even back then I was always frustrated with the quality of materials.”
As a child she wore school uniforms and then, as she moved into a career as a managing director for a Fortune 50 corporation, she was trapped in the uniform of the “dress for success” ‘80s and ‘90s. After retiring in the late ‘90s, she quickly made up for lost time, kicking her other persona as a textile artist into high gear.
Her earliest work, hand screen-printed linen creations from her former SoHo studio, have been sold at wearable art galleries from Madison Avenue and Martha’s Vineyard, to Sarasota and Key West, Florida. After moving up to Clermont she became, and still is, an extremely productive potter. She built and began operating a giant Japanese-style anagama wood-fired kiln each year with the help of a specially skilled team, who need to keep the fires stoked constantly to create fantastically high temperatures.
Kotulak’s passion for kimono began while attending wood-firings in Japan, and her carefully curated collection of kimono has supplanted pottery as her main artistic focus. She designed her first raincoat for a pottery-oriented springtime trip to Japan, when, she said, people kept trying to buy it right off her back.
Continued interest in that design inspired four years of experimentation in order to produce laminated silk using her collection of over 1,500 pieces of vintage fabric. The exodus of laminating facilities out of the U.S. and the difficulty of running the 14-inch-wide fabric created by Japanese looms at the few facilities that remained continued to stymie progress. So she brought the process in-house and bought industrial equipment for her own studio. For the last two years, a team of students from Bard College has worked with Kotulak to assist her in completing her vision.
“It’s as if the West has all of a sudden remembered what pattern is,” Kotulak said. “I think these are clothes daughters will wear out of their mothers’ closets. There are no closures, so men have bought them. It hangs differently on different body types and looks great on everyone.”
Darryl’s has been known to showcase collections of unusual wearables both in Rhinebeck and NYC but this, store staff say, is their first foray into the “art to wear” movement.
Due to the complexity of the laminating process and the way the fabrics used were originally sourced, it’s easy to say there’s just nothing out there like the SuMoNo. So if you’re in the market to buy or just curious to get a look, it’s well worth the short (or even a long) trip to Darryl’s this weekend.
Susan Kotulak SuMoNo Collection Exhibit and Sale
Saturday, April 28 & Sunday, April 29, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
18A East Market St., Rhinebeck, NY
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George Home: More Impeccable Taste In Washington Depot
By Joseph Montebello
Anyone who knows Bruce Glickman, Wilson Henley and Betsey Nestler is aware that they each have a discerning eye and a magic touch when it comes to home furnishings and design. George Home in Washington Depot, Conn. simply reconfirms that fact.
Glickman and Henley previously owned Duane in New York City and produced a line of furniture called Duane Modern, which was sold at the Interior Design Building in New York. Many of those pieces are now offered at George Home. Years ago, the three partners had a shop in New Preston called Betsey and Duane. Although it closed, the three friends, who have known each other for more than 20 years, knew one day they would have another shop.
Wilson Henley, Bruce Glickman and Betsey Nestler
“Bruce and I had been talking to Betsy about it for years,” says Henley. “We would go off shopping for our new venture — we called it our imaginary store — for years. And then it all came together.
“It was a question of finding the right space,” he continues. “When we closed Duane and moved to Washington full time, we knew we wanted to be part of the community and that the Depot would be our choice of location.”
When the white clapboard building on Titus Road came up for rent, the three agreed that they’d found the perfect spot. The Depot, where retail was dormant for several years, has come to life recently, thanks to several retailers who have joined George Home in opening stores.
Since its official opening in July, George Home has become the go-to place to find a well-selected and inspired global mix of mid-century modern, antique and contemporary furniture, baskets, fine soaps, unusual objects, art, accessories, lighting and unique tabletop items, meticulously curated by its three owners.
“We share the same vision of design,” explains Henley. “We call it a kind of sophisticated rusticity, a palette of similar neutral tones, simple and uncalculated. Items that would fit into any décor.”
The light-filled, 1800-square-foot shop is set up with three distinct areas: the Living Room, which displays bigger piece of furniture, art and lighting; the Library, which has dark walls, deep sofas and a moodier feel; and the Marketplace, chock full of contemporary finds from small antique items to perfect hostess gifts and creative accessories. In addition, the Design Studio at George Home offers full interior design services.
“We feel very fortunate to have found this space and to have been welcomed into the Litchfield County design community,” says Henley. “So many talented people live in this area and we have been getting customers from New Canaan and as far as Boston.”
All photos courtesy George Home
That’s because word has spread quickly that George Home is the place to find an item to complete or complement the decor of a room or to inspire a total home redesign.
As for the name, it eluded the designers at first.
“We went through a lot of names,” says Glickman. “We considered Titus for the name of the road. Then a friend suggested George, and it suddenly clicked.” And yes, there are some items that pay homage to the father of our country.
George Home and The Design Studio @ George Home
4 Titus Road, Washington Depot, CT
Thursday-Monday 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Sunday noon - 4 p.m.
(and by appointment)
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The RuraList: 6 Wintertime Warmers
By Amy Krzanik
While the temperatures continue to be frigid, the concept of hygge is real in the Rural Intelligence region. We’ve scoured the shops to find warm and comfy items to help you make it through — and perhaps even enjoy — this time of year.
1. Whether you’re going out or staying in, Hammertown in Rhinebeck, Pine Plains and Great Barrington, wants you to do it in style. For voyages out, keep cozy with a versatile cashmere poncho ($98). If you’re staying in, snuggle on the couch under a wool, cashmere or faux fur throw ($165-$215).
3201 Route 199
Pine Plains, NY
6420 Montgomery Street
15 Bridge Street
Great Barrington, MA
2. Fleece is ubiquitous in the wintertime Northeast, but the material doesn’t only come in jackets. At Shooz in Lenox, Mass., you can find fleece-lined NIKIBIKI leggings ($22). They’re seamless, which means no digging into your sides, so you can wear them all day under pants or even a skirt if you’re that bold.
44 Housatonic Street
3. But what about my dry skin?” I hear you asking. Terston in Kent, Conn. has got you covered, literally. They carry the Laurmé line of facial creams, serums and hydrating toners ($34-$45). Created in California by a women whose sister’s skin was extremely irritated by cancer treatments, the entire line is vegan and contains no parabens, sulfates, phthalates or fragrances.
27 North Main Street
4. Over at Dory & Ginger in Pittsfield, Mass. they know that not all people are hat people, even when the weather is at its coldest. The store, adjacent to Hotel on North, stocks cable-knit, adjustable earmuffs ($30). The muffs are made in and help support the women of Nepal.
299 North Street
5. Workshop on the Green in Litchfield, Conn. is known for carrying down and faux-down jackets, and warm hats and gloves, but they have a can’t-miss sale going on right now on all UGG items, a brand synonymous with comfort. Women’s slippers, socks, lounge pants and pajamas, bathrobes, sweatpants and hoodies, throws and travel sets are half off the retail prices of $50-$120.
10 Cobble Court
6. If you’re reading this article from bed because you’re feeling under the weather, these two tinctures from Germantown’s Field Apothecary might help. Besides the main ingredient, their Elderberry Cough Syrup ($24) also contains soothing honey, hyssop, black cherry bark, horehound and other herbs. Their Cold, Flu & Virus Support ($22) contains even more good stuff to get and keep you going until spring. You don’t even have to leave your bed to order them.
245 Main Street
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Woodworker Peter Superti’s Craftsmanship Leads The Design
By Jamie Larson
Craftsmanship and design, form and function, vision and execution: the successful balance of these convergent concepts is what makes the furniture of local woodworker Peter Superti so alluring. His master trick? He does it all by hand. No shortcuts.
“I have a certain philosophy,” said Superti, who lives in Hudson. “I construct decoration, I don’t decorate construction. I don’t use a computer. I’m strictly pencil and ruler. To me, a design from a computer is lifeless.”
We found him toiling away alone on a frigid morning in his humble old, woodstove-heated barn in Red Hook, New York, set to work on some excellent lengths of wood. His most famous client is the mother of performance art and part-time local Marina Abramovic. He has built a number of pieces for her including ladders with knives for rungs, beds under suspended giant crystals, and the table and chairs where she iconically sat and stared at visitors during her career retrospective, “The Artist is Present.”
Abramovic has been catching some heat lately for backing out of her long-awaited center in Hudson. Superti shrugs off the relatively lukewarm criticism. He says its been personally and artistically rewarding to spend time with the unique artist, who once flew him down to Brazil to help hand select huge crystals.
“She was looking for a fabricator,” he said, noting that the pieces he makes for her are Abramovic’s ideas and aesthetics, but that he gives input on weight and balance. “On our first phone call she said, ‘You and I will be working together for a long, long time.’ I love a challenge. It keeps the work alive and helps me look at objects in different ways.”
But the pieces he’s made, and is making, for other clients are just as captivating. His work is sturdy without feeling clunky, and the expertise of his joinery and finish are as integral to the success of a piece as any artistic flourish.
He’s currently building an entire staircase for a Manhattan loft. The handmade model in his studio is itself a work of art. He’s also working on the details in the Germantown home of Barry Hardwood, the curator of decorative arts at the Brooklyn Museum. For Hardwood, Superti is very specifically recreating decorative art elements for the home in the late 19th-century British style.
Superti grew up in Queens, the son of a printer who specialized in manual typesetting. His grandfather was also a printer who came from a long line of Italian tailors. The mix of art and trade, it seems, is in his blood.
“The whole concept of building things by hand was instilled in me at an early age,” he said. “I was always making stuff, taking things apart to see how they worked and putting them back together.”
After working as a laborer in Vermont for the first half of the ‘70s, he realized what he truly wanted to do was build furniture. He attended the Program for Artistry at Boston University and later apprenticed under British master woodworker David Powell in Vermont, who passed along a focus on hand tools from his teacher, the extremely influential Edward Barnsley.
“First I do a drawing, then a model,” Superti said. “When you can see the piece, it makes it easier for the client to understand and I’ve got it all worked out before I even start building.”
As his furniture began to get noticed, he built industry relationships in NYC and did restoration and reconstruction work on a diverse array of historically significant decorative art. His hands-on experience has left a mark on his own style, which is lovingly referential yet unmistakably original.
“My designs are influenced by centuries of history and construction,” he said. “There used to be distinct periods in design but you don’t really see that any more. But a lot of those periods can still be explored.”
A single piece by Superti can exhibit the stylistic influence of Danish modern, minimalism, arts and crafts and even Japanese design in quiet and controlled ways.
“You use the materials to create the design,” he said, noting that the crystal bed is fantastical but still a functional item. “The fineness of how a piece is constructed is part of the design. No matter what, furniture can’t be constructed poorly.”
When your designs are theoretical and made real in a computer program and the pieces are cut by machines, everything, even the most original ideas, comes out looking like Ikea, Superti explained. “It’s too perfect; it lacks warmth. It lacks that tiny bit of imperfection that the hand makes that gives the piece its soul.”
He’s so busy with commission work that he doesn’t have gallery shows, and rarely sells his work in shop, as he doesn’t really like producing the same thing over and over. As creative as his customers let him be, he says he’s looking forward to clearing a few months off the calendar to work on a half dozen new ideas for which he hasn’t had time. We can only imagine what his mind and hands will produce when truly left to their own devices.
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The Art Of Giving: RI’s Annual Holiday Gift Guide
Where we live, you don’t have to travel very far to find unique gifts that are sure to please and impress. Whether you’re looking for a memorable “thank you” for a holiday party host, or something local to send to a friend or family member far away, choose from our list of artisanal, homegrown goodies and don’t forget to include a card that reads “from the RI region with love.”
TO EAT & DRINK:
The peonies used in Three Meadows Spirits’ Peony Vodka come directly from Sugar Maple Farm in Millerton, owned by the company’s founder, Leslie Farhangi. Her 18-month-old company and its boutique brand won a “best of” award this year from Hudson Valley Magazine. Wondering how to pair a flower-infused vodka? The spirit’s website offers recipes including the “Summer Frolic” and the “Bitter End.” Find your own bottle, or just a drink, at regional stores and restaurants.
The small batch jelly and preserves of Craryville’s les collines are locally sourced from the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires. The jewel-toned preserves make beautiful gifts for fans of both the savory and the sweet, with recommendations for use as a classic toast topping, but also on cheese boards, with meat or fish. Upcoming tastings with les collines include this Friday, Dec. 8 at the Indian Mountain Holiday Marketplace in Lakeville from 2-6:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9 at Hillsdale General Store from 1-2:30 p.m., Dec. 14 at Sierra Lily in Poughkeepsie from 4-7 p.m. and Dec. 16 at the Berkshire Grown Holiday Market in Great Barrington from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Claverack’s Olde York Farm is home to a farm-to-cask distillery and cooperage located at the historic Jacob Rutsen van Rensselaer House & Mill. Their limited releases of micro batch bourbon, whiskey and brandy are aged in barrels they build by hand on site. On weekends, stop by for a tour and a sample of Rhubarb & Honey Vodka, Thai Basil or Raspberry & Black Pepper Liqueur, Smoked Maple Bourbon or one of the Farm’s other delicious concoctions.
What would a gift list be without chocolate? Catherine’s Chocolates in Great Barrington knows ‘tis the season for sweet treats, and offers a large assortment of holiday-only creations, gift box assortments, and “stocking stuffers.” From dark-chocolate-covered orange peels and peanut brittle to Christmas Peeps and winter Oreos (and, seemingly, everything in between), you’re sure to find a favorite. If you don’t trust yourself around these tempting goodies until it’s time to exchange presents, Catherine’s can gift wrap the box for you on the spot.
For the meat-lovers in your life, it’s time to forgo the Hickory Farms gift basket and present them with a salami gift box from Jacuterie, based on an Ancramdale family farm. The business, which uses only high-quality, local, pasture-raised pork, has recently gone 100% natural. Their salami has always been free of GMOs, antibiotics and hormones, but now is also cured naturally to eliminate any synthetic nitrates. Jacuterie is launching an online shop for the first time this holiday season, and you can snag free shipping on orders $100+ from now until Dec. 22. You can also find it locally at their farm store or at area farmers markets.
For those on your list who like to experiment with their food, Roaring Brook Dairy offers kits to make your own ricotta, mozzarella, chevre, butter or tofu. Or, as the company states, “homemade by you with a little help from us.” Owner Leslie Kozupsky is a Berkshire County transplant and all of the company’s kits are produced in Lee, Mass. If this is your first time attempting to “make it at home,” RBD’s website offers step-by-step instructional videos and FAQ to help. And, even if your first creation isn’t Instagram-ready, it’ll still be delicious.
Whether your personal style is understated or over-the-top, Shana Lee Jewelry has you covered. The Warren Street (Hudson, NY) store of designer/metalsmith Shana Lee offers items for men and women, and will work with you on custom rings, earrings, bracelets and more, either from scratch or with your favorite stone. Her work has appeared in Vogue, People and Bazaar, among others, and been worn by artists including Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani and Joss Stone. Now it’s your turn. But be sure to visit the shop before the end of the year, when the business will take a two-year retail sabbatical, when you’ll only be able to find them online and at pop-ups.
Hand made, hand poured and hand packaged, Tess & James’ lip balms, soy candles, bath salts and roll-on scents are made in small batches in a home studio in Rhinebeck, NY. Favorites include a bubble gum-scented lip gloss “pencil” and the Snobby Farmer lip balm. They can be found at Clove Kitchen Market in Red Hook, Paper Trail in Rhinebeck and Haven Boutique in Poughkeepsie.
MINNA is a Hudson-based home textile brand by weaver Sara Berks, whose design aesthetic she describes as “nostalgic with a touch of rebellion.” Traditional craft techniques are used to produce ethically made blankets, rugs, pillows, scarves and more. Berks is inspired by feminist art, Bauhaus, traditional craft and vintage textiles. MINNA partners with master weavers and artisan collectives in Mexico, Guatemala and Uruguay. Opened this June on Warren Street, MINNA Goods also carries ceramics, books, jewelry, paper goods, apothecary items and artisan-made goods from Mexico and Guatemala.
Bella Erder and her store Aija are back for the holidays, popping up tonight, Dec. 7, at Norfolk Night and on Saturday, Dec. 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Darren Winston, Bookseller in Sharon. The beloved Norfolk shop that shut its doors in late 2015, returns with the affordable jewelry, clothing, homeware and other items that made it so popular. With items sourced from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, China and the U.S., the brand aims to provide affordably priced, well-designed gifts for every occasion or, as its slogan says, “indulgence without excess.”
“Wow, where did you get that?” is something fans of Pat Rotondo’s jewelry must hear quite a lot. Chunky and brightly colored or delicate and dangling, the Chatham-based jeweler’s rings, earrings, necklaces and brooches run the gamut, but all are stunning. Meet her and shop her pieces at this weekend’s Shindy in Pittsfield. Some items are also available through December at Local in Lenox and Pookstyle in Chatham.
This year’s fiction releases by local authors include the critically acclaimed debut by Simon’s Rock professor Brendan Mathews, The World of Tomorrow, and Samantha Hunt’s first book of short stories, The Dark Dark. Memoirs by Dani Shapiro (Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage) and Joan Juliet Buck (The Price of Illusion) also were highly praised. Entertaining in the Country: Love Where You Eat, Joan Osofsky and Abby Adams’ sequel to Love Where You Live; Back Pocket Pasta, a book to inspire you to cook better meals faster, by Colu Henry; and Havana Living Today: Cuban Home Style, the latest design tome from Hermes Mallea, round out 2017’s most giftable reads.
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East Camp Goods: Alchemy And Art By Husband And Wife
By Jamie Larson
NASA announced recently that its scientists had observed, for the first time, the collision of two neutron stars. One of the many fascinating discoveries made was that the event ejected 200 Earth masses worth of gold into the universe. It’s speculated that these fantastic events are likely the origin of the gold on our planet.
In the hands of Jenna Fennell, of East Camp Goods in Germantown, New York, the elemental elegance of responsibly sourced, high-purity gold and silver, diamonds and gemstones is tooled into jewelry that impresses through artful and thoughtful designs. These designs elevate the raw natural energy of such heavenly materials while remaining decidedly down to earth.
The Fennell family. Photo by Jersey Walz.
“I think it’s important for people that these are things they can wear every day,” Jenna says. “I like to imagine East Camp clients wear their jewelry through everything. I sleep in my jewelry. I garden in it. I find as a mother of small children you don’t always put on your best clothes but I can always slip on a gold ring and have a token of glamour.”
Andy Fennell usually works on a larger scale than his wife, with wood and iron. A sculptor currently working for artist Dan Colen, he adds rustic, finely finished elements to East Camp’s collection. The couple’s collaborations, like the brass-banded driftwood tap handles they made for the Suarez Family Brewery are a clear example of the synergy of their artistic abilities.
The busy couple and parents of two girls, Juniper Coyote, 2, and Fiona Kestrel, 6 weeks, run East Camp online out of their home, but you can see a few pieces in person at Alder East in Germantown and at the seasonal flea markets held at Basilica Hudson. They also do a good deal of commission work. Jenna says that she wants to help people make their own statement with her jewelry, not impose hers on them.
A 22k gold chain made with ancient goldsmithing techniques particular to high karat gold. “Chains are a particular interest of mine,” Jenna says. “I don’t sell jewelry with prefab chains, I make every link of every chain we sell and I love the meditative process of it.”
“You don’t want someone else wearing your shouting statement, unless it’s their shouting statement,” she says.
It’s some of Jenna’s smaller pieces that are the most captivating. Delicate rings, made, as always, from exclusively 18-karat gold or higher, may be inlaid with precious gems and a black or salt and pepper diamond. Mountings are minimally embellished and the shape and scale is perfectly balanced. Many of the pieces purposefully retain light tooling marks, adding an earthy texture as well as more surfaces to catch and reflect light.
These Suarez Family Brewery tap handles, pictured here during creation, were a collaboration between Jenna and Andy.
After college at Brown, Jenna parlayed an internship into a 13-year career as a brass mount maker at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The job afforded her a lot of technical experience, forging perfectly fitted cradles for art objects of international cultural importance. It also, she says, affected her artistry, surrounded as she was, every day, by some of the greatest art in the world. She allows that her work has been directly and in some ways subconsciously influenced by design elements of African art and the Oceana exhibit at the museum, which she worked on extensively. She’s currently working on a new design based on a traditional stacked Byzantine ring.
A ring Jenna is currently crafting, inspired by a Byzantine design, will feature a large salt and pepper diamond.
The Fennells met at a metalsmithing class at the Haystack Mountain School in Maine.
“It’s a fabulous program and a beautiful setting. It was an easy place to fall in love,” she says.
Andy soon also got a job at the Met, building custom shipping crates for traveling art pieces, which was kind of a scaled up version of Jenna’s job with different materials.
Not long after, however, they began spending more and more weekends in Rhinebeck and then bought a 900-square-foot farmhouse fixer-upper in Germantown. They left their jobs in the city and built a fabulous addition off the back to accommodate the East Camp studio (which, unlike Jenna’s subterranean office at the Met, is bathed in natural light) and their growing family.
“The process of making is so relaxing to me,” Jenna says from her studio. “I always want to come down here.”
East Camp offers pieces that become a part of you, whether you’re attending a fancy event, or gardening, cooking or playing with the kids. Although the earth may have only received a pittance of the gold rocketing through space, East Camp Goods is making it count.
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Kea Carpets and Kilims: A Woven Mix Of Art And History
By Jamie Larson
Upon entering the humble Hudson shop of Kea Carpets and Kilims, you may not know a thing about the history or plight of the Middle Eastern or Asian tribes that crafted the textiles on display, but the language of form and shape woven therein is universal, and masterfully beautiful. Bringing a rug from Kea into your home feels like more than just decor. It feels like a connection between your life and that of the people who so skillfully crafted it — and the rich culture it represents.
After university, in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, Susan Gomersall left England for the small Greek island of Kea. For a time, she and a group of friends reveled in traveling over land in a VW bus from the Mediterranean into the Middle East and India. They funded their “ramblings” at first by buying ethnic jewelry they could sell back in Europe, but the industry soon crowded them out.
“Through a teacher, I was introduced to textiles in Turkey,” Gomersall said from her large Brooklyn flagship. “But you couldn’t really get involved with moving rugs without having a business structure. At the time, it was very dicey to set up a business in Greece. It was chaos.”
She had no interest in repatriating, so a friend in New York helped her set up an experimental shipment to the U.S. in 1986. It was a success and she named her new company for the Greek island she missed dearly.
Gomersall’s knowledge and understanding of regional ethnic design grew quickly. She worked directly with dealers in cities who could take her safely to tribal areas to find designs that were both beautiful for her clients and meaningful artifacts of cultural study.
“In those early years, I’d meet up with some pickers and we’d go into tribal areas as a team. As a woman, you had to be very smart,” she recalled. “Every time I encountered a different kind of rug it was like discovering a genuine article. I’d ask questions like why a rug was such a large size and they would say, ‘it’s for sleeping on and wrapping yourself in.’ It was like being an anthropologist and all the rug dealers shared information. We still do.”
A photo by Gomersall during her travels.
The differences in uses, sizes and designs of rugs from tribe to tribe, and even weaver to weaver, became significant to Gomersall. Over the years, she’s written many papers and a book, Kilim Rugs: Tribal Tales in Wool. “Birth certificates” are kept on most pieces. The journey to bring these stunning rugs to Hudson and the importance of compensating the regional suppliers and artisan means the rugs at Kea are not inexpensive. The lower prices range around $900 while others, like a large 1920’s kilim from Dagestan, are $3,500.
“At first, the countries I worked in were really stable,” she recalled. “The first upheaval was in Iran, and the Russians invaded Afghanistan. So we had to get our act together. I still traveled to Turkey and Pakistan, and pieces would be brought over the border.”
As the region destabilized through the ‘90s, Gomersall grew uneasy, not just for her business structure but for the communities she had built relationships with.
“They became reluctant to bring me in,” she said. “I was concerned. I had been working with some of these families for 20 years and there was just no reaching them.”
As one might imagine, things didn’t improve after 2001. But the ensuing war without end brought an unexpected change to the industry that still allowed Gomersall to work, and it provided a lifeline to the tribal economies that needed to sell their masterful rugs.
“A lot of the guys we were working with fled to New York and became wholesalers,” she said. “I still had access but it was like the bazaar came to me.”
Five years ago Gomersall and her partners, who had been coming up to the RI region for years, were convinced by a visiting friend from Italy that they would be fools not to open a store in Hudson. They agreed.
The Hudson shop is run by the charming Richard Starna, who has a long history in American folk textiles as well as tribal rugs, and is given a big portion of the credit for the store’s unique esthetic. There’s no counter, computer or cash register visible in the space. There are a couple of small tables, a vase and one chair that’s draped with a shaggy carpet. Other than that it’s just rugs, hanging on the wall and folded in neatly stacked piles on the floor. While these are some of the highest-end rugs you will find, there is something gratifying about experiencing these rugs as you might if you were shopping for them in their native land, not just as handsome art but as functional purpose-made furnishings.
Kea’s home base in Brooklyn is run by Gomersall and contemporary rug designer Azy Schecter, who works with architects and design clients on custom commissions and creates new designs for Kea’s contemporary line.
Kea also recently began showcasing the contemporary rugs of Ptolemy Mann, who has family in the RI region. Her pieces, which she makes with traditional techniques, bridge the gap between modern Western art figures and tribal elegance. Her boldly colored pieces at once echo minimalist paintings, digital elements and a deep understanding of tribal patterns, stripes and color work.
“I’ve resisted selling new rugs,” said Gomersall. “But I was just blown away by her work.”
It’s also enlightening in a general sense to see Mann’s modern pieces hanging beside tribal examples. One draws attention to details in the other that might not seem as vivid when viewed alone. It’s a bit of visual magic you shouldn’t miss. You shouldn’t miss Kea at all, frankly. It is as much an art gallery or anthropological history exhibit as it is a store. There’s nothing else quite like it.
Kea Carpets and Kilims
238 Warren St., Hudson, NY
Open Wednesday – Monday, noon – 6 p.m., or by appointment.