LOCAL’s Economy Buoyed By Chocolate Trickle Down
Posted by: Marilyn Bethany
Posted on: Monday, July 25, 2011
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“We are doing very well,” says Michele O’Hana, via a crackling Skype connection from her childhood home in West Cork, Ireland, where, as usual, she is spending the summer with her family.
“Repeat that please?,” I shout, certain I must have heard wrong. In these tough economic times, one has come to expect tales of woe from small business owners.
“WE ARE DOING VERY WELL,” she shouts into the phone.
O’Hana, a potter who lives in Spencertown with her husband, the photographer John Dolan, and their three children, opened LOCAL last December in the Lenox Commons shopping center on Route 7 “on a whim.” For the four years previous, she had maintained a 2nd-floor studio in Lenox, where she mixed her own porcelain, then shaped and fired her refined though unabashedly hand-wrought, pure white dinnerware, piece by piece. “It was not a retail space, so I did most of my selling at shows and sales,” she says, adding that the nomadic life, “was not fun.” So when her lease was due to expire last fall, she went looking for a storefront where she could maintain a studio in back, while receiving customers out front.
Priced out of Lenox, O’Hana settled for a shop in Lenox Commons, where she quickly concluded that her porcelain looked lonely on its own. So she designed and had fabricated some additional products to act as foils. She also invited select fellow-artists and artisans with ties to the region to let her represent their wares. “Before I knew it, I had a full-fledged shop,” she says.
Indeed she does. LOCAL is a find—a charming space filled with a smartly edited collection of sophisticated, well-priced things; some jewelry, clothing, and children’s toys, but mostly objects for the home, nearly all made by hand by some of the region’s most gifted artisans.
And how do customers, particularly tourists, find LOCAL, buried as it is deep within a shopping complex way out on the highway? “I"m right across from Chocolate Springs,” O’Hana says of the popular cafe/chocolatier. “Everybody seems to figure out how to find Chocolate Springs.”
“I already had the antlers,” says O’Hana of the smashing deer-antler-based household objects—trays, candlesticks—she designs under the LOCAL label. “I have the sterling silver bits fabricated by a jeweler, the wood by a furniture-maker, then I assemble the pieces myself in the studio.” Tray, $330
“It’s like cashmere,” says O’Hana of the high-fired porcelain she uses to make her pottery. “It’s a finer material; ethereal-looking, yet more durable than stoneware.” Cups $20 - $28; Saucers, $18; Pitcher, $35
O’Hana supplies the organic hemp-linen that Marsha Pillows of the Drapery Factory on North Street in Pittsfield fashions into bath towels. “They are a big summer thing in Europe,” says O’Hana. A set of two; one hand, one bath, $90. LOCAL also carries bedding created by the well-known Swedish designer Anki Spets, a frequent Chatham visitor whose own store, Area, is in Greenwich Village. Complete sets (2 sheets, 2 pillowcases, 2 shams, duvet cover, 1 throw blanket), $830 - $1,100
For the past twenty years in her barn-studio in Ghent, Lauren Mundy has been using modern colors and an old slip-paint technique to create her distinctive pattern-on-pattern redware. The group shown here, $35 - $160
Under an enormous bell jar, a stack of O’Hana’s porcelain—a complete espresso set—becomes worthy of sideboard display. $350.
55 Pittsfield Road (Rte 7)