Now, Great Barrington: Clothing, Gifts, and Accessories
Charley’s (the retail arm of Charley’s Fund) has moved to 635 Main Street. Stop in for designer tees and scarves, gift ideas for almost every occasion, yoga wear, baby gear and cool jewelry! Proceeds benefit research treatments and a cure for all of the boys who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Now, Stockbridge: Artisans Shop
Mutability in Motion, a new shop located in The Mews at 36 Main Street, featuring functional and beautiful handcrafted goods for all ages from regional artisans working in a variety of media, including jewelry, porcelain pottery, and an array of unique children’s plush creatures and cozy pet beds.
Now, Hudson: Fine Jewelry
Geoffrey Good, internationally renowned jeweler, has opened a local showroom and workshop offering limited-edition and custom-crafted creations.
Now, Great Barrington: Home Furnishings
Linen, a new shop from The Drapery Workroom’s William Caligari, offering fine luxury linens for bed, bath and table, as well as custom alteration, monogramming and design services for the home.
May 17 -25, Pougkeepsie, LaGrangeville, Pawling, Amenia: Backyard Summer Equipment
HG Page & Sons Pre-Memorial Day Sale. Discounts on barbecues, yard essentials, paint, fencing, etc.
May 24 - May 26, South Egremont: Arts and Crafts
Blue Rider Stables Sale of donated art, pottery, and jewelry by local artists. 2 -7 p.m.
May 25 - May 27, Pine Plains: Home Furnishings
Hammertown Memorial Day Weekend Tent Sale Save up to 75% on furniture, rugs, kitchenware, lighting, etc. Early-bird, first-dibs buying: 8 - 9 a.m., Saturday morning; 40% tax deductible donation to Stissing Lake Camp Scholarship Fund.
May 25 - June 6, Rhinebeck: Kitchen/Table Ware
bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy celebrates the timeless Finnish design of Iittala from 1932 to 2013; from glassware to glass blown, tabletop to cookware, lighting to objects of desire.
May 26, Great Barrington: Arts and Antiques
The Emporium Antiques & Arts Center The antiques gallery will now offer artist exhibitions, starting with Harry Lazare’s Objects of Veneration, assemblages of natural and found materials. Opening Reception: May 26, 4-6 p.m.
May 29, Lenox: Local Goods and Services
Buy in the Berkshires 5th annual expo offering local company and recreational information booths, food tastings, raffle prizes, and complimentary spa services. Meadow View at Cranwell, 4-7 p.m.
May 30, Pittsfield
Berkshire Athenaeum Antiquing 101 with Charles Flint. Flint, from Charles Flint Fine Art & Antiques in Lenox, presents an introduction to antiquing. Free. 7 p.m.
June 1, Hudson: Home Furnishings
Finch: Life Curated. Opening party for Warren Street’s newest shelter destination, which offers a mix of artisan furnishings, unique antique finds, and home essentials, presented through a refined “Brooklyn” lens. 4-7 p.m.
June 9, Woodbury: Auction
Woodbury Auction’s Anniversary Sale, featuring Aronson Folk Art collection, Heisman Trophy castings, Andy Warhol illustrated “Wild Raspberries” folio, single-owner Native American collection, and fine decorative arts. 11 a.m.
By Marilyn Bethany
Think: Clothing swap on steroids. Much to the joy of all who love good clothes at beyond bargain prices, BerkChique, an “alternative fundraiser” for Berkshire Creative, is back. (Photo collage at left by Kaitlyn Pierce of the blog Naturally Chic Life.)
Berkshire Creative is a non-profit dedicated to sparking collaborations between artists, designers, cultural institutions and businesses. The event, inaugurated in 2012 by Nancy Fitzpatrick, owner of the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, was a huge success. “I was surprised and impressed with how happy it made people,” Fitzpatrick says. “Not just the shoppers, who were getting these amazing bargains, but also the donors. It gave them such pleasure to see their clothes going to people who really appreciated them and would give them a good new life.”
One such shopper, a prospective bride, brought in her wedding gown to try on with a pair of Christian Louboutin crystal flats. “At the time, the same shoes were selling on e-bay for $1200,” Fitzpatrick says. “She got them here for $300. Which was wonderful for her and also a very nice sale for us.” The opening night party last year had “a great vibe,” Fitzpatrick recalls. “Live music, good food, people having fun. Then many people came back two and three times over the weekend. On Sunday, of course, all the prices go down.”
This weekend the gym at the Stockbridge Town Offices (just a block or two down Main Street from the Inn) will be transformed by the committee into a sartorial souk. Shoes, handbags, scarves, costume jewelry, but mostly clothing, fresh off some of the region’s best-dressed backs, will be artfully displayed and organized by price, most $100 or less.
Mind, that’s $100 for recent Chanel, Versace, Armani, and Valentino. Shoppers can expect to pay much less for the sort of immaculate vintage items the nostalgic hold dear. One so-inclined shopper, who happened to get a sneak preview last week, has her narrowed eye on an enchanting item, a vintage raincoat, from the $25 rack.
“The majority of pieces are priced between $5 and $40,” says committee member Sarah Eustis, who is modeling here a fitted, double-breasted Armani blazer ($30). Other choice items include a Chanel twin set for $100; a Tasha Polizzi saddle-blanket coat with a raccoon collar, $40, all spotless and freshly pressed.
In addition to first dibs on the mountains of merch, the opening night gala on Friday has added allure, including nibbles from the kitchen of the Red Lion Inn, a cash bar, personal shopping assistance from Sarah Eustis, a veteran of Ralph Lauren Inc., now the Inn’s director of business development, and hair-styling demos by pros from The Hair Studio in Pittsfield.
Admission on Saturday and Sunday is free. Both then and at the gala on Friday night, there will be specialty boutiques within the larger sale, some stocked by local clothing stores and consignment shop. Fashionista extraordinaire Vicki Bonnington, will again have her own boutique. Last year, by all accounts, her’s caused something of a stampede. “That will definitely be one of the big draws again this year,” Fitzpatrick says. Everyone in Berkshire County who goes out knows that Vicki Bonnington has amazing clothes.
The doors open on Friday at 5:30. See you on line out front by 5.
Stockbridge Town Offices
50 Main Street
Friday, May 17, 5:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. Tickets sold at the door or in advance through berkchique2013.eventbrite.com
Saturday, May 18, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunday, May 19, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
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The House That Privet Built
“We already feel like we don’t have enough room,” Suzanne Cassano says, as she surveys the new digs of the home-furnishings and antiques store, Privet House, in the tight-knit community of New Preston, Connecticut. “It instantly feels like home, though. In the former location in Warren, we had a tendency to pile it high and let it fly. Here we made a hybrid of both shops [Vol. 1, which was devoted to antiques, and Privet House]. I think this is a more refined, polished version of one and a much more interesting version of the other.”
Cassono co-owns the now five-year-old store with Richard Lambertson, who started Lambertson Truex handbags in 1998 and remains its creative director. Known as arbiters of good taste, their collaboration has an instinctive design sense, having grown into a strong collection of new and vintage pieces in the understated, chic two-story emporium. The space unfolds with thoughtful precision, with a small apothecary area, bath linens, a wire brush collection (which they’ve become known for), French flea market tables ($135), table linens such as bandana cocktail napkins ($24 for 12), and an unrivaled tabletop collection with tea towels, olive wood boards, vintage cookbooks, dishes, and textiles. There’s also an expanded selection of home furnishings and one-of-a-kind antiques, as well as beautiful objets d’art.
Before Lambertson came along, “when I started Vol. 1,” Cassono says, “I thought, ‘No one knows where the hell Warren is and no one will know if I fail,’ but when Richard and I then opened Privet House together a little later we did arrogantly say, ‘Well, it’s not just going to be one location. We are going to start here, but we’ll also go to Greenwich, Sag Harbor, maybe somewhere like Nantucket.’” Finally, they found a cottage house in Greenwich in which to set up a second shop, but they have yet to expand to other posh towns up and down the eastern seaboard. They were a bit waylaid when Target, the national retail chain, tapped Privet for the first round of the now super popular “The Shops at Target.”
Privet House launched a 125-piece collection in 1,800 stores last May, marking it the only time this high-end purveyor would be affordable to the masses. Cassano says of her Target experience, “They were wonderful to work with, and we had a blast and I wish it was forever. It didn’t make us a household name, but it certainly elevated our recognition factor. All the other stores were in major cities and we were in Warren so for them to find us was such a compliment.”
Cassano came from the fragrance world; at one point she worked for the holy grail of the industry, Calvin Klein. Her luxury goods second act came through a hobby with an old girlfriend (and still best friend) that led them halfway around the country 20 times a year for the flea market circuit. “We were spotted by the people that put together Piers Antiques Show in New York City. You would have thought they asked us to do the Antiquariat in Paris. We were so excited we thought, ‘We’re going indoors! We can wear real shoes. This is it!’” Cassano, a self-proclaimed over-planner and over-thinker, didn’t give much thought to the big leap into retail life. “I didn’t want to become a shop girl. I was a corporate refugee. I went in, signed the lease, painted and moved in in three weeks. I just did it. It felt right.”
“We decided to make a much more concerted effort to hold back and make a collection of things because most of us who shop for a living can’t wait to put things out.” Examples include artfully displayed vintage Steuben, Wedgwood edme, Fenton glassware, and a soon-to-be-revealed room devoted solely to hotel silver.
The Greenwich and New Preston locations serve as a yin and yang. The former is a high traffic location on weekdays, and the latter sees weekender volume. As far as Privet House launching its own collection anytime soon, Cassano feels, “The world is not waiting for yet another collection of something. I personally think the world is so unedited. Hopefully, what we do here is edit it a bit.” —Dale Stewart
The New Preston Shop
13 East Shore Road
New Preston, CT 06777
Open Wednesday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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Great Finds in a Little Locale
“I have dug my heels into this spot.” Maggie Calhoun is talking about Great Finds, her bright, airy, restored 1880’s millhouse perched directly across from the Cotton Mill Falls on Kinderhook Creek in Valatie. “I like the underdog. Valatie isn’t as posh or pretty as its Kinderhook-Chatham neighbors, but you’re going to drive through here to and from many, many places. And I love this spot.”
Columbia County born and bred, Calhoun knows about committing to a spot. She and Birge, her husband of 30-plus years, live on a piece of land that was passed down through nine generations of his family, who settled in the area in the late 1700s.
Although its Main Street has spruced up a lot since the old days, Valatie can sometimes still feel slightly Dickensian on the edges, but Calhoun saw value in the old mill town. ”It’s on the way to so many places: Chatham, North Chatham & East Chatham, Kinderhook, Red Rock. You have to pass by, sit at the stop sign, and see me.”
Great Finds is a micro home and lifestyle department store, similar to Hammertown, a beacon to its south. Calhoun wants to be a little of everything to everybody, and Main Street’s main attraction: a women’s clothing and beauty boutique, gift shop with wedding registry, and kitchen and homegoods store. She carries a lot of insider, up-market housewares, including Casafina, Waechtersbach, Pillivuyt and Skyros, and unique recycled bottles-turned-wine-glasses from the Green Glass Company. “I try to find items made in the USA, or at least from favored European countries.”
Calhoun convinces a client of the practicality of the “gluggle pitcher,” a glazed ceramic water pitcher shaped like a fish that gurgles while you pour, insisting there is purpose in this odd item. “It’s definitely functional. I tend toward functional pieces; I don’t do tchotchkes or little things that say, ‘You’re cute and I love you.’ Even the gluggle pitcher is useful. They’re made in England from an old mold originally made in the 1870s. You can use it as a vase, but to use it as a pitcher fill it three quarters full and it gurgles.’ I test all the kitchen items myself, so I know they work. And I love colorful kitchenware,” like the JosephJoseph Hands-On Salad Bowl & Servers ($40).
Calhoun also goes local. “I like regional and local pieces. I work with five potters and they’re great—I sell their work every day of the week.” One of those is fine contemporary porcelain creations by Spencertown’s Mary Anne Davis, pictured at top.
Upstairs, Great Finds is awash in a neutral color palette, with a stylish array of women’s clothes, bath goods, and baby items. Calhoun explains her approach: “Everything is here out of client necessity or request. The clothing part is difficult for me; I’m not exactly a fashion plate.” Calhoun leans toward the Yala bamboo line ($68 & up), with eco-friendly designs similar to Eileen Fisher. “I’m interested in a more moderate price point, although it doesn’t always turn out that way.”
She also carries linen and cotton sweaters from Avalin, Italian-made wrap sweaters by Italca, cashmere from White & Warren, and tummy-controlling Lysse Leggings, along with tops from New York based Lilla P, and hand-woven scarves imported by Sevya, a company dedicated to working with non-profits, cooperatives, and artisan families to improve working conditions and equipment.
Tucked into an opposite corner, the rug room is stocked with Dash & Albert from Pittsfield, along with special order options, and the bath/baby room offers soft bamboo towels from Weathered Stone Towels in nine neutral colors ($48), Pine Cone Hill slips and robes ($48 & up), organic baby clothes from Empress Arts ($24 & up), and Sckoon Organics and Jellycat stuffed toys like aardvarks and long-eared mutts. Lead-free heirloom pewter cups and spoons made in the USA by Beehive Kitchenware ($16) are also on display.
“Oh, and beauty!” says Calhoun. “Let’s not forget beauty!” Calhoun stocks sought-after lines like FarmHouse Fresh, a Texas-based beauty line, handmade soaps and candles from locally loved Asia Luna in Pilmont, California-based EO Naturals organic body care products, and some of the most elegant and beautifully packaged cult-items from Tokyomilk.
Calhoun is amazed that, with all this goodness going on inside, there are still questions about what Great Finds is. “The biggest problem I have is that the name doesn’t clarify what the shop is. I always hear, ‘I thought you were an antique shop.’ People still come into the store, walk up to the counter, and ask me if I buy old watches.” —Dale Stewart
3043 Upper Main Street
Valatie, NY 12184
518 - 758 -8999
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Reading a Community: The Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington
“I never wanted to own a bookstore, but if I was going to, this was the one,” explains Hickory Stick Bookshop owner Fran Keilty. “This is where I came when I was a child. I’ve always been a bookseller; before this I was part of [New Haven’s] Atticus, commuting over two hours a day. Then this opportunity presented itself about ten years ago, and everything fell into place. Not to mention this is eight minutes from my house.” Keilty is the fourth owner in Hickory Stick’s sixty-year history, which, since its inception, has always served as an area anchor. “Real estate agents use having a local bookstore as a great selling feature. Litchfield County is filled with so many writers, artists, literary agents, and people who make books and like books, it’s perfect.”
Every town has a center and for Washington, Connecticut, it’s Keilty’s Hickory Stick. The community maven’s name comes up a lot, but she refuses to take credit for her high profile, citing the store’s prominent location—in the center of town—and the fact that she’s on many boards, and is the president of the Washington Business Association. Either way, if it’s happening in town, you can count on Fran Keilty to be part of it. “You have to be connected to people. This is a people business. Lots of other towns have high-end things. But Washington is rare. It’s where you can really live. It has a hardware store, clothing stores, a grocery store, and good restaurants. The Hickory Stick is one of the amenities.”
Big-box booksellers have begun closing left and right and Fran understands the meaning of that void. “Those who have lost their bookstores feel the loss. I think it’s very important to have a physical space for books. I want as many physical spaces where people can see books as possible,” she says. “People want an experience. If you know what you want, you can find it online, but browsing is really hard. If you want to browse, going online can be frustrating. And a quality experience is something we can provide. We listen and try to be in tune with the community.”
“It’s a greater community, not just Washington. It’s the area and the state,” says her husband Michael Keilty, speaking to the responsibility they feel to their region. “Independent booksellers contracted, but now they’re expanding again,” and he is an exuberant participant. “Bookstores were thought of as intimidating and this one was too. Now we invite dogs, and there is no ‘shushing’ in these aisles. Every single day you see children running to their section. Now, how are you going to do that on the internet?”
The Keiltys are like two bookends; not a matching set, but more like a head and a tail. They have the expected sentence-finishing that comes after decades of marriage, and while Fran is often referred to by residents as the village historian, she promises she’s not. “I only serve as a correction for my husband’s recollections.” Their banter proves better than actual facts. “Arthur Miller sat in this chair. Or was it that one? They’re a pair,” Keilty muses, referring to two comfy armchairs nearby. Since 1974, Michael, a sustainable agriculture educator at the University of Connecticut, has owned Maple Spring Farms, a diversified farm in Morris, CT, where the Keilty family lives, tends a large organic farm, and raises livestock like Cheviot sheep—a smaller breed known for its wool (which they sell in the store). Although his interests lie squarely in agriculture, “the bookstore is a natural thing to be roped into with my bride of fifty years.” And in return, Fran keeps the sustainable-living section fully stocked.
But in this modern age, one must stay current, and to do so Fran hosts many author appearances and is soon to launch a “meet an author for lunch” program, providing an opportunity for readers to engage with an author and talk about their book over lunch. “I have no idea if it’s going to work, but you have to mix it up a bit. We also have a ‘Big Books for Little People’ program. You can choose to give a child in your life a book monthly, or for their birthday, or every three months; there are many configurations.” Aside from the dazzling array of tomes, the shelves are well-stocked with children’s learning activities, toys, puzzles, games, music, calendars, greeting cards, local yarn, picture frames, and soy candles. “Still, eighty-plus percent of our sales are books. We’re committed to promoting the works of our local authors by hosting public and private signings with them whenever possible, and keeping their books in stock and prominently displayed.”
The Hickory Stick plays home to nontraditionally published authors, too. “It used to be vanity presses, but now that whole field has changed so much, and it’s become a legitimate way for many people to get their books published. We do stock them and we do have events with them,” says Fran. “We are a community bookstore. If we are not going to act as a community bookstore, we have no reason to exist.” —Dale Stewart
The Hickory Stick Bookshop
2 Green Hill Rd.
Washington, CT 06794
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Let’s Get Lost (In Hudson)
There was a time when shopping vintage (or vintage-ish) was a serendipitous adventure in which the sky seemed to be the limit, whether at a flea market or some delightful hodgepodge of a store. (Ah the 90s.) The town of Hudson, despite blossoming as an upscale decorative-arts destination, is still capable of bringing back those memories — of a time when various indoor or outdoor spaces offered a curious collector the chance to amble, touch, and discover amazing things for doable prices. You never knew what it would turn out to be: an Eva Zeisel Town and Country tear-drop veggie bowl, perhaps, some rare piece of Glidden pottery, or a hot-looking yet brand-nameless chrome floor lamp that could form the basis of an entire new collecting obsession. (Or maybe not — no biggie—-how many cool lamps from the 50-60s does one really need?) The process of objets trouveying in some seemingly unexplored nook was once one of life’s most therapeutic endeavors, even more so when unwatched and alone.
Today a number of shops on Hudson’s Warren Street manage to bring back some of that exploratory feeling: Warren Street Antiques, Carousel Antiques, Mark’s Antiques and Larry’s Back Room, among them. Of all of these, my current favorite is Verso, Harold Hanson’s repository of this and that piled up on tables here and there. On a recent visit, I came upon all four of the above-mentioned objects as well as a very rare piece of Russel Wright and a Dansk spiral stainless-steel candle holder, while at the same time an accompanying friend found a lovely Orrefors crystal bowl. And then there’s Harold himself, 73 years old, a former media mogul of sorts (he was publisher of Northeast, “an independent voice in the antiques word,” he says, which he sold in 2001.)
Now sedately seated off to the side, Hanson remains a refreshingly nimble-witted, wise, and unintrusive watchkeeper of it all. Despite the casual, ad hoc look of the store, there is an overriding philosophy behind it all: “Form, function, and value,” Hanson says. “That’s the cornerstone of a good antiques business that attracts customers.” As an example he points out a lovely Murano glass vase ($250) next to a ceramic planter ($25), Dansk-like wooden bowls ($6 each), and the kind of crystal-glass doodads that dot the space. Hanson also wants it to be known that, unlike many other stores in town, he can be depended upon to be open at least five days a week, every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but nowadays usually even then, and promptly at 11 a.m.
My second fave for ambling, although admittedly higher in price point, is Regan and Smith. Located in a huge space (formerly a Kresges’s five and dime), the store is divided into a rabbit’s warren of uber-stylish vignettes you can admire and/or easily hide behind. Whether you buy something or not, it’s a sight to be seen — or unseen in. During a recent journey I was caught dead in my tracks by one portioned-off section dominated by a largely intact, 1930s trade sign that is “sort of as good as these get, from the expression on her face to her jacket with the epaulettes to the remaining paint on the surface,” as co-owner Kurt Smith puts it. (The pink mark on her right cheekbone is a sold sign, natch; it’s going to a loft in SoHo — also natch). To its right is a decoupage four-foot vase by artist Joe Heidecker ($2,900), bamboo arm chairs from the 40s ($1,250 a pair), and right below it cast-stone planters inset with Arabian tiles ($950 pair), among other items. Smith, 45, and his partner Kevin Regan, 50, herald from the far reaches of coastal Rhode Island (Portsmouth), where Kevin had a shop for 20 years, with Kurt joining forces eight years ago.
“We opened a shop here in the summer of 2008 just to try it out and see how things went. It went well enough that in 2009 we moved to a larger shop, and then finally to our current location a year later. We love Hudson, there’s such a concentration of good dealers with unusual merchandise that turns over on a regular basis. You come back six weeks later and there’s new stuff to see. It’s a fun place to have a business, even for the vendors.”
In the area of what is called, perhaps only here, “retail” (ie “new stuff,” as opposed to old) there’s nothing like Melinda Slover’s Lili and Loo, the closest equivalent to a department store in the town. Inside the two-floor, 5,500-square-foot space, with eight rooms of various sizes on the top and six large rooms at the bottom, are Slover’s assortment of contemporary home furnishings, clothing, eyewear, and stylish paper products: cards, stamp pads, stationary, notepads, and Moleskin journals (which run the huge gamut from $1.25 to $18), along with Japanese-made face towels ($22 each). One room alone contains 50 ready-made drape panels in linen, dupioni silk, velvet, and cotton. (Prices range from $58 to $225 per panel.)
Slover has had her shop since 2001. “I came to Hudson because the town felt possible to me. I didn’t come from retail; I was in the graphic design trade in New York City and left that, knowing that I liked objects and styling in general — creating a mood. I like things that look old. Everything I sell is a reproduction but has a vintage look, like it has a story, been places. It all comes down to price point: things that look expensive but aren’t. When you walk in the store, it feels like a home environment.” —Scott Baldinger
Verso Fine Arts
530 Warren Street
Regan and Smith Antiques
601 Warren Street
Lili and Loo
259 Warren Street
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J. Seitz and Company: In a Family Way
“Luckily, it was in the genes.” Joanna Seitz isn’t talking about the fabulous leather-ette coated pair of denim AG pants ($198) flying off the racks at her eponymous New Preston store, J.Seitz & Company. She’s referring to her daughter Amanda’s ability to share the top spot at the family store. “We are a very artistic family, so I could have gotten some other gene, but I got this one and I guess it works,” Amanda says. The Seitz women effortlessly finish each other’s sentences — at times it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. Both have a keen eye for what their clients like and a precise savvy when it comes to knowing what’s best for the three decades-old hot spot.
So many families in business together are interesting only for their drama; the Seitz’s have a notable lack of Falcon’s Crest power struggles. There’s nothing but praise for each other, and Joanna says that Amanda, with her eye for design, may one day take over for her mentor/mother. When most family enterprises of this age and ilk devolve into family bickering and Chapter 11 filings, Joanna says, “We are this ‘We all get along well family business,’ and that doesn’t always happen. Our dream is that we’ll retire to New Mexico, ride off into the sunset, and she’ll run the store.” (Joanna’s husband of 34 years, Bill, from Bombay India, was a professional interiors and design book photographer when he joined the store about twelve years ago. “I told him that we were so busy, we need you. So he came in and got us computerized and really got us up to speed with our client level,” Joanna says.)
J. Seitz & Company is housed in a 5,000-square-foot former car dealership overlooking a waterfall with a wrap-around terrace used for spring and summer events and parties. “When we opened, we were an instant hit,” Joanna says. “We were trying to do something different. People try to emulate us, but they come, they go, no one has been around as long as we have. I guess we have the formula, and we have great clients that support us, so we are very lucky.”
True enough: There is no end to the surprises at the store. Octopus pendant necklaces, deer antlers on vases, beeswax skull-shaped candles, and spiders on tumblers for instance. “We have that ‘cabinets of curiosities’ approach,” says Joanna, who hails from New York City and was an editor at House Beautiful before moving to Connecticut. “We love anything natural, anything buggy, skull-y. We go all over to find things that are artist-made rather than use big manufacturers.” (One example: pottery by Vermonter Laura Zindel, $18 & up.) “We have things we’ve stocked from the beginning, from places like Cedar Light near Santa Fe, who make natural room fresheners”($30 & up).
The tight-knit family-owned emporium offers up a full two floors of shopping. The lower is dedicated to furniture, with shelter-magazine-ready vignettes of Cisco Brothers Belgian linen sofas ($5000 & up), Mitchell Gold furniture ($400 & up), and RLH Collection chairs ($400 & up), “nothing crazy, just slightly offbeat and interesting.” The top floor houses easy-to-wear lines from James Perse (Contrast Panel Shirt, $155 & up) and John Patrick Organic (tees, $98), Matta (Kurta Dress, $195), Alex Lehr (Cotton Fleece Tunic, $212), Layla (Printed Raj Top, $312), and Leigh & Luca (cotton/silk scarves, $198). In addition to the women’s and men’s apparel, there are hostess and baby gifts, jewelry, and various accessories, with a smattering of beauty products like Jurlique ($58 & up) and Los Poblanos ($65 & up). They also stock designers for men like Billy Reid, 2012 CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year ($178 & up).
Big as it is already, J. Seitz and Company has no desire to expand. “We’ve had so many offers over the years, but you don’t want to ruin it,” Joanna says. Amanda adds. “If you put us in a mall, you’ll lose the heart and soul of what this store is all about. We are up against Bergdorf’s, Barneys, ABC Home & Carpet. We have to be sharp and have to keep on our toes—we’re up against stiff, global competition. So we have to keep surprising our clients. But we want to do it here.” —Dale Stewart
J. Seitz & Co.
9 East Shore Road
New Preston, CT 06777
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A Grander Scale: Dai Ban Finds His True Nature
Poring over a thick picture portfolio of nearly two decades of work as a graphic model maker for film and television, artist and sculptor Dai Ban shakes his head and laughs lightly. “Nothing on TV is real,” he says, “Not even the real thing.” Inside his bright, cozy Great Barrington-based studio, the handsome, jet-haired artist — dressed all in black save for electric orange Crocs — combs through a scrapbook filled with images of perfect fake food arrangements, uncannily real model airplanes, miniature rooms, and even an enlarged toothbrush. The reproductions are so detailed and life-like that one could arguably call them art, but Dai Ban just shakes his head, saying, “No, no. It’s just work. This is work.”
But, journeyman efforts though they are, clearly the work of a master. Since receiving his BFA in sculpture from Musashino Art University in Tokyo in 1984, Ban has earned his model-making chops with thousands of commercials and films –Judge Dredd, Back to the Future…The Ride, Eraser – to boast about over the last two decades. He has worked with acclaimed directors and special-effects extraordinaires (including Oscar award winner Douglas Trumbull) to create and build small-scale set models for filming large-scale scenes. That piece of his life, however, is just a small slice of the his creative career. While he occasionally still takes on jobs for commercials (for the sake of cash flow), for the most part, Ban says that that kind of real life work has dried up, thanks to the computer age of digital effects and images.
“Everything used to be live action, you had to make a model for every sequence and every movement,” he says, squinting at a lifelike replica of a Butterfinger bar. “But then computers dried out those jobs. We all had to start over.”
Ban and his wife Robin (and their two sons) got an opportunity to start over in 1994 with the making of Judge Dred. While he was only commissioned to stay in the Berkshires for 6 months, halfway into Ban’s temporary tenancy, the decision was made to stay in the area, indefinitely. Here, he would embark on a more creative path doing sculpture and commissioned pieces, as well as fine jewelry and even a few forays into abstract art.
“We wanted to raise the kids here. It’s such a beautiful place,” he says, sweeping his hand at the barren winter view. “I picked up a few small commercial jobs and stayed home with my sons and my wife opened Seeds in Great Barrington. I was very lucky to raise them and spend time with them when they were young. I was able to really start thinking like an artist. It was just so wonderful.”
Also on the quiet sculptor’s list of blessings was the surrounding environment of trees, cornfields, and, of course, rolling (sometimes mist-encased) hills. It is the natural landscape that has always inspired Dai Ban literally, from the beginning.
“It’s this idea of origination and nature that give me such an amazing sense of inspiration,” he says. “Nature is so connected to us but we, as humans, still don’t see plants and animals as relatives. We see ourselves as separate and that’s just not the case.”
Evidence of the sculptor’s philosophical love affair with the natural world can be seen all over his tidy studio, in everything from large, decorative pieces to unique lighting and exquisite jewelry. A mock-up, gold-painted chandelier with nine lotus blossoms in different stages of bloom hangs from the high ceiling. Statuary in all shades of metal emerge from wall panels — each with a seed pod for a head, and a seedling acting as an umbilical cord (or brain stem) attached to the back plaster. Closer to the ground, and on a much smaller scale, a workbench glitters with tiny metal beads of all shapes and sizes, meant to represent the many seed pods that Ban has discovered in his garden and beyond. One has to look closely to count the different varieties (all of which will become earrings for Seeds and other stores across the country) and there are some non-seed treasures in the mix: an ordinary-looking strand of pearls held together by an ornate golden snake clasp and a curious, elongated skull pendant, clearly one of Ban’s favorites.
“That’s not just any skull,” he says, picking up the macabre gem (above). “That’s Lucy, the oldest human. Remember? They found her in Ethiopia. I deliberately made her face longer, her eye sockets bigger. I wanted the scale to be true to her form. True to nature. I also added the tree of life design on the back. I don’t know, probably for protection.”
Many objects of petite proportions live in Dai Ban’s studio (including several different styles of hand pendants which are less than an inch long), and each is cast using wax and a lot of freehand control so that no two are exactly alike, an inadvertent nod to nature’s diversity.
Diversity, especially diversity of scale, does not seem to intimidate the sculptor. Just as he is designing fingernail-sized precious jewelry, Ban also revels in using giant proportions to make a statement. He recently completed two commissioned works for the Crane & Co. paper headquarters in Dalton, MA, using the company’s newest fiberglass “paper” (most commonly used in water filters). The two works, The Wing (7’x11’, at right) and The Lily Pond (5’x15’), engulf the company’s front foyer and the meeting room. Natural light and some overhead lighting illuminate the texture of the works, giving them the appearance of delicate statuary. The artist’s love for the project is made plain by its beauty, but Ban says he has to let go of all his work eventually.
“It’s a cycle, just like everything else,” he says. “I have been an artist from the beginning. I never thought of doing anything else. The ideas and the inspiration are always there, no matter where the art goes.” — Nichole Dupont
Dai Ban Studio
Jewelry Objects, Sculpture Commissions
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Boxwood Linen: Pressed in Hillsdale
Franca Fusco, designer and owner of Boxwood Linen, doesn’t believe in holding the finer things in life back. “When I hear people say ‘It’s too pretty to use,’ I just think ‘Oh dear. What life are you waiting for?’ Do it for yourself. I don’t understand that kind of thought.” Listening to Fusco speak about using fine European linens for everyday living could inspire one to bust out the Haviland China for pizza night. “I don’t cover my furniture with plastic, and I don’t put good things away for someone else.”
The same philosophy applies to her store. “I want people to feel happy when they come in here,” Fusco says about her Hillsdale space, where she sells locally made table linens and accessories. “I was very lucky to fall into this space and to be surrounded by such nice people,” a reference to her new spot tucked underneath the Hillsdale General Store adjacent to the lower level entrance to CrossRoads Food Shop, and neighbors with Passiflora and Village Scoop, all part of a newly hot section of Hillsdale on Route 23 (just west of the intersection with Route 22). Boxwood Linen was previously on the second floor of Hillsdale General Store and while Fusco enjoyed the traffic from the general store perch, having a store of her own was more important. “I’m also just really excited to be done. I had to get through Christmas and then I could concentrate on this space. It all came together in about a month.” Her showroom is well balanced: any smaller and it might be cramped; any larger and it would look too sparse.
Canadian-born Fusco studied design and worked in the fashion business for more than 14 years before making her move from Toronto to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where the first incarnation of Boxwood Linen began. She started off slow, growing the line from three items to several dozen. Fusco says, “I had about six great colors of linen at home. It started with a laundry bag, three different sized sachets, and a shoe bag and just took those around and that was it.”
Fusco quickly realized that linen was her passion. “Linen is my thing. I tried other fabrics, but boy, that didn’t last long. Linen is just so easy,” she says. “People get freaked out about the ironing. If you want it to look crisp, then iron it, it only takes a minute, or let it be natural.” Boxwood Linen has a color-rich selection of goods: Each piece is cut one by one so the grain is perfect every time, and hand-finished. Everything, from table linens, tea towels, guest towels and bath towels to shower curtains, pillows, and quilts is created by Fusco in her nearby studio. The use of the finest European linens is paramount, as is impeccable craftsmanship. “Whatever I do on the front, I do on the back so it’s a balanced weight towel [so it doesn’t slide off the towel rack]. I have some really wonderful really wide, wide fabrics which I can make huge table clothes and runners with ($90 & up). I have some great suppliers, if someone has a really wide table.”
When Fusco explains it, the seemingly higher cost sounds quite reasonable “I charge by the square inch. Some people charge by the yard, but that way you may be paying for something you don’t use.” Everything in her line is clean and unfussy. “I tend to simplify things. I try not to add too much. I’ll do the Calvin Klein thing — where you take one thing away.”
Linen is said to be one of the oldest textiles in the world, with a history that goes back many thousands of years. Fusco believes linen is the perfect fabric for every part of the home, from an elegant tablescape to scrubbing the walls, “Linen is good for everything. My Italian mom used cloth for every household chore; we didn’t have paper. Linen is the simplest cloth on the planet.” Fusco is a waste not want not kind of gal. “I keep my mistakes for cleaning rags. One hundred percent linen is the original sustainable cloth and is so easy to work with, being so absorbent. Everything is machine washable. I wouldn’t have it in here if it wasn’t and after you wash them, son of a gun they are the best thing ever!”
Fusco shows her fashion chops with her three styles of aprons and a few color options, lending a functional elegance to an everyday item; the Bib ($78), Bistro ($68), and the PG Halter ($78), all made of a soft, medium weight linen with a nice drape (all profits from the PG Halter go to The Phyllis Gordon Foundation). Ruth Reichl touted the virtues of Boxwood Linen’s aprons on her website for her holiday round-up, saying, “This classic bistro apron…makes you feel more competent in the kitchen.” Boxwood Linen also carries lemon cypress and rosemary topiaries ($15.50 & up), classic glass bottle Savon de Marseille Soaps ($26.50), French porcelain ($50 & up), and candles ($12 & up).
Fusco surveys her week-old space and smiles, “Right now it’s just me and a lovely Mennonite woman that helps me sew. The first seven years of my business I did all this myself. Now I have six wholesale clients, the online site and the store, and that’s right for me. So many people fail because they grew too quickly. I am really happy with a small business, I want it to stay small. I don’t want it to be huge, not everyone has to do that right?”
2642 State Route 23
Village Square Plaza
(parking lot level).
Hillsdale, NY, 12529
Friday – Sunday and Holiday Mondays, 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.. Or by appointment
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Dawn Hill Also Rises
Sitting atop a rise across from the Falls of New Preston, Dawn Hill Antiques mirrors an airy, light-filled Swedish country manor. “On a trip to Paris years ago I saw a Swedish clock with its wonderful pale grey paint and carvings, and I just fell in love with it,” says owner Paulete Peden, explaining how her business morphed from a modest collection of transferware to its current focus on Gustavian pieces, which capture the pale gray, blue, and green essence of the neoclassical movement.
Dawn Hill serves up a little slice of the EU in northwestern Connecticut, an artful oasis of international flavor in the blink-and-you-miss-it, yet wonderfully appointed, small town. Peden, who runs the store along with husband John, a noted photographer/musician, says that she “got into the antiques business slightly late in the game. We bought a house up in Sharon and started to go to a few auctions and did a few little antique centers here and there.” Housed in an historic 19th century building, the store strikes an elegant balance between icy blue calm and milky cream hues. True to the Pedens’ roots, Dawn Hill features a broad collection of 19th-century china, including blue and white transferware plates and platters, French Majolica and lusterware, in addition to the cultured collection of 18th and 19th century antiques.
French and Swedish chandeliers ($295 & up) from the 19th century and authentic 18th and 19th century flower paintings create focal points for the timeless vignettes expertly displayed around the space, featuring hundred-year-old footubs ($1,050 and up), floral vessels, urns, and a restored selection of late 18th century Swedish tall-case Mora clocks ($8,000 and up). Peden brings garden elements indoors, from the broad selection of jardinières, antique watering cans, and garden tools interspersed throughout the 2,000-square-foot space to the white painted wrought-iron bistro sets ($1,500 and up) that serve in place of a classic kitchen dinette. For furniture, she leans more towards clean lines. “I love things with marble, like the French confectioners table [$3,400 and up], but the style of the Swedish pieces are much simpler. It’s paired down and not as fussy.”
Just in case the Rococo-through-Gustavian period pieces are a bit budget busting, the Pedens have also wisely added Dish, located in a sunny side room of Dawn Hill’s first floor, which carries a strong, functional selection of 19th century white ironstone, platters, plates, and teapots as well as complete sets of neutral palate dishes, Victorian sterling and silver plates, antique French champagne flutes and a collection of etched French glasses. Frances Palmer ceramics ($100 and up), the uber French Diptyque candles, and home fragrances like Feuille de Lavande ($60) also fill the space.
There’s also “The Upstairs,” a second floor section where the Pedens play host to a handful of seasoned vendors, including The Nemati Collection, which specializes in unusual artistic rugs with some mid-century modern furniture pieces thrown in for good measure; designer Barry Strom, who moved his 20-year-old American and Continental furniture and lighting business to the light-filled space a year ago; and Glenn Allard‘s Patina Art and Antiques, which boasts a collection of early brass and copper accessories such as a near dozen of well-maintained copper teapots. Rounding out the collection are Peden’s Vintage, where John Peden channels his inner rock star with enough vintage instruments to give it a Sun Studios East vibe (a collection of Pre-CBS Fender amplifiers, $600 and up, and his own curated vinyl selections, $12 each) and Paulette’s own wallet-friendly Brocante, a Paris flea market style shoppette that combines a whimsical mix of color, garden antiques, vintage pieces, textiles, and early 19th century paintings (think Porte de Clignancourt). Of the beguiling collective all housed within her space, Paulette says, “We’ve found that having other dealers in the same store with us offers the antique lover more choices and helps bring back the village of New Preston to the ‘Antique Destination’ it once was.” —Dale Stewart
Dawn Hill Antiques
11 Main Street
New Preston, CT
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.,Thursday-Monday
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
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Gilmor Glass: Glassy Eyed in Millerton
What would turn someone from a pre-med student to a career in ceramics, and, eventually, hand-blown glass? “Fire,” says Jon Gilmor, owner of Millerton’s Gilmor Glass, with a glint in his eye. “I got to play with fire. It’s [also] working with my hands. It’s working with fire. It’s a challenge almost everyday, so it keeps it interesting.” Gilmor Glass produces one-of-a-kind stemware, bowls, vases, and objets d’art — all made by hand using mouth-blown and pressed-glass techniques, one at a time. Each takes hours to create.
For most, a glassblower’s components make for a fickle master: The furnace can go out at any time, as it did during our visit, the crucible (the bowl that holds 600 lbs of molten glass inside the furnace) can crack at the most inconvenient time, as one did at Gilmor right before the holidays. “You learn very quickly what to touch and what not to touch,” Jon’s wife, Jan Gilmor, says from experience. “It’s the nature of glass. It sometimes has a mind of its own. An idea may be good, but it’s too hard to make or not cost effective. It’s not an easy venture, furnaces run 24/7, hours can be spent on a piece that cracks without reason.”
Artistry and teamwork are strong components of the Gilmors’ approach to design. They, along with their three-person staff of design artists, produce provocative, unique glass. All the pieces are made by hand and every step in the glass-making process, from the melting of the sand and other raw materials to the design and execution of each piece, is done in the Gilmor studio. The couple works in conjunction: Jan will design and John will blow.
The touch of the artist’s hand is clearly recognizable in the subtle variations from piece to piece. Gilmor Glass’s teams have traveled extensively to learn how to best synthesize many techniques and styles of glassblowing; from Czech and Italian, to English, Irish, and Swedish (and good old homegrown North American bastardizations of each). They ultimately combine many methods of blowing glass to use the most efficient techniques possible. “We are fortunate enough to have come up in a time when the movement of artisan work was on an uphill trajectory. And as a consequence, you have to become more business-like and come up with a way of making the work more affordable,” Jan Gilmor says. “We started well off the beaten path in our old studio in Pine Plains, and that became a sort of craft collective and we sold predominantly to high-end wholesalers. But you have to be a business person and be practical.”
Glassblowing was once a secretive, tight-knit community, prone to beheading and exile. “The Italians have always been very secretive about the making-the-glass process,” Jan Gilmor explains. “It was intentionally done on an island (Murano) so that everything was contained. They would behead glass blowers for sharing their secrets.” Danger has always been part of handblown glass — a glass worker needs to wear natural fibers, for one thing. “They take longer to burn,” Gilmor says.
John and Jan Gilmor (pictured at right with glass designer Heather Blass) established Gilmor Glass in Pine Plains, New York in the late 1970s, and moved to their current space in Millerton about twenty years ago. The Gilmors’ shared an auspicious start — their first collaborative efforts toured America, London, Paris, and Tokyo in the Corning Museum’s prestigious “New Glass” exhibition. Subsequent designs by Gilmor Glass can be found in discriminating shops and international collections including those of a number of American presidents.
This winter Gilmor Glass is offering a series of workshops and continues to add to the studio, often going beyond glass, “We have trunk shows and pop-up shops,” Jan Gilmor says. Hammertown has been in the 100-year-old space since July, Annie Walwyn-Jones clothing holds court in a sunlit corner, and the Madder Hatter’s hand-crafted chapeaus are interspersed with Gilmor’s one-of-a-kind handblown pieces, functional glass (like stemware, tumblers, goblets and vases) mix with unique glass jewelry and glass objets d’art.— Dale Stewart
Semi-private classes, $100/hr./person, 2 hour minimum.
January 19th & 20th 9AM - 4PM - Love Fest – “Make all your honeys a heart!” - With the guidance of an experienced glassblower make a heart or hearts.
February 16th & 16th - Hop into Spring - Make egg shaped glass for Easter and Spring.
Length of time is variable, allow up to 40 minutes, $50/ heart with prepaid reservation, $58/heart walk-ins, ALL AGES WELCOME - children under 12 accompanied by an adult.
Experience Hot Glass 8-week class - with the guidance of a skilled glassblower learn the rudiments of glass technique over the course of 8 weeks. Lecture, demo as well as hands-on , 8 weeks - weekday evening (TBD), $750., limited to 8 students
Thereafter classes instruction will be offered on the third weekend of each month as well as an 8-week night class for those who want to go deeper into the process.
Two Main Street, P.O. Box 961
Millerton, NY 12546
Closed Tuesday & Wednesday (by appointment only)
Monday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday, 10:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
January 19th - Love Fest – “Make all your honeys a heart!” can witness the age-old techniques. Students will have a chance to get a hands-on experience with handblown glass.
February 16th - Hop into Spring - Make glass shaped Easter eggs.
Further class instruction will be offered on the third Saturday of each month as well as an 8-week night class for those who want to go deeper into the process.
Semi-private classes, $100/hr./person, 2 hour minimum.