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Thursday, April 17, 2014
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New York Designer Fabric Outlet

C&K Garden

J. Seitz & Company

Vivian Mandala Deisgn Studio

Corduroy Shop

Susan Silver Antiques

Hudson Antiques Dealers Assocation

Antique Underground

Cupboards and Roses

Peter Fasano


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Lynn Chase Inspires Dinner Conversations and Conservation

A display of porcelain from Lynn Chase Designs at TK Home and Garden.

By Lisa Green

For Lynn Chase, it’s all about the animals. She’s a conservationist to the core. Even when you try to get the self-taught artist and product designer to talk about Lynn Chase Designs, her porcelain tableware and home goods, she’ll bring the conversation back to the animals.

In fact, a meeting with her at TK Home and Garden in Hudson needed to be on a Monday afternoon; she was making her way back to New York from her Southfield home, but attending to her three horses in the morning came first. Two Jack Russell terriers (both rescues) preceded her entrance into the store. (The three greyhounds, barn cat and sand hill cranes stay at the farm in the Berkshires.) And if it weren’t for the animals in a global sense, there probably wouldn’t be a Lynn Chase Designs, because she does it for them.

“It” is her multiple lines of animal-themed tabletop and home accessories that illuminate her superb artistry and shine a light on the Lynn Chase Wildlife Foundation, which she established along with her first collection. Her fine porcelain Heritage lines, which include the 24-karat gold-rimmed Winter Game Birds and black-grounded Jaguar Jungle, are perennial best sellers. Her newest lines, the yellow and French blue Butterfly Bamboo and African Inspirations (interpreted as Chinese and French toile) and other rather dazzling collections are made in melamine (certainly not your grandmother’s, but more practical for outdoor dining). All are dishwasher safe.

The Harmony Bowl [shown below] is one of Chases’ own favorites. A replica of a bowl from the Chinese Han Dynasty, it’s 15 inches in diameter and hand made in Portugal. Along with design elements used in early 18th-century European porcelain, it depicts species from the seven continents and is a stunning homage to the endangered treasures of the earth. There are also serving trays, candles and other coordinating pieces. Her Monkey Magic Cache Pot is currently one of the “rare and newsworthy items” in The New York Times Store.

In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing the Rhode Island School of Design rejected Chase’s application when she was college bound. “They told me I’d never have a career in the arts,” she says. So, after two years at a junior college and the completion of her studies at the New York School of Interior Design, she took a trip to Mozambique, where she realized how quickly the game was disappearing. She sketched her way through Africa and South America, accumulating a vast knowledge of biodiversity, endangered species and conservation projects. She began exhibiting her animal illustrations throughout the United States and Europe.

“I realized that one painting goes into one home,” she says. “I thought, how can I transfer the images onto a broader canvas so that more people see them, and become aware of the need for animal conservation?”

First, she designed collector plates and figurines for Lenox China. In 1988, after the October crash of ’87, she started her own company. Through changes in management, distributors and manufacturers, and a long-debilitating fall off a horse, Chase has designed more than 200 products, manufactured by porcelain makers in Italy, Portugal, Japan and Thailand. Soon to launch are room screens bearing giclee images from her paintings.

Last year, both the company and the Lynn Chase Wildlife Foundation turned 25 — this, after Lynn was told early on that no one would “eat off animals” or black plates. Chase has proven the naysayers wrong — and well enough to be able to carry out her mission to stem habitat loss. The fund has contributed well over $150,000 to organizations dedicated to endangered species, such as the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, the Amboseli Trust for Elephants in Kenya (she serves on its board) and The Wild Dolphin Project in the Bahamas, among others.

“What’s most important is that all the monies go to the field. There are no administrative costs in the Foundation, as I personally fund all incidentals — things like the tax returns and printing materials,” she says.

The girl who used to sneak animals (including snakes and a pigeon, oh my) into her bedroom now has her own menagerie at the farm in Southfield (“we call it Money Pit Farm”), where she weekends with her husband Richard Flintoft. They might go out for dinner to Old Inn on the Green or Pastorale, but most of their time is spent with the animals — the ones walking around the property, or the ones she creates, first, on paper.

Where To Buy
Lynn Chase Designs are sold at more than 400 high-end retailers (including TK Home and Garden, Passports in Salisbury and Oliphant Design in Litchfield). The company’s warehouse is in New Marlborough. Last Columbus Day Weekend, they held a warehouse sale, and there are plans to make it an annual event.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/31/14 at 04:57 PM • Permalink

Haldora Offers Classic Fashion Designed In Rhinebeck

By Andrea Pyros

Women’s fashion designer Haldora spent much of her life traveling in the states and abroad. But when it came time to pick a dream location for her eponymous clothing boutique, she chose Rhinebeck.

“I was always drawn to the area. I’m extremely visual and the beauty here is comforting to me,” she says. Born outside of Syracuse, the self-taught designer with Icelandic and Ukrainian roots has an air of mystery surrounding her, maybe due to her preference for keeping her last name a secret (“It’s just Haldora!”) or perhaps it’s her references to her artistic temperament and the unexpected ways in which she finds inspiration. Ultimately, Haldora is happiest when her clothing is the center of attention.

Racks of gorgeous garments in premium cottons, silks and, particularly for spring, linens (“Linen comes out so beautifully! No matter what you make, it just looks gorgeous.”) fill her airy and brightly lit store. Customers depend on Haldora’s best-selling one-size Orchard shirt (prices vary, but a current silk version is $288) and one-size Cambria shirt ($248 in linen).

Cambria shirt. Photo courtesy Haldora.


She makes these tops in different fabrics and with different details, so many women wind up buying multiple variations of each. Recent arrivals include a peplum silk top with embroidered polka dots ($288) and a dress with three-quarter length sleeves and lace insets on the sides ($328).

Other than a few items from outside lines, Haldora creates all of the pieces she sells, working with an upstate husband-and-wife team who do her sewing. Her focus is mainly on clothing, but she’s occasionally inspired to craft an accessory, among them belts, scarves and sashes, or little dolls made from scraps and bits she’s saved like precious jewels.

Though the fashion industry is famous for its wild mood swings, Haldora has never strayed from her goal of creating high-quality, classic pieces that can be worn forever. 

“I do look at the trends,” she says, “but I think I’ve created my own niche. My clothing is about building a closet that is timeless. A lot of clothes today have become so disposable.” Haldora designs for buyers of all ages and sizes, with clothing that flatters and makes customers feel put-together, whether they’re choosing from her more fitted, youthful pieces to her flowier (but hardly frumpy) items.

“It’s clothing that goes anywhere,” she explains. “You feel safe no matter where you go. You just know it’s going to work.” Because of her Hudson Valley base, she’s inspired to work a bit of a country feel in to her designs while making sure she offers a touch of the soft, silky and feminine.

Haldora will occasionally work with clients on special custom orders, though she prefers to sell off the rack because she’s already put her energy in to those pieces, including pre-washing the garments so they’re shrunk and ready to be worn — and yes, a majority are machine-washable. She assures RI that anyone wearing her styles won’t see themselves mirrored on half their neighbors because she keeps her runs small, with many either one of a kind or part of limited collections of three, four or six pieces at most. 

It’s taken work and dedication to stay successful over her 19 years in Rhinebeck. Haldora counts on a stable base of returning customers along with new clients she gains through word of mouth and tourists who pack the streets during peak seasons. When one does stop in to her shop, Haldora and her staff are happy to provide styling advice, including help finding pieces to match an item a woman already owns. “Our customers understand quality and that you build up a wardrobe. If you want creativity and help here, we can help you.”

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/05/14 at 10:23 AM • Permalink

Nothing Says I Love You Like Artisanal Jewelry

By Robert Burke Warrren
It’s become a mantra of sorts: Shop Local. Buy Local. Fortunately, our local is no yokel, as a look at some of the artisan jewelers in the Rural Intelligence area can attest. We’d never turn our noses up at Tiffany & Co., of course, but we’ve got jewelry designers in our midst whose imagination and skills are on the highest level, bar no one and no place. Better yet, they will meet with you to create a one-of-a-kind piece. If you’re not into planning ahead (and Valentine’s Day is next week, after all), these designers have collections on hand. Let’s add to the mantra: Buy Fast.

Shana Lee [left], like so many of her Hudson compatriots,  moved to the river town from Williamsburg in Brooklyn nine years ago, opening Shana Lee Jewelry after passersby kept walking into her showroom. It’s not hard to imagine those pedestrians’ curiosity: “My studio is an orchestra of hammers forging metal on anvils and red-hot gold spitting and sizzling in acid,” she says.

“Hawk,” in sterling silver.

Her work, in sterling silver and vermeil, is dramatic, angular, glamorous. She also does a lot of custom work.

“I’ve become the go-to jeweler for Hudson Valley same-sex marriage rings,” she says. Although she maintains a web presence, most of her volume business remains locally driven, with loyal return customers. (Hint: There’s a limited edition Valentine’s heart collection in the store right now.)

Shana Lee Jewelry
315 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
(518) 828-8789


Laurie Donovan [left] opened her Lenox shop, Laurie Donovan Designs, this past November in the former R.W. Wise Goldsmiths, but she’s been an award-winning goldsmith and designer for 35 years. (In fact, she was Richard Wise’s partner when L&R Wise, Goldsmiths, was established in 1980. She left in 1997and began a jewelry design business under her own name. When Wise retired, he asked her to take over his business.)

Opal and tsavorite garnet ring.

Donovan works with high-carat gold and platinum, and specializes in colored gems like garnets and morganite, and her range of designs and materials is extensive. One of her best sellers for more than 30 years is The Berkshire Collection, perfect gold discs with a cutout Shaker Tree. “I do lots of custom design,” she says, “and it’s great to meet the customers, get a read on them, then go upstairs and work in the shop above my beautiful store.”

Laurie Donovan Designs
81 Church Street, Lenox
(413) 637-1589

Based in Litchfield County, sculptor Holly Shannon [left] began her professional life as a corporate events planner, but upon becoming a mom in 2000, she refocused her energies on sculpture and jewelry. She makes both fine and fashion jewelry, working with gold and silver, and semi-precious stones.

Blue-marine topaz necklace, from The Rock Candy Collection.

This spring marks the launch of her Rock Candy Collection (currently available only online at Etsy  or her website). These fanciful arrangements of bubble and tear-shaped gemstones — emeralds, pink tourmaline, sapphires —  are bunched and threaded on fine gold and silver chains. The effect is reminiscent of colorful rock candy, and perfect against a little black dress.

Fresh off a trunk show at The Plaza, Shannon sees high-end jewelry bouncing back, perhaps a bellwether for a national recovery.

“The finer pieces are selling again,” she says. “Jewelry is like art. It doesn’t devalue.” Her fine jewelry sells briskly at the Mayflower Inn and Spa gift shop in Washington, CT and her fashion jewelry, which includes hand-sculpted pewter butterflies and the 18K pink or yellow gold plate scarab from her Cleopatra Collection, is available at J. Seitz & Company in New Preston.

Holly Shannon Jewelry


We wrote about McTeigue & McClelland in 2011 when the shop was setting up for an exhibition of rare, loose gemstones. (You can find that story here.) Walter McTeigue [left], a fourth-generation jeweler, and business partner Tim McClelland [right], lead a team of designers whose exquisite creations can only be described as the higher end of the higher end. More than that, they are supremely imaginative. In the unmissable bright yellow cottage along Great Barrington’s Main Street, the partners and their team design and make everything in house, each piece heated and hammered by hand, each piece fashioned like a tiny sculpture.

Pierced Flora Noir Diamond 12 mm band.

Wedding rings start at $1,000; three years ago, we showed you one for $88,000.

When McTeigue and McClelland moved from Manhattan to the Berkshires, they wondered if customers would travel. They needn’t have worried. “People come to us from all over the world,” he says. “A trip to the Berkshires is a romantic event, and they make the most of it.” About half their business is wedding-oriented, but the other half is loyal — and yes, local — folk. 

McTeigue & McClelland
597 South Main Street, Great Barrington
(800) 956-2826

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/05/14 at 09:09 AM • Permalink

The Year In Shopping

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Google Analytics, it’s that you like to read about shopping, and, we presume, put your proclivities into action. Over the course of the past year, Rural Intelligence went on its own hunt to introduce you to the newest, or most intriguing, or most beloved shops and artisans in the region. In case you weren’t in the market for equestrian gear or vintage curiosities the first time around, we offer a roundup of some of the purveyors of goods we visited earlier in the year. You never know when you’re going to need a good wire brush.

Gilmor Glass, Millerton
Owners Jon and Jan Gilmor play with fire to produce 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. Functional glass (like stemware, tumblers, goblets and vases) mix with unique glass jewelry and the purely decorative glass creations. Gilmor Glass always offers workshops; check their website for the schedule.

Privet House, New Preston
In January, we wrote about the home furnishings and antiques store opening up its second shop (the first is in Greenwich).  That Target,tapped Privet for the first round of its “The Shops at Target,” has only enhanced the purveyor (co-owners Suzanne Cassano and Richard Lambertson, known as arbiters of good taste) offering a small apothecary area, bath linens, a wire brush collection (which they’ve become known for), French flea market tables,  and an unrivaled tabletop collection.

Finch, Hudson
Fashion refugee turned small town shopkeeper Andrew Arrick and his partner, former marketing executive Michael Hoffemann, recently opened this well-curated take on modern luxury goods.  The mix of old and new includes Astier de Villatte candles; John Derian’s colorful objects; Coral and Tusk’s playful pillows and tea towels; art by local artist Jim Oliveira, and an Arne Jacobsen sofa. They promised an evolving selection of vintage pieces from the Paris furniture shows.

Second Home, Lenox
We visited Second Home at the height of Tanglewood season, and the hot sellers were the Tanglewood tables fashioned by owner Suzannah Van Schaick’s local carpenter friend.  Second Home has also become a one-stop-shop for one-of-a-kind local finds like hand-screened posters of regional spots by Lenox artist Judy Bates, and locally made soy candles and beaded jewelry. Van Schaick is also heavily into upcycling: she turns flea market and yard sale steals into colorful re-creations, from brightly painted vintage wire magazine racks to a beautifully revived, lightly waxed buffet. 

Rhinebeck Department Store
The store simply wouldn’t be without the building, owner Barbara Schreiber told us. So go check out the meticulously restored three-story Italianate building that was formerly the Hudson Valley Department Store. Inside the emporium, you’ll find authentic country classics, from knit tops by Fresh Produce Clothing and brightly patterned Echo scarves to colorful kids’ rain boots from Hatley. There are selections from Pendleton,  Woolrich and other Americana mainstays.

Louisa Ellis, Hudson and Great Barrington
Louisa Ellis opened in 2011 on Main Street in Great Barrington and to date carries nearly 20 different lines of contemporary women’s ready-to-wear clothing. In 2012, owner Melissa Bigarel opened up a second shop in Hudson (closed in winter). The shops receive a new collection every month, and ranges from work-appropriate pantsuits to casual day and evening dresses, all with a decidedly feminine take on style.

One Mercantile, Great Barrington
Hipster couple, industrial-looking space and vintage: sounds a lot like Brooklyn. But One Mercantile opened this year in Great Barrington (same difference, some might say). Owners Abby Webster and Andrew Pruhenski, Berkshire natives both, fill the raw brick, high-ceilinged space with gifty items and home goods that are either authentic vintage or vintage looking, plus glassware, assorted curiosities and recycled items.

Horse Leap, Amenia
It’s the only shop in the Northeast selling authentic equestrian gear, either new or slightly broken in, and it’s where equestrians go knowing that they’ll get the right color garters for their boots, the proper rain gloves, and attire for the white tie “hunt ball.”  But you don’t have to ride hounds to enjoy the hunt. Owner Barbara Wadsworth also sells plates, ashtrays, and glasses with fox-hunting scenes, hand-painted horse bookends and other horsey paraphernalia.

Kitchenware Stores: Never Too Many Cooks
We had holiday cooking in mind when we rounded up a handful of some of the finest kitchen superstores that sharpen up our region, but really, a kitchen store is pretty timeless. We looked at Warren Kitchen and Cutlery and bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy in Rhinebeck, New Preston Kitchen Goods and Hammertown in Rhinebeck, Pine Plains and Great Barrington.

Great Finds, Valatie
Valatie may be a thruway to get from here to there, but Great Finds is a destination. Owner Maggie Calhoun designs the micro home and lifestyle department store to be a little of everything to everybody (as well as Main Street’s main attraction), and there’s plenty to take in. It’s a women’s clothing and beauty boutique, gift shop with wedding registry, and kitchen and home goods store. Gluggle pitcher, anyone?

J. Seitz and Company, New Preston
The tight-knit family-owned enterprise offers up a full two floors of shopping. The lower is dedicated to furniture such as Cisco Brothers Belgian linen sofas, Mitchell Gold furniture and RLH Collection chairs. The top floor houses easy-to-wear collections from James Perse, John Patrick Organic and Matta.  There are hostess and baby gifts, jewelry, a smattering of beauty products, and fun surprises: an Octopus pendant necklaces, deer antlers on vases, beeswax skull-shaped candles.

Boxwood Linen, Hillsdale
Franca Fusco, designer and owner of Boxwood Linen, sells locally made table linens and accessories. 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. Check out her classic bistro aprons, which, says Fusco, “make you feel more competent in the kitchen.”

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/01/14 at 12:52 PM • Permalink

It Is Easy Being Green: Eco-Friendly Gifts

By Nichole Dupont

Leave only footprints, and we don’t mean large carbon ones. This is a hard and fast and generally respected mantra while out on the trail or camping in a state park. But, for some reason, the mantra doesn’t hold when it comes to Christmas and the holidays in America. According to the EPA, the average household waste increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s roughly one million EXTRA tons of trash that the earth has to somehow absorb. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are gifts galore throughout the RI region that are beautiful, unique, and eco-responsible. Repurposed fashion (with plenty of bling), scenic vistas atop Nordic skis, in-home mini-gardens – we’ve got perfect gifts that do no harm and leave Mother Nature (and the polar bears) just as we found them.

Become A Member
You’ve probably gotten at least one appeal letter in your mailbox — or inbox — from a local non-profit asking you to donate for the cause. That’s great. They need the cash, trust me. However, if you really want to help out, become a member. Or give the gift of membership which, around holiday time, provides special deals and offers beyond the ol’ canvas shopping bag.

barts cobble snowThe Trustees of Reservations is offering a bamboo utensil set (and other outdoor living goodies) with gift memberships. The Trustees maintain and are the stewards of some 100 public, historic, and ecological properties in Massachusetts (that’s more than 25,000 acres), many of which are right here in the Berkshires including the Ashley House and Bartholomew’s Cobble in Ashley Falls, Naumkeag in Stockbridge, and Field Farm in Williamstown. A membership ($57 for two adults) gets you (or your giftee) access to all the Trustees properties — the Crane Estate, Appleton Farms, Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge — and to events like Nordic ski lessons at Notchview in Windsor, Saturday snowshoe treks and hot chocolate at the Cobble, indoor yoga classes at Tyringham’s Ashintully Gardens, and a plethora of workshops and guided adventures throughout the warmer seasons.

And for our New York folks across the border who want to explore the Gilded Age glory and majestic groves of the state’s history, supporting the National Park Service is the perfect gift to give. An $80 park pass allows access for three adults to sites all across the country, as well as local gems such as the recently renovated FDR Presidential Library and Museum, the Vanderbilt Mansion, and modest Val-Kill.

Rags to Riches
The fast-track clothing industry is leaving a big, polluting footprint on the environment. Thankfully, eco-conscious designers are railing against this tide of waste couture and tapping into the monolithic market of used textiles. Warren Street’s Ecosystem offers a brilliant, culled selection of fashion-forward gifts designed by eco-driven artists. Wallets made from recycled blankets, elegant blouses crafted from repurposed flannel, and urban-meets-rustic lamps constructed from reclaimed wood are just a few of the offerings at this eclectic Hudson hotspot. In fact, the little city across the river is brimming with vintage clothing and gift shops where everything old is new again, including shops such as Five and Diamond Vintage, Sideshow, and Discipline Park. For a complete list, visit Hudson Valley Vintage.

Across the border in the snow-covered Berkshires, reclaimed fashionista Crispina Ffrench finds her muse in used sweaters. The owner/founder and main crafter of Crispina, her one-of-a-kind creations run the gamut of jolly and bright, with homey ragamuffin dolls, masterful patchwork quilts (below), and bespoke sweaters with charming, whimsical details. 

In the reclaimed world, it seems that wool and whimsy do go hand-in-hand. PetitFelts, founded by Copake-based designer Jocelyn Gail, combines needle felting with wild imagination (and a love for animals). The result is a masterful menagerie of charismatic finger puppets — horses, sheep, penguins, goats, sea creatures — for children and children at heart.

Flora and Fauna
It’s easy to get your hands blissfully dirty in a region where local farms and gardens are considered sacred ground and the efforts of those who protect the bounty don’t go unlauded. One impressive group of Berkshire-ites has breathed new life and new conviction into restoring the trails and gardens and traditions of the area. Greenagers are the young stewards of the land, volunteering to clear trails and maintain lands from Ancram to Sheffield. This season, the group is selling a picture-filled calendar to support their continuing efforts in the field. The calendar is available for $15 at The Bookloft, Fuel, Ward’s Nursery, Tom’s Toys, The Marketplace Café, Sheffield Pottery, and Gorham & Norton, or you can request one at

greenagersWhile the teens are hibernating until next spring, it never hurts to have a little green inside while the Nor’easters pile in one after the other. One Mercantile in Great Barrington is now offering a bit of the earth with locally made terrariums (shown at top of page). These moss- and plant-rich works of art are encased in glass and provide a gentle reminder that winter does, in fact, come to an end.

And while we’re waiting for that end, the world is lush with stories and debates and images of wild places and spaces the world over. Orion Magazine, based in Great Barrington, is a purveyor of these stories with nature at their core. The mag offers online and paper subscriptions to bi-monthly features full of art, activism, poetry, politics, and the green in between.

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Posted by Nichole on 12/16/13 at 12:54 PM • Permalink

A Lot of Giving at Somethin’s Gotta Give in Lakeville

By Sarah Ellen Rindsberg

Modernist yet playful. This is the vision on view at Somethin’s Gotta Give, the newest addition to the retail mix in Lakeville, Connecticut. The refined aesthetic with a local feel evolved from the combination of proprietor James Knight’s proclivities and own needs in furnishing his Connecticut home; a mix of new and vintage items for the home, as well as a collection of books and music, that is a singular representation of his design philosophy: “I have always admired Mid-century modern design, primarily for its simplicity. To quote from one of my design icons, Frank Lloyd Wright ‘...form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union…’”  (This was Wright’s revision of “form follows function,” the original dictum of the great architect’s mentor, Louis Sullivan.)

It all started when, after 20 years as the director of visual merchandising for Gucci in North America and Japan, Knight decided to convert his part-time residency in Falls Village to full-time. His thoughts then turned to a search for a new profession. Knight was already representing furnituremaker Bryan Jernigan and used this as a jumping-off point. “I put the concept together from people I knew and stuff I like,” he says. Knight began with a website and started searching for a brick-and-mortar structure for those wishing to experience the heft and feel of an object. When he spotted the site in Lakeville, directly across the street from the post office, Knight took the plunge. “I tend to do things impulsively,” he adds.

Serendipity, as much as Knight’s great eye, plays a major role in the constantly evolving collection, much of which is made up of innovative work by local designers and artisans. For instance, one day Walter Irving of Cornwall Bridge stopped by. He struck up a conversation with Knight, exploring ways in which to resume his craft—original wood-framed mirrors. Several of the samples he carried in his car that day now adorn the shop’s walls ($1,400). Other finds are the result of a phone call from fellow Falls Village resident Frank Grusauskas. His products are fashioned from found wood. Knight falls under their spell and makes room for ebonized wood containers ($360-$400), a large burled bowl ($450), and the most amazing wooden horns, some carved out of mountain laurel ($200-$600.)

One of the most striking pieces on display is a coffee table ($2,600) by the aforementioned Bryan Jernigan. “He married a cousin of mine and it was in their living room,” Knight recalls. In Jernigan’s creations, the glass top appears to be suspended in air, but a glance beneath reveals artfully crafted wooden supports. With a nod to form over function, the base is graceful yet substantial, and arcs sculpted from wood provide an arresting image.

Artistic influences abound. Knight professes his admiration of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. He also enjoys visiting The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City and taking in the Seagram building, a van der Rohe design, in Manhattan.

The whole design philosophy of Somethin’s Gotta Give, and its sense of community, is evident in its sharp website. Click on the “helping hand” section and watch as a mere seedling morphs into a tree, signifying the nurturing effect of contributions. The words “We all need a helping hand” scroll across the screen. Links to local organizations including Owl’s Kitchen and Berkshire Animal Dreams are included. For those attracted to the freshwater biodiversity represented in David Young’s photos of the Cahaba River on sale at Somethin’s Gotta Give, an added incentive is the 10% of sales donated to the eponymous river society. There is also a link to Ollie’s Bar-B-Q Sauce, a business that donates 20% of its proceeds to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. (The prevalence of Birmingham, Alabama-based organizations reflects Knight’s affinity for the place where he was raised and the groups he began donating to while residing in the South.) The most recent addition is the Passenger Project, a site which changes the focus of its gifts on a monthly basis.

Two local business owners in particular—Tino Galluzzo of the White Gallery and Mary O’Brien of Chiawalla—have been extremely supportive, sending their patrons to the store. O’Brien, who is renowned for her cakes (Knight has a predilection for the banana chocolate), has added a rolling pin made by Michael Robbins to her collection.

One of the categories on the site is entitled “Lost and Found,” which contains books and music Knight wants people to know about or experience once again, from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen to Jeff Buckey Live at Sin-é. The title of the store itself is a nod to one of Knight’s mother’s favorite songs, “Something’s Gotta Give,” by Johnny Mercer. The decision to omit the final “g” from the first word refers to its pronunciation with a Southern accent. It’s all part of Knight’s whole attitude toward retail. “I’m gonna have fun with this. Music is a big part of my life. I put stuff up people should be reacquainted with or hear or see for the first time.”

Somethin’s Gotta Give
340 Main Street
Lakeville, CT
(860) 824-8045 office
(917) 450-7072 cell

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 12/09/13 at 09:31 AM • Permalink

No More Mall Madness: Basilica Hudson Beats Black Friday With Farm & Flea

By Robert Burke Warren

Everyone complains about Black Friday. You want to get holiday shopping done on the long Thanksgiving weekend, but the impersonal malls are packed, people are rude, the food is toxic, and increasingly, you realize money spent at big box stores draws support away from local economies, i.e. your neighbors. But you gotta shop. What to do?

Rather than accept the Black Friday dilemma as a necessary evil, Melissa Auf der Maur, erstwhile bassist for Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, now proprietess of multi-purpose space Basilica Hudson, is presenting the first annual Farm & Flea at the Basilica. Starting with the Black Friday Soiree at 5 p.m. on the day after Thanksgiving – Friday, November 29 – the sprawling, majestic 19th century factory space becomes a bustling marketplace filled with handcrafted furniture and clothing, local farm goods, vintage items, and locally sourced herbal products. All makers will be on hand, and nothing, but nothing, will be stamped “Made In China/Indonesia/Malaysia”… etc. The 2½ day event, sponsored by Green Mountain Energy, the world’s longest-serving renewable energy retailer, and magazines BUST and the brand new Modern Farmer, continues through the weekend.

“It’s an alternative to Black Friday,” Auf der Maur says from her Hudson home. “We’re encouraging people to buy local, buy handmade or vintage for Holiday shopping. The malls are horrible and disgusting.” Farm & Flea offers a wide array of gift possibilities. Among the many offerings are pottery from Tivoli Tile Works’ famed ceramicist Caroline Wallner (left and right), artisan jewelry from Christine Domanic (below left), and meats and poultry from Claverack, NY’s Diamond Hills Farm (above right).

The seed for Farm & Flea was planted when Auf der Maur and her husband, filmmaker Tony Stone, moved to Hudson in 2007. They joined nearby CSA (community supported agriculture) Germantown Community Farm, co-founded by broadcaster, farmer, educator, activist, and carpenter Kaya Weidman. Weidman, a co-organizer of Farm & Flea, is the archetypal multi-tasking rural maker, knee-deep in the soil, carving out a hardscrabble but rewarding lifestyle, while also connecting to surrounding urban areas. Helping with the craft end of Farm & Flea is Elise McMahon, acclaimed furniture maker and member of Hudson’s Greenhorns, who, Auf der Maur says, “help farmers figure out how to survive.” As with all Basilica endeavors, Auf der Maur provides a broader platform for margin-dwellers like Weidman, McMahon, and their peers, while also drawing the general public to valuable consumer alternatives.

Of Weidman, Auf der Maur says, “Kaya is the highest level of community leader. She’s part of this wave of remarkable Hudson-area women, an amazing group of girls who cook, farm, make furniture, herbal remedies, lamps, bags. And Elise is an amazing artist and organizer. In the last couple of years, a lot more hardworking makers and organizers, mostly women, have moved to Hudson, so the time was right for our first Farm & Flea. I put feelers out last spring. A really strong group of girls responded.”

Herbalist Lauren Giambroni enthusiastically jumped on board. Her Germantown-based Good Fight Herb Company is enjoying its third successful year. Of her business, she says, “I grow and wildcraft medicinal herbs, and I make tinctures, teas, salves, syrups, body care products, and self-care seasonal support tonics to help with allergies or immune building. I handcraft everything, from growing to product making. My mission is to create an empowering alternative to our current healthcare system. We need other options. That’s my good fight.”

Giambroni and farmer Tess Diamond – of Cornwallville NY’s Old Field Farm – are organizing the farm stand section at Farm & Flea. “This area is so agriculturally dense,” Giambroni says. “There are lots of great farm markets and CSAs, and we’ve reached out and involved them. At the farm stand section of Farm & Flea, you can take away pasture-raised beef from my friend from Pine Plains, or an organic potted plant from Farmhand Flowers, or you could bring home a medicinal herb potion, a sleep aide or a stress buster. The combining of grocery and gift gives the farmers a dual chance to display their awesomeness, and shows people what local farms provide besides meat and cheese – farmers will be bringing honey, beeswax, and maple syrup, too.”

Giambroni is excited about Auf der Maur’s astute choice to include NYC-based BUST magazine. BUST’s Craftaculars have grown from a one-off event in 2005 to a regular, international phenomenon at which shoppers opt to buy quality one-of-a-kind items directly from a growing breed of makers or vintage mavens. “It’s great Melissa brought in the Craftacular,” Giambroni says. “It’s a good way to get people from Manhattan. I’m excited both for my own extended community and out-of-towners. And I already can’t wait for Farm & Flea 2014!”

Auf der Maur also sees Farm & Flea as an annual event. The recent success of Basilica Soundscape, which drew raves from The New York Times and The New Yorker, offered vindication, and further emboldened her already flinty determination.

“We’ve achieved our concept,” she says. “We’ve got annual music festivals like Soundscape, featuring international acts and guest curators, and then there’s our film screenings, Ramp Fest, and now Farm & Flea, all more locally-curated ventures which highlight regional things that are also attractive to New Yorkers. We’ve accomplished one chapter, and we’re eager to start another one.”

Farm & Flea
Black Friday Soiree: November 29, 5-9 p.m.
Saturday, November 30 & Sunday, December 1, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 11/18/13 at 06:47 PM • Permalink

Shopping: LOCAL, A Find A Bit Out of Town

By Marilyn Bethany

Rural Intelligence Style“We are doing very well,” says Michele O’Hana, via a crackling Skype connection from her childhood home in West Cork, Ireland, where she was spending time with her family. 

“Repeat that please,” I shout. In these improved but still tough economic times for small, independent retailers, one has come to expect tales of woe. 

“WE ARE DOING VERY WELL,” she shouts into the phone. 

michele photo new O’Hana, a potter who lives in Spencertown with her husband, the photographer John Dolan, and their three children, opened in December 2010 in the Lenox Commons shopping center on Route 7 “on a whim.”  For the four years previous, she had maintained a second-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, 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.

local 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.”

LOCAL candlestickds “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 furnituremaker, then I assemble the pieces myself in the studio.”

LOCAL pottery“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.

LOCAL collageOne-of-a-kind jewelry by Maja DuBrul (earrings shown); bark and moss planters are handmade at LOCAL.

Lenox Commons
55 Pittsfield Road (Route 7)
Lenox, MA
(413) 553-3557

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 11/18/13 at 12:57 PM • Permalink

Lou Blass and Don Friday of Ad Lib Antiques Take Off Into The Future

By Jamie Larson

blass friday Browsing the high-end antique haven of Hudson NY can make shoppers feel as though they are lost in time. What’s old is new again and beautiful art objects pulled from a thousand different moments in history exist together alongside designs right at the cutting edge.

At Ad Lib Antiques, 522 Warren Street, owners Lou Blass and Don Friday (pictured left and right) are a case study of this town’s stylistic “theory” of relativity. The shop is mostly filled with their refined taste in classical design, but scattered throughout the collection of antiques are explosions of truly unique new forms, objects that seem like they could exist in a multitude of moments, past and future. These are chandeliers, lamps, sconces, tables, and sculptures that are all originals, created by Blass over just the past two years, that range in influences from Mid-century Sputnik ($3,400) and 70’s metallic flamboyance (at bottom, $6,800) to, more recently, futuristic pieces, chaotic and skillfully organized sections of metal piping mixed with elements like glass orbs, flowing copper sheets, and unique bulbs. Light loves them yet is always being tricked, not knowing where it’s off to next. (An example below right, $10,000). The material is hard but the angles and light refraction created by a chandelier can feel very natural, in the way a supernova or the construction of a molecule is natural.

x “It’s all space related,” Blass says of his current line of pieces, the first of which he made as a Thanksgiving table hanging centerpiece two years ago. “The initial idea was a stylistic throwback, but I quickly adopted a lot of modern design features.”

It’s undoubtedly this complex interplay that made these works wildly popular almost immediately. Blass and Friday, with the help of two vital assistants, have been building one-of-a-kind pieces for clients across the country and around the world, selling pieces to private and corporate customers in Europe, Hong Kong, and Dubai.

“On the website, we’re global now,” Friday says, remarking at how much faster the art and antiques industry moves in the internet age. “Before, we had to rely upon the trade marts; now we’re filling an order for nine chandeliers for hotels in Manhattan, and they won’t even tell us which ones until they’re installed.” There’s currently a four-week-long waiting list for one of Blass’s creations. Conceptualizing, building, and welding each piece, then handling orders, clients, and installation is a lot of work—especially for newlyweds.

The inseparable couple has been together since they got out of the armed services 52 years ago. But it wasn’t until three weeks ago (with the help of that little change in state law) that they were finally married in a small ceremony at city hall, right next door to their shop. Having been together so long, they were interested in a financially pragmatic affair, as well as an unconventional honeymoon. Instead of taking a vacation, they’re remodeling their kitchen. “We’re always the ‘old couple’ in the pride parade,” Friday says with a little smile, “now we’re official.”

Their long history together has imbued them with a lot of wisdom when it comes to balancing work and life. In the 60s they both went to work for a firm in Dallas where they designed fountains. Their lives became nothing but work as orders piled up and they found themselves four years behind. “We decided to quit,” Blass recalled. “I told Don to call the showroom and tell everyone I died. We were supposed to do a two-story fountain for Mall of America. We just left it on the table and took a year off.”

They went to France for a year and worked exporting antiques but missed America too much and soon returned, setting up shop in Atlanta. Eventually, friends in Hudson convinced them to relocate to the little city and 15 years ago they made the move. They’ve been an ever-present piece of the Hudson antiques community ever since.

blass8 Blass says he doesn’t expect to find himself overwhelmed by their new boom in business the way he and Friday did back in the day. Being their own bosses has the perk of deciding how much work they feel like doing. But, currently there’s no sign of a decrease in orders or production.

The work coming out of Ad Lib today is unique and surprising. It’s never certain when something is going to connect with the market, but in a little shop beside city hall, the time is right for Lou Blass and Don Friday.

Ad Lib Antiques
522 Warren Street
Hudson, NY
(518) 822-6522

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 11/05/13 at 08:29 AM • Permalink

The Little Bookstore(s) That Could: Oblong Thrives in a Shifting Marketplace

By Robert Burke Warren

“Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.”—Mark Twain

Although the bean-counting experts predicted otherwise, Millerton and Rhinebeck, NY’s family-run Oblong Books & Music stores are not only surviving, but thriving. (Illustration of the Millerton branch by Illu Brozyna.) To most, the rise of online shopping (Amazon, et al.) was the death knell for brick-and-mortar booksellers, with the advent of e-readers delivering the coup de grace. While this has proved true for many bookstores, large and small, Oblong, through a combo of 21st century business savvy and old-school outreach, has actually grown. In 2010, in fact, they expanded their Rhinebeck location. According to owner Dick Hermans, revenue is up.

dicksuzanna“I’m more optimistic right now than I’ve been in several years,” Hermans says. “People are realizing the money they spend locally means a helluva lot more than the money they spend online that goes to some distant place and never comes back. More people are saying, ‘I’ll shop local, and my money will circulate in the community.’” When he began Oblong as a books-and-records business in Millerton in 1975 – the Rhinebeck location opened in 2001 – Hermans learned on the job, and he’s become renowned as a canny businessman. “Indie bookselling is survival of the fittest,” he says. “You really need to pay attention and watch your inventory. And we pride ourselves on having a really good selection of books. We keep track of all the publishers we can find, and make sure we have them.”

Crucial to the success of Oblong is Hermans’ daughter, Suzanna. (Both picture above right outside the new remodeled Oblong Jr. in Millerton). Fresh out of college, Suzanna, who’d learned to work the cash register at age 8, took over the Rhinebeck store at the beginning of the economic downturn. Undaunted, she oversaw the successful Rhinebeck expansion, and spearheaded many revenue-and-morale raising community events at the store. The book world noticed, and Suzanna Hermans was recently elected head of the New England Independent Booksellers Association. She also serves on the American Booksellers Foundation For Free Expression.

“As a dad, I couldn’t be happier,” Hermans says, beaming down the line. “I mean, pinch me. I am the envy of most booksellers my age. I’ve talked to several at conventions and everybody says, ‘aren’t you happy?’ I say, damn right I’m happy. Suzanna brings a lot to the table. She’s a big reader, and she gets what it’s all about. She wants to advance not only our stores, but the whole industry. That’s pretty cool.”

As ever, the upcoming Oblong events calendar is chock-full of impressively curated readings at both locations, as well as Oblong-sponsored author appearances at Salisbury, CT’s Scoville Library, such as Simon Winchester, who will will speak about his new book, The Men Who United The States, on November 3 at 2 p.m. Hermans is also particularly enthused about nonfiction author Guy Lawson reading from and discussing his NY Times bestselling real-life thriller Octopus at Scoville on Saturday, November 16 at 2 p.m. “Guy is a local treasure,” says Hermans. “Quite an accomplished writer, with a great career, who’s still young. And Octopus is some story.”

Bestselling memoirist-novelist Dani Shapiro, an Oblong fan and Connecticut resident, is excited about her first Oblong gig on Sunday, November 17 at 4 p.m., “a rare Millerton store reading,” according to Hermans. She’ll be reading from her newly published Still Writing, which she says is “part memoir, part meditation on the creative process, part love letter to everyone who spends time alone in a room, trying to make something out of nothing.”

“I have spent quite a bit of time lurking in the stacks at the Oblong in Millerton,” she says. “It’s a real book lover’s bookstore. It’s designed in a way that makes browsing really comfortable. Browsing and happening upon books is becoming rarer and rarer – instead, we’re told by computer models what we ‘might like’ – and a bookstore like Oblong restores that sense of just stumbling upon a book that suddenly you need to read. And I love reading at independent bookstores. There’s an intimacy, a sense of all of us being in this together – readers, writers, booksellers – that is really special.” 

oblong3Photographer Juliet Harrison, who launches her new book, Track Life: Images & Words, at the Rhinebeck location on November 16 at 7 p.m., worked at both Oblong locations for years, her favorite job ever.  “Oblong encourages relationships with the customers,” she says. “We were readers helping readers find books they would love. What is better than that?” Harrison’s Track Life is a collection of her photographs of racehorses alongside track-related essays, poems, and remembrances by assorted writers. Hudson Valley scribes Mikhail Horowitz, Carol Goodman, and Nina Shengold will read their contributions. For Shengold and Goodman, it’s a return engagement.

“They get a great crowd,” Shengold says. “They’ve enlarged their children’s/teen section and created a thriving program of author events, including the very successful Hudson Valley YA Society series, which does that rare thing of attracting actual young adults – teen readers – as well as people who want to write YA. The staff knows and loves books, and they have a great music selection to boot.”

Clearly, Dick Hermans’ new hopefulness is catchy. Dani Shapiro echoes him almost word-for-word: “As an author,” she says, “I feel more optimistic than I have in a few years, because it seems booksellers have begun to think outside the box – to find new ways to attract dedicated readers. And I think that, as a culture, precisely because we spend so much time staring at screens, we’re hungry for community and experience. Independent bookstores are able to offer this. I predict, over the next decade, that these experiences – not straight-up readings, but a different kind of event that involves engagement, community, shared experience – will proliferate.” 

Oblong Books & Music
26 Main Street, Millerton, NY
(518) 789-3797

Montgomery Row, Rhinebeck, NY
(845) 876-0500

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 10/14/13 at 11:48 PM • Permalink