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Friday, October 3, 2014

Discovery Channel's 'How It's Made' Features Danforth Pewter

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Oil lamp by Danforth Pewter - COURTESY OF DANFORTH PEWTER
  • Courtesy of Danforth Pewter
  • Oil lamp by Danforth Pewter

Danforth Pewter
's iconic oil lamps are produced in batches of one or two dozen during a daylong metalworking process. But that, says owner Fred Danforth, who revived his family's centuries-old pewter business in 1975, is somewhat misleading.

"My flippant answer, when someone asks how long it takes to make one, is 30 years!" jokes Danforth. "Because that's how long it took me to really get down all of the techniques."

Visitors to the Danforth Pewter Workshop & Store on Seymour Street in Middlebury have long been able to see those lamps and other products in various stages of production. Two windows in the company's headquarters offer a peek into the workroom, where craftspeople work during business hours.

Today, October 3, television audiences also have the opportunity to see Danforth's craft in action: A segment of "How It's Made," a popular show on Discovery's Science Channel, is dedicated to the making of a Danforth oil lamp. The episode initially airs at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, then again at 1:30 a.m. on October 4.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Material Ecologist Neri Oxman to Give UVM Aiken Lecture

Posted By on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Pneuma 1, by Neri Oxman | 3D printed models produced by Stratasys - YORAM RESHEF
  • Yoram Reshef
  • Pneuma 1, by Neri Oxman | 3D printed models produced by Stratasys
Neri Oxman’s creations look like they’ve emerged from a 1950s science-fiction film. Multicolored, alien crenellations bend into weird but oddly recognizable shapes; weird textures evoke deep-sea creatures or weird insects. They’re extremely difficult to figure out.

But that inscrutable nature is by design. Just as Oxman’s projects look both bizarre and familiar, she resists easy categorization herself. Part artist, part scientist and part designer, Oxman works in a field that’s she’s dubbed “material ecology,” the goal of which is to study how new techniques of design and fabrication can transform the creation of everyday objects and structures. As she put it on her blog, her overall project is to investigate the ways that design intersects with “architecture, enginerring, computation, and ecology.”

Many of Oxman’s most striking designs draw their inspiration from natural materials: internal organs, insect carapaces, seashells. Oxman, a professor at MIT, is at the cutting edge of the 3-D printing revolution, and has used the technology to design and build everything from bike helmets to high-fashion dresses to carpal-tunnel wristguards.

Neri Oxman will visit the University of Vermont this Thursday to deliver the George D. Aiken Lecture, “Material Ecology: A New Approach to Nature-Inspired Design and Engineering.” By email, she answered some questions for Seven Days in advance of her talk.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Water Music: An Instrumental Boat Visits the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Posted By on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Is this a vehicle or an instrument? Yes. - ULLAPOOL COASTAL ROWING CLUB
  • Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club
  • Is this a vehicle or an instrument? Yes.

Elementary school music classes instruct youngsters on the fine art of making musical instruments out of rubber bands and cans of beans. Woodturning artist Michael Brolly has taken that same impulse much, much further. He’s made an instrument out of a seagoing vessel.

Sephira is the name of his creation, and it’s described as “half boat and half musical instrument.” Built by students and staff at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Penn., where Brolly is a woodworking instructor, Sephira is a 22-foot-long St. Ayles-style skiff into which has been built a fully functioning Aeolian harp. And not just any Aeolian harp — an instrument whose tones are generated by the wind — but one that has been strung and tuned to produce sounds that resonate with  the frequency of whale song.

Not since prehistoric times have whales frolicked in Lake Champlain, but that hasn’t stopped Vergennes’ Lake Champlain Maritime Museum from inviting Brolly and Sephira to take part in their St. Ayles Skiff/Challenge Race this weekend. On Saturday afternoon, July 12, visitors can watch as Brolly strings the harp, and can take their turn making their own boat music.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

7 Questions for Theresa Somerset, Traditional Ukrainian Egg Painter

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 9:15 AM

Traditional Ukrainian-style painted eggs - COURTESY OF THERESA SOMERSET
  • Courtesy of Theresa Somerset
  • Traditional Ukrainian-style painted eggs

Ukraine is much in the news these days for its conflict with Russia. But at Frog Hollow State Craft Center in Burlington this weekend, the focus is not on geopolitics but eggs — that is, the Ukrainian craft of painting eggs called psyanky.

Theresa Somerset isn't Ukrainian, but the Essex Junction-based artisan has become known for the intricate works of art she produces by etching tiny, detailed wax designs on eggshells. Pysanky eggs were originally created to pay tribute to pre-Christian sun deities in Eastern Europe; traditionally made in the spring, they were offerings for fertility and rebirth. The craft was kept alive through the centuries and eventually became associated with the Christian belief in the resurrection of Christ — in other words, Easter eggs.

Somerset has been making pysanky eggs, with traditional and nontraditional designs, since 2000. She sometimes incorporates them into her paintings, as well. For nearly a decade, she's been giving demonstrations and teaching workshops, and these have become an annual favorite at Frog Hollow.

"I usually bring some traditional designs, which is what most people that know pysanky will expect to see," Somerset says. "Then I bring what I like to do, which might be a mix of traditional and nontraditional, what I call my art eggs." 

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Friday, February 28, 2014

David Hurwitz Honored as Vermont Woodworker of the Year

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 9:23 AM

David Hurwitz in his shop - COURTESY OF JACK ROWELL
  • Courtesy of Jack Rowell
  • David Hurwitz in his shop

The Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association (VWMA) has named David Hurwitz the Woodworker of the Year. And no wonder: The Randolph artisan turns straight wood into amazingly sensuous pieces, from utensils to dining room tables. You'd think there might be alchemy involved and not just woodworking tools.

Hurwitz’s work commands attention. His custom, glass-topped Lake Champlain cocktail table, for instance, displays an innovative curvature — in sustainably harvested maple — that mocks the driftwood found on lake shores. It seems almost too pretty to be practical.

His benches for Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, installed along the outdoor garden path, are crafted from locally grown white oak, and are as aesthetically pleasing as they are sturdy. The taffy-like carved wood framing a mirror or forming a coatrack is impossibly sinewy.

Hurwitz’s vision for his craft represents a stunning marriage of form and function. 

Hurwitz earned a BFA in woodworking and furniture design from the School for American Craftsmen at Rochester Institute of Technology, and has been a professional woodworker since 1998. He's won numerous awards for his furniture and woodenware, and been featured in many industry publications. Hurwitz has served on the VWMA board of directors, is a member of the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers  and teaches the next generation of crafters at the Vermont Woodworking School  His work can be seen at the annual Vermont Fine Furniture, Woodworking & Forest Festival in Woodstock, Vt., other craft shows and at his studio, David Hurwitz Originals, in Randolph.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

No New Lease for Winooski Circle Arts — Yet

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 2:46 PM


Last December we reported in Seven Days that Liza Cowan and Jodi Harrington had launched Winooski Circle Arts, featuring artworks and gift items by local artists, at a sunny venue on the Winooski traffic circle. In January, Cowan told us the landlord was not renewing their lease and they would be closing up the shop on January 15. However, she was in negotiations for another location nearby.

Today Cowan let us know the unhappy news: "Negotiations failed for the new lease for Winooski Circle Arts. So no store, at least for the time being."

Cowan and Harrington both have been avid supporters and purveyors of local arts, and we're certain this isn't the end of the story. "We will have to see what the future brings," Cowan says. 

File photo of Cowan in the shop by Matthew Thorsen.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

They All Fall Down: Domino Extravaganza in Brattleboro

Posted By on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 1:16 PM

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

There is something terrifically satisfying about watching a careful array of dominoes collapse. Maybe it's the pleasing clickety-click, or the careful design, or (my candidate) the ephemerality of the whole thing. It takes hours, maybe days, to set up one of those complicated, thousands-of-dominoes arrays, and just a couple minutes for the whole thing to come crashing down.

But then, that's the whole point, right?

Aficionados of tiny, colorful, clacking controlled chaos need to get themselves to the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center for the Seventh Annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza on Monday, February 17, at 5 p.m. Thousands upon thousands of the colorful little tiles will fall on cue to the delight of onlookers.

Last year, the event set a record: 27,134 dominoes. The video of that event is huge fun to watch. Check it out below.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Local DIY Artist Sticks It to the Man With Veggie-Anarchist Stickers

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 7:17 PM

"Beet the system." "Overgrow the government." "Squash the state." "Berry the President."

For those who like their anarchy served up with a side of veggies, local DIY artists Ben Levitt, who prefers the moniker "breakfast," Jess Cullity and friends have been doling out stickers printed with such slogans for more than a decade. The catchy vegetable puns are accompanied by his striking black-and-white graphics.

It began, breakfast recalls, in 2000 when he and Cullity — both West Woodbury residents — developed the concept for "Beet the System." The pair printed the image on stickers with their own funds and passed them around for free. Like the viral Eat More Kale shirts, developed the same year by Montpelier-based artist Bo Muller-Moore, the concept really took off.

"People just kept asking for more vegetable puns," breakfast recalls. 

And since he and Cullity are strongly opposed to copyright laws, they made it easy for people to access their images. Anyone can download the masters online, then tweak, reprint and redistribute them. The artists don't mind — in fact, they get a kick out of it. 

"I love the whole DIY movement," says breakfast. "I'm not into the art world, such as it is, but I do love to do artwork."

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Winooski Circle Arts Loses Lease, Looks for New Home

Posted By on Fri, Jan 3, 2014 at 12:19 PM

With barely three months behind it, the cooperative gallery Winooski Circle Arts — yes, facing the infamous traffic circle — was informed by building owner Hall Keen that it had to move out by January 15. Co-owner Liza Cowan sent a letter to members of the nascent co-op yesterday giving them the bad news.

But, she said, there is also good news — almost. Cowan is in negotiations for another space "that will be even better than the one we are now in," and hopes to announce that next week.

Cowan put a positive spin on the developments:

When we started with the pop-ups in 2011, none of the commercial spaces were occupied, and it seemed nobody wanted them. When artists move in, they make a neighborhood exciting and desirable, and then others, with more income and cash flow, want to move in.

In the case of the Hall Keen building, this has been a good thing. This year oak45, the new bar, opened its doors, then Salon Salon, the hair salon, moved in, and soon Misery Loves Company will open its bakery. These are all wonderful, local businesses and we are happy that they are here, and wish them all the very best success.

Seven Days wrote — too optimistically, it turned out — about WCA settling in "to stay" in a State of the Arts story, and in our year-end follow-ups. But Cowan and fellow owner Jodi Harrington are nothing if not doggedly determined to show and sell art in Winooski. We have no doubt they'll find a new home. Meantime, the store is open 11-5 through January 15.

Stay tuned for updates.

Matthew Thorsen file photo of Winooski Circle Arts interior in December.



Friday, December 13, 2013

BCA to Buy UVM's Fine-Metals Equipment, Set Up Studio

Posted By on Fri, Dec 13, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Here's a feel-good story for the end of the year. It's a story about perfect serendipity, and turning lemons into lemonade.

"Lemons" in this case were the news that the University of Vermont art department was going to phase out its fine-metals program upon the retirement this year of its longtime instructor, Laurie Peters. (An example of her work is pictured here.)

That news was part of a November 27 article I wrote about a then-upcoming exhibit featuring jewelry by Peters and a number of her former students, who have gone on to make beautiful, sculptural work and names for themselves. Names such as Timothy Grannis, Jacob Albee and Jane Koplewitz, among others.

That exhibit opened on Wednesday with a buzzing reception at Von Bargen's in downtown Burlington, and continues through December 18.

But on to the lemonade.

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