Thursday, May 26, 2011

Donna Barrett, jewelry of intricate weaves

Donna Barrett in her studio.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Jewelry making is Donna Barrett, Sea Cliff jeweler's, third and, so far, the most rewarding profession. She first trained as Latin teacher in her hometown in Pennsylvania, then run a research department at a law firm in Manhattan.

Jewelry was a bit of a natural progression as she was fond of fashion and exercised her creative powers before. Inspired by her mother, who knitted, crocheted, made dolls, Donna sew her own clothes, made table linen and curtains for her home, she even attended a semi professional tailor school to learn to make patterns. She also enjoyed faux painting.

Different weaves in sterling silver
by Donna Barrett.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Donna's plunge into jewelry, though not unexpected was adventerous. Donna went to visit her sister in California who herself had just discovered jewelry making. Her enthusiasm was so infectious that the two sisters went to a bead store directly from the airport. While in California both worked side by side and made jewelry together.

On returning to Sea Cliff Donna took classes in chain mail jewelry at Garvis Point Museum. She found it fitted with her interests in antiquity - chain mail was known to Romans in 300 BC. Chain mail technique of joining small metal rings into a mesh was utilized throughout the ages by armor makers in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, and the Far East including Japan and Korea.

Bracelet by Donna Barrett.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
The wide geographic and historic usage answers for the rich set of different weaves. Maille Artisans International League has an online catalogue of well over a thousand known weaves. One would think that there are just so many ways to join metal rings yet there are new submissions still entered into the catalog. Weaves are generally divided into a few major categories - European, Byzantine, Persian, and Japanese. Donna's favorite weave is called Vertebrae, but she likes the challenge of adding new weaves to her repertory. The correct name of the technique is mail or maille, but chain mail is commonly used, as well.

Bracelets by Donna Barrett.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Selecting a proper weave for a piece is only a part of the battle. There are colors and various types of metal wires to consider - silver, brass, copper, or bronze. Stainless steel makes interesting looking jewelry for men though it is difficult to handle due to its hardness. Recently rubber rings entered the field introducing a new element of stretch. Wires can be round or square in cross-section. Jeweler will have to adjust with mathematical precision the aspect ratio of diameter of the ring to the diameter of the wire to retain the consistent look of a weave. Donna frequently embellishes her jewelry with beads of metal, plastic, or semi-precious stones.

For more information on Donna please visit her website and Facebook pages.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sue Adler and her horse hair pottery

Sue Adler in her studio.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Sue Adler first came across the horse hair pottery at a class given by her teacher, Sea Cliff potter Donna Ferrara. Horse hair pottery is created by a unique process of heating a stoneware pot in a kiln to over 1000F, taking it out of the kiln when it's very hot, and draping long single strands of horse hair over it. Hair instantly carbonizes when it touches the super hot pot and leaves distinct black pattern on the wall.

Sue always had a curiosity about pottery but has not tried it until she found Donna's ad in PennySaver. She had already practiced her hand at watercolor, drawing, and quilting. AAS degree in Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design from Farmingdale State College did not come amiss in the attuning of her eye to shape and beauty. Pottery had proven to be as interesting as expected and she delved into it with a passion.

Pot heated to 1000F draped with
horse hair.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Sue continued taking classes with Donna for 5-6 years, attended pottery workshops, joined Long Island Craft Guild and Potters Counsel. Her father found a potter's wheel at a garage sale thus laying a foundation for Sue's own studio. Over the years she organized her comfortable workspace, lined the walls with shelves storing pots at their many different stages of production. She built herself a raku kiln out of a galvanized garbage can, then acquired a large kiln and a small raku kiln for 2-3 pieces. The latter was a great addition, it enabled her to fire at any time of the year (with her first garbage can kiln she was limited to summer months when thermal shock was less of the issue) and allowed her to work on a small batch of pots, important when working on custom orders, not a small chunk of Sue's orders.

Horse hair pot with blue banding.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
The chance encounter with the horse hair pottery was a godsend. It enabled her to celebrate horses through pottery. Ever since she first seriously rode one at the age of 15 her life revolved around them. At 17 she bought her own horse, she trained and looked after horses, she successfully competed in the lady side saddle division in the National Horse Show at the Madison Square Garden and at the Hampton Classic. She now works full time as a horse farm manager.

Horse hair pottery.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
With her first horse hair pots she made gifts to her friends. Eventually she build a following in the industry. Many horse lovers want to have a meaningful memento of their beloved animals - a beautiful, carefully handcrafted pot with the permanent imprint of the tail hair. Sue is touched every time she is asked to make a custom pot.

You can find more information about Sue on her website She also has her own YouTube channel

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oyster Bay Day Arts Festival 2011

Oyster Bay Main Street Association and the Chamber of Commerce announce a juried art competition Oyster Bay Day Arts Festival 2011. The event takes place the weekend of June 4th and 5th. The festival coincides with the Bay Day festivities organized by the Oyster Bay's own WaterFront Center.

The show displays work in three age groups - Adult (Ages 18+), Young Adult (Ages 12 - 17), Children (Ages 8 - 11).

Adults show their works along the Audrey Avenue near the bandstand on Saturday, June 4th, 12 pm - 4 pm, in the best landscape, portrait, nude, still life, sculpture, and photography divisions.

Young Adults and Children compete for the first, second, and third prizes at Think Long Island First at 36 Audrey Avenue and Not Just Art at 183 South Street respectively, on Friday and Saturday, June 3rd and 4th.

Award ceremony takes place on Sunday, June 5th, at The Artists Club Gallery at 27 Berry Hill Road. Visitors will get a chance to cast their votes for the non-juried 'people's choice' award. 

Oyster Bay Day Arts Festival 2011 Application Form.

Please send your CDs and direct all other inquiries to the Main Street Association.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Garden writer Suzy Bales and her Long Island garden

Photo courtesy
of Suzy Bales
Jolanta and I enjoyed a rare privilege of a visit to the Centre Island garden of Suzy Bales.

Suzy authored 14 books devoted to the enjoyment and benefits of gardening of which the latest three we carry at Think Long Island First - 'Garden Bouquets and Beyond', 'The Garden in Winter', and 'The Down-To-Earth Gardener'. In addition to books, Suzy wrote numerous articles for The New York Times, Newsday, Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, and Huffintgon Post, among others. She also appeared frequently on ABC and NBC. Among the accolades she received for her work were the Garden Writer of the Year Award from the American Horticultural Society and the Quill and Trowel Awards by The Garden Writers of America.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Suzy's writing is a joy. Take the 'The Down-To-Earth Gardener' - Suzy describes hydrangeas as 'Shrubs with political aspirations, they change their flower color to fit the soil'. The story of the first outing in her better-than-diamonds dump truck with an impromptu demonstration of its capabilities to an awed audience of drivers at a truck stop is priceless.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Her books are filled with photographs depicting the beauty and colors of her garden at different seasons. As of early May, the time of our visit, her garden was full of blooming lilacs and apple trees. Late tulips were still glorious, blue forget-me-nots spread all around. We have toured the garden accompanied by Suzy's two friendly dogs, Teddy and Max. They added the contrasting and constantly moving patches of white to both sunny and shady areas of the garden.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
When on Long Island Suzy spends 4-5 hours a day in her garden, more in the spring. Her labor of love is an expression of a life-long passion for flowers. She extended her horticultural knowledge with classes at The New York Botanical Garden, met many growers while working for Burpee, had countless contacts with experts in the field either as a student or fellow lecturer at various events around the country and overseas.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Her advice for those who embark on an adventure of starting a garden - don't be afraid of trial and error. Learn to listen to what your garden tells you - if a plant thrives and reseeds in one spot grow more of, if it fails after three seasons, remove it. Use common sense. Don't use chemicals. Shred your leaves. Compost. Mulch to keep moisture in and weeds out. Plant an oak tree to keep a great diversity of native species around you.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
More information about the author can be found on her website

You may get a chance to visit her garden on June 15th as part of the Oyster Bay Garden Tour organized by the Oyster Bay Main Street Association. The event includes a tour of four private Oyster Bay gardens, a book signing by Suzy Bales, luncheon at the Planting Fields Arboretum, and a lecture by the Arboretum's director, Vincent Simeone.