“I’ve always been passionate about everything antique or vintage,” says jewelry designer and silversmith Tom Laraia. His passion drives his creation of one-of-a-kind bracelets, rings, earrings and necklaces made from a rainbow of polished sea glass and repurposed materials set in elegantly rendered sterling silver. His Tommy Conch brand has become synonymous with uncompromising quality and craftsmanship.
When your most formative years are spent on an island only 1.25 miles long and half a mile wide, nature becomes your most constant companion and its beauty embeds itself in your soul.
When does a screaming, crying customer spell success? When that customer is a child who doesn’t want to leave artist Aaron Nuland’s wonderful world of eco-friendly, handcrafted wooden toys. Aaron’s wife and business partner, Erin Nuland, says parents have a hard time leaving, too: “They often say our toys remind them of those they had when they were children.
“My ideas often come when I’m working on a piece I may have made many times—all of a sudden a new iteration comes to mind!” says Tygart River Pottery artist Kate Harward. “I rarely sit down and design; the ideas seem to flow while I’m working or perusing articles or books.” Harward feeds her creativity with diverse influences ranging from extensive international travel to studying Japan’s highly decorated pots of the Jomon period, large Chinese jars and Korean celadons.
What do crazy-quilt fabrics, roller skates, tiaras, fuel cans, croquet mallets and funky jewelry have in common? They set fiber sculptor Kent Epler’s mental “Rolodex of ideas” spinning. “Inspiration can come from anywhere,” he says. “The most unlikely finds can be the basis for a wild new character!” Theater, energy and outside-the-box exuberance are Epler’s…
“My influences have always been personal,” says ceramic artist Laurie Pollpeter Eskenazi. “Since I was young, women’s traditional handcrafted work has intrigued me. My grandmother’s house was filled with doilies, needlework and hand tatted lace, and each piece came with a memory attached. In her era, women made ‘crazy’ quilts from small scraps of fabric…
After almost 20 years in the rat race, Jim Cohen had enough. As a corporate attorney who worked 50-plus hours a week, he was feeling stunted and unhappy. It wasn’t until he discovered a love for working with his hands, creating beautiful and functional pieces to honor his heritage, that he found his way.
For Patti Dowse, founder of Erda Leather, happiness can be found in a piece of American deerskin or recycled fabric. And for the past 40 years, this exuberance has come through in every one of her funky, distinctive handbags.
Originally a science illustrator, Dowse bought her first piece of leather during a lunch break while working in New York City. Inspired to make herself a handbag, the self-taught artist was immediately hooked. “When another woman asked me to make one for her, I couldn’t wait to get started,” she remembers. She opened Erda Leather in 1971.