Like it says in the song, there’s nothing like the real thing, baby. Diamonds? Puppies? Even food is tastier and better for you when made from materials that are close to the source. In Italy, they call it the “Slow Food” movement. It’s catching on here, too, as we start to appreciate regional traditions and locally available ingredients. We want to know from where, who, and by what processes our consumer items come to us.
In my world, this translates to my manmade surroundings. My home is more than 200 years old. The hand hewn timbers show the marks and some logs still have the bark on them. They tell a story of real people and naturally occurring materials. I also collect and proudly display art and craft work by people who I have met. Their stories are now part of my story and I enjoy their pieces every day.
In Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book, Future Shock, he predicted the stress induced by too much change in too short a time. He wrote about the downside of massive amounts of information piled upon us in our love affair with technology, overwhelming the human spirit. Interestingly, he also predicted a pendulum swing response, in the form of a renewed hunger for craft and art in the everyday.
Here in the north country, we are fortunate to live our own kind of slow movement. We take time to note and celebrate the beauty around us, to take time. This year, as you think about how you would like to embrace the season, I propose Slow Gifting, a movement toward finding authentic instead of mass-produced objects.
Seek out the creative makers in your area, and think about how their pieces can enhance quality of life for you and your friends and family. This is a perfect time to shop with an eye to regional tradition, authentic materials, and your entrepreneurial community. Have fun “slow gifting” this year. It will be memorable.
COOPERATIVES AND ARTS ORGANIZATIONS
These are one-stop-shops offering work by multiple artists at each location.
53 Main St., Canton
21 James St., Alexandria Bay
Fibonacci 321 Gallery
321 James St., Clayton
North Country Arts Council
52 Public Square, Watertown
Lake St. Lawrence Art Gallery
10 Main St., Waddington
INDIVIDUAL ARTIST STUDIOS
For the more adventurous and curious, here are a few favorites. The following are professionals who also have gallery and studio spaces that are worth investigating. Here, you have the opportunity to talk to the person who made the item, and to get personal assistance in learning about and choosing just the right thing.
Scott Ouderkirk, stained glass, illustration, 291 River Road, Hammond, glassgoat.com
Scott and his family run the art studio and sustainable farming project. They also keep bees, goats, and always have great projects in the queue.
Lisa Nortz, jeweler, 8270 Soft Maple Road, Croghan, silverbenchjewelry.com
A second-generation silversmith, Lisa does all sorts of things with silver. She hammers, bends, braids, solders and sets stones. You will say, “ah” as you wind your way through the woods to her place.
Greg Lago, printmaking and sculpture, 12975 House Road, Clayton, wingedbull.com
Greg is a Renaissance Man and knows at least a little bit about everything. He has a ton of information about local history that translates to his prints of scenes, stories, ideas about life. The work is truly magical, unusual in design and perspective. His workspace is off the beaten track, but only a few minutes from the village, and a very interesting location to soak in.
Larry Barone, painter, 115 W. Main St., Sackets Harbor, thegalleryfineart.com
Larry has been working as an artist nearly every day since retiring as an art educator. His pastels, mostly local scenery are nuanced, richly dimensional. He is a master. His bright and airy studio is on the main road in Sackets, where he always has a piece on the easel.
Cathie Ellsworth, clay, Paddock Art and Antiques, 1 Public Square, Suite 6, Watertown
Cathie makes lovely and unique hand-built serving bowls, platters and raku. Her daughter, Claire also sells drawings at the shop, with a focus on charcoal. Both women are certified art educators, with years of experience as trained artists. Their space is in the oldest covered mall in the United States, the Paddock Arcade.
Michael Ringer, painting, bronze sculpture and books, 47382 Dingman Point Road, Alexandria Bay, michaelringer.com
Michael, another former art educator, has been making art his full-time business since 1990. He has also published books of his work, highlighting life on the river.
In the third and final category, and panning further out, here are links to art trails, mapped overviews of the hotspots. These links throw open the doors to all sorts of local art world connections that are quietly bubbling around us:
NNY ART TRAIL
NNYArtTrail.com. New in 2016, this trail covers studios and galleries in Jefferson-Lewis-St. Lawrence counties.
Sponsored by the St. Lawrence Arts Councilin Potsdam, this trail covers artists in the St. Lawrence County region.
Initiated by the Adirondack North Country Association, this Art Trail covers everything north of Interstate 90 and east of Interstate 81. It is sortable by location, materials, name of artist and/or gallery.
Kari Zelson Robertson is a clay artist. Her studio is at 28279 state Route 126, Rutland Center. She makes sculpture to use, hand-built and wheel thrown serving bowls, vases and drinking vessels. Her studio is attached to her farmhouse. She runs a fair weather gallery next door, open by appointment in the fall and winter. Contact her at karizelsonrobertson.com.