NNY crafters see opportunity in Etsy’s new definition of ‘handmade’

Thelma L. Hamilton of Watertown is a maker of painted ornaments who does about 20 percent of her business on Etsy, the online craft sales site. Justin Sorensen / Watertown Daily Times

Thelma L. Hamilton of Watertown is a maker of painted ornaments who does about 20 percent of her business on Etsy, the online craft sales site. Justin Sorensen / Watertown Daily Times

Etsy, the handmade and vintage e-commerce site that has nearly a million sellers of everything from wool scarves to soap, has struggled with its identity as a mecca for small-scale artisans for its nearly decade-long existence. The struggle was captured in a terms of a service policy that grew to 14,000 words in an attempt to enumerate all of the gray areas in what qualified as “handmade.” Then, in September, Etsy changed its guidelines, allowing sellers to hire help for production or shipping, and even to forge partnerships with manufacturers.

The change has generated some anxiety among artisans who want to preserve the site’s small-scale, human-driven provenance and raised fears that larger sellers would infiltrate, taking a cut of these crafters’ livelihood.

But many sellers, including a number of north country merchants, believe the changes will help creative businesses grow and will perhaps change little about the site, which is expected to exceed $1 billion in total annual transactions this year.

“I think if it’s handmade it’s not going to be an issue,” said Thelma L. Hamilton, who has been hand-crafting holiday ornaments from her Watertown home for more than 20 years. “We’re already competing with worldwide merchants.” [Read more...]

Forging a masterpiece

Black smith John Scarlett uses sandpaper in the finishing work after sculpting a leaf out of steel in his workshop at his home in Rossie. Photo by Melanie Kimbler-Lago/ NNY Business

 Iron craftsman John Scarlett to headline TI Arts Center exhibit [Read more...]

Summer lineup at the Clayton Opera House

Comedian Rob Schneider kicks off the summer season at the Clayton Opera House on June 20. Photo courtesy Neil Visel Photography.

CLAYTON — When officials at the Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund were planning the summer 2013 season for the Clayton Opera House, some good-natured debate broke out.

“Each year, the shows seem to be getting bigger with more national names,” said TIPAF Executive Director Joseph M. Gleason. “There was some debate whether we wanted to continue that or stick with smaller shows and more of them.”

A compromise was struck. [Read more...]

Clayton Opera House, TIPAF director rediscovers his artistic stride

‘We try to make everybody welcome here at the opera house,’ says Joseph M. Gleason, Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund executive director. Photo by Justin Sorensen/Watertown Daily Times.

CLAYTON — Joseph M. Gleason has found his stride again as theater manager.

You could see it in the swift way he moved from his third floor office to the first floor stage of the Clayton Opera House on the morning of March 8 as he and a crew prepared for the first show of the spring season. Questions were answered and directions given. Within the hour, students in grades 3 to 5 from three schools were to burst through the doors for Garry Krinsky’s “Toying With Science” matinee. [Read more...]

Growing community through the arts

New St. Lawrence County Arts Council director ready for challenge with a ‘world of experience’ behind her

Rebekah Wilkins-Pepiton, new executive director of the St. Lawrence County Arts Council. Photo courtesy of the Arts Council.

Colorado, Texas, Idaho, Alaska, New York and China: Rebekah L. Wilkins-Pepiton has seen them all.

Although she’s been across the United States and the globe, Ms. Wilkins-Pepiton has most recently settled in as a St. Lawrence County resident. She brings her worldly travels and all of the experiences that go with them to her new post as executive director of the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

“It’s been great, the community here has been incredibly welcoming; it’s probably the most welcoming place I’ve ever lived,” she said. “My perspective is a bit skewed, because I was just in Southern China.” [Read more...]

Arts Council has raised two-thirds of the money needed for Screen on the Square

Michael C. Miller, North Country Arts Council president, and Patricia I. Tague look over plans for the Enchanted Gardens arts gala and family day at Thompson Park in the summer of 2011. Photo by Amanda Morrison/Watertown Daily Times.

The North Country Arts Council is only six months and $50,000 away from the construction phase of the Screen on the Square.

The multipurpose facility will bring independent films and local theater to downtown Watertown. It is the biggest project for the council, which is busy preparing for several initiatives this year. [Read more...]

Editor’s Picks: Favorite photos from 2012

One of our favorite parts of putting together a new issue of NNY Living is sitting down with the photo staff to see what they’ve come up with for the pages of the magazine. We’ve gone back through some of the best photos from our first year in publication and compiled them here. Some have been seen in print, others haven’t, but they all offer a one-of-a-kind look at living in Northern New York.


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A custom-crafted Christmas season

North country artisans produce wares perfect for gifting

Photo by Amanda Morrison

To celebrate the upcoming holiday season, NNY Living is featuring 12 gifts that would be perfect for under the Christmas tree. With the regional push to support local vendors and artisans during the holiday shopping season, we decided there was no better place to look for these exceptional gifts than right in our own backyards. This year’s holiday gift guide features the wares of artisans from Malone to Holland-Patent and everywhere in between. If you’re looking for something unique, one-of-a-kind and custom made, the answer may just be right here.


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Remington festival draws crowd despite being forced indoors

Shelly L. Pike, Canton, dressed as Eva Remington, waves from the back of a horse-drawn carriage Saturday while traveling along Main Street in Canton during the annual Remington Arts Festival. Photo by Jason Hunter/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — The artistic legacy of Frederic S. Remington was celebrated once again despite inclement weather Saturday at the 11th Remington Arts Festival.

The rain drove most events indoors, but horse-drawn wagons rumbled through downtown Canton as volunteers from Canton High School, dressed in period clothing, pointed out important sites from village history. Most were related to Mr. Remington, the Canton native born in 1861 who went on to earn national acclaim for his illustrations of the American West.

“Even though it’s been sort of drizzly and rainy weather, we’ve had a pretty good crowd,” said Jay V. Kepes, a senior at Canton High School who donned a top hat for his role as tour guide. “People seem really interested in the tours.”

The going was a bit rough for the wagons during some stretches because of the heavy construction under way on Canton Street.

[Read more...]

Passion, paint and people: Following one-time dream brings unexpected rewards

Wilson Bickford, a professional artist and instructor, helps one of his students during a class at the Windance Art Gift Store in Massena. Photo by Melanie Kimbler-Lago.

Wilson Bickford loves what he does. He is a professional artist, instructor and author, and he thrives within every second of it. From Albany to the north country, Mr. Bickford drives his passion into budding artists, eager to learn the craft. But like many of us, he didn’t think following a passion would pay off. He was wrong.

“I always had the desire, but I just didn’t want to put the time into it. I didn’t think it would be lucrative. So I focused on music instead. I was 14 when I heard my older brother play guitar and sing. I wanted to do the same, so I started devoting all my time to practicing music.”

[Read more...]