Looking for a Weekend Excursion? Try Craft Shop Hopping
When I heard that Creel and Gow, the beloved cabinet of antique and handmade curiosities on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, just opened an outpost in Millbrook, N.Y., in order to have more space for its handcrafted furniture and textiles made by artisans in Morocco, where its owners, Jamie Creel and Marco Scarani, live for part of the year, it occurred to me that the area around Millbrook and in nearby Litchfield County, Conn., has become a mecca for craft. Not the chunky or cheeky minimalist Brooklynite-gone-upstate kind of craft, but the kind made by highly skilled longstanding practitioners, whose wares look most at home when paired with fine old patinated things. These sorts of history-friendly creations are the domain of people like Creel and Scarani — shopkeepers (and decorators and antiques dealers) who make keeping a shop seem like an art.
With the new location, Creel and Scarani join the interior and furniture designer Antony Todd, who favors a streamlined classicism, and who has traded in his Greenwich Village venue for an outpost in Millbrook. “This new location allows me the space and freedom to create a more casual atmosphere,” Todd says, “one where I can offer smaller objects like vases and jewelry and incorporate work from the growing roster of local makers I’ve been discovering.” The summer before the pandemic hit, the famed decorator Bunny Williams opened 100 Main Street in Falls Village, Conn., which sells the work of dozens of local craftspeople, along with the sort of vintage garden offerings — metal furniture, faux bois plant stands, lanterns — that used to populate Treillage, her now-defunct store in New York City. It is not surprising that all three of these places carry new items alongside older ones (though there are plenty of other spots where the proprietor is the shopkeeper and maker in one) — after all, today’s best craft pieces are tomorrow’s antiques. If you’re in the market for either or both, or if you simply enjoy looking at beautiful, well-made things, consider planning a day trip to visit some of the places below.
The Gallery at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
The old gift shop at the entrance to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the celebrated restaurant at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, was recently transformed into an airy gallery that opens out onto the display garden, filled with ideas for growing your own flowers and vegetables, and will focus on work created with materials from the property’s 80 acres. For its inaugural exhibition, up now, Abby Bangser, the creator of the craft and design fair Object & Thing, brought together seven artists, who worked in tandem with the arts and ecology team at the farm. The textile artist Megumi Shauna Arai dyed her patchwork noren, traditional Japanese fabric room dividers, with dahlias and marigolds from the cutting garden, sumac from the woods and leftover onion skins from the Blue Hill kitchen. The furniture-making duo behind Green River Project produced rustic tabletop vessels carved from salvaged black cherry wood, the potter Gregg Moore made plates from dug-up clay, the former Stone Barns chef in residence Johnny Ortiz formed decorative objects from clay that he sealed using a finish made with beeswax and grass-fed beef tallow and the ceramist Frances Palmer filled her fire-glazed wares with foraged branches and flowers. The show is on view by appointment through May 9, or without one to those eating at the restaurant or picking up one of Chef Dan Barber’s delicious ResourcED food boxes (part of a philanthropic carryout program started at the beginning of the pandemic), which would serve as a perfect picnic for your journey farther north.
Plain Goods, New Preston, Conn.
The exquisitely curated space of veteran shopkeeper Michael DePerno — I’ve been a fan since his SoHo days, when he had a Broome Street store called Hope & Wilder — and his partner, the designer Andrew Fry, Plain Goods, housed in a 19th-century shingle-style Victorian that was originally a community hall, is the kind of place that makes you want to transform your life to fit its wares. Alongside country-chic clothing from independent labels based in the U.K., Japan and elsewhere, as well as vintage clothing and antique furniture and tableware, are pieces by an ever-expanding group of craftspeople. Of particular note are the hand-forged iron and reed-handled knives by Yuri Santoku, who lives in the Japanese city of Seti; the handmade umbrellas, with slender maple-wood sticks and handles (no aluminum in sight) and available in a bespoke range of different colored waxed cotton, from one of the oldest makers in France; the hand-spun, hand-loomed indigo-dyed Indian khadi curtains from the Paris-based Khadi and Co; the simple biscuit stoneware pitchers, cups and bowls by the French potter Cécile Preziosa; and the large wheel-thrown stoneware vases by the celebrated American potter Warner Walcott, which come in a range of richly hued blue glazes, from pale saltwater to an inky almost black, all chosen by DePerno and Fry and exclusive to the shop. The pair also carry my go-to hand-dipped beeswax candles, made by a family in Spencertown, N.Y., and wonderfully fragrant olive oil soaps, by Susan Ryhanen and her artist-florist-farmer daughter, Sarah, of Saipua at their Worlds End Farm in Esperance, N.Y.
Privet House, New Preston, Conn.
Mixed in among the wonderful antiques and classic home designs by the likes of Georg Jensen at Privet House, owned by neighbors turned business partners Richard Lambertson, a co-founder of the handbag company Lambertson Truex, and Suzanne Cassano, a product developer who used to work at Calvin Klein, are items sourced from expert craftspeople near and far. Natural, neutrally toned materials predominate — there are bamboo mirrors and chairs, and pale wood tables and peg hooks. Also of note are the rustic hand-carved bowls, each hewn from a single block of hardwood in Peru and perfect for salad; large cheese and charcuterie boards fashioned in Hungary from old European pine; delicate ankole-horn bowls from Uganda; Tunisian olive wood honey pots, bowls and salt cellars; and a charming selection of Japanese ceramics for everyday use. As for more local talents, the pair sell the work of the ceramists Eric Bonnin, John Sheppard and Lindsey Schneider, as well as that of another neighbor, Dana Brandwein of DBO Home.
Pergola, New Preston, Conn.
With Pergola, located in a colonial-style house, David Whitman and Peter Stiglin have created a shop inflected with their love for the nature and the craftsmanship of Japan, where they go every year to source antiques, like 18th-century teapots and calligraphy panels, and contemporary pieces. It’s especially well stocked with items meant to outfit a garden, summer table or outdoor living space, such as rusticated laurel benches and seven-foot-tall garden obelisks by a local woodworker; vessels made from river stones gathered on Maine shores and then cored out by Lee Spiller; handmade terra-cotta pots with a scallop pattern below the rim that’s based on an 1860 design for the royal castle at Fredensborg, north of Copenhagen; and an array of glazed pottery — my favorite is a fluted deep green high fire clay vase that seems to call for an arrangement of cherry blossom branches or chrysanthemum.
Dumais Made, Bantam, Conn.
The brainchild of the couple Charlie and Kevin Dumais, a lighting designer and an interior designer, this pottery studio and shop offers ceramic lamps, pendants and sconces of the pair’s own design, as well as their own ceramic trays, vessels and candleholders. Their work, which tends toward shapes inspired by modernist sculpture, is formed from locally sourced clay and glazed in earthy tones that recall sand and dune grasses, the sea and the forest.
Bantam Tileworks, Bantam, Conn.
Darin Ronning and Travis Messinger used to have a shop in downtown Manhattan that sold artisanal ceramics. Today, they make their own wares. And though they specialize in, yes, tiles — working with wet clay, which they wedge, roll, dry, cut, dry again, fire, glaze and then fire again all on site at their studio and showroom, which used to house the local pharmacy — they also make platters, pitchers and vases. All of their pieces are beautifully hued — at this point, they’ve tested some 8,000 glazes to find their favorites.
Guy Wolff Pottery, Bantam, Conn.
A dedicated craftsman with deep knowledge of his material, Guy Wolff has since the 1970s been making the sort of classic terra-cotta pots and planters destined to become heirlooms. His work references both 18th- and 19th-century English flowerpots and centuries-old Asian vases, though he’s also gleaned much inspiration from something his painter father once said to him: “Tradition is not a form to be imitated but the discipline that gives integrity to the new.” Made and fired in his beautifully restored wood barn are his own pots (labeled G. Wolff), and those of his wife, Erica Warnock (labeled G. Wolff Pottery). In addition, you will find the pots Wolff has designed for Seibert & Rice, which are produced in Italian workshops and from fine red clay sourced from outside of Florence.
Creel and Gow, Millbrook, N.Y.
Opening in mid-May, Creel and Gow’s 5,000-square-foot Millbrook space is filled with the traditional Tangier-made rattan settees, chairs, consoles and tables that Jamie Creel has long loved and wished he had room to sell. Also from Tangier are newly woven one-of-a-kind wool rugs, and a line of hand-loomed linen napkins, place mats and tablecloths designed by Creel’s partner, Marco Scarani, and produced in the Fondouk Chejra, near the medina. Scarani has also commissioned intricately embroidered table linens from a women’s cooperative in Cairo to celebrate the new location, on the property of which are two greenhouses that Creel’s friend the garden designer Anthony Bellomo asked to take over to start a nursery. Orangerie, which opened earlier this month, is dedicated to specialty plants like auricula and topiary — and offers decorative garden objects like gnarled wood stump plant stands and terra-cotta platters with handles made to look like asparagus spears that live in an attached barn that Creel commissioned. They made a set of doors that lead from one space to the next, so customers can move freely between the two.
Antony Todd Home, Millbrook, N.Y.
A floral, event, interior and furniture designer, the multitalented Antony Todd moved his namesake New York City shop into this larger space, which he outfitted with rough concrete floors and a ceiling cover of raw painter’s canvas, complete with canvas tape on the seams, this month. In addition to antiques and his own elegant custom chairs, sofas, tables and mirrors, he’s now showing a range of smaller handcrafted objects. There are bisque white oversize ceramic flowers by Lisa Conway, which resemble unfurling peonies or the calyx of a trumpet vine while also maintaining a feeling of abstraction. Conway’s scallop-edged blue and white bowls are also on offer, and Todd has designed a collection of Iznik-style plates made by artisans in Istanbul who ground quartz into the clay and glaze to achieve a vibrant turquoise color. He’s also stocked simple, delicate gold jewelry by the New York artisan Selina King and dramatic, sculptural rings and pendants, featuring uncarved Jaipuri citrine, obsidian and tourmaline, by the Afghan architect and jeweler Belquis Zahir, along with vintage doilies embroidered with eerie eyeballs and other body parts by the London-based Turkish artist Izzet Ers and watercolors of scarabs by the New York artist Mita Corsini Bland. Tying it all together is a selection of large potted tropical plants like black and striped alocasias, known as elephant ears for the size and the shape of their foliage, and unusual palms, as well as seasonal flowers like hellebores and hyacinths, which hark back to Todd’s first love.
Jane Herold Pottery, West Cornwall, Conn.
A true local treasure, Jane Herold is that nearly extinct thing, a village potter who aspires to make everything the locals need for everyday use, and her exquisite stoneware is just that. Having apprenticed with Michael Cardew, who was himself the first apprentice of Bernard Leach at Leach’s famed studio in St. Ives, Cornwall, Herold now works happily alone in her studio (though shoppers are very welcome — just call first to make sure she’s there), doting on each pitcher or cup or plate in the hopes that it will inspire a similar sense of care in its user, something she believes that most items we use every day, like cellphones, cars and microwaves, fail to do. She also studied for a short time in Japan, and her work is imbued with the same sort of beauty, one rooted in structural elegance and functionality, that is found in Japanese folk art, or mingei. One can sense that Herold treasures every aspect of making her pottery, even the preparatory work of mixing clay, sifting ashes for glazes and scrubbing the kiln shelves.
100 Main Street, Falls Village, Conn.
Bunny Williams’s big, bright emporium, a former grocery store that, in 2019, she stripped down to its bones and slathered with white paint, features the work of dozens of regional residents whose work she had long admired. She partnered with Christina Van Hengel to run the shop, highlights of which include Tom Stoenner’s hand-blown iced tea glasses, rattan baskets woven by Wendy Jensen in Massachusetts and willow ones woven by Jesica Clark of Willow Vale Farm in Dutchess County, N.Y., and ceramic ware by local luminaries Christopher Spitzmiller and Frances Palmer. Spitzmiller, who is sought out for his ceramic gourd lamps, has recently branched out into colorful tabletop items, and Palmer has begun wood firing some of her work at her home studio in Weston, Conn., embracing the serendipity that comes with this process and hoping for glazes with more texture, a departure from the clearer white, black and blue-and-white pottery for which she is best known.
RT Facts, Kent, Conn.
Greg Randall, a veteran of Madison Avenue antiques shops and of the old Chelsea flea market on 26th Street, and his wife, Natalie Randall, a designer and product manager, have created a formula that is half interesting antiques from around the world and half contemporary furnishings that they design themselves and have fabricated by their own team of metal and woodworkers. That their designs — mirrors, lighting, seating, chests, garden furnishings and even fireplace screens — mix so well with the antiques they’re shown with, as well as those they aren’t, has made their shop a relied-upon source for interior designers, and for everyday savvy craft shoppers, too.
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