Local artisans work wonders with fiber, wood, ceramic, glass, and more.
Made In Westchester
Photography by Phil Mansfield
What’s the difference between an artist and an artisan? Well, if our current crop of top-notch crafters is any indication, not a whole lot. Artisans are thought to be driven by “skill,” that is, they practice a craft, as opposed to artists, who are courted by “The Muse”—at least that’s what we’re told. But hey—why split hairs? We know artists who are crafty and crafters who are artistic. Here’s our pick of the best of the latter group—all right in—or near—the county.
Fiber Artist | Cortlandt Manor
The Artisan: Susan Obrant credits her grandmother with teaching her how to crochet when she was eight years old. But it wasn’t until four years ago (when a woman wanted to know where Obrant had bought her purse—she’d made it, of course) that she picked up her crochet needles for good.
The Work: Obrant’s clothing and accessories include sensuous tunics, vests, coats, and sweaters as well as lovely purses, hats, wraps, and “gauntlets” (crocheted cuffs worn on the wrists). She uses yarns from around the world and adds antique beads, whimsical buttons, and even curtain tassels as embellishments.
What It Costs: Obrant’s hats and gauntlets start at $100. “Goddess Wraps,” crocheted collars that can be draped over the shoulders or slipped over the hips, are $400 to $500, while sweaters start at $500. You can pick up a purse at prices ranging from $400 to $1,500. For a real splurge, Obrant suggests her “Aida” tunic, designed in shades of shimmering metallic purple, rust, cream, and gold, which costs $2,000 to $4,000. “It’s perfect to wear to the opera,” she says.
Where to See/Buy It: You can find Obrant’s wearable art at Crafts at Lyndhurst (both the spring and fall shows this year). Or, if you can’t wait till then, set up an appointment to come to her Cortlandt Manor studio by calling (914) 734-7490 or visit her website at www.susanobrant.com. That way, you can buy or commission works.
Glass Artist | White Plains
The Artisan: Twenty-five-year-old glass artist David Licata was a sophomore at the State University of New York at New Paltz when he took a jewelry class. “That’s when I fell in love with glass,” he says. Today, he exhibits his glass creations in more than a dozen gallery shows. When Licata’s not creating his torch-blown objects d’art, he is busy sharing his passion for his craft with the next generation by teaching classes at the Brookfield Craft Center in Connecticut.
The Work: Working with his hand-held torch and rods of glass in the basement studio of his parents’ White Plains home, Licata twists, pulls, bends, and tweaks the glass to form soaring trees with intricate branches that shoot out like neurons. He also manufactures embracing lovers with root-like feet, decorative flowers and animals, and a new line of glass chain-mail jewelry. “My work is inspired by natural forms,” he says. “I enjoy hiking and exploring, and I’m constantly aware of my environment.” Among his most exciting projects is a collaboration with fiber artist Debora Muhl, whose deconstructed sweet-grass baskets are interwoven with Licata’s spindly sandblasted glass branches.
What It Costs: Licata’s glass trees range from $50 for a five-inch-tall one to $800 for a 12-inch one decorated with birds and a tire swing, while his intertwined lovers—great for wedding and anniversary gifts—cost from $65 to $185. His collaborations with Muhl come at a much higher price tag, starting at $4,000 and soaring up to $13,000.
Where to See/Buy It: Locally, Licata’s glass creations are available at the Eclectic Collector in Katonah, but his collaborations with Muhl are sold only at the Snyderman Gallery in Philadelphia. From March 30 to May 4, Licata’s glass chain-mail creations will be part of a show he’s curating at the Brookfield Craft Center called. You can see examples of his work at www.glassartists.org/licata and www.deboramuhl.com
Jewelry Designer/Briarcliff Manor
The Artisan: Deborah Pangle took up jewelry designing in the early 1990s. Her jaw-dropping designs, sold in some 100 stores across the country and worn by a number of celebrities including Carly Simon, Naomi Judd, and Trudie Styler, have received two World Gold Council Blue Ribbon awards.
The Work: Her current collection of limited-edition and one-of-a-kind 18-karat yellow gold necklaces are fit for what W Jewelry magazine calls a “modern-day Cleopatra.” In fact, Pangle notes many of the ideas for her jewelry are “influenced by designs dating back to ancient Egyptian, Etruscan, and Roman civilizations, as well as royal pieces of French, English, Indian, and Russian origin.” The necklaces, which, she says, “can be worn individually or layered to achieve a variety of looks,” feature pendants and charms that are designed in both highly polished and satin finishes, then set ablaze with gemstones, including rare Sri Lankan spinels (in the sapphire family) and colored diamonds in shades of yellow, green, and black.
What It Costs: Prices range from $800 for a gold necklace with freshwater and South Sea pearls to $15,000 for the “Czarina,” one of her award-winning pieces.
Where to See/Buy It: Pangle’s work is available exclusively at Desires by Mikolay in Chappaqua (914-238-2223) and can be viewed online at www.deborahpangle.com and www.desiresbymikolay.com. Don’t miss her Valentine’s Day trunk show at the store on Saturday, February 9, when you can expect to see her signature 18-karat gold jewelry with lots of red rubies and pink tourmalines—the perfect gifts to make any lover swoon.
Muralist and Decorative Painter/ New Rochelle
Artisan: Carol Guagenti has been creating art for as long as she can remember. However, it was while working in a picture-framing gallery 10 years ago that she started making a series of mats with crackle, color-wash, and gold-leaf finishes. From there, Guagenti expanded into decorative painting and then mural design, working on more than 25 houses a year.
The Work: Say goodbye to boring white walls. Guagenti will decorate them in a variety of alluring styles, ranging from subtle color washes to textured sandstone and Venetian plaster finishes. She can also faux paint, gold-leaf, and stencil anything in your house, from floor moldings to fireplace mantles. But what makes her stand out in a crowd are her incredible murals, which include trompe l’oeil trellised patios leading out to blooming gardens, underwater scenes teeming with schools of tropical fish, and skies filled with giant clouds and ethereal doves.
What It Costs: Plan to spend about $1,700 to have an average-sized room color washed ($5.50 a square foot). Prices go up from there for more intricate faux painting ($15 to $20 a square foot) and murals ($25 to $50 a square foot). Looking to create a real statement? On the high end, Guagenti painted a panoramic mural on the four walls of a dining room in Croton-on-Hudson—featuring an African landscape complete with waterfalls, elephants, and a herd of zebras.
The Cost: $30,000.
Where to See/Buy It: Guagenti will come to your home and bring a portfolio of examples of her work. “That way I can get a sense of the client’s style and see what the lighting and color palette is in their house,”
she says. Set an appointment by calling (914) 235-8464 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
The Artisan: When India-native Reena Kashyap moved to Dubai, she decided to check out classes at the local art center. “The only space available was in the clay class, and the rest is history,” she says. After moving to the United States and settling in Rye in 1986, Kashyap took pottery classes and spent several summers at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina before becoming the director of the Clay Art Center in Port Chester in 1997.
The Work: Most of Kashyap’s creations are both decorative and functional, ranging from elegant yet sturdy wheel-thrown dinnerware—mugs, bowls, and dishes—to serving platters and vases. She also has started making decorative tiles. Kashyap’s recent ceramics, created from creamy white porcelain clay thrown on a potter’s wheel, are covered in a beautiful traditional Japanese glaze that turns serene shades of green, orange, and white when high-fired in the art center’s gas kiln. For a finishing touch, Kashyap paints on whimsical patterns in shimmering gold and brown tones which, she says, are “designs from my Indian heritage.”
What It Costs: “I want my pieces to be affordable so people can buy them and use them,” Kashyap says. “Hopefully, it will start them on a journey to purchase more handmade work.” You can start your own journey by buying a mug for $35, a dinner plate for $55, or indulge yourself and buy a beautifully glazed and decorated 16-inchsquare platter for $250.
Where to See/Buy It: Kashyap’s work can be viewed by appointment at the Clay Art Center. For further information, call (914) 937-2047 or visit www.clayartcenter.org.
The Artisan: Matko Peckay began working with wood when he was in his early 20s, crafting mahogany racing boats in his native town of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and then taking jobs as a carpenter while attending the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. Inspired by the “clean, spare lines of Scandinavian furniture,” and specifically the designs of renowned California woodworker Sam Maloof, the self-taught Peckay created his first loveseat in 1994. Today, his loveseats, armchairs, rocking chairs, and tables are sold nationally (he even sold a piece in Switzerland), and he’s been asked to exhibit two times at the prestigious Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show. The Work: Created from a wide selection of beautiful woods, each piece of Peckay’s furniture boasts a rich color, from pale yellow to dark brown. Their highly polished, buttery sheen results from multiple layers of applied oil and wax.
What It Costs: Peckay’s chairs, which he says “can take up to three-hundred hours to make,” cost $4,700 (a loveseat is $6,700). Not ready to fork over the big bucks? His handcrafted wooden bowls start at $600.
Where to See/Buy It: You can set up an appointment to see Peckay’s furniture in the 128-year-old house he and his wife, Jeannette, are restoring. Or wait until the spring when the couple opens their home for an annual crafts show, called Touched by Design, featuring the work of a handful of gifted local artisans. This year it will be held on Mother’s Day weekend, May 9 to 11. Call (914) 945-0706 for further information or visit www.matkopeckay.com or www.touchedbydesign.org.
Laura Joseph Mogil is a freelance writer residing in Briarcliff Manor. She frequently writes about the arts and design for Westchester Magazine, Westchester Home, and the New York Times.