Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Signature 81

           I have always loved crafts – painting, jewelry making, sewing, needlepoint, knitting…  As a child, my bookshelves became filled with craft books, and over the years, that artistic library has grown.  I grew up water color painting with my grandmother and claiming art as my favorite school subject. 

            A woman I work with, Maimun Khan, suggested I check out a new studio opening in New Hartford.  Signature 81 is located at 9273 Kellogg Road and offers a wide range of outlets for those with artistic inclinations.  You can purchase goods, take classes, and connect with other crafters.  “Imagine…create…re-purpose…redesign…A destination for your artistic side,” boasts the website, 

            Signature 81 offered a soft opening on March 1st and 2nd, where guests could tour the area, speak with the owner and instructors, gather information about upcoming classes, and view the gift shop.  Check the website for information on the hours of operation. The website also offers a map and driving directions for those unfamiliar with the area. 

            I took my boyfriend with me on Friday, the 1st, after I got out of work.  We knew the studio was in the shopping plaza near Packey’s Pub, so we parked in the parking lot and wandered the shops until we found it marked by a sign.  After you open the door, you venture down the stairs into the building’s basement.  Maybe it’s just me, but I found that deliciously exciting.  Basements have always fascinated me as a source of earthly wonder, a storage pot of tools and antiques (or maybe I’m the only one with a cool cellar at home). 

            The owner, Crystal Maury, was occupied, so her husband showed us through the rooms.   The first reminded me of a curiosity shop at a resort area.  The brightly covered walls beckoned us into the world of goods available for purchase.  A jewelry display caught my attention, while my boyfriend zeroed in on a mosaic guitar.  Many of the items, such as homemade greeting cards, are projects you will be able to make in the offered classes. 

            We made our way into the back rooms.  One involved furniture, some of it refurbished and the rest waiting to be refurbished.  Seeing the renovated desk had me hooked.  I have oodles of old furniture in my grandmother’s house that could use an update, but I’ve never known where to start with that.  As soon as I got home, I walked through my house to find items might be best for that, such as an old wooden vanity and a marble table.  There will be classes on what to do to make your old belongings sparkle with new life, and there will also be an option to drop off your furniture to have it redone for you. 

            We wandered into the other back room, where we got to speak with an instructor, Cathy Marsh.  When I asked her what her favorite crafts are, she replied, “Whatever I’m doing at the time.”  The other instructors include Julie Angerosa and Maimun Khan.  Their biographies can be found on the website under “Teacher Bios.” 

             I also picked up a list of classes.  Among those that will be offered include T-shirt artwork, egg coloring with natural dyes, surface & tabletop faux finish painting, absolute beginning drawing, adventure in intuitive painting, and intro to mosaic.  That one really caught my attention.  I’ve fallen in love with mosaic artwork since visiting the display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The class will teach the basic techniques of direct application mosaic by using a small picture frame to decorate for a price of forty-dollars, materials included.  All the classes are likewise reasonably priced.  Please check the website under the “classes” link for an updated list.  Classes specifically meant for children or adults will be labeled.  Any children five-years-old or younger must be accompanied by an adult.  The website offers a submission process under “contact me” where you can provide your address and email to be added to the customer list.  You’ll then receive class schedules and notifications of special events. 

            My coworker, Maimun Khan, will be offering creative gatherings free of charge.  For a creative gathering, you can bring anything you’re currently working on.  Connect with other crafters and get a glimpse of new ideas and projects you might not have considered.  Maimun has lately been into shaping with polymer clay and I can’t wait to explore that medium more with her. 

            If you’re well rounded on a craft and would like to teach a class, Signature 81 is open to your ideas.  Share your creativity with the rest of the community.  This is a great opportunity to connect with other crafters on an instructor level and add a job to your resume. 

            After the tour of Signature 81, I got to sit down with Crystal Maury on one of the bright refurbished couches.  According to Crystal, “I wanted a place to explore and create, and have people to share it with me.”  When asked about her favorite form of artwork, she explaining she’s “completely excited about re-purposing items.  One of the artists at Signature 81 uses wood flooring ripped out of an old house as a canvas for artwork, another broken dishes as mosaic pieces for mirrors, another creates mini vases out of light bulbs.  I love taking something previously loved and giving it a twist, so it can have another chance at being loved again.”  How inspiring! 

            I couldn’t resist questioning her about which art project she is the most proud of.  Her answer made me smile: “I once painted my nephew’s bedroom all camouflage from floor to ceiling.  It took a long time, but I’ll never forget the smile that made it all worthwhile.” 

The atmosphere is warm and comfortable, from the laughter of the workers to the cheerful decorations.  I’ve taken art classes in the past where I’ve gone into cold studios and listened to an instructor lecture.  I’ve felt incompetent when my artwork came out “worse” than the other works around me.  Signature 81 completely banishes those feelings.  Whether you’re a novice or a master, you’ll feel welcomed and appreciated.  With the variety of ideas, you’ll feel as if you stepped into Pinterest or Etsy!  When I mentioned Pinterest to Crystal, she said, “I see something I like and just start to figure out how to make it.  I have never thought about making my own book, but who knows what can happen in the future.” 

Crafting is also a great way to calm down in a hectic life.  “There were a lot of ups and downs in my childhood,” Crystal said, “so  art has always been something that could take my mind off what was going on around me.  I’ve taken classes on painting, drawing, and jewelry metalworking.” 

            Even if you’re not into making crafts yourself, the storefront is perfect for finding that household trinket guests will ooh over, or the ideal gift for a friend.  Please feel free to email if you have any questions.  If you’re a fan of Pinterest, you can follow Signature 81 on the website.  In case you don’t have Internet access, you can reach Signature 81 by telephone at 269-7799 or through the mail: 9273 Kellogg Road, New Hartford, NY 13413.

            I asked Crystal if this is her first endeavor for things like Signature 81.  She replied, “This is the first time I’ve done anything like this, and I’m still seeing what Signature 81 can become.  On one part I want people to learn to go out of their comfort zones and learn to use their imagination and create things, and on the other part I want our community to have pride in what our artists can make and be able to buy and support them.” 

            After we left, my boyfriend mentioned his uncle would enjoy visiting a place like Signature 81.  The following day, we heard that his uncle was going to the Saturday soft opening! 

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