Member Peggy Gray has been a member of Valley Artisans Market since 2014 where she sells her handmade clothing. Here is her story:
Peggy Gray grew up in a family of sewers. Her grandmother, mom and aunts all sewed for as long as she can remember. “They made what were called broomstick skirts in the 1950s,” says Peggy. “They all had about 50 of them with wide elastic belts to match. My mother also made matching outfits for myself, my two sisters and our dolls. I loved standing by and watching her operate the sewing machine; it fascinated me, even then.”
She started working in the garment industry at the age of 18 because she needed a job, but never imagined she would eventually start her own business using many of the tried-and-true techniques that she learned along the way. “In a very short time, I was making clothes for myself and my daughter. By the time I was 30, I was working full-time and had my own side line business selling my own designs,” Peggy says.
“After working in the garment industry for 30 years and building up my side line business substantially, I decided it was time for me to dedicate all of my time to being a sole proprietor and designing full time.”
Peggy did just that and created her company, 22 Shades of Gray, in her studio adjacent to her home in Buskirk, New York, where she has a gorgeous view of the Green Mountains of Vermont. “My favorite thing to do is to come into my shop with a vague idea of what I want to do and just play with fabrics and ideas to see what emerges,” she says. Sometimes she is disappointed but more often than not she is pleasantly surprised with the results. Trial and error is still her best teacher even after 50 years of playing with fabric and garment design. Each piece seems to build from the piece before it. “The more I explore the more ideas come to me. It really is like playing in a make-believe world where anything is possible.”
Peggy finds her fabric either online or from suppliers who sell at wholesale events that offer small minimums. She recently purchased a wide variety of upholstery fabrics from a business that was closing. “Because I create so many one-of-a-kind designs, I like having a lot of different colors and textures of materials on hand to play with.” Many of Peggy’s designs are a patchwork of colors and patterns, building on a theme or color story. She loves to combine different types of fabrics to create entirely new fabrics, allowing her to create unique and one-of-a-kind garments.
The purchase of knitting machines extended the possibilities of creativity. “Counter to my original thinking, I have less time to use them than when I was also working a full-time job. I thought when I gave up my full-time job that I would have more time to knit but having your own business is like having two or three full-time jobs,” she says. Peggy would love to learn how to weave but she doesn’t know where she would fit a loom of any size in her studio. “It is pretty well packed with fabric and garments,” she says.
Peggy brings an interesting life of experience and perspective to her work. She has owned horses and competed in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for many years as a Barrel Racer (and her husband rode bulls). But Peggy’s second love is astrology. She has followed astrology since she was a young girl, and has practiced professionally for the past 20 years. She has done thousands of charts and has helped many people find a richer and deeper meaning to their lives. All of these wonderful experiences and her rich life bring forth a deep story that shows in her designs.
To see her full profile: http://www.valleyartisansmarket.com/peggy-gray/
Mary Lou Strode, a member of Valley Artisans Market since 1981, is a painter from Argyle, New York. Here is her journey in art in her own words. The painting shown is titled, Snowmobile Trail.
In the Beginning I Drew
“My earliest memory of drawing was sitting on the floor of my grandparents’ home in Rutland, Vermont looking at the “funny papers” and drawing an X. How that simple maneuver could have spawned a lifetime of art remains a mystery to me. However, at the time, I was amazed at being able to control the pencil or crayon and make it go the way I wanted it to. I think now that it was a realization of being able to make something that I had thought of making and to have it coming out the way I had envisioned it.
“All through my childhood I drew. I never thought of painting and was always content to just draw. Always with pencil, I drew people mostly. Being an avid movie-goer I bought movie magazines and drew the stars — at first just the faces, but later the bodies as well. The pin-up artists of those years were my idols. In high school my art teacher, Lucy Doane, encouraged me to paint. As an older chiId, I had once done an oil painting under the tutelage of an amateur artist, Elmerine Bove Finn. She gave me her oil paints, brushes and a new canvas board to use and for subject matter I chose a photograph of sailboats that advertised Seagram’s whiskey. I still have that painting!
“Having decided that I wanted to be an artist I majored in art in college. This was during the 1950s when abstract expressionism was the prevailing style. Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Willem De Kooning, and Helen Frankenthaler were the artists of the slashing brush stroke that occasionally resulted in recognizable subject matter but more often the result was impenetrable. It was the overall composition and the energy expressed that did it for them and, at the time, for me. Encouraged to paint this way, we did not use expensive oils but cans of enamel paint. After graduation I married and moved to rural Washington County, New York, and learned to look and paint all over again. How and what I should paint now that I was on my own away from the mentors of my youth and living surrounded by nature became my preoccupation. Should I continue to reject the living world and paint what the canvas and the colors dictated? Or should I embrace the world around me giving in to its beauty and wonder and attempt what at the time was nearly impossible. I really had to begin again but at the same time I had learned a facility with brush and paint that gave me a head start in the process of looking and painting what I saw.
“I am also a printmaker and my medium is silkscreen printing. A fine Dacron mesh, oil-based inks, wax paper stencils and a squeegee are the materials I like to use. Once, when I was teaching a class of kindergarteners, I was illustrating the assignment for the day. They were to simply paint some shapes and then turn the paper upside down and see what was there. As I was doing this for the class I turned my painting upside down and saw two happy figures prancing with banners. This serendipitous moment later inspired a design for a silkscreen print and a valentine.
“My studio, located on the upper floor of our house, beckons, welcomes and more often than not admonishes me for not getting in there and buckling down. Once I enter and begin to work the hesitancy evaporates and I enter a realm of mystery and revelation and curiosity and contentment. I am working and I am at peace.”
One of Tom Hutchinson’s toy trains takes about 8 hours to make. It’s not just all the cutting and measuring that is so time-consuming. He must visualize how all the pieces fit together once they are assembled so that he doesn’t sand the sides of the wood that must eventually be glued to another piece of wood. (If they are sanded smooth then they won’t hold glue well enough). Multiple sandings are the most time-consuming aspect of making a toy — there can be no splinters for little fingers and all the corners must be rounded and very smooth. Nontoxic mineral oil coats the wood and any small pieces are permanently attached to prevent a choking hazard.
Tom has only recently “branched” out (pun intended) into making toys. He has been mentored by former VAM member/toymaker Warren Stoker for the last year or so and feels he has elevated his toys and they are now a superior quality to sell. Tom uses native wood like oak, poplar, walnut and cherry for his woodworking, which he purchases each September at the wood auction through the Adirondack Woodworkers Association, of which he is currently president. His toys include airplanes, dump trucks, trains, tractors, cars, tops and even yo-yos for older kids. But, of course, he also continues to make bowls, cutting boards, peppermills, pens, rolling pins and other wooden objects. He also welcomes special requests from customers looking for something particular that he doesn’t have for sale or a specific change to what he does offer. (And speaking of special requests, he was recently commissioned by the Saratoga County Fair to make 100 pens with “175” engraved in them for the fair’s 175th anniversary.) We hope you will stop in and see everything created by Tom, one of multiple talented woodworkers at Valley Artisans.
Naomi Faltskog has only recently learned her whimsical craft. Her felted wool creations sprung from her daughter’s time attending the Waldorf School in Saratoga Springs where artistic expression and creativity are deeply explored. But Naomi has been heavily involved in art ever since high school and is drawn to many media. Felting is the easiest because it is accessible and compact and she doesn’t need extensive time, space or concentration to do it, which is in short supply since Naomi home-schools her daughter.
Naomi creates her work with needles, by repetitively stabbing the wool to tangle and felt it together. It is a labor-intensive process and, you guessed, a lot of pin pricks in unwanted places. Much of the inspiration for her work comes from children’s stories. The piece she has at VAM with tree roots was inspired by the German tale, “Story of the Root Children.” Her intention for the play set was as a lap toy for long car or plane trips without electronics, so that a child’s imagination could be awakened. (There are also no little pieces to be lost or bothersome electronic sounds or electromagnetic rays.) Naomi recently began “wool painting,” a process where she builds up layers and layers of wool to create a picture, just like painting with oils. She hopes to explore this art form more in the future as well as wet felting. Naomi is proud that all of her wool is locally sourced, some of it already dyed but some that she dyes herself. She uses onions skins (for flesh tones) and turmeric (for golden-red hair) – and we imagine it is a great science home-schooling lesson, too!