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Brooklyn artists showcase specialties at Brooklyn Museum’s American Fine Craft Show

November 6, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“Calendar,” by Alex and Lorelei Gruss,, (Clinton Hill), a contemporary, sculptural piece consisting of seven stacked levels. Photos courtesy of American Fine Craft Show
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The American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn at Brooklyn Museum brings together 11 master craftsmen and a sculptor from nine Brooklyn neighborhoods Nov. 22 and 23. Among the 90 exhibitors, the borough boasts three jewelers, two art glass artisans, a sculptor, ceramist, doll maker, woodcrafter, embroiderer and designer of religious art, furnishings, jewelry and decorative objects. Participating artists work in Park Slope, Gowanus, Brighton, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Red Hook, Industry City, Bushwick and Fort Greene.

Alex and Lorelei Gruss, of Clinton Hill, have created art and furnishings for synagogues, museums and private collections for more than 25 years.  The artists’ expertise ranges from woodworking, carving, turning, metalsmithing and glass etching to marquetry and inlay work. They will be exhibiting both religious and non-religious decorative objects, as well as hand crafted jewelry that they design for Lex56.

“Brooklyn is a love affair that began when we moved here in 1986,” Alex and Lorelei Gruss said.  “Our craft was always connected to Brooklyn … one of our most important works is at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue on Remsen Street… We are more than craft people; we relate to our community and are involved in all kinds of art initiatives.”

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Sculptor Barry Rust grew up around tools in central Illinois and started building instruments from boxes and tins almost 10 years ago, honing his craft through books and experience. Rust, whose studio is in Red Hook, also teaches Fourth Grade in the borough.

“Brooklyn is a pretty inspiring place. Everywhere you look there’s somebody being fearless about doing something they love,” Rust said.  “I’ve always loved to make things — especially out of wood — and I found it pretty much impossible to resist joining in.”

Phil Gautreau, who founded his Gowanus-based wood design company in 2012 after a 25-year career in healthcare management, transforms visually-unique wood blanks into clean, contemporary shapes that highlight the wood’s natural grain, color and figuring. Reclaimed domestic and exotic hardwood pieces used in his work come from different sources: cutoffs from furniture and lumberyards and wood from locally downed trees. He supplemented with woodworking courses the skills his dad taught him in the basement woodshop in the Rhode Island home his grandfather designed and built 60 years ago.

“Brooklyn is a great host for experimental artistic work and budding entrepreneurial practices…” Gautreau said. “My shop… has natural daytime light streaming through rooftop windows. On a typical day in the shop, there are four to five wood workers who serve as resources for learning and readily share their skills and experience with each other.”

From her studio in Brighton, Jean Lugrin Ferlesch designs and creates embroidered wall art, wearable textiles, cards and pillows for ClotheMySoul, founded in 2009. After a successful career as a store designer, motivated by a talent for drawing and childhood passion for embroidery, she discovered embroidery machines and special software that allowed her to be artistically expressive with thread. She uses thread fills—rayon for its soft gloss on Dupioni silk, linen, or leather—like a painter uses paint on canvas, overlapping colors and patterns to achieve new color combinations and textures.

“Having lived in Fort Greene for 25 years I now live and work in an apartment/studio facing the ocean in Brighton at the end of the B line,” Ferlesch said.  “One could spend a lifetime getting to know [Brooklyn]. I relate that to my work this way: The broader and more accepting an experience of humanity you have in your life the more understanding and compassion you have towards all people.”

Valerie A. Gladstone applies her training in music, dance, painting, photography, sculpture, costume, millinery, fashion and hair design to the dolls she creates for Brooklyn Doll Works, founded 20+ years ago. Brooklyn, the birthplace of The Greatest Show on Earth and Coney Island’s Dreamland Circus in 19th and 20th centuries, inspired a series of special edition, one-of-a-kind dolls. Her studio is in Park Slope.

“My dolls are as much about my home borough as they are about any other subject,” Gladstone said. “So much of our shared identity as New Yorkers and Americans is really tied to the history of Brooklyn, and I love telling those stories through my dolls.”


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