BerkshireMade in the local paper!

-Here’s a recent article about BerkshireMade I was lucky enough to participate in…
 

Artists band together How local crafters connected to become BerkshireMade

 By Jenn Smith

Thursday, September 17, 2009

PITTSFIELD — From the hands of local tradesfolk comes BerkshireMade.

Not everyone in this artisan collaborative has an art degree or runs a gallery by trade. One member is a minister, another is a real estate agent. Several are parents. Another is a bride-to-be.

But all, according to BerkshireMade’s mission statement, seek to “promote their high quality, locally made creative work.”

Last weekend, the group participated in its first show at SoWa, Boston’s South End Open Market. Between now and October, BerkshireMade will host its signature open markets in Pittsfield and North Adams.

After a year of growing membership and participating in various events, the group is looking to expand both its sales and its knowledge to the community.

“A lot of times we talk about our work. But our story is really about our people. We’re a group of interesting people who felt that local people needed to preserve and provide local goods,” said BerkshireMade Vice President Donna Rivers of Pittsfield.

A former attorney, Rivers is now known as the proprietor of Bisque, Beads & Beyond, a studio arts center in Pittsfield.

“We all met haphazardly. But what we all wanted to do soon grew to be its own entity,” said jewelry maker and Pittsfield resident April Jenks, a former retail associate.

Several members of the group met last October when Berkshire Creative, a local clearinghouse for professional creative work and resources, held a workshop on promoting art sales through Etsy.com, an online marketplace for handmade goods.BerkshireMade members credited Berkshire Creative director Helena Fruscio for steering them toward working together and selling their goods as a group. “She really believed in us,” Rivers said.

Today, BerkshireMade has 14 solid members, its own seven-member executive board and bylaws and annual dues. It functions as a juried group of artisans participating in events across the state. New members are always welcome to apply to the group.

Current works range from jewelry to textiles, ceramics and pottery, from prints to wooden puzzles. The members’ ages range from 18 to mid-60s.

BerkshireMade members are based throughout Berkshire County, from Williamstown to Otis to Sheffield and Hinsdale.

“From Route 7 north through 7 south, we’ve got it covered,” said Jenks.

“And there are so many artisans here that can be tapped,” said Stephanie Gravalese of Dalton.

A legislative aide to state Rep. Denis Guyer, Gravalese is known as “The Button Girl” on the artisan circuit, fabricating everything from necklaces to napkin rings out of clusters of shiny buttons.

As with several of BerkshireMade’s members, creative work is not her full-time trade, but it is a lifelong passion to be shared.

“It started as a side thing, but now it’s a big part of what I do and who I am,” Gravalese said.

Members say that sharing their work and experience, and reaching out into the community, are the driving values of BerkshireMade.

Back in July, the group held its first open house and one of several scheduled open market events.

The group hopes to emphasize the value and quality of a local artisan piece. “We want people to feel that there is something inherent about it, something Berkshire. We want people to think wherever they have it, ‘This product is going to be me back to the Berkshires,’” said Rivers.

To further promote this notion, the artisans are currently planning to hold educational workshops and events, from teaching arts to helping people to learn how to market and sell creative work online.

 “This is a group of people that really wants each other to succeed,” said member Donna Rivers. She said the artists are non-competitive, and will even sell a member’s work if that member can’t make it to an event.

“We want to be a leading organization that supports, encourages and develops its artists,” said Rivers. “We also know that there are a lot of people out there who do good work but don’t know how to promote it. We want to be the go-to organization for them.”

 

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One Response

  1. Congrats, Stephanie – that is super awesome! What an amazing week you've had!

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