Five Hometown Artisans Help Make Shopping a Pleasure
The search for perfect holiday gifts can test your imagination, shopping stamina, and, above all, patience. But if you live on the East End and are interested in what artisans who live here do for a living, it is possible to find gifts that are well made, original, not exorbitantly priced, and relevant to the life of the person you’re shopping for.
As these five suggestions show, when something is made with the right combination of skill and inspiration, the line between what is artisanal and what is art gets blurred.
Build Your Own Surf & Skate Boards
Brian Schopfer, the shop manager of Grain New York Surfboards in Amagansett, had an adventure-filled life before coming to the South Fork. He taught sailing, crewed on a boat in a transatlantic race through the heart of Hurricane Gustav in 2002, and more recently spent 10 years as a property manager and woodworker at a Rhode Island vineyard with his wife and children.
In 2013, Mr. Schopfer’s life changed when he and his brother-in-law, Patrick Fleury, visited Grain’s original Maine location and took part in a surfboard-building workshop, which they began offering on Indian Wells Highway, Amagansett, in 2015.
All of Grain’s boards are made from scratch, using sustainably harvested northern white cedar from Maine. A skateboard session lasts two to three hours, and costs between $140 and $175. The workshops run three or four days, cost $2,200 and include all materials as well as instruction and two meals a day. No prior experience is necessary. Boards can be finished either pristine or decorated, and ready to ride.
Mr. Schopfer, a surfer, says one of the best perks of his job is joining his workshop students for a maiden run on their surfboards. Smiling, he said, “It’s so much fun to see somebody catch a wave on a board they built themselves.”
Grain Surfboards NY, www.grainsurfboards.com, 11 Indian Wells Highway, Amagansett. 631-267-9283.
The MTK Poster Company
Alison Seiffer’s illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker since she began her career in the mid-1980s. Her idea for the MTK Poster Company started after she volunteered to illustrate the poster for the annual Rell Sun Surf contest at Ditch Plain, Montauk.
The feedback was so good, Ms. Seiffer expanded, offering three or four drawings each year for sale as prints, most of them beach and fishing scenes drawn from Montauk, where she lived for 25 years. She now makes signed giclée prints of her artwork in limited editions of 500 at her current home studio in Springs. The prints come in four sizes, framed or unframed, and prices range from $75 for an 11-by-17-inch piece to $700 for a 30-by-45-inch framed poster.
“I think what I like about doing images out here is there’s just so much to do between the fauna and the animals, the fish and the wildlife, the water, the sky, and the lifestyle. There’s just a lot of things to think about and reflect upon and use as inspiration,” Ms. Seiffer said. You can view her work and contact her at mtkposter.com.
D.I.Y. Oysters . . . and more
Kim Gatti was already making all-natural soaps, lotions, and other products for her Montauk Soap Company before she and a friend, Jessie Lavin, opened the Montauk General Store in February.
They wanted to showcase artisanal wares like the products Ms. Gatti makes, as well as jewelry, food, and unusual items like the $17.95 oyster-shucking block the store features from Two’s Company, a family-owned New York business that’s been around for 40 years. It’s a tool that can help you keep all 10 of your fingers if you open oysters yourself or, like Ms. Gatti, harvest them from local waters. (Asked where she goes in Montauk to gather oysters, Ms. Gatti laughed and said, “I can’t tell you that!”)
In addition to the oyster shucker, the Montauk General Store sells Blake’s Mother’s baked goods and organic free-trade coffee at its in-store coffee bar, jewelry made by an artist in Sag Harbor, local cheeses, charcuterie, and a vast assortment of toys, gifts, and other items. Ms. Gatti estimates half the store’s inventory is locally made.
“We basically just wanted to be a place where nice, handcrafted products by artists could be promoted — and it’s affordable,” she said.
Montauk General Store, mtkgeneralstore.com, 699 Main Street, Montauk. 631-688-0900.
Sylvester & Co.
Lynda Sylvester has run her eponymous, constantly evolving “modern general store” on Main Street in Sag Harbor for over 30 years. But what fewer people may know is in addition to the curated product lines she sells, Ms. Sylvester is an artist with a deep background in product design. One of her latest creations is a line of four digitally printed scarves made with a touch of Merino wool for a superior feel.
Two of the scarves – “What a Difference” and “Paris at Night” — are collages of photographs Ms. Sylvester took. “Midcentury” is made from a pastel and graphite drawing she did. “The Last Empress” is a reproduction of an antique Chinese document. “The original print has got reds and greens and gold and a very traditional palette, but I took all the color out of it to make it more modern – and it’s stunning,” Ms. Sylvester said.
The scarves sell for $60 each at Sylvester & Co., www.sylvesterandco.com, 103 Main Street, Sag Harbor.
One-of-a-Kind Children’s Sweaters
Susan Seitz-Kulick deconstructs used sweaters and “upcycles” them into whimsical, originally conceived garments for newborns to 10-year-olds. She starts by taking used cashmere or wool sweaters, boiling them, and then placing them in the dryer until the fabric is matted — a process called felting.
She then cuts the fabric into the components of a sweater — two fronts and a back panel, two sleeves, a neck band — and begins mixing and matching the pieces into one-of-a-kind combinations that she augments with hand-stitched embroidery, distinctive buttons, scraps of trim, and bits of ephemera. Ms. Seitz-Kulick finishes each sweater with a finger puppet tucked into a front pocket, and tags it with a name taken from movies. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is a girl’s black sweater with a delicate pearl collar. “Caddyshack” is a boy’s argyle sweater.
Recently, Ms. Seitz-Kulick began receiving commissions for children’s sweaters for special occasions such as christenings and birthdays, sometimes using clothing that belonged to a grandmother or parents. “Once the children outgrow these sweaters, a lot of people will put them in shadowboxes and save them,” Ms. Seitz-Kulick said, adding that they become instant family heirlooms.
Susan Seitz-Kulick’s sweaters are on sale for $125 each at Nellie’s of Amagansett, 230 Main Street, or by contacting her on Facebook. Custom sweaters are $175.