New Union Street building introduces hub for creative minds

Tracy Silva Barbosa never tires of the feeling after she introduces friends to her home.

They visit, look at her glass art, perhaps dine at a restaurant downtown and always leave with the same reaction.

“I never knew it was so beautiful and all of this wonderful stuff,” Barbosa said of the recurring reactions.

Barbosa lived in New York City for a decade before returning to the state where she grew up. Like many of her visitors, New Bedford impressed Barbosa and her husband. The culture and ever-growing art scene attracted them to make it their new home.

In January it will also be the home of her new business. Duende Glass will occupy a space in a new 10,000 square foot unit on Union Street dubbed a Co-Creative space by WHALE.

Barbosa, like multiple others whether it be artists or “creatives”, will use the space to create art and also sell it.

“I think the Co-Creative Center is just another spore from that flower,” Barbosa said. “It’s coming out of people who genuinely care and want to bring out the wonderful character this city has and bring it out in a tasteful way.”

There’s three levels to the building sitting beside The Garden and running along Acushnet Avenue.

The second floor of the building will consist of non-profit office space, apartments, and artist studios, which are already leased. The third floor consists of a two-bedroom market rate apartment.

The first floor, where Duende Glass and People’s Pressed, a juice and coffee shop, will be located, will house a public creative space.

The plan is to utilize the area closest to Union Street as a marketplace. Behind it will be a learning area where classes can be taught by anyone in the community. At the back of the building, bordering a park, the area will be used as a creative space filled with up-to-date technology like fabrication equipment and computer stations as well as work benches.

“We’re hoping we can build a community of Creatives,” WHALE Development Coordinator Amanda DeGrace said.

The first floor learning space will act as a chameleon of storts, blending into whatever the community envisions its best use.

DeGrace said there are 15 classes currently being discussed that would be available for public participation. They range from graphic design, creative writing, visual artists, sewing and even jam making. The class list continues to grow as community members continue to pitch ideas.

“We need to open the doors and see what this community wants this place to be,” DeGrace said.

Below the “Co-Make” area is a basement geared toward more industrial and textile creating as well as storage for artists.

Much like Gallery X on William Street or the studios in the former mill building on West Rodney French Boulevard brought Barbosa to the city, the Co-Creative Center hopes to attract even more imaginative minds.

“Through the Co-Creative more diverse artists come,” Barbosa said. “You want to have some cross pollination and that’s what innovation is.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

Original story here.

Behind the Counter: Furniture maker combines art and design in function

Posted Dec 30, 2017 at 9:22 PM

For all of woodworker Michael Pietragalla’s careful measuring and precise cutting, it’s what can’t be controlled that intrigues him most about the creative process.

“As you work into the wood, more and more patterns and details come out of it,” he says. “It’s not planned.”

This combination of practiced skill and unpredictable magic happens at Floating Stone Woodworks, Pietragalla’s custom furniture shop located in Loft 406 at 88 Hatch Street in New Bedford.

The name “Floating Stone” is an Italian translation of his last name. He specializes in handcrafted tables, bookcases, and benches, made from hardwoods such as cherry, maple, and walnut. Each piece is built and finished individually, with precision-cut, hand-fitted joints and hand-applied finishes.

Pietragalla moved in to Hatch Street Studios in 2000, the longest continuous tenant in a former mill building that now holds the working spaces of more than 50 creative professionals.

His 2,600-square-foot studio contains the large machinery required to construct his work, including a table saw, planer and drum sander. The long walls are lined with neat rows of hand tools in all sizes. With one wall full of windows facing west, he can wrap up his workday with one of the best sunset views that the city of New Bedford has to offer.

Meticulous craftsmanship is part of Pietragalla’s heritage. His grandfather, a shoemaker, immigrated to New Bedford in his 20s from the village of Pietragalla near Naples, Italy, and ran a shoe shop on North Front Street all of his life. His father was a trained hair stylist who operated his own salon while drumming for a dance band that played such popular local hangouts as Lincoln Park.

Pietragalla grew up in Fairhaven. In school, there were few signs of the exacting technician to come; mathematics was not his best subject. But he was thrilled as a teenager when his father bought him a set of drums, and he began to practice by playing along to jazz records. When the Beatles hit, he was inspired to form a rock ‘n’ roll band of his own. He later attended the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, where he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting.

After college, he took on carpentry jobs, where he soon showed a knack for precision. “The bosses saw that I had the attention to detail for finished work, and that’s what they had me do,” he says.

While working for hire, Pietragalla began to investigate furniture design and history. He made friends with an antiques dealer who introduced him to Mission style furniture, a late 19th-century design aesthetic of clean lines emphasizing the unique quality of a wood’s grain. This discovery showed him that furniture making could be a way to combine his carpentry skills with his artistic training. “You can make furniture out of pine, and it’s functional. Or you can make it out of birdseye maple, and now it’s exciting to look at,” he explains.

At first Pietragalla tried working out of a studio in his basement, but space soon became an issue, so he moved into his current location on Hatch Street. The Mission style he favored was popular and, with the then-new internet opening up new connections, his website drew clients from all over the country with requests for custom projects.

He could barely keep up with his orders until the economy sank in 2008. Ever resourceful, Pietragalla started making the small, affordable pieces that remain his signature today. At first he carved chopsticks from bamboo scraps, which sold so well that he expanded into a full range of kitchen utensils. His offerings now include cheese spreaders, spatulas, and salad forks/spoons made of birch and walnut.

Most recently came his jewelry boxes, or as Pietragalla calls them, “treasure boxes.” They are the perfect product for him because they allow him to play with design, color, and texture, while precisely crafting a functional object.

The boxes are sleek and slender, approximately 12 inches long by 6 inches wide and 4 inches deep, made of exotic combinations like zebra wood, yellow heart and cherry.Their lids lift off with ornate handles, they are lined with leather or velvet, and some have hidden compartments.

Like the rest of Pietragalla’s work, the wood grain is the star.

“I like to mix up species of wood, because it becomes a treasure box, not just a jewelry box,” he says. “The box itself is a treasure, as much as what’s in it.”

In addition to those of his own styling, Pietragalla sells custom-designed treasure boxes. He also creates mixed-wood ring boxes to hold an engagement or wedding ring.

Pietragalla sells his work at Hatch Street Open Studios, a popular annual event held the weekend before Thanksgiving. His pieces are available throughout the year at the New Bedford Art Museum’s gift shop, as well as through the Artisans Way Fine Art and Contemporary Craft Gallery in Concord.

Pietragalla also offers furniture restoration and repair services at his studio. He works on pieces as diverse as chairs, tables, and mostly recently a broken sitar. He even replaced a cane chair seat for a customer by teaching himself the process from a YouTube video. “If it’s made of wood, I can probably fix it,” he says.

After decades of intense study and hands-on experience, Pietragalla emphasizes that he is still a student of craft and design, always learning. A poster on his office wall reads, “The life so short, the craft so long to learn.” That sums up the working philosophy of this son of generations of craftsmen.

To view a portfolio of Michael Pietragalla’s work, visit his website at FloatingStoneWoodworks.com. His studio is open during regular business hours or by appointment on weekends. He can be reached directly at FloatingStone@comcast.net or at 508.997.1079.

Catherine Carter is a New Bedford artist and former Standard-Times journalist. Her profiles of area businesses will appear in this space regularly.

Original story here.

30 years later, Joseph Abboud looks back at his brand in New Bedford

Posted Dec 29, 2017 at 4:57 PM
Updated Dec 29, 2017 at 5:38 PM

Joseph Abboud celebrated his 30th anniversary of clothing manufacturing in the city in 2017.

Abboud told stories of many smiles and some tears during the three decades. The clothing designer shared some of those moments as well as his favorite designs recently with the Standard-Times.

How has the industry evolved in the past 30 years?

The industry has really evolved in that there are fewer and fewer great men’s specialty stores and there are fewer and fewer department stores. So as part of Tailored Brands, our opportunity to be vertical is really, really important. So I see the changing landscape where there are so many holes in terms of where great retail is and we’ve tried to fill that gap with our Men’s Wearhouse stores as well as we’ve got our classic store on Madison Avenue. But we are retailers at heart, so we can go direct to the consumer. I can see that as the big play now. When I started, there were so many more people to sell. Now it’s a much different game.

What are some of your favorite memories in New Bedford?

I’ve got a lot of them. I may have said this to you when we’ve spoken before. When I cross the Massachusetts border and I’m driving on 195, you know, it’s really, I’m coming home. I always feel like I’m coming home. And a lot of magic happens in that factory in New Bedford. In a weird way, it’s where I feel my most comfortable in terms of creating the tailored clothing because I’m working closely with (Senior Vice President of Design & Quality) Salvatore Mellace and my team there. I’ve been doing that for so long there’s a comfort level. And every time I go to the factory, I discover something new that we can do there. It is really kind of a magical place.

Tony Sapienza described a moment where you returned to the industry after a brief hiatus and it was specifically in New Bedford that brought some tears. What was that moment like?

It’s so interesting because, I’m a fairly emotional guy. I always try to keep it in check but I am. The day that I walked back into that factory and they were all there to welcome me back in open arms grabbed me by surprise. I was really touched by it. I really did choke up on that because they were there, the same people that I had left were there to welcome me back. It was really like coming home again. You know, I’ll never forget that. I love the people in New Bedford, and the people in our factory. They’re such hard workers. They’re so dedicated. And they go into our stores, and they throw their chests out, and say, ‘I made that lapel’ or ‘I made that sleeve.’ They take such pride in what they do that it means so much to me. I’m so proud of them.

When was that?

I would say, oh, probably in 2013.

How long had you been away?

I would say, it was about, about eight years or so. So it was a while. But the factory continued to uphold the standards and the DNA of the Joseph Abboud brand and what I had created. I feel forever grateful. Because the real strength of our brand and the real anchor of our company is that factory in New Bedford, Massachusetts, of the Joseph Abboud business. We have over 750 people there.

Why do you think that is?

Well, we started the business as an American designer with an American factory. And my partners who were Italian back then, they were also involved with Giorgio Armani and Valentino and they always believed that the designer should be making in the country he was from. So with Giorgio Armani making in Italy was important, and as we started and formed our business they really believed and I was 100 percent in agreement that we should make in America. As an American designer, we are the largest tailored clothing company in North America. We are the largest importing manufacturer of the finest Italian goods from Italy. Our custom business has really grown dramatically. We’re so proud of the quality of the fabrics we use but the quality of what we make with our New Bedford folks. To be the largest in North America under a designer name is pretty special.

I have to go back for one second. The 8-year hiatus, why did you step away?

There were some issues that I had with the prior management where I thought the brand was going in the wrong direction. I felt that it was time for me to walk away from it because I couldn’t support it or endorse it. But as Tailored Brands came in and we partnered on the idea of making Joseph Abboud the premier American designer brand and the idea that the factory was at the core of it, was so appealing. It was a wonderful homecoming.

That leads right into my next question, 30 years ago what did you envision from the brand and how does that compare to the reality of today?

The DNA is still very much the same, which is a modern American collection for all Americans. An inclusionary brand that was not a preppy traditional ivy league brand but a more modern worldly brand but still wasn’t some pseudo-European thing. It was truly an American brand. And that’s what it is today and I’m so proud of it. And so proud of the people, everyone who is involved. A lot of it is, obviously the strength of that is through our customers, it’s at the factory and the dedicated workforce that we have in New Bedford.

Something that popped out about your favorite lines was not only the designs but some of the textures. How do you go about picking some of those textures?

I always say that the texture of your clothes is like the texture of your life. That has been for me, to add dimension and personality to every piece I design. I always have believed that we want to give the customer more. We don’t want to give them less. So fabric is very important. The color of fabric is important. The linings that we use. The layering. There’s a richness to it that’s very masculine and very American but very approachable.

When you think about the American man, who are your designing for? Is the business class? Is it the working class? Is the guy going on the airplane? When you envision a suit, who is it for?

I think I believe in, it’s an overused word, but lifestyle. You know, I don’t think of one particular guy. I think of how a guy lives his life. How does the American man live his life? He has needs for tuxedos. He has a need for a dark business suit. He has a need for a softly constructed jacket. So I design for his lifestyle. I always used to say, if I think I need it, I think a lot of other guys need it. So I kind of use my needs and requirements as a guideline to what I think guys might want to have from a color point of view, from a silhouette point of view, from dressy to casual, from tuxedos to T-shirts. I’ve always looked at, my job is to make American men look and feel better about themselves. And that’s what designers are supposed to do. It’s not an ode to me by any means. My job is to really kind of honor my customer and really give him stuff that works in his life. That’s why I think we’ve had such a long run is because we’ve been very dedicated to our customer and their needs. That’s why I don’t use a lot logos on my clothes because I think labels belong on the inside of clothing not on the outside.

One thing we learned about the favorite designs is the women’s line. How did that come about?

Oh, that was really a special moment. My partners were Italian back then. They had wonderful factories in Italy. Unfortunately when they went through their financial crisis, they closed those factories down. We had that women’s business for about 10 years. It was a really beautiful collection but the quality was impeccable. And to this day, I’ve never been able to find the level of quality and craftsmanship in our women’s wear. So I haven’t done it. It doesn’t mean we won’t.

And also when you’re designing women’s wear, it also keeps you sharper for men’s wear. It’s a different mindset when you’re designing for women. It does. It keeps you on a much more heightened plane when you’re being creative. I sort of miss that part of it.

How does the inspiration alter from designing something for a man and designing something for a woman?

The thing that drives my brand has always been the textures and the fabrics. So when we did our women’s wear, it was basically with rich sumptuous fabrics but of course (in) the appropriate women shapes. So it differs more in shape. And women are much more experimental and will try things quickly. They’re newer to products. So it really was an exciting time for me. Yeah, that part of it, I miss. And so many women come up to us and say, ‘When are you going to do your women’s line?’ Because they love our fabrics. Never say never.

When was the decade of women’s clothing?

That was probably from 1992 to about 2003, 2004 in that area. Like I said, it does keep you very sharp. It really does.

In keeping in the designs you sent us, one that really stuck out with us was in 2016, the model with the black suit, the black American flag over his shoulder and the finger-less gloves. Where did the inspiration from that come from?

That was all about being proud to make in America. That was a runway look. So when you have a chance to do theatrics — and that’s what shows are about. Shows do have to have some theater. They have to have some drama. But that was one of my favorite looks because that flag was made in New Bedford, Massachusetts. That flag was sewn from all of my tailored sewing fabrics, and we now currently sell those as limited edition in my Joseph Abboud store here in (New York City).

Why did you want to tell that story at that particular show?

That was one of the first shows that we had done in a long time. And I wanted everybody to know that New Bedford could be as creative as Milan. And that what we do out of the tailoring and the custom details, I mean that was a beautiful show in terms of the energy of what we created and just showing a range of what we do in our factory in New Bedford and the Joseph Abboud Factory.

In the future, what do you see from the brand moving forward?

We talk about this corporately and Doug (Ewert), our CEO who has been an enormous supporter of the brand, has said our goal is to make it a billion dollar brand. So that’s our goal and move forward every day and we continue to see growth. Listen, there’s no straight lines to success. There’s always challenges. It’s climbing Mount Everest really. It’s kind of the quest is always (difficult). I love the journey. To get there is great but the journey is also very exciting. What’s at the next horizon? That’s what it is for me. I’m still challenged by it. I feel at the top of my game because my experience really does help me in terms of the confidence in the creativity. And that’s a very important thing. Having the confidence to know that you’ve done this, you’ve been through cycles. So it allows you to have more confidence in what you believe in.

Area native Margo Saulnier to oversee New Bedford’s Cultural Plan

By Jonathan Carvalho, APR
Office of the Mayor

jcarvalho@newbedford-ma.gov

New Bedford has selected area native Margo Saulnier to serve as the Cultural Coordinator for the city’s arts and culture community, overseeing the development and implementation of New Bedford’s Cultural Plan.

In recent years, New Bedford’s reputation has grown as the center for arts in the region and as a creative and inviting place for all types of artists to live and work.  New Bedford was named the “Seventh Most Artistic City” by Atlantic Monthly, ranked Ninth on Matador Network’s list of Most Creative Towns, and sixth on Bustle’s Best Cities for Young Artists. 

The Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund was proposed by Mayor Jon Mitchell in the spring of 2016 and approved by the City Council last year, and consists of half the revenue from the city’s lodging tax, capped  at a total of $100,000. Creation of the fund also required the passage of a home rule petition by the state legislature. The petition’s passage in 2017 was led by state Sen. Mark Montigny.

Using monies from the Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund, the City selected the New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC) to manage the search for the Cultural Coordinator. Over the summer, the NBEDC conducted a search for a Cultural Coordinator, and after receiving and reviewing applications and conducting interviews, area native Margo Saulnier was selected.

An Acushnet native and New Bedford High School graduate, Margo Saulnier is an experienced creative professional and educator with more than two decades of performing arts and entertainment industry experience. She has consulted on a number of projects in Boston with Celebrity Series of Boston, including three large-scale public outdoor projects: Street Pianos Boston “Play Me I’m Yours” (2013 and 2016), “Le Grand Continental” dance performance in Copley Square (2014), and “Let’s Dance/Bailemos Boston!” (2015) on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. She has managed production and programming for more than 4,000 live shows at the Boston Pops and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Ms. Saulnier is currently a lecturer in the Music Department at Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media, and Design, focusing primarily on management of music organizations, performing arts administration, and a course she created, Artistic Planning for Venues and Festivals. In 2016, she moderated the panel on women in music management, booking, negotiations and technology for Northeastern’s “Changing the Conversation: Women’s Equality in the Music Industry” Symposium. In 2014, she moderated the arts economics panel for Northeastern’s CREATE Initiative’s Value of Presenting Symposium. She has also participated on panels at the Future of Music Summit, Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), and Boston University.

For more than a decade, Ms. Saulnier was involved in artistic planning for the Boston Pops, where she produced the orchestral debuts of Steve Martin, Oleta Adams, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Cowboy Junkies, Melinda Doolittle, Guster, Aimee Mann, Natalie Merchant, My Morning Jacket, Amanda Palmer, Ozomatli, and many others.

She holds a degree in music from Boston University and a master of fine arts degree from Brooklyn College.

“The arts have been an important part of New Bedford’s story, dating back to its whaling days. The Cultural Plan will add to our cultural scene, attracting creativity and investment to the City and improving marketing, programming, and public art,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “I’m pleased that a highly qualified, driven professional, Margo Saulnier, will oversee the plan with both vision and passion to see the best results for New Bedford’s respected arts and culture community.”

“Margo is committed to innovative and interdisciplinary programming, new audience development, community engagement, and making arts accessible to all,” said Derek Santos, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

City’s art museum hires UMD grad as new executive director

Nov 6, 2017 at 9:12 PM

Ashley Occhino, a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth graduate, has been named as the new executive director of the New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks!, officials announced Monday.

“I’ve always found myself coming back to New Bedford again and again. There’s such a rich art community there,” said Occhino, who is in her mid 30s. She’s from Attleboro and lives in Taunton.

Occhino has served as the manager of studio class programs at the Worcester Art Museum since 2014.

Occhino is set to take the helm Nov. 27. Her leadership follows retirement of Noelle Foye who shepherded the merger between the New Bedford Art Museum and ArtWorks! which occurred in 2014 and directed the combined organization. Under Foye’s guidance, exhibitions and educational programs grew while collaborations with other institutions expanded, according to a news release from the museum.

“Noelle Foye’s leadership positioned the art museum to be central to the community and that strength has allowed us to attract such a new talented leader,” said Lee Heald, director of AHA! and a member of the museum’s board and search committee for a new executive director. “We expect that Ashley will continue our strong support of community expression in the arts as well as support for excellence and achievement in the local arts community.”

Heald also said Occhino has a lot of enthusiasm and will bring a fresh perspective to the city.

“New Bedford holds a very special place in my heart and it’s through my times at UMass Dartmouth that I really learned about the city,” Occhino said.

She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts and has an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. She was one of the first classes to experience the Star Store in New Bedford, part of her thesis involved displaying work at ArtWorks! and she’s also taught art classes there, she said.

At the Worcester Art Museum, Occhino said she was in charge of developing programming, managing staff and working with community partners. Also, an education wing with dedicated exhibition space fell under her purview. The museum has an intensive education program with more than 100 classes each season, Occhino said.

She’s previously held leadership positions at Danforth Art in Framingham and the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, each time serving in education departments.

“I really just want to embrace the idea of a community museum,” Occhino said. She praised Foye for being successful with the merger, adding “I’m really honored to be following in her footsteps.”

“We are excited the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks! has hired Ashley Occhino as the museum’s new Executive Director. The NB Art Museum/Artworks! is ideal for arts travelers and invigorates the community. Ashley is familiar with the arts & culture landscape in New Bedford as well as her years of experience and passion for the arts, we look forward to working with her,” said Dagny Ashley, the city’s director of tourism and marketing, in a statement.

Jamie Uretsky, curator at NBAM/ArtWorks! said she looks forward to removing her hat as acting director.

“I’ve only heard good things about Ashley,” Uretsky said. “It’s going to be nice to have her energy in the space.”

Follow Aimee Chiavaroli on Twitter @AimeeC_SCT

Original Story Here

 

 

New Bedford’s Joseph Abboud perfectly suited for NBA sidelines

When the NBA regular season kicks off Tuesday night, Kyrie Irving will sit in the visitor’s locker room in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena and lace up his personalized Nike sneakers for his debut with the Celtics. In the home locker room, LeBron James will have an array of footwear options within his signature shoe line.

Later that night, across the country in San Francisco, the Warriors’ Steph Curry will tie the laces of his signature shoe with Under Armor. Houston’s James Harden will feature his shoe with Adidas. All will don jerseys with their named emblazoned across the shoulders.

The coaches in each contest, meanwhile, from Brad Stevens to Steve Kerr, have their own uniform for the game —a dapper suit, custom made and tailored for them in a style of their choosing. Their names are elegantly embroidered inside the lapels.

All those suits share a common thread: New Bedford.

For the last eight years, every suit worn by an NBA coach in a game, whether played in Boston or Los Angeles, San Antonio or Minneapolis, was tailored at Joseph Abboud on Belleville Avenue.

When coach Doc Rivers walked off the court in 2010 after his Celtics lost in the NBA Finals, he wore a suit tailored in New Bedford. When Brad Stevens took over as head coach in 2013, fabric from Belleville Avenue traveled with him to every NBA city. As he ushers in a new era with Irving and Gordon Hayward, he’ll do so with ties to the Whaling City.

This year also marks the first season the company will tailor NHL coaches. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy visited the facility recently to be measured. It’s the latest extension into the sports world for Joseph Abboud Manufacturing, which also designs and produces suits for NESN, the official broadcasters of the Boston Red Sox and Bruins.

“From the very beginning of my brand, I’ve always been affiliated with sports and the Olympics because I was able to speak to American men,” Joseph Abboud said. “It didn’t matter the color of your skin, the political preference, your religion, it was always about a great American enterprise like the NBA. Yeah, I’m very proud of it.”

“I always thinks we have a responsibility to make them the best suits we can,” said Abboud, who serves as chief creative director of Tailored Brands Inc., parent company of the firm which bears his name. “When they wear our suits, we want them to feel good. But we also want to be proud.”

Three maps hang in the corporate office of Joseph Abboud in New York City at Madison Avenue and 49th Street. Most of the foot traffic breeze by the outlines of New York City and Milan, Italy. However, the map of New Bedford that hangs alongside draws the most comments.

“We took two world capitals and we also said, for us, New Bedford is just as important,” Abboud said.

That office’s proximity to the NBA store led to its current relationship with the league.

Tony Sapienza, CEO of Joseph Abboud Manufacturing and lifelong Celtics fan, frequented the store quite often, and it was there he bumped into Michael Goldberg, the former executive director for the NBA Coaches Association.

“He had worn the Joseph Abboud brand and he introduced himself,” Sapienza said. “He said we ought to do something together.”

A lunch sparked the deal for the 2009-10 season.

The coaches receive 10 suits a season, 15 if they’re a first-time coach. Joseph Abboud officials travel to Chicago each fall for the NBA coaches summit, meeting with their clients — some familiar faces and always some first-timers — for the fitting sessions. There they meet one of Joseph Abboud’s secret weapons.

‘Best of the best’

Amidst a jungle of hanging suits and the perpetual pounding of industrial sewing machines, Salvatore Mellace reaches into his pocket, fishing out a thimble.

“I was 10-years-old when my father gave me a thimble,” he said with a thick Italian accent. “My father tied this around (my fingers) with a rope for a couple of years — day and night so that this is automatic. So when you sew, the nail will go through this and you don’t poke your skin.”

Now 72-years-old, Mellace possesses more than six decades of tailoring experience and still owns the original thimble his father gave him.

When the NBA coaches flock to Chicago each fall for their coaching summit, Mellace meets each one with tape measure.

The Senior Vice President of Design and Quality needs only about 15 minutes to dictate precise measurements for the perfect fitting suit.

“He is the best of the best. Let me tell you,” Custom Manager Jenny Barroquiero said.

Mellace studied the artform under his father Dominic in Northern Italy. As a young boy in the rebuilding efforts after World War II, Dominic would send his son to the concrete construction sites. Mellace would search for the thick paper bags that once held the concrete and bring them back to his father.

“I used to put the cement bag in this bag, bring it to the factory, clean it, and then we would make the pattern from the cement bag,” Mellace said.

Within the Joseph Abboud Manufacturing facility today, computers efficiently plot the pattern on paper utilizing every inch of the fabric. Machines then precisely cut the fabric. But even with that industrial precision, Mellace keeps his eye on the details.

“I follow through all the garments to make sure that everything is on spec,” he said.

Movable waist-high shelves scatter throughout Joseph Abboud Manufacturing. The small metal racks include a stick with a white piece of paper attached at the top that reads, “NBA Coaches for Salvatore.”

What lies on the racks varies. There could be a portion of a suit, a jacket or pants. Regardless of the point in time of the suit’s life, Mellace examines them.

“I check to make sure that the chest piece is nice and straight, that the pocket is good,” Mellace said. “I check the waist, make sure that … it matches according to my number. Otherwise it’s going to be big or small. It’s no good.”

There are at least six checkpoints a suit has to clear under Mellace’s watch. For efficiency and organizational purposes, an entire order reaches each checkpoint at the same time.

Any issue regardless of its minuscule nature is repaired by hand. It takes about three or four weeks for the process to be fully completed.

“It’s very important that when (Barroquiero) ships the personal suits for them, they’ve got to be perfect,” Mellace said.

“To make a custom suit is an art.”

‘She’s the boss’

After Mellace takes a coach’s measurements, Barroqueiro helps them narrow more than 300 swatches down to 10 suit selections. Additional modifications are possible within each suit, like lapels, buttons, pockets and more.

“When Brad (Stevens) was the new Celtics coach, he was so overwhelmed. He was like, ‘I really don’t need 15 suits. This is a lot,’” Barroquiero said. “You could tell it was too much for him to handle. He was so sweet, though. He was like, ‘I don’t know what else to get.’”

Veteran coaches understand the process. Some waste little time in selecting suits. Others flip through hundreds of swatches, snap pictures on their phones and asked for suggestions from their wives.

Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers fell into the category of coaches who thoroughly enjoyed the process.

“He loves the swatches,” Barroquiero said. “He’ll sit and he loves looking and feeling.”

Other coaches took notice.

Tom Thibodeau, who served as Rivers’ associate head coach in Boston, asked Barroquiero one year to match his order with everything Rivers placed.

″‘He has good taste. I’m just going to do everything he did,’” Barroquiero remembers Thibodeau saying. She said she hoped he and Rivers would text one another to ensure they didn’t wear the same suit to game.

Barroquiero’s role differs depending on the coach.

“They trust Jenny. No question about that,” Mellace said. “They don’t trust me, but they trust her. They trust me for one thing. But when it comes to lining, fabric and style, she’s the boss.”

Barroquiero stacks the swatches categorically in an attempt to make the decision-making process easier.

Coaches flock toward navy. But color only accounts for a portion of the process.

“They’ll pick out a linen. I tell them that’s going to wrinkle,” she said. “You probably don’t want that. If you’re going to Florida and you want to wear it on vacation, that’s fine but not to a game because it’s going to be really wrinkly. So you just guide them.”

‘You don’t believe it’

Tens of thousands of yards of fabric, stacked in spools, rise more than a dozen feet off the ground in the southern end of Joseph Abboud Manufacturing.

They account for most of the swatches presented for the coaches. At times Barroquiero will walk through the tree-trunk sized spools. A specific fabric links her to a coach or NESN client.

“I know Brad Stevens wants just subtle fabrics, so you help him pick those subtle fabrics,” she said. “Whereas you know that Jim Rice, you show him something boring he’s going to say, ‘eh uh, that’s not for me.’”

Some of the spools will only contain 5 to 10 yards of material, but they’re exclusive to Joseph Abboud shows. They’re often referred to as “sample patterns” and right up the alley of the former Hall of Fame left fielder for the Boston Red Sox.

“Jim Rice comes to the factory to pick out his swatches,” Barroquiero said, “because he knows there’s always sample pieces here. He wants something different. He loves to walk through and pick out what he wants.”

At any given time, the unassuming two-story brick building could host Boston sports royalty. Rivers, Rice and newly ordained Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy have all walked through the congestion of sewing machines and hanging fabric.

“You do (have to pinch yourself). You almost do,” Sapienza said “It’s like you don’t believe it. You’re talking to (Hall of Famer Dennis) Eckersley. He’s talking to you about throwing fastballs. Or you’re talking to Jim Rice on how he hits home runs.”

The feelings extend beyond the date when the suits ship out of the New Bedford facility.

There are more than 1,200 NBA games a season. Playoffs can jump the number by more than 100.

Regardless of the contests, Barroquireo’s reaction is the same.

“Every time there’s a game on,” she said. “You’re like ’Ahhh! He’s wearing our suit.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

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Chronicle WCVB5 abc: New Bedford Renewal

On Thursday, September 7th, 2017 the Chronicle aired a program called New Bedford Renewal. We hope you take a few moments to enjoy the clips. City leaders and their partners have been hard at work on all fronts: Public Safety, Education, Economic Development, Community Development, Alternative Energy, and Quality of Life. We hope you enjoy the show!

New Bedford Renewal: A New Vitality

New Bedford Renewal: Port Prosperity

New Bedford Renewal: Beyond the Port

New Bedford Renewal: An Epicenter for Clean Energy

New Bedford a ‘poster child for cultural development’

National fiber art magazine’s inaugural exhibit lands in New Bedford

Contemporary fiber art is not your grandmother’s crocheted afghan.

Excellence in Fibers, an exhibition of selected works drawn from the second annual international juried print exhibition published by Fiber Art Now magazine, presents some of the most exciting and innovative work being done today in the world of contemporary fiber art.

The show, up at New Bedford Art Museum / ArtWorks! from Jan. 25 to March 19, is FAN’s first venture into presenting their print exhibition in a real-world venue.

Fiber Art Now received submissions from artists around the world in response to the call for entries. The prestigious panel of jurors were: Emily Zilber, Curator, MFA Boston; Gerhardt Knodel and Norma Minkowitz, both internationally recognized fiber artists and icons in the field of fiber; and Melissa Leventon, principal of Curatrix Group Museum Consultants and a former curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Of the over 50 works in the print exhibition, 31 were selected for the show at NBAM/AW.

Excellence in Fibers runs the gamut from established artists to newcomers; from traditional age-old basket weaving techniques to digital manipulation and printing; from familiar sewing and quilt making to laser cutting techniques.

Within the broad category of fiber, the show includes weaving, sewing, applique, embroidery, basket making, sculpture, crochet, felting, screen printing, joomchi and knotting.

As part of the print exhibition, special awards were given and several of those are in this show.

Nicole Benner’s Comfort/Confine is a large work of crocheted copper wire that becomes a performance piece when donned by a wearer. Named as the Paul J. Smith Award for Excellence in Fiber winner, Benner’s work is a thought-provoking piece on the effects of chronic pain.

“In Comfort/Confine, I utilize the copper yarn as a reference to the nervous system: an aspect of my own chronic pain that can be debilitating. Here the body has defined mobility, only capable of reaching where the textile allows,” the artist stated in the exhibition issue of Fiber Art Now. Benner hails from Marshall, Missouri.

Joel Allen’s hand-wrapped, tied and knotted work Hooked on Svelte was named the winner in the installation category. A series of large mixed media pendants are suspended from the ceiling creating a fun, textured and colorful display 12 feet long by this Steamboat Springs, Colorado, artist.

At the other end of the size spectrum, at only 17 inches in height, is Massachusetts artist Lois Russel’s NZ, a little jewel of twined waxed linen thread – and winner in the Vessel Forms/Basketry category.

The Nigerian Riot Girl, by artist Jacky M. Puzey of the United Kingdom, is one of the international submissions. Employing a tour de force of fiber techniques, this winner of the Wearables Award is an intricate couture dress designed and constructed by the artist that dazzles with a complex mix of materials.

In the Wall/Floor Works category artist Heather Ujiie of Langhorne, Pennsylvania was named the winner for her textile mural consisting of five panels that together are 126 inches by 250 inches. Battle of the Sea Monsters was originally hand drawn in markers, pen and ink, then scanned at high resolution, digitally manipulated and printed on canvas. Vibrantly colored, the work is an intense mass of men, women and other creatures waging a ferocious battle on a lemon colored sea.

The complete list of artists also includes David Bacharach, Pat Hickman, Pat Burns-Wendland, Pat Busby, Anna Carlson, Deborah Corsini, Ania Gilmore, Anna Kristina Goransson, Meredith Grimsley, Henry Hallett, Patricia Kennedy-Zafred, Jean Koon, Mariko Kusumoto, Jeannet Leendertse, Dorothy McGuinness, Alicia Merrett, Elizabeth Odiorne, Kathryn Rousso, Chloe Sachs, Diane Savona, Deloss Webber and Wendy Weiss.

The opening reception for Excellence in Fibers will be held Sunday Jan. 29 from 2 to 5 p.m. Marcia Young, editor-in-chief of Fiber Art Now, along with a number of the artists, will be on hand. Workshops by well-known fiber artists Elin Noble and Jeanne Flanagan will be offered in New Bedford the preceding day.

Registrations and special hotel discounts are available through Fiber Art Now.

For further information contact the Museum at 508.961.3072 or visit www.NewBedfordArt.org.

New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks! is located at 608 Pleasant Street, New Bedford. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday noon to 5 p.m.; open every Thursday until 9 p.m.

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New Bedford named state’s most creative community

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New Bedford has been named the most creative community in the state by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

The council honored New Bedford with a 2017 Commonwealth Award for “providing sustained leadership, funding, and infrastructure to the places where art and culture are presented, and where artists live and work, providing a model for cities everywhere.” Given every two years in several categories, the awards will be presented Feb. 15 at the Statehouse.

“I’m just so proud of New Bedford. It’s a recognition richly and well deserved,” said Lee Heald, director of AHA!, a monthly gallery night in the downtown area that focuses on art, history, and architecture. She wrote a letter nominating the city.

The city’s trajectory over the last 20 years has been “quite extraordinary,” she said, moving from a time when the downtown was virtually deserted, with only small pockets of cultural activity, to today’s vibrant mix of artists, students, cultural events, and businesses. The award doesn’t just go to the “arts and culture people,” but to the entire community for working together to remake itself, she said.

Lee credited Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, with sparking transformative change with his work to move UMass Dartmouth’s College of Visual and Performing Arts downtown. Since it opened in a former department store in the early 2000s, the region has graduated the first generation of kids who think New Bedford is a happening place to be, and “people in New Bedford now identify with New Bedford as a changed place,” she said.

Five years ago, college students and faculty artists in New Bedford went a long way toward garnering New Bedford an even more widely recognized honor: The city was named the seventh most artistic city in America in proportion to its population, alongside the likes of San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, by Richard Florida of The Atlantic magazine. He and a research colleague measured cities by the number of artists relative to their population.

That award and the city’s transformation were major factors when the Massachusetts Cultural Council considered New Bedford, according to David Slatery, deputy director of the grant-making state agency.

“There’s a lot going on down there,” he said.

Slatery said the Commonwealth Awards show how arts and culture are essential to the state and its communities.

Rosemary Gill, executive director for programming and development at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, called the news of New Bedford’s award “wonderful.” The city’s cultural scene is a “beautiful, growing tapestry,” she said.

James Russell, president and CEO of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, said, “I’m delighted. I think it’s fantastic for the city.”

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell plans to attend the awards ceremony in February. He would like to make the city even better known for the arts, he said.

Pending approval of a home-rule petition, Mitchell has established a dedicated arts development fund, fed by hotel tax receipts, that would collect about $100,000 a year to hire an arts coordinator and accelerate the arts through things like live performances and public art, he said.

Follow Jennette Barnes on Twitter @jbarnesnews.

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