New Bedford maintains favorable bond rating

15 years of design by mediumstudio has rebranded New Bedford

If you’re thinking it had something to do with cobblestones or lamp lights, whaling or fishing, industry or the arts, you’re wrong. Well, not entirely wrong — but partially wrong.

Fifteen years ago, mediumstudio formed just a few blocks away from their current location at 38 Bethel Street, on historic Centre Street where BeJeweled is found now.

Over the course of the past 15 years, the graphic design firm has taken everything New Bedford has to offer as enumerated above and re-branded, re-packaged, and re-presented it to the world for the 21st century. Simply put, mediumstudio took design to a new professional level in New Bedford, just as the city was ready for that happen.

You can’t help but notice a certain freshness and graphic audacity in all of their work. It’s defined them from the beginning to this day. And, through countless logos, display ads, flyers, posters, website and social media images of all sorts produced on behalf of their clients, helped rebrand the city they call home.

It’s unquestionable that they burst upon the scene as the hip new kids on the block within the graphic design world in New Bedford and on SouthCoast — in their own unique way. From the beginning, the lowercase ‘m’ and ‘s’, all-one-word agency was much more than just a graphic design studio.

Founding member Keri Cox explains that out back of their first location on Centre Street was a rather famous space she simply refers to as “The Garage.”

As mediumstudio formed by day, on nights and weekends The Garage was a spot to hang out at to socialize, listen to bands, hold an art show — all manner of creative pursuits.

“Generations remember that place,” said Cox.

In those halcyon days and nights, mediumstudio was born in and of the community it would come to rebrand in the future. From Day One, community wasn’t just a place where they had set up shop — it was part of their natural business plan, and remains so to this day.

Cox has long been an important part of the 3rd EyE Unlimited leadership team. She’s also one of only two paid AHA! New Bedford staff persons, assistant to director Lee Heald.

Today at 38 Bethel Street, in a voluminous open space above the Fishing Heritage Center, 3rd EyE members still meet each and every week. The artist Nicole Winning conducts Saturday morning Colorful Yoga classes for children in the space. It’s not uncommon to attend a meeting or event at mediumstudio that has nothing to do with the work being done — but everything to do with the bigger picture that is New Bedford now.

Keri is one of four partners at mediumstudio. She mostly functions as project manager, or as she terms it, “I’m just bossy!”

The other partners are her husband, John Cox; Hannah Haines; and Frank Goncalves.

Each works on their own individual wavelength and reacts to the needs of their clients in their own way. There never has really been a business plan at mediumstudio; it’s evolved over the years and become successful in an organic way.

But it is a successful — and very busy — creative Business, with a capital ‘B’. Back in The Garage days, Kerri says a lot of work was done just for the fun of it, or to fulfill a community need. Over time the dictates of “adulting” caused them all to focus on the bottom line — just not at the expense of creative freedom.

Each of the partners has a distinct identity and client roster, yet collectively become mediumstudio. That brand is distinctive and rests on fundamental design principles that are allowed to breathe and most often built from the ground up via typography. (See a full portfolio of their work at mediumstudio.com.)

Keri Cox is the public face of the firm. As this column once wrote of her, “Very often, when you look behind an event, you find Keri Cox there. She is the glue that holds the various elements of some important happenings together. She almost effortlessly brings diverse people in the city together.”

Hannah Haines is voluble and expansive in an interview. She says that the most memorable praise she recalls a client saying was that “you could always tell mediumstudio designed something because it looked ‘thoughtful’.”

Hannah is responsible for the graphic “look” of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, designing its upcoming season offerings each year, for example. She says, “I’m proud to have worked closely with The Z to conceptualize their seasons for the last 14 years.”

John Cox is reticent to downright shy. He likes the work to speak for itself. It does; his graphic design is widely acknowledged as setting a new standard in the city. The dude is viewed as innately talented by anyone you speak to about him.

On the day an interview for this profile was conducted, Frank Goncalves was unavailable. It’s obvious he is a valued member of the team, however. All the others boasted that he had been with mediumstudio since he was 19, soon after he finished high school. He’s now been at the firm for about nine years.

“Where was he?” that day, Hannah, John and Keri asked one another. It didn’t matter; he and all of them have the space to create on their own time.

Maybe that’s another way mediumstudio launched as and has stayed a design firm for the times. A time in New Bedford’s history that’s also seen it gain national recognition for the creative artistic impulse that is in its DNA.

The graphic design of mediumstudio reflects that even as it is helping to brand it for the wider world.

Their client roster is a mix of non-profits and commercial clients. From AHA! and the New Bedford Folk Festival to Brick Pizzeria, Travessia Winery and Rose Alley Ale House. Plus, developers — some far beyond the city limits — and large organizations like Brigham and Woman’s Hospital.

They “bring a curiosity” to each project, Hannah says, and the reward is “we get to do what we like to do,” she concludes.

Finally, it comes down to quality of life for all the partners. Here, too, they may have helped set the tone 15 years ago for the New Bedford we have now.

A place that supports a creative quality of life and that as a community recognizes the value of artistic fulfillment and achievement.

That’s a place that looks so much better has seen through the eyes of mediumstudio.

Steven Froias blogs for the coworking facility, Groundwork! at NewBedfordCoworking.com. Email: StevenFroias@gmail.com.

Original story here.

‘Intense’ negotiations led to mixed-use options on State Pier

Tony Cabral joked that he hoped he didn’t wake his neighbor, Mayor Jon Mitchell, when he arrived home at 3 a.m. Wednesday after the state legislature passed a bill that could bring retail shops and restaurants to the State Pier.

“I heard (you), I thought it was a burglar,” Mitchell quipped back at the state rep.

The laughs and celebration for the economic future of New Bedford didn’t come without a bit of struggle to include language for mixed-use options at State Pier into the economic development bond valued at more than $1 billion.

“I’m pleased with the outcome. Obviously it was very contentious,” Mitchell said. “I hope that we can all put aside this matter and move on with the many other challenges facing New Bedford and the opportunities before us.”

The final language, which passed late Tuesday night, allowed for up to 20 percent of the square footage on the west side of State Pier, adjacent to MacArthur Drive, for “accessory uses.”

S&G Project Gallery offers shows that encompass an entire artist

Posted Aug 3, 2018 at 8:27 PM

What’s the best way to get to know an artist? If you see a painter or sculptor’s creations one at a time, in a show here and a show there, you can’t fully understand who they are or what they hope to convey. But when you see a developed series, expressed in a number of pieces displayed side by side, you get a more complete sense of the artist’s heart, mind and intentions.

At the S&G Project Gallery at Hatch Street Studios in New Bedford, gallerists Denn Santoro and Helen Granger offer immersion into the artist’s world. Their focus is solo exhibitions that encompass entire projects. Some of the artists they display have taken months to create their series, some years, but all of them present fully developed bodies of work.

Granger and Santoro strive for variety, displaying a wide range of materials and messages with each exhibit. Since the gallery opened in 2016, they have shown such diverse expressions as closeup photographs of botanical imagery, fabric and found-object sculpture inspired by the female body, and monoprints incorporating static electricity. This assortment reveals the dramatic power of the creative process, and that’s exactly what the pair hope to highlight.

While S&G tends to show local talent, they are open to artists from all across New England. “We are looking for conceptual execution,” explains Granger. “It can be anything from somber work to a more brightly colored series. What matters is the underlying thought.”

Their calendar features at least one public gathering per exhibit, in addition to opening and closing receptions. These occasions comprise lectures, musical performances, and artist talks, relating to each show’s unique theme. Photographer Deb Ehrens’ display of plant-themed photos, for example, included a visit from a local garden group.

The gallery also regularly participates in Hatch Street Studios’ ongoing schedule of events, including its well-attended annual holiday sale each November and a newly instituted “Second Saturdays” program every month.

Granger and Santoro had two particular goals from the beginning: to promote an appreciation for fine art, and to draw viewers to Hatch Street Studios. “We are trying to demystify art for people, make it more friendly,” says Santoro. “We want people to understand that you don’t have to be an art historian to know about art, to fall in love with it and want to live with it.”

He adds, “We want people to understand that this part of New Bedford is easy to get to, with free parking. There is momentum in this building. Stuff is happening here!”

S&G Project Gallery also runs an art brokerage, marketing works by Southcoast artists to businesses and private collectors who wish to enhance their spaces.

The brokerage recently collaborated with Bristol County Savings Bank in decorating their location in downtown New Bedford’s historic Candleworks building. With Santoro shepherding all aspects of the project including framing and hanging, the bank purchased 50 pieces of art from 8 local artists for their permanent collection.

“We will do any space that you want help curating good art into, and we have all price points,” says Santoro. “One living room we did was under $1,000.”

The fact that both Santoro and Granger are artists themselves brings a particular level of understanding to their efforts as gallerists.

A native of North Attleboro, Santoro loved photography from the moment he was handed a camera as a member of the yearbook staff in high school. When he began his studies at Southeastern Massachusetts University, now UMass Dartmouth, he was excited to discover Paul Rudolph’s distinctive architectural style.

Santoro’s interest in unique structures has extended throughout his artistic career to his current ongoing project of considering national museums as deconstructed spaces beyond the artifacts they house. From this standpoint, he has photographed the Hirshhorn Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, among others.

Granger, originally from western Pennsylvania, loved to draw as a child. “I always knew art would be a part of my life,” she says. After attending the University of Hartford and then Hunter College, she worked in television and publishing, living on both coasts. Painting and drawing remained a constant, “based on observations of inner life and the world around me.”

At last, says Granger, “I washed up in New Bedford,” where she met Santoro at an opening reception at Gallery X. That was back in 2007, and they have been together ever since.

The idea to open a gallery was first Santoro’s. Granger was hesitant until she visited the sunny studio at 88 Hatch Street and met Jeff Glassman, owner of the building. Then she was impressed by the potential to reach an audience within the budding art community at Hatch Street, which Glassman has helped to foster.

“Jeff is committed to the artists,” Granger says. “He is committed to the building and helping bring it to fruition as an art destination. It’s a nice space to be in.”

Today Granger and Santoro are proud of the strong response their gallery has received. “We have sold at least one piece out of every show,” Santoro notes, “which says we are picking work that is getting people’s attention.”

S&G Project Gallery, located in Space 306A at 88 Hatch Street in New Bedford, is open by appointment, by event, or by chance. Event information can be found on the gallery’s Facebook page. For further details, call 774.279.2606 or email contact@sandgprojectgallery.com.

Please note that the Hatch Street building has a handicapped entrance ramp and, during the gallery’s events, the elevator is staffed for easy access to the third floor.

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.

Hatch Street Studios: A world within a city

By Steven Froias / Contributing Writer
Posted May 31, 2018 at 3:01 AM

Alissar Najd Langworthy was at the helm of the 88-ton, 75-foot research vessel, Phoenecia for what turned out to be a four-month voyage to — and stay in — Cuba this past year.

The intense experience so changed her that when she returned to her studio at Hatch Street Studios in New Bedford’s North End, her painting took an entirely new — and stunning — abstract direction.

The smell of cedar wafts through the second floor outside Woodworker John Giacobbi’s studio. He’s storing a quantity of red cedar for future use.

But right now, he’s busy creating intricate and beautiful adornments for the historic Christmas House on Route 6A in Sandwich. After construction here in Hatch Street Studios, the woodwork will be disassembled for the trip down the highway and reassembled on site.

New Bedford residents are most likely aware of sculptor Erik Durant’s work due to his Fishermen’s Monument on the waterfront and statue of Cape Verdean leader Tom Lopes at Washington Square.

But his studio at Hatch Street is a fantastical land all its own, where Erik’s sculpting runs riot through history and mythology.

In their spaces and others throughout Hatch Street Studios, you see not only the work of its many artists and artisans, but glimpse the infinite within and without New Bedford as discerned by talent, tenacity and industry.

It’s a world within a city informed by experience and brought to life through pure imagination.

You can enter this world frequently now, thanks to a new, ongoing series of Second Saturday Open Studios events inaugurated by the Hatch Street Studios Artist Association. The first Second Saturday happened on May 12, and the next is scheduled for June 9.

All of them are free and open to the public and will feature special events in addition to the opportunity to tour the artists’ studios, chat them up, and see and buy their work.

It’s all part of a new lease on life for the venerable building, home to upwards of 50 artists and artisans on three floors and across two buildings — 88 Hatch St. and annex 90 Hatch St. — two blocks off Acushnet Avenue, with a view of the river with the same name, in the historic Nashawena Mill District of New Bedford.

Open Studios on Second Saturdays

Robert “Jack” Babb of the Hatch Street Studios Artist Association says he got the ball rolling for the Second Saturday Open Studios based on his experience attending regular open studio events at Western Avenue Studios in Lowell. He was living in New Hampshire at the time and would drive down for the events.

A chance encounter at a Yoga event in Boston brought Jack to Hatch Street.

“I met Amanda Walker, a lifetime resident of the area,” he explains. “She introduced me to the South Coast: the arts, the cultural variety, the natural beauty, the history. I was doing some glass work and interactive art in New Hampshire part-time. I moved my studio to Hatch Street because of the vibrant arts community in the area, the culture, the ocean.” And, “Easy access to Boston, Providence and New York.

Realizing that Hatch Street lacked a regular opportunity for arts patrons to meet building residents, outside of its annual Open Studios event in November, he decided to organize Second Saturdays.

The first monthly Open Studios in May featured members of the SUPERFLAT mural team and a pop-up 3rd EyE Unlimited music, dance and art jam. The second floor of Hatch Street Studios has a large, open community space to accommodate special happenings like that.

Between the special programming and the participation of most of the artists, the launch was a solid success and bodes well for future Second Saturdays.

Jack is generous with the praise for all concerned in the effort, noting Keri Cox’s organization of 3rd EyE, Destination Soup’s event kitchen, and the support of building owner Jeff Glassman.

“And, of course, Brian Tillett, Meaggsy, and Alexx Jardin who generously gave of their time and talent to create murals,” he said of the SUPERFLAT team.

Upcoming Second Saturday Open Studios will feature more special programming and themes. The aforementioned Amanda Walker is putting together a “Sun and Sea” theme for August.

“In September, Jeff Angeley is pulling together a music-themed event. In October, I am planning a Maker/Makerspace themed event,” said Jack. (Jeff Angeley is the musician behind the recent World Fiddle Day event in the building, where he maintains a studio.)

The June 9 special event will be a drawing for works of art donated by Hatch Street Artists. July is currently open, and Jack is open to collaborating with people throughout the city who may have creative ideas.

It’s why he’s been visible at community meetings, like the last Love The Ave meeting. That’s the group dedicated to extolling all things good on and around Acushnet Avenue. One of the Hatch Street Artist Association’s goals is to reach deeper into the neighborhood it shares in a diverse north end.

Keep up with events at Facebook.com/88hatchstreet.

Hatch Street Studios 2.0

Hatch Street Studios has been a fixture of the New Bedford arts scene for many years.

But a seminal event occurred in 2014 which changed the course of its history and set it firmly upon its present reinvigorated course.

That year, Jeffrey Glassman, owner of neighbor Darn it!, Inc. at 686 Belleville Avenue, bought the building — actually two. Hatch Street Studios today consists of both 88 Hatch St., the original studio building, and 90 Hatch St., which now houses smaller studios than the almost cavernous spaces found at 88.

Glassman bought Hatch Street Studios committed to retaining its integrity as an arts center. Indeed, he’s been keen on doubling down on its reputation as a destination for artists seeking studio space in the city and from throughout the region.

What’s remarkable about this is that Jeff Glassman is a businessman — and a successful one, at that. Darn It! is an apparel and general merchandise repair and inspection business that found a successful niche for itself after NAFTA. Glassman joined the family business in 1994 and has overseen its steady growth since then.

When the opportunity arose to purchase neighbor Hatch Street Studios, it was the businessman in him that made the deal. Fortunately, he’s a creative businessman with a concern for the community, who doesn’t simply want to own and manage, with his wife, Lori, an artist studio building.

He wants it, everyone in it, and the arts destination New Bedford to thrive.

There was trepidation among some of the artists when he took over the building at first, because of that businessman’s approach. In that first year, everyone in the building had to do something that previously had happened on a loose, ad hoc basis: sign leases. And, there were rent increases.

But, concurrent with those actions were improvements to the building, both in terms of infrastructure and management. And, the addition of an entirely new floor of studios, the second — with that large community space that’s now being put to good use during the Second Saturday Open Studios events. All of it has brought new energy to Hatch Street Studios.

Glassman the business owner has been aggressive in bringing attention to the art and work being produced by the residents of Hatch Street.

He’s hosted events at the building that introduced other members of the business community to the creative community, for example. He’s also invested his time in promoting the studios and people in them whenever possible at multiple venues and meetings throughout the city and region.

For New Bedford, Hatch Street Studios signifies that the creative economy has found real purchase — as an idea and as a brick and mortar cornerstone in the city.

Now open to the public every Second Saturday of the month.

Steven Froias blogs for the coworking facility, Groundwork! at NewBedfordCoworking.com. Email: StevenFroias@gmail.com.

Original article here.

Aquaculture next objective of New Bedford officials

Mayor Jon Mitchell was taking his daily run atop the hurricane barrier late last year when he had a realization: There are a lot of things one cannot do amid the huge granite blocks on the barrier’s sides.

Development is out. Swimming, out. Boating, out. It defied the imagination. Then he thought of aquaculture. The barrier now was a sheltered spot where aquaculture might be practiced while annoying as few people as possible in places such as Clark’s Cove.

One thing led to another, until Tuesday when a lengthy survey report was made public, spelling out the advantages and disadvantages of shellfish farming on the SouthCoast shore of Buzzards Bay.

On the merits, the report, funded by Coastal Enterprises, Inc. of Portland, Maine and the Garfield Foundation, found that if the region plays its hand right, aquaculture could become a significant contributor to the local economy, dovetailing nicely with the fishing industry that, as of now, doesn’t fish in Buzzards Bay.

The CEI exists “to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises and shared prosperity in Maine, and across the U.S. People of all income levels can fulfill their promise and reach their full potential,” said the report.

Business Newsmaker: Three New Bedford companies in spotlight at PGA Merchandise Show

Posted Jan 21, 2018 at 3:01 AM

When the PGA 2018 Merchandise Show, the industry’s annual “Major of Golf Business,” kicks off in Florida, three New Bedford companies will be prominently featured.

Titleist, AHEAD and Moby Dick Brewing Co. all are Orlando-bound for the 65th annual gathering, Jan. 23-26, that welcomes more than 40,000 golf industry professionals from all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries to the sprawling Orange County Convention Center, which will host more than 1,000 exhibitors.

As for the New Bedford contingent:

— Titleist will be front and center at PGA Show Demo Day, the world’s largest, on Tuesday, Jan. 23, featuring its No. 1 golf ball as well as its popular line of clubs.

— AHEAD – one of the country’s top brands for men and women with headwear, apparel and accessories – will be introducing its hot new selections for Summer and Fall 2018 in the PGA Show’s Fashion Forum.

— Moby Dick Brewing Co., which opened in the New Bedford historic district in spring 2017, will be launching and serving its new private-label Dogleg Ale at various events throughout the PGA Show’s four days.

“We all think it’s a pretty cool story that’s developing at the PGA Merchandise Show with the three New Bedford companies playing key roles,” said David Slutz, president, Moby Dick Brewing Co. “This is our company’s first time at the PGA Show and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to debut our Dogleg Ale, which we’re confident will get positive reviews.”

Anne Broholm, CEO of AHEAD, concurred.

“This is not only wonderful exposure for our individual companies but also for New Bedford,” she said. “This is truly the sport’s global stage where the excitement level is off the charts. I think it’s awesome that Titleist, AHEAD and Moby Dick Brewing Co. all are part of the world’s largest business-to-business golf event.”

Original story here.

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.

New Bedford Regional Airport adds commercial flights to Florida