Dynamic duo

Sustainable art created by Isaiah Phillips and Claire Phelan.

 

Husband and wife Isaiah Phillips and Claire Phelan are both true DIY types, and both are committed to taking sustainability to heart. Phillips uses reclaimed wood to create furniture and works of art, while Phelan repurposes fabric scraps to make bags and clothing. She also makes and sells her own brand of deodorant. All the aforementioned products can be found at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop on Lagoon Pond Road in Vineyard Haven through Christmas Eve.

Before we get to the homemade deodorant, which I’m sure readers are anxious to hear about, it’s worth elaborating on Phillips’ creative output.

Working in construction, the Oak Bluffs resident has access to, and a love for, all types of unique discarded wood. He also has a penchant for foraging for beach glass, and so he has combined his two passions with his small business Reclaimed Island, offering one-of-a-kind wall art assemblages and furniture.

For the former, Phillips starts with interesting wood scraps salvaged from job sites. He cuts depressions in the wood in various shapes, using a jigsaw and a benchtop scroll saw, and then fills in the hollowed-out image with bits of sea glass and stained glass suspended in epoxy to create an inlaid mosaic image.

“The wood is generally all reclaimed pieces from when we do renovations or additions,” says the artist. “I work for a high-end company [John G. Early Contractor and Builder], so we have a lot of uncommon things — antique flooring, antique beams. It would normally be trash, but it’s completely usable. The older and more weathered it is, for me, the more appealing. I prefer that to something that’s too clean and polished.”

For example, Phillips managed to salvage a piece of old barn siding for one of his pieces. “It has so much character I couldn’t let it go,” he says. Instead, he took the rough-hewn, very textural plank home and used it as the backdrop for a striking multimedia creation featuring a blue lobster.

Other creations include a swordfish, a squid, and a horseshoe crab. In each case the image is made up of hundreds of bits of glass in a single hue — blue for the swordfish, brown for the crab, but in varying shades that give definition and depth to the image. The squid body and tentacles gradually change color from pale brown to a rich aqua blue to a combination of dark greens and browns, making the image a very colorful and intricate work of art.

Also on display at the pop-up shop are a few other examples of Phillips’ work, a coffee table similarly inlaid with seaglass, and a selection of ornaments constructed from circles of wood with seaglass filling the center, making them perfect transparent window hangings.

Phelan is similarly committed to salvaging and making art from recycled elements. She sources the material for her hand-sewn creations from second-hand clothing or fabric odds and ends found at thrift shops and the Dumptique, as well as leftovers donated by an interior designer friend. She styles her finds into attractive clutches and newsboy-style crossover bags and, occasionally, articles of clothing like the hooded cape/coat currently on offer at the holiday shop.

As for that deodorant, the handmade product is the perfect example of necessity being the mother of invention. “My husband always wanted a natural deodorant,” says Phelan, who explains that the commercial varieties of natural deodorant just didn’t seem to do the job. “He asked me, ‘Can you just make some?’” Now, while most spouses would have dismissed that request as unreasonable, Phillips was lucky enough to be married to a woman who was already making her own laundry detergent and shampoo.

“I figured out a formula and added scents,” says Phillips. “This is the best stuff I’ve ever used.” The ingredients listed on the packaging are all natural — coconut oil, shea butter, baking soda, cornstarch, beeswax, and essential oils. The scent, which the creator describes as unisex, is a combination of clove, clary sage, and amber.

This is the second year that Phelan has offered her natural deodorant, under the brand name Handmade Island, at the gift shop. Last year she ran out of product, and sales have been brisk again this time around. Phillips has been participating in the cooperative for the past 10 years. He previously sold his furniture and artwork at the Artisans Festival. Both husband and wife have full-time jobs, and they are raising a 4-year-old daughter, so they aren’t able to commit to their artwork full-time. The annual Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop is currently the only place where the couple’s work is available, so make sure to stop by before the short-term pop-up closes for the season.

 

Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop, 68 Lagoon Pond Rd., Vineyard Haven. Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm through Dec. 24.

1 COMMENT

  1. That’s awesome! I get my deodorant from Claire and hands down it’s the best stuff I’ve ever used. Both of these people are so creative.

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