Joining the group of artists and artisans who offer their work at the Night Heron cooperative gallery in Vineyard Haven are four women who create unique items from a variety of materials, including leather, paper, textiles, and, thanks to the newest member, rope. The latter is provided by M-C Lamarre, who has created a line of baskets and bags made using off-white cotton rope for a fresh, contemporary look with a nod to the nautical.
“We are a dynamic group, all offering very different work,” says co-op member Kathleen Tackabury. “It’s exciting and invigorating to see so many different kinds of work and the way it’s all so individually created.”
Last year the co-op welcomed three new artisans — Rachel Baumrin (Austin Designs), Marie Meyer-Barton (Leather Treasures MV) and Taylor Stone (Taylor Stone Illustration). All three have established themselves over the years by creating and selling their work at seasonal outlets around the Island (the Vineyard Artisans Festival and the various flea markets). Because of the abbreviated season last year, these artisans were barely able to set up shop at the Night Heron Gallery and make their presence known. This year all three are excited to be returning to the gallery, which will be operating on a full schedule.
Earlier this year, Lamarre became the newest member, introducing a product that she only started making last year.
Meyer-Barton has been working with leather since 1975, and has been selling her work at the Artisans Festival since its inception 23 years ago. She uses super-soft deerskin and other fine leathers to create a variety of products from bags to jewelry to her best seller — baby moccasins. The natural-color baby shoes are embellished with turtles, hearts, fish, or the latest addition to the line — an outline of the Vineyard. Meyer-Barton came up with the design when her now 23-year-old son was a baby. “He started walking at 9 months old,” she recalls. “I got him regular walking shoes, and he wouldn’t walk anymore.” The deerskin moccasins, with their soft soles and encased elastic around the ankles, have proven to be the perfect transition footwear for the thousands of customers who have purchased the shoes over the years.
Some of the recent additions to Meyer-Barton’s line of leather goods include a handsome travel kit for men made from oil-tanned leather. The eight-inch-long zippered bag benefits from both the sturdiness of the leather and a unique feel thanks to the oil tanning process. It has a nicely distressed look, and comes in both a dark chocolate and an attractive reddish brown called Copper Cowboy.
Meyer-Barton has also added a line of embossed leather bags for women featuring intricate floral and vine designs in a variety of two-tone shades. Many of Leather Treasure MV’s products are crafted from local deerskin, and some include Native American–made wampum buttons and beads for a uniquely Vineyard look.
Rachel Baumrin of Austin Designs creates a wide range of products made from colorful, interesting prints. Her line includes wallets, scarves, heat packs, eye pillows, and sachets. Her Peaceful Cub line of soothing products specifically for kids features smaller-size items in fun fabrics. Baumrin also creates beautiful, soft, lightweight shawls from linen, jersey, and other materials. Many are reversible in coordinating colors, and all are nicely priced.
Perhaps the most unique of the gallery’s new offerings is the work of Taylor Stone, who creates 3D handpainted cut-paper images, many of which feature Island scenes. Using an exacting process, Stone paints fun, intricate images that jump right out of the frame. Many are nature-themed (often with a touch of the magical), but Stone has created just about every type of scene imaginable — from the ArtCliff Diner to the Brooklyn Bridge — and she also does custom work based on individual homes or favorite Island views that often incorporate people or even family pets.
The newest addition to the cooperative, M-C Lamarre creates bags and baskets using American-made rope. Lamarre has made a name for herself as a muralist with a very interesting specialty. She travels around the country replicating Fenway Park’s iconic Green Monster and scoreboard for Red Sox fans’ homes and businesses. Last year, when the pandemic prevented travel and Lamarre had to put a few commissions on hold, she decided to reinvent herself, and started crafting items using natural-colored rope. After months of experimenting with different materials, Lamarre finally came up with 12 products for the line she sells under the name Basketcase MV.
Her bowls, baskets, and coasters are made from 100 percent cotton rope, stitched together with nylon thread. Some are embellished with a small hand-painted heart or Vineyard logo. The attractive tote bag is made from a softer rope, and features a mid-length rope strap that is held in place using a typical nautical knot, and a faux leather label with the Island outline. All materials are made in the U.S., and each piece is handcrafted.
Lamarre’s baskets have already proven very popular. Their clean, contemporary look makes them a nice Vineyard alternative to the traditional Nantucket basket design.
The 10 Night Heron artists and artisans take turns manning the gallery, so there is always one of the members on hand to talk about the work on display. Like all of the co-op members, Lamarre is finding the opportunity to interact with the public a refreshing change from the solitary task of working in her studio. She has also enjoyed meeting and working alongside the other members. “I really appreciate the camaraderie of working with other artists,” she says. “It’s been the perfect antidote to pandemic isolation.”
Night Heron Gallery, 58 Main St., Vineyard Haven. Beginning in June, open seven days a week, 10 am to 6 pm. Find examples of all of the artists’ and artisans’ work, as well as links to their individual websites and Etsy stores, at nightherongallery.com.