Artist Jennifer Rapuano juggles art and books

A paint-by-numbers project from the adult crafts class. –Courtesy Jennifer Rapuano

If you’ve ever been to one of Jennifer Rapuano’s monthly adult or children’s drop-in craft workshops at the Vineyard Haven library, you know she is a woman of many creative talents. She is the young adult librarian at the Vineyard Haven library, and a skilled artist and craftsperson as well. Just a small sampling of the adult workshops she’s done in the past two years includes cyanotypes, resin casting, marble paper, felt leaf wreaths, granny squares, hot chocolate bombs, decoupage succulent planters, polymer clay–covered pens, custom iron-ons, lantern painting, gingerbread houses, and bookbinding. 

It’s always a joy to participate. We’re usually learning something new, or experimenting in ways we’ve not done before. Rapuano begins with a short tutorial, and is able to generously help everyone individually as we move along. While the process is always fun, an added benefit is that I leave with something I want to keep, whether it be this year’s holiday sisal wreath, a resin-dried-flower-encrusted bracelet for a dear friend, or my fabulous book box that I learned to make out of an old, thick hardcover that, after removing the pages and lining the interior with gorgeous decorative paper, now proudly sits on my bookshelf holding my plethora of pens.

Rapuano selects her projects using a number of different criteria. One is that it is something we haven’t done before. “For both my kids and adult crafts, it has to be fun,” she stresses. “You have to enjoy doing it. And, it has to be relatively easy … not too much of a learning curve. And the finished result is also something you want to keep.

“I’m happy if people come and just have a good time. But I’m also hoping that for some, it’s something they are interested in doing more of. I love it when people run with the craft.” 

Art flows through Rapuano’s veins. In terms of her own work, she is a ceramic sculptor. She received her BFA at the California College of Arts and Crafts in industrial design, but ended up doing interior design for a while. She then continued her education, getting her post-baccalaureate in fine art from the Museum School. She is versatile in printmaking, book arts, paper arts, sewing, knitting, and the like. “I’ve always been crafty. When I was a kid, I made my own dollhouse furniture,” Rapuano says.

It was after moving to the Vineyard that Rapuano started with ceramics, and worked at Featherstone Center for the Arts. 

“Working with clay is a visceral process, more of the body than the mind,” she says. “The objects I make are talismans of our connection to the natural and human world.” She is also inspired by nostalgia, which connects to her current project, “Significant Objects,” in which, as the name suggests, she asks people to identify a particular object that is imbued with meaning for them, and the story behind it. “Other people’s objects might seem mundane to us, but to the people who connect with them, these objects are magic. They are portals into the past, a world of emotion and memory, a physical reminder of who they once were or who they want to be. It is a world beyond articulation. These are things that make people feel something.” She says about the final work, “For the participant, it is like seeing a self-portrait, an artist’s interpretation of a secret part of themselves. For me, it is a deep dive into the things that people hold dear. I love hearing people’s stories, and why these objects are significant to them.”

In addition to sculpting the object, Rapuano creates a little token gift, such as the small ceramic pat of butter to accompany the sculpture of a Warburtons medium sliced loaf, which the participant’s grandmother had loved, and always brings tears to her eyes when she sees it in the supermarket. For another, whose object was a regular No. 2 pencil, the person explained that it was the only tool she ever saw her grandmother write with, and that when she died during COVID, the participant gave them out during the funeral. Her story about the beloved pencil ends with the sentence: “To always have a sharp tool to write with when inspiration hits, and to always be able to erase mistakes, has completely changed my relationship to writing, and now it is the only thing I write with, too.” 

Rapuano welcomes anyone who would like to contact her about their significant object and the story behind it. And if you want to participate in any of her drop-in workshops, the next is March, where I will be part of the group experimenting with Mod Podge and collage.

Contact Jennifer Rapuano at about the monthly Vineyard Haven library drop-in workshops, and at regarding your significant object and the story behind it. Additional information on Instagram is available at @jlanghammer and @significant_objects.





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