My partner, Kat, and I live in the Historic Rondout Waterfront District of Kingston, New York. We live in a little apartment on the third floor of a beautiful old house built in 1870. From our windows, we can see the Hudson River and four of the five churches on our block that are all from different eras. It’s a short walk to the Rondout Creek waterfront where many boats dock after sailing on the Hudson. Part of the reason we chose to live here is the very active maritime community. We love that our home is just a short drive to many outdoor activities, both on the water and in the mountains.
I grew up in Rochester, New York, and spent my summers visiting my grandparents’ cottage in the Thousand Islands region of Ontario, Canada. This is where I learned to sail, and as I got a little older, I was lucky to have the opportunity to sail all over Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and in parts of the St. Lawrence Seaway. My grandpa loves sailing, and he taught me the basics of boat handling and knot tying. I think my true love of being on the water comes from him.
My passion comes from seeing my work after it has been lovingly used by someone for years.
Ever since I could walk, I’ve had a desire to make new objects out of found things. Mostly I began with fairy houses or little displays out of natural things like driftwood, feathers and stones. Although I also had my fair share of crayon drawings and finger painting! I went on to create drawings and paintings all throughout my teenage years. I learned to sew from my mom and took some classes to learn how to make simple clothing in high school. This soon blossomed into a passion for pattern making and creating three-dimensional objects out of originally flat materials.
I studied design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. While there, I learned industrial sewing techniques, pattern making, digital skills and much more. I started out in women’s fashion and moved on to specialize in accessories design. During my time in NYC, I apprenticed for a traditional leather worker, where I learned to burnish edges and manipulate and sew thick leather. This time is directly reflected in my work with the quality and care that is taken to seal each leather piece. After I graduated, I worked at a sail loft in the Bronx for a while before starting Eighth Belle. There I learned sail making techniques, how to work with all types of sailcloth and to sew both with industrial machines and by hand. Today, skills from each of these jobs are put into every detail of my pieces.
For me, the passion for creating came in stages. I realized when I was young that when I was finished creating one thing, it made me immediately want to make another version; newer, better and more evolved. I loved having my completed work around me and being able to share it with others, but I always wanted to make something more. Now, as an adult creating functional objects, I think the meaning of creativity has changed for me. Creating functional objects that are loved by my customers is the best reward I could ask for.
Outside of my work, I try to find ways to create in everyday life. I knit in the winter, draw, and create graphic designs and logos as a way to stretch and work my mind in ways different from my specific craft. I think moving your body and challenging your brain is the best way to strive for creativity. For me, this includes morning yoga, sailing, hiking, gardening and biking. Often my best ideas come to me during these activities.
“It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.”
– Ira Glass
In terms of my work, I am in production mode most days. Making bags with my hands is a meditative process for me. New designs and methods of construction often come to me while I am working in the production part of my business. I spend a fair amount of time working out new designs, and the result is several new distinct styles each year.
Before creating a new piece, I sketch shapes and patterns periodically. Sometimes a piece comes out of utilitarian necessity, like I don’t have a certain size currently in the collection. Sometimes, I meld two current pieces together to create something totally new. However I come by it, I start usually with a shape in mind. I compare with my current products to come up with dimensions. Next, I create the pattern, trace the pattern pieces onto the sail and cut them out. I think of new designs sometimes out of need, and other times because I am drawn to a certain shape. I draw a lot of inspiration from the forms of natural items like rocks and wood.
My style is simply utilitarian, slightly nautical and naturally minimal. I used to be a lot more colorful, a bit punk and was drawn to more eclectic things. Since moving out of the city, I would describe my style and entire being as calming down and focusing. Some of this is probably growing up. The way I create now is with much more intention and it’s less sporadic. I would not describe my personal style or life as minimal; because of a busy, high energy lifestyle, my work has developed into a calming escape for me. I wish to create objects that offer room to grow and for the user to imprint their own style onto. I take the blank canvas of the sail and expand on that, adding hardware and neutral colored natural fibers. My intention is for the end product to be full of life, yet an aesthetic that can be interpreted and catered to a wide variety of styles.
I draw a lot of inspiration from everyday objects. Especially objects that are used often, old objects that were used long ago. I am inspired by the materials themselves (sails and leather) and the stories that they carry from their time on this earth. I gather natural objects on travels that inspire my work. They remind me of another time as well as influence the work in terms of color, shape, texture and form. Another reminder of the past is a workbench that my partner Kaz and I made together when we moved into our first home. I remember working on it during a snowstorm when we first moved to Kingston. On this bench, in our living room, is where Eighth Belle began. I still use it every day, and think of how far we’ve come since the day we built it.
My work is inspired by water, natural objects and my travels.
Creating lasting and cohesive work while developing the patience to keep with it for so long has been a huge accomplishment. In the past, I was prone to bounce around between projects. My work now has urged me to focus in a way that has helped me get so much clarity in other parts of my life. I find it has not been one little thing that is challenging, but rather the combination of everything.My work revolves around sustainability and repurposing. I am a mariner who creates functional art for people who are drawn to the water and wild places.