The Catskills IN Paris

 

Upstate Diary is thrilled to be selling Issue One at the mecca of concept stores, Colette, in Paris. Sarah Andelman, Colette’s creative director and cultural magpie, is launching Catskills Week on November 16th with a handpicked selection of products and produce discovered during her latest forays into one of our favorite regions of upstate New York, the Catskills. UD gets up close and personal with four of our favorite artists and creators discovering their unique perspective on living and creating in close relationship to nature.

Interviews by Mark Connolly  Photos by Kate Orne

 

Will Lytle, Thorneater Comics

"I built my cabin without plumbing and only a wood stove for heat. It keeps my overhead down and in turn allowed me to quit my day job to focus on improving the work — which is everything to me now."

Lytle on his cabin porch.

MC: I love the simplicity within your post apocalyptic, pagan, tribal world but why is there so much pain and suffering? Does it reflect your own life?

WL: I think the work has always been a place for me to work out my problems with life, you know? I've always been a sensitive and sort of fearful person and life was always a little scary for me when I was younger. So, these things surface pretty quickly; fear, hurt, doubt — the soggy, human things.

It’s about how those human feelings fit inside the larger context of the natural world: does nature feel the same, or, does it have answers for those things? It’s a lot of searching, trying to learn and trying not to feel those bad things as much, which is really a human struggle.

In his studio where the magic happens.

MC: How would you describe your work?

WL: I'm a big believer in art as a means of communicating one’s conditions and perspective to the world. I'm not super motivated on a technical level. Instead, I prioritize the expression of certain ideas over the perfection of the medium.

I feel like my work is punk in spirit. Stylistically, …well, I tried to copy a bunch of people and failed horribly and so I've got a funny mish mash thing going that comprises a lot of influences and somehow ends up being unique, or so I hope.

MC:  You live in a rustic cabin with no plumbing...?

WL: Yep, I live in a little cabin on my Father’s property, it’s nestled right against 100 acres of forest. I built it without plumbing and only a woodstove for heat. It keeps my overhead down and in turn allowed me to quit my day job to focus on improving the work — which is everything to me now. There is also the feeling of being responsible for one’s home and shelter. In the winter, if I don't start a fire I’ll die and the prospect of death gets me very motivated, ha!

Thorneater's Illustrations

Thorneater's Illustrations

Small spaces: less to clean and more time for drawing.

MC: I’ve seen you do your $1 portraits, how did that come about?

WL: My buddy and I decided to travel together on a big cross-country trip, riding freight trains — Hobo style. It was intense, and dangerous, a real adventure. We were broke by the time we arrived in New Orleans so we started to beg for money, for food and stuff. After a while I got sort of angry about the process of begging: it just didn’t feel right. So, I started drawing people in a real basic manner and sold them with a price so low that I figured no one could turn them down, no matter how haggard the drawings were — and it worked out really well. I didn’t have to beg any more!

MC: You grew up with stoner parents. How did that affect your life and work?

WL: My parents are lifelong pot smokers, not interested in the norms I guess. While in high school, this always made me feel weird and I definitely wasn't into drugs — probably in rebellion against them, ha!  But as I grew older the social stigma of pot smoking grew less important to me. Now I really respect their life style and the choices they made. I couldn’t have wished for better parents.

MC: Why do you think that your work is big with teenage girls?

WL: Well, my work has a big following on tumblr and there are a lot of young people on that platform. I think the themes of my work, the doubt, the fear, the sense of being lost and finding your way — that resonates with kids of that age who struggle with similar problems.

My illustrations kind of counter our society's preconceived idea that guys need to be ‘strong and in charge’ — I really hate that shit, it’s so deceptive. It’s more important to me to allow my characters to encompass all that we are as human beings.

Available at Colette: T-shirts, prints, comics and original drawings

Lean more about Thorneater

 

 

Burnell Pines, Musician

"I grew up in Woodstock, in the ‘70s, the town was on fire at that point! There was so much amazing music going on all around me from a young age, every dinner party ended in an epic jam session filled with harmonies. I can say, without a doubt, those early years had a large impact on my song writing and sound. It was not only the people around me but also the beauty of our forests and streams."

Have a listen to Burnell Pines Blue Skies Shelter Me, from his soon to launch Till The Day I Die.  Art by Thorneater

"The thing I love most about living here is the landscape. Within short distances you can go from a valley with rolling meadows to the top of a rocky forest mountain, surrounded by an abundance of water."

MC: I love how you describe yourself on your site: Fire, Water, Air, etc. How would you describe your music?

BP: Psychedelic Rock fueled by Folk.

MC: How did Sarah from Colette discover you?

BP: She discovered my music through my long time friend Philip Andelman. This will be my 3rd record to sell at Colette. The store has such an eclectic fan base! I now have fans from Japan to Europe to Australia and beyond. The impact of selling at Colette has been a great experience.

MC: You were born and raised in Woodstock, surrounded by amazingly creative people…

BP: Yeah, I grew up in Woodstock, in the ‘70s, the town was on fire at that point! There was so much amazing music going on all around me from a young age, every dinner party ended in an epic jam session filled with harmonies. I can say, without a doubt, those early years had a large impact on my song writing and sound. It was not only the people around me but also the beauty of our forests and streams. The thing I love most about living here is the landscape. Within short distances you can go from a valley with rolling meadows to the top of a rocky forest mountain, surrounded by an abundance of water.

MC: Being a true local how would you describe the Catskills?

BP: Beautiful, lush, raw—and sacred.

MC: Tell me about your connection to Will Thorneater.

BP: On a cosmic a level we are both Catskill kids who have spent our lives wondering through these woods. When I made the first Burnell Pines record I knew I wanted a special look, I knew I wanted illustration and I had seen Will’s comic books and always admired his work. One day it hit me: he would be the perfect artist for my vision. When I asked Will if he would do my record cover, he had a smile from ear to ear. We have been working together ever since. 

Available at Colette: Till the day I die  Record Label: The Royal Potato Family

Learn more about Burnell Pines

 

 

Laura Ferrara & Fabio Chizzola, Westwind Orchard

"It was a serene stretch of land but unmanicured and wild. The terra spoke to our Italian roots and the majestically gnarled apple trees looked very much like an olive grove in Italy — it just felt right. Of course we had no idea of what we where getting ourselves into!"

MC: What inspired you to buy your farm Westwind?

LF: We were looking for a place to enjoy our weekends as a family, to have a quiet retreat from our life in the city. We came across an overgrown apple orchard that our real estate agent was reluctant to show us. It was a serene stretch of land but unmanicured and wild. The terra spoke to our Italian roots and the majestically gnarled apple trees looked very much like an olive grove in Italy — it just felt right. Of course we had no idea of what we where getting ourselves into! As a fashion photographer and fashion stylist, neither of us have the most traditional farming backgrounds. I come from generations of farmers in Italy and never even thought about the possibility of having a farm.

Is Chizzola working on an art installation? No, it's maple syrup production!

Fabio’s enthusiasm stemmed from his childhood — he spent summers in the country where his dad farmed a small plot of land for his family. The farm genuinely became a labor of love. Fabio had this natural desire to save its history and started with the 60 year old apple trees, trying to get the bees back to work pollinating them.

FC: We also didn’t set out with the intention of selling products — we just had so many perishable leftovers when the first season ended that we decided to make jam, and other products followed. As with any relationship we didn’t agree on everything, especially reviving the orchard. Laura was one of the people who thought I was crazy… but now she thinks I’m a genius! (Laughter)

©UpstateDiary_WestwindOrchard.jpg

 MC: How does one balance fashion and farming?

 LF: At the end of the day it is all about the passion, creativity, and dedication. Although farming and fashion are incredibly different industries, these values are what we love most and what make each project equally gratifying.

But it’s definitely a juggling act — through the years, and between photo shoots, we have had to deal with hurricanes, a dried well, losing beehives and white garlic rot… just to name a few!  Keeping a work / life balance is definitely challenging but ultimately very compelling for us as individuals and as a family.

MC: It must’ve been a steep learning curve, no?

FC: We originally sought guidance from the locals, read books, and went to seminars but I think a lot of the learning came from the entire experience. Mistakes were made and we learned from them.

LF: Fabio’s commitment to the land definitely inspired me to help out as much as I could. Westwind Orchard has proved to be our most creatively fulfilling venture.

MC: Did you ever think of quitting?

LF: Of course we thought about it. It was at the time when we were figuring out how to grow fruits and veggies organically and everybody, including me, thought Fabio was crazy to try growing organic fruit in the northeast.

However, our local community rallied behind us: a humbling experience that pushed us forward. It’s become a communal effort but we are still a small business and lucky to have a tight knit, talented crew on board to help us through this process of maintaining our vision and continuing to nurture our land and resources. We are now in the process of expanding our wholesale business into hard cider.

Products available at Colette; include honey, maple syrup, assorted jams and various delicious chocolate bars including pumpkin and apple granola flavors.

Learn more about Westwind Orchard

34 acres of natural resources.

Ferrara reaching for the last apple of the season.

Their home, a 17th century history stone house.

 

Joshua Vogel, Artist & Sculptor

'If I hand carve a spoon from an apricot branch that came from a tree that I planted when I was nine, and if I use that spoon to stir the preserves that I make every fall with the apricots from that tree, then that spoon takes on a much larger significance."

MC: Tell me about the poetry in your work... Do you create it or does nature?

JV: If it is poetic, it works because the sum of all of its parts points to a larger idea. In working with wood, when something "works", when a shape resonates, I imagine it to be a result of a confluence of many things, some that I am in control of and some that I’m not. I try to simplify forms to create essential shapes that reveal natural patterns within the material. I feel only partly responsible for the end result of my work. In some ways I am a conduit, and in others I am a witness.

MC: Is imperfection a good or a bad thing?

JV: It is neither good nor bad and certainly there is no "thing" that is perfect. In fact, imperfect seems to be the nature of things.

So, I'm not sure. I try to do "perfect" work all the time and continually fall short of my initial expectations… hopefully, in an imperfect sort of way. The more I think about it the harder this question is to answer!

"In working with wood, when something "works", when a shape resonates, I imagine it to be a result of a confluence of many things, some that I am in control of and some that I’m not.

MC: Can you describe the human quality in what you do?

JV: It is because I am... of course there is a human quality in the work.

Woodwork is craft work, the very nature of craft work lies in the essence of what it means to be human. I involve myself in the work that brings me closer to the material that I use.

MC: How do you hope that people connect with your work?

JV: I believe that if I make things that I put my heart into this feeling can be transferred, perhaps not directly, like an electrical shock, but at least in sentiment and value. I like the idea that I am making things that are useful to people’s lives.

 Violet Vogel 2.5 y already with a keen interest in her fathers work.

MC:  What does “useful sculpture” mean?

JV: If I hand carve a spoon from an apricot branch that came from a tree that I planted when I was nine, and if I use that spoon to stir the preserves that I make every fall with the apricots from that tree, then that spoon takes on a much larger significance.

MC: Why did you move from Brooklyn and how has the move affected your life and work?

JV: I have made a home here in the Hudson Valley, where the stability is very helpful in my own creative process. I love the spirit of independence, the self-sufficiency and the natural beauty, all of which affect my work greatly. I love living in the forest, it is like being connected to "the source".

There is also a sense of history of place with which I identify: the questions of how and why this country began still seem very accessible, exciting and present to me.

Available at Colette: Blackcreek Mercantile Serving / cutting boards and kitchen tools.

Learn More about Vogel's Art and Blackcreek Mercantile