We’ve created a new piece especially for our upcoming show!
July 27-28 we’ll be in the Brandywine Valley at the Fine Crafts Fair in Wilmington, Delaware.
Known for its rolling countryside, stone farmhouses, and a rich culture of museums and formal gardens, the Brandywine’s beauty reaches its peak in high summer.
We are struck by its astonishing array of greens, which range from misty mornings to still, sunlit meadows to cool, dark forests. To celebrate this unique combination of natural and cultivated beauty, we created the Dress for a Summer Day.
Here’s a look at the Brandywine in its many shades of summer green.
You can see the Dress for a Summer Day at the Fine Crafts Fair, Chase Center on the Riverfront, Wilmington, Delaware, July 27-28 or online any time in the Shop.
Too often a look at the national landscape tells stories of loss. Plant closings, job loss, and empty storefronts have sapped the vitality from towns all over the United States. This has been especially keenly felt in New England. Once home to thriving textile, shoe, furniture, and fishing industries, today it may be described by statistics on foreclosures and addiction. When we visit we find towns that are only shells of themselves. But we also find wonderful stories of people who bring fresh air and a new sense of community to their hometowns. Tracie Pouliot of Gardner, Massachusetts is just such a person.
The daughter of a furniture maker, Tracie is an artist whose medium is printmaking. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute in New York and a Master’s degree in Community Art from the Maryland Institute of Art. In between her years in school, she spent two years with Americorps working on a community farm. But that’s only part of her story. Tracie is also the founder and driving force behind the Chair City Community Workshop, a fantastic place brimming with energy, creativity, and community pride in downtown Gardner.
Gardner is a small city in central Massachusetts. Founded in the 18th century in an area with abundant timber and water power, it rose to prominence in furniture manufacturing. Heywood Wakefield, Nichols & Stone, Conant Ball, and Temple Stuart are just a few of the dozens of furniture companies whose home was Gardner. The city was best known for the manufacture of chairs, at its peak producing over 4 million each year and filling schools, libraries, and restaurants all over the US. Gardner became known as the Chair City, and in 1905 celebrated this title by building the largest chair in the world.
For 25 years Tracie’s father worked for Nichols & Stone, the company that went the longest way putting the Chair in Chair City. Tracie recalls her father taking her and her sister to the factory as children. She sums up the importance of these visits when she explains, ‘The smell of sawdust is significant for me.’ During summers while she was in college, Tracie returned to Gardner and worked at Nichols & Stone as a floater. ‘At the time I was jealous of friends who had neat internships in cool cities, but it turned out that working in the factory actually influenced my artistic practices and interests as much as art school did.’
Nichols & Stone was the last of Gardner’s big furniture factories; it closed in 2008. Tracie had first-hand knowledge of how such a closing affected its many employees. ‘… it was really clear to me my community must be struggling in many ways with the loss of Nichols & Stone. I didn’t want people’s stories to go untold and I wanted to understand how a factory with such a great reputation and quality product with many employees who actually loved working there could close, and how an entire industry that built a city could just seemingly disappear.’
In 2009 Tracie started talking with the former employees of Nichols & Stone. ‘My first interview for this project was with my dad, Mike Pouliot.’ At the time she was living in North Carolina and holding down a full-time job. She traveled back and forth to Gardner to interview.
‘Eventually I was able to save money, quit my job, and focus on my art.’ Tracie began to listen to the interviews she had recorded and wondered how to share them. She began to see her own medium of printmaking in the context of telling the stories of the workers in Gardner’s furniture industry.
Tracie says an early interview with a former Nichols & Stone employee showed her what this project would become. ‘She worked there straight out of high school and was just a few years shy of retiring when they closed. So you can imagine all the life events she shared with her coworkers over the years. She had best friends, mentors, people who helped her grow up in the factory. They would decorate their work stations, bring in food to share, celebrate weddings, babies, and holidays together. She also loved the work, and was good at it. Her story so clearly explained the loss that happened when an entire industry moves. It was financial, but is was also about her identity, her social circle, her creativity, and her pride. These are all the things that make us feel like ourselves, and all of a sudden those things were swept out from under her.’
Tracie goes on to explain, ‘…the audio alone from the interviews with furniture workers is really compelling—there is definitely something special about hearing someone’s voice when they are talking from the heart… [but] this is a city of people who make things, and inspect the craftsmanship of things, and touch things to find out more about them. Whatever I did with these interviews had to be well-made and had to be an object people could interact with. So books seemed natural since I was dealing with words.’
Then, as Tracie, explains, the real work began. She did a fundraiser to raise money for a traditional letterpress and industrial paper cutter, found space downtown, and wrote grants to get money to pay for bookmaking materials.
Today the downtown storefront is the Chair City Community Workshop, which houses the letterpress and other equipment and materials needed to make a handcrafted book. The Workshop is also a gathering place where people can learn how to use the letterpress, volunteer their time making woodcuts, binding books by hand, and participate in events and social gatherings. ‘The Workshop is organized so that anyone could come in off the street and help out. I try to have a few tasks available for each shift for a range of abilities. Folks can stay a few minutes or a few hours. ‘
The Workshop has now produced the Chair City Oral History Series, collected from 12 Nichols & Stone employees. Each interview is recorded in a handmade book, printed in an edition of 400. With the completion of each book, the Workshop hosts a book release party, often attended by the furniture maker about whom the book was written.
The Workshop has received funding from the Pollination Project, Mass Humanities, and Massachusetts Cultural Council. It also receives support from individual contributions, in-kind donations, and ‘tons of volunteer time.’ Tracie speaks publicly and charges a fee, but as she explains, ‘for the most part it’s time we are not compensated for but have all decided is worth spending on doing this.’
It is an absolute delight to walk into this humming center of activity, where individual citizens, school groups, and civic organizations volunteer their time printing, binding, making woodcuts, and getting to know each other. We are in awe of the commitment to craft, history, and hometown shown by this American Woman. Thank you, Tracie!
Read the story behind the newest Anikka Becker design.
We are especially thrilled to have been invited to show Anikka Becker designs at the Piccolo Spoleto Crafts Exhibition in Charleston, South Carolina. A place full of happy memories, Charleston is a second home.
And a city so beautiful it’s hard to know where to look first. Still in possession of many of its historic buildings, Charleston is a unique city. Walk its quiet streets among live oaks hung with Spanish moss, pass through its magnificent wrought iron gates to visit hidden gardens, or feel the sea spray along the waterfront avenue known as the Battery. It’s like no other place.
And what is Piccolo Spoleto? Since 1977 Charleston has been the home to Spoleto USA, a 17-day performing arts festival that Charleston shares with Spoleto, Italy. It’s also the parent festival of Piccolo Spoleto, a concurrent celebration of visual and literary arts. Among them is the Piccolo Spoleto Crafts Exhibition, now in its 40th year. Anikka Becker is delighted to be a part of it.
For the occasion, we created a special piece. Stay tuned.
Piccolo Spoleto Crafts Exhibition
Wragg Square, between Meeting and Charlotte Streets
Friday May 31: 10 am to 6 pm
Saturday June 1: 10 am to 6 pm
Sunday June 2: 11 am to 5 pm
When we first saw that stunning gladiolus print we were captivated by its freshness. The spray of exuberant blooms in vivid colors is a celebration of the highest order.
Finally, we thought, this will do it.
To the lady who taught us the value of kindness, a library card, an ever ready smile, and the elegant hotel breakfast, we offer the Glad Dress.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Shop Anikka Becker at the Rittenhouse Square Fine Craft Fair, May 10-12.
Some fabrics are so overwhelming, the dress almost designs itself. From the beginning we were captivated by the vivid color of this gladiolus print on white cotton batiste jacquard. The fitted bodice with a simple bateau neck showcases this glorious print, while a v-back and exuberant circle skirt makes the occasion special. For day or evening, indoors or out. See the Glad Dress at its runway debut.
For more on the Glad Dress visit the Shop.
One of a Kind Show
The Merchandise Mart
Shop. Try on. Take home.
See the launch of
The Glad Dress
Friday April 26, 6 pm
Saturday April 27, 1pm
Sunday April 28, 1 pm
Our next design is almost here!
See the debut on the runway at the
Chicago Spring One of a Kind
April 26-28, 2019
The Merchandise Mart
See the debut
Friday April 26 at 6:00 pm
Saturday April 27 at 1:00 pm
Sunday April 28 at 1:00 pm
See the collection, try on, take home
The Merchandise Mart
Meet Captain Aileen Marty MD, US Navy (retired), Weapons Inspector, Professor, Grandmother
We celebrate these cold, bright days as the first flowers push through the snow.
Our next stop is the high Alpine meadow.
The launch of our next design is almost here!
Anikka Becker first design of 2019 coming soon!
We are delighted to announce that Anikka Becker has been accepted to the
2019 Rittenhouse Square Fine Craft Fair
May 10-12, 2019
18th and Walnut Streets
Natalie J Leroux is a fontster. Yes, that’s right. Fontster. As in f-o-n-t.
We are delighted to announce that Anikka Becker will be at the 2019 Spring One of a Kind Show in Chicago.
So glad you asked. It’s one of our most popular silhouettes.
We are thrilled to present an interview with haute couture model Patrice Vailes-Macarie!