Art & Craft of the Violin by Chris Lann Designs

In case you missed it in the July 27 Brattleboro Reformer, Douglas Cox’s exhibit continues at David Walter‘s Master Craft Gallery. Check out the release here and be sure to visit the exhibit during this Friday’s Gallery Walk in Brattleboro:


Contemporary violinmaker’s exhibit offers perspective on 500-year tradition

BRATTLEBORO, Vt.: Throughout his 45-year career as a violinmaker, Douglas Cox has painstakingly studied and replicated revered instruments of past masters. In that time, he has made 800 violins, violas and cellos, and each tells a piece of the story about his journey as a craftsman, as well as the violin’s place in history and in the hearts of the people who play and listen to its music.

D_Cox_at_work -Dixon

William Dixon photo of Douglas Cox at work.

That story, as told through 15 of Cox’s instruments, is the subject of his current exhibit, The Art & Craft of the Violin, which runs through Aug. 31 at the Master Craft Gallery in the storefront of goldsmith and platinumsmith David Walter at 81 Main St. in Brattleboro. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

By taking the violin out of the concert hall or instrument shop, Cox says, the gallery setting invites the public to experience more than just the sound it makes.

“The object itself is only a midway point between how the object got conceived and produced — both in my hands and within the 500-year history of the development of the violin — and its function as something which produces music,” he says. “We’re trying to put (the violin) in that context.”

This is the second exhibit for the new Master Craft Gallery, a space Walter conceived as a venue to spotlight others who, like himself, consider themselves primarily craftsmen rather than artists. Walter is a metalsmith who has produced fine jewelry for Tiffany & Co., Buccellati and Schlumberger. For him, the distinction is that, where art concerns itself with the artist’s intent and the viewer’s response, craft springs from a “conversation with the materials.”

“Craft is always limited by your skill, and the material is always a limiting factor in how well you’re able to express yourself,” Walter says. “If a leg falls off a table, it’s not a table anymore, so that’s a craft object. If the leg falls off the table and that’s part of your statement, then it’s an art piece; (the message) is not limited by your skill.”

But he and Cox agree there are places where art and craft overlap.

Cox says work with a high level of craftsmanship exhibits “beauty that comes from something that reflects the materials, the tools and tradition — not in a way that is the artist’s imposition of a design on the material, but the craftsman allows that to come out — and it is art. I’m getting to the point in the last half-dozen years or so, where I’m comfortable talking about my work as art.”

Instruments in the exhibit span Cox’s entire career, ranging from the first viola he made in 1968 as a student in the State Professional School for Violin Making in Mittenwald, Germany, to his opus #795, a five-string viola “Pomposa” he completed in 2013. In between, the show documents the process by which he reproduced instruments based on historically significant exemplars made by the likes of Antonio Stradivari, the most widely renowned luthier in history. A guide that accompanies the display gives the back-story on each of the instruments, and a catalogue in book form is in the works. Expected to be published at the beginning of August, the catalogue will be available for $25, plus $5 shipping.

In addition to completed instruments, the exhibit includes Cox’s production notes, tools and in-progress violin components sharing the space with Walter’s jewelry.

“It really is a fascinating juxtaposition of the jewels and the violins and violas,” says Laurie Indenbaum, business manager of Cox Violins. “People are really interested in getting that inside view of … how (an instrument) goes together.”

Of course, “it’s not just what they look like but what they sound like,” Cox says, “and we’re providing a range of opportunities to experience that.”

Several performances will coincide with the run of the exhibit, including classical and folk duets on Cox violins in the gallery during Brattleboro’s Gallery Walks on the first Friday of each month.

A schedule of these and other developing performances will be available at

Also, in a novel event, the public will have the chance to sample violins and wine together on Aug. 9. At 5 p.m. in the gallery, five Cox violins will be paired with five pieces of music that bring out the instruments’ distinct tonal “flavors,” and Windham Wines will pour five wines that complement the performances. The cost is $35 per person, and limited space is filling fast. Contact Walter at (802) 722-9620 or email to reserve a space for the event.

Cox says a good wine and a good violin have a lot in common. He usually uses local wood in crafting his instruments and says the vintner’s term terroir — the idea that the environment where a grape grows imparts distinct qualities to the wine made from it — applies to his violins, too.

“I’m very aware of the differences that different woods make in the ineffable quality that comes out in the instrument and that where the tree grew makes a difference,” he says. “Also, the ways in which we talk about the complexity of a wine’s flavor and the complexity of the sound of the violin are equally challenging.”


Life Goes On II by karenkamenetzky
July 11, 2013, 6:38 pm
Filed under: Artwork, Process
Life Goes On II

Life Goes On II

To create the fabric for this piece, I first collected smooth stones from Halladay Brook next to my house. By placing the stones on cotton that I had painted with dye, the dye molecules migrated away from the covered areas leaving ghostly serendipitous circles.

Don’t ask me why, I think of it as some sort of magic…

Here’s a closer look:

Life Goes On II-detail

Life Goes On II-detail

BWA members have creative teaching careers – article in Southern Vermont Arts & Living Magazine by BWA jeweler, Chris Lann by naomilindenfeld
July 10, 2013, 12:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


Creative careers:

Tucked in the hills of Southern Vermont, Brattleboro-West Arts members make beautiful art and live rich lives

By Chris Lann

West Brattleboro basket maker Jackie Abrams’ studio shelves are filled with sculptural woven baskets.

The body of her own creative work sits side by side with pieces that exemplify the traditional techniques she teaches. Walls and doors are covered with photos of people she’s met and taught in her travels around the world. As much as in her vessels, Abrams has woven a career of colorful strands, fitting art and teaching to good purpose.

“I have a really rich life,” she says.

Abrams is a member of Brattleboro-West Arts, a group of nearly three dozen artists who create their art and make their homes in and around the watershed of the Whetstone Brook in West Brattleboro, Marlboro, and Dummerston. Spreading awareness of the local arts is a key component of BWA’s mission.

Marta Bernbaum, another BWA member, clearly agrees: “For me, glass making is an addiction. It’s something I’m excited about, and I love getting other people excited about it,” she says. Bernbaum has taught workshops throughout New England for about 12 years, and is gearing up to offer classes in the West Brattleboro glass studio she shares with her husband, Josh Bernbaum.

“(Glass is) alchemistic at times and magic, and it’s like nothing else they’ve experienced,” she says of her students. “There’s this ‘wow’ moment for them.”

And that “wow” can launch a creative career. Bernbaum recalls asking a class, “Who wants to sculpt?” Only one student, Joe Peters, raised his hand, but eagerly. Bernbaum remembers he jumped in with gusto, experimenting with creating a praying mantis in glass.

SOVAL-02.feat.bratt_west.A_Woman_of_Consequence_web-2-800-600-80“That caught him so passionately that he started putting in 18 hours a day,” Bernbaum says. “He’s now top of the line,” teaching classes himself at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and exhibiting his glass creatures nationally.

Naomi Lindenfeld, another BWA member and the ceramics teacher at The Putney School for the past 15 years, also knows the satisfaction of seeing her students succeed. Students of hers have won honors in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards three years running — and their accomplishments certainly won’t end there.

After taking his first ceramics class with Lindenfeld and graduating from The Putney School in 2003, Joey Foster Ellis went on to become the first American to graduate from China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts. Now, at 28, he sees his functional sculptures commissioned by the likes of Greenpeace; he was named a TEDGlobal Fellow; and his works have exhibited at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and have homes in the private collections of George W. Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

From Southern Vermont to the world

In addition to exhibiting her baskets in galleries and museums, Abrams has traveled the globe, going beyond simply teaching a skill in her efforts to effect broader change. A former fifth-grade and preschool teacher, Abrams teaches workshops in traditional basket-making techniques in the United States and as far as Australia.

But increasingly, she has been drawn to projects with social and environmental benefits. Since 2005, she has used her expertise to teach women in Ghana and Uganda to support their villages by selling purses they weave from discarded trash bags.

“I’ve tried to develop a microcraft industry that is composed primarily of women,” says Abrams. “They have to be able to make the work and sell the work and do everything on their own without me. The idea is to make it sustainable and not dependent on me at all, so that … they have a life that is a good life for them.”

SOVAL-02.feat.bratt_west.5027967040_2dd18f5948_o“By artists sharing their lives and what they’ve discovered, it shares a great wealth of meaning with another body of people,” says Doug Cox, a violin maker and the executive director of the Arts Council of Windham County.

Cox has hosted instrument makers from Norway, Russia, and Nebraska who’ve benefitted from his experience of 30 years and 800 instruments. And why?

“The growth of the artistic community is not in people having the opportunity to consume more art; it’s in people being able to be part of the artistic process. Teaching our craft is one of those ways,” Cox says.