August 7, 2010

Time to move on...

This blog is being archived -- it's been an interesting experience to share with you my thoughts and activities during my time on Martha's Vineyard, and now as I am moving to a new location, a website and blog redesign is in progress as well.

Thanks for reading - fair winds and following seas!

May 22, 2010

Carry-on, carried away!

It's been a busy spring with more irons in the fire than usual, and one of those irons has involved my foray into portrait painting along with letterpress and other types of printing. Of particular note was the excellent Portrait Society of America conference in DC this April, which afforded not only the chance to meet, mingle with and learn from with some incredibly talented artists, but there was also shopping to be done!

I didn't go crazy, but I couldn't resist a pile of books, some brushes from Silver Brush, and a new palette from Turtlewood Palettes. The latter was a special purchase because I have never before owned a proper artist's palette, I have always used an old storm window pane!

Not one to mess around I got the largest size they had which was surprisingly light and comfortably weighted. Of course the one element I hadn't taken into account was the dreaded new carry-on luggage rules (and charges.) I couldn't cram the thing into my luggage and wasn't about to leave it's fate to checked baggage, so not having time to ship it I begged a cardboard box and some tape from the front desk at the Hyatt Regency Reston, an amiable and helpful group I must say!

We taped up the box and addressed it, should checked baggage be the only way to go, and I added the obligitory 'fragile' and 'do not bend, fold, staple, mutilate or otherwise destroy' phrases of the hopeful parceller. Then it was off to the airport!

The TSA people checked with hidden TSA people behind closed doors, and came back with the verdict that it could go carry-on. It almost got stuck in the X-ray conveyor (adding to a security person's lovely day, I am sure) but all was well on the first leg of our flight. It was when we boarded the second, commuter, plane and all luggage had to be left on a luggage cart that things got a bit dicey.

There I was, waiting in my seat for takeoff, when a flight attendant yelled "Does anyone have luggage that is a cardboard box?" and of course, I knew that was me! I waved assent and she quickly raced to the door of the plane, yelling at the luggage handler who was driving off with my flat, taped up, refuse-like package still on his carrier! He circled back and my 'luggage' was put in the cargo hold along with the other more presentable bags.

Whew! Thanks very much, sharp-eyed attendant! Gosh knows where that palette would have ended up.

And so it went from plane to bus to ferry to another bus, and finally to the studio Vineyard Haven where it is pictured with my new brushes (green handles) waiting for some paint!

February 10, 2010

Five Questions for: Martha's Vineyard Productions

Today Dan Martino of Martha's Vineyard Productions answers Five Questions about life in the video/media world! Dan is an experienced producer, director and writer with a Telly award and an Emmy nomination under his belt. He has recently formed Martha's Vineyard Productions, which offers corporate and wedding video amongst other services.

1) You shoot corporate and wedding videos, and lots more besides. Of all the locations you've ever had to work in, what was the craziest/most difficult?

The main "rule" I have come to learn to live by when working on a production is to always expect SOMETHING to go wrong. The best method of dealing with this golden rule is to remain 5 or 6 steps ahead of what you are currently working on. That being said, NYC is always the craziest. I have worked on productions that have prepared forward and backwards and yet in NYC an eight hour day seems to always turn into a twelve or fourteen hour day. Traffic, people, locations, permits, not enough power, horse police, camera failure, you name it, it happens. But I love it anyway.

2) Most of us don't know what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to editing a video. We see you with the cameras and gear, and then the video magically appears some time later! In general, when compared to the actual shooting, how long does the editing part take?

Editing tends to be the labor. When we shoot 3 hours of video on two cameras, you have to figure that now both 3 hours of video have to be capture into the computer and then reviewed. That is 6 hours of total footage which has to be watched twice! Once for capture, and once to review. So before you even start cutting up the footage and building your story, you have invested 3 hours of filming and 12 hours of capturing / reviewing. The good ones will edit in their heads while they shoot/capture and review. This cuts down on the time but it is still a lengthy process.

3) What makes you go 'wow!' when you see a video?

I love good lighting. It is the most overlooked aspect in productions, because when the lighting's good, you don't notice it.

4) Where does the music for a video come from - can I use any song I want?

Music is a touchy subject. If you are creating a video for say, personal use, that will only be shown on your computer or dvd player, you can use whatever you want. But when you start getting into "showing" your media, you have to acquire licenses depending on the different mediums you plan on "showing" through. There are licenses for broadcast television, web, film, etc. There is also something called creative commons. You are allowed to use artist's music if they carry a creative commons license, in exchange for crediting the artist in the production.

5) People say that TV adds 10 lbs to a person... what about video? Any slimming filters on those cameras?

The visual 10 pounds comes from bad lighting and bad angles. It is an optical illusion. Light projected straight onto a subject makes the camera flatten — and fatten — someone's image. Better lighting gets rid of this problem.

Thanks, Dan! I'll be looking for some of that flattering lighting for my next video!Be sure to visit Martha's Vineyard Productions new website which Dan will be populating with videos this spring, mine included, and their Facebook page! Give him a call to find out what MVP can do for your wedding, business or event.

Stay tuned for the next Five Questions business, as we help small businesses get the word out in 2010!

February 1, 2010

Five Questions for: DASECO Electrical

Today on the hotseat I have Dave Smith of DASECO Electrical in Vineyard Haven, whom I first met after outmaneuvering him for my current studio spot (he may wish to describe it otherwise..!) However he found something much more suitable shortly thereafter and has since forgiven me, and as it was his company that did the electrical work here I was able to see firsthand what a fine job his crew can do.

So now, on to his Five Questions!

1) In the electrical world, green power was on the upswing before the economic crisis hit. Are people still keen on installing solar panels, wind turbines and the like?

Absolutely, the interest is still there and I would say more so than conventional construction and renovations at this point. The meltdown hurt everyone. We all paused. I think at this point people know where they are at in relation to their finances and they are thinking about ways to save energy, the environment and especially save money.

DASECO Electrical can provide clear options with sustainable value that have a return on investment based on realistic estimates. This allows people to understand up front how much energy and money they are saving over time, and they can move ahead with these projects confident that they are getting their money’s worth. One benefit of the recession is the price of materials has come way down, allowing solar electric to be more affordable than ever.

2) DASECO does all sorts of installations, large and small. What is the most unusual sort of project that DASECO's been called on to do?

My favorite is our solar panels that we install on golf carts. We convert electric golf carts to SOLAR powered golf carts. Many of our customers never plug in their golf carts again!! They run and run and run, all from the power of the sun! I am told one of our customers loaned one to his neighbors and President Obama drove one last summer on the Vineyard!

3) Okay, I want the inside scoop -- do surge protectors really work?

Yes they do work. I’ll give you a great example: there was a new subdivision constructed south of Boston a few years back. There were 12 homes. The general contractor’s electrician provided an option for surge protection for a few hundred dollars. Eight homeowners said no and four homeowners took them up on the option. Well, thanks to a local squirrel or raccoon a strong surge pushed into the electrical system. Guess what, the four houses with surge protection were fine. The eight who did not lost and damaged electronics throughout the house; TV’s, DVD players, phones, computers, XBOX and PS3’s, clocks, answering machines all fried. At DASECO we install different types including those needed to protect phone, cable and electrical lines.

4) Here's a safety question -- if an electrical appliance I am using suddenly catches on fire, what should I do?

Call 911! If the fire is small and controllable you could use an ABC fire extinguisher, however as fire doubles about every five seconds it is very difficult to say if this is the best course of action. Firefighters would tell you to GET OUT and wait for help to arrive. Since we are electricians and renewable energy stewards at DASECO we recommend contacting the NFPA National Fire Protection Association or your local fire department for educational opportunities and to learn exactly what to do in your circumstances.

5) If I was building/buying a home of a middle class variety, what sorts of green power options might be available to me?

There are so many now. You can start by installing energy efficient appliances and heating systems. Lighting is a large part of annual energy spending which can be converted to energy savings. Compact fluorescents are great and LED lights are close behind. Hopefully our job will get easier and easier as more of these products are perfected for homeowners.

I will tell you a very inexpensive trick that anyone building a home can do if they can’t afford solar today but may want it in the future. Talk to your builder, plumber and electrician: have them make your new home ”solar ready” by installing conduits for solar electric and lines for solar thermal (solar hot water) for the future. Down the road, it is likely to cut your installation costs substantially when the home is complete and sealed up with walls, insulation, paint etc. A little now saves a lot later.

Thanks, Dave! Check out DASECO's website and keep them in mind for electrical and renewable energy installation!

Stay tuned for the next Five Questions business, as we help small businesses get the word out in 2010!

January 26, 2010

Five Questions for: Island Grown Initiative

There are 28 local farms on Martha's Vineyard, and Island Grown Initiative is a grassroots non-profit working to support local food and farming on the island. Martha's Vineyard has quite an agricultural heritage and people like Ali Berlow, our interviewee today, are working hard to keep the growing traditions alive. IGI provides both infrastructure and support to the farmers and helps to educate consumers about the importance of buying local.

1) Your organization has been working hard to promote the farms of the Vineyard. Are the local farms seeing any increase in participation by the community, whether through buying local food or other means?

IGI’s in its 5th year now! It’s always been remarkable how the smallest steps can make big impacts, like the mobile poultry processing trailer, school gardens and an observation hive, for example... and yes, to answer your question - I’ve heard that as a result of our Island Grown School program, which is farm-to-school – that kids who have eaten butternut squash from local farms, drag their parents into the farm stands and farmers’ markets looking for more squash!

We’ve also collaborated with the Sowing Circle – a group of women farmer activists – to start a gleaning programs. Volunteer gleaners are mobilized to harvest crops that would otherwise go unpicked, for lots of good reasons. So you have high school students, farmers and community members working in fields, harvesting crops and delivering them to school cafeterias, elderly housing, elder centers and even the jail.

2) Can islanders buy local produce in the winter time?

Yes! There’s a new winter farmers’ market which has been widely successful, held inside at the West Tisbury Agricultural Hall. And you can also find raw milk, meat and eggs year round from farmers and the local grocery stores. Cronig’s and Tisbury Farm Market, for example, do their best to source local eggs and produce. Scottish Bakehouse does the same, year round, they just don’t always label their menu as such - it would get to complicated!

3) What is the biggest problem facing our local farms in 2010 and what can we do to help?

Buying local produce, meat, milk, eggs, keep them in business. If you don’t see it on a menu, or a grocery shelf, ask for local, where ever you are.

Down the pike, we see food safety legislation a potentially big issue for small family farmers. Taking part in action alerts, being willing to call senators, writing a letter even, will be important as we prepare for the Farm Bill in ’12.

Also, support the Right To Farm bylaw that’s coming town by town.

4) If I have visitors coming to the island this summer, can I take them to any farms to see what goes on there?

There are two educational farms on MV – The FARM Institute in Edgartown and Native Earth Teaching Farm in Chilmark. And some farms have farmstands, open to the public like Morning Glory, Mermaid Farm (raw milk and produce), Allen Farm (meat, wool), the Whippoorwill CSA is a great to join – every week you pick up your share, you get to be on a working farm! [And The FARM Institute now has a produce CSA and a meat CSA - E.]

5) We're looking for some good books to read about farming and local food. Any recommendations to help us while away these chilly evenings?

For movies – see Food Inc., and/or Fresh.

For books – The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Mealsis a classic, by Michael Pollan. As is his The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World.

Morning Glory Farm, and the Family that Feeds an Islandis veritable eye-candy for the cook with great recipes using local produce. Temple Grandin’s Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals– she talks about the interactions of farm animals and pets with people. is a lovely food/cooking recipe blog by Heidi Swanson

I’ve been going back to Thoreau’s Walden, and Changes in the Land, Revised Edition: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New Englandby William Cronon, thinking about landscape, environment and our impact.

And if you want something more political in the arena of the “local food movement” (I dislike the word ‘movement’ – and the word locavore) Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsiblyby James McWilliams is provocative.

Thanks, Ali, for some great food for thought! That last book in particular is going on my reading list. And if you don't live on Martha's Vineyard, farmers everywhere could use your support - check out your local produce options. And if you live on or are visiting the island, check out Island Grown Initiative's website to find the latest about our farms.

(Thanks also to Randi Baird, who took that great photo above!)

Stay tuned for the next Five Questions business, as we help small businesses get the word out in 2010!

January 22, 2010

Five Questions for: Gannon & Benjamin

To say that Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway on Martha's Vineyard is a boatbuilding and repair business would be to understate the situation by far. Their gorgeous wooden boats of all sizes are classic in styling and solidly built, using traditional methods with nary a CAD program in sight. To watch a boat go from a pencil drawing all the way to launch is quite spectacular!

Ross Gannon and Nat Benjamin have been interviewed frequently, and their business has even been the subject of a book (Michael Ruhlman's Wooden Boats: In Pursuit of the Perfect Craft at an American Boatyard)
But these guys prefer to spend their time on the boats rather than working the marketing angle, so that's where I come in! Let me introduce those of you who aren't familiar with G&B to the two owners, who have answered my Five Questions individually.

1) G&B is well known for boat building and design -- out of all of the different types of boats you build and work on, what type of boat building is the most challenging?

Nat:Determining when to proceed or cut your (owners’) losses on very tired, old boats of dubious design qualifications. All boatbuilding is challenging but more so when systems begin to get complicated.

Ross:I find all types of traditionally built craft interesting to work on or build. But my interest is in sailing vessels of all sizes. I must say that building the powerboats we’ve done has been challenging and a good learning experience.

2) If I find an old wood boat in a shed, how will I know if it's worth fixing up?

Nat:First, ask yourself, 'do I like the shape and general look of the boat? Will it sail? Is the designer/builder known? Was it well built?' If you decide to proceed, make an offer subject to a marine survey.

Ross:I’d look at the materials she’s built of first. Non-ferrous metals and durable woods make a boat easier and much less expensive to repair.

3) Building boats is a pretty tough job, particularly in the dead of winter! What keeps you in this line of work instead of giving it all up for a cushy office with a big heater?

Nat:Aside from the huge bonus and salary, I can’t stay awake in a cushy office with a big heater.

Ross:The challenges never stop coming. A boat builder continues to learn his/her entire career.

4) G&B boats seem to have a timeless quality. What do you think contributes to that feeling?

Nat:They are based on timeless values — classic yachts without a lot of glitter, rather grace.

Ross:The designs are time-proven. The boats we’ve built are all similar to other boats built in an earlier time. Also, keeping them as simple as possible must be a factor: in construction, in systems, in rigging, in all.

5) I've been around boat builders long enough to know that they can build a boat with most anything, but do you have a favorite tool or bit of machinery that you'd really miss if it wasn't around?

Nat:The bandsaw is a must. Basic personal hand tools. I’m always lost if I can’t find my opinel (pocket knife).

Ross:My hand tools are more important than any others. They become an extension of your hands so if you pick up someone else’s plane, chisel, spokeshave, etc., it won’t work like your own. The machine tools pretty much all do the same thing, with only slight differences from one to another.

Thanks, guys! To see more of what goes on at Gannon & Benjamin, visit the extensive galleries on their website and view current and previous projects, designs, videos (there's a very cool video called 'Sheena' which takes you all the way through a boat build) and more. And in the meantime, here's a short video of a G&B boat called Here & Now, designed and built at the yard in Vineyard Haven, that will give you an idea of why people fall in love with wooden boats...

Here and Now from christopher Cohen on Vimeo.

Stay tuned for the next Five Questions business, as we help small businesses get the word out in 2010!

January 20, 2010

Five Questions for: Vineyard Sky Bead Design

Today I am starting a new blog feature called Five Questions. It's going to be another tough economic year, so I have created Five Questions as a way of introducing my clients and other small businesses to new audiences. If you would like to participate, send me an email! Here's our first business...


1) Your jewelry has a real Martha's Vineyard feel to it, and the colors you use reflect the seasons as we see them here. Did the colors of the Vineyard inspire you to move here, or help in your decision to settle on the island?

I do find myself seasonally inspired, both by the colors in nature and the colors that are traditionally considered to be appropriate for the season. I'm not sure that the colors here on the island were what motivated me to move, but rather the variety and richness of landscape. My preferred color group always tends to include hues that would be described as earthy. Finding colorful inspiration within visual elements is something I feel I can do anywhere. Discovering other sources of color to spark my imagination is fun and challenging. When I read a written descriptions, or hear descriptive details, I often am visualizing the colors in my minds eye.

2) What caused you to name your business, Vineyard Sky?

Since I began selling my jewelry, I've always tagged things with either my name or initials - Sarah K. Young [SKY]. When I decided to develop my business, and register with the town, I wanted to keep my initials so that hopefully customers would continue to identify and purchase my designs. This was shortly after I moved to the Vineyard. I also love photography and frequently find myself taking shots of clouds, sunsets and other sky phenomena. So to combining my initials with the name of my then new and much loved home seemed a good fit.

3) Customers who have bought your jewelry frequently come back for more! What is it about your work that brings them back?

The fact that I do have a number of repeat customers very gratifying. My customers tell me that they like my style and often tell me if they have spotted my jewelry elsewhere. Over the years I've become aware that it is important that my designs evolve, this keeps my customers intrigued and is certainly more interesting creatively for me. It's also incredibly important to use quality materials and be sure my work is well constructed. My regular, or repeat customers, often take advantage of my custom design services. I find that this is another way that I can employ my understanding of their style sense and give them another way to employ my creative ability.

4) If you could design any type of piece of jewelry for anyone in history, past or present, who would that be, and what would the piece of jewelry be?

Hmmm,... that's tough. I very much like a challenge and it would be great fun to make something for Michelle Obama. That thought crossed my mind when the first family vacationed here this past summer. I admire her sense of style and have found some of her color choices very appealing. It would be really fun to make an elaborate piece for her to wear to a state dinner, or other important event, but I think I'd rather make something to be worn more often. I think that in her one year old role as first lady, life must be very trying at times. It would mean more to me to make something she could wear for her own pleasure, just to enjoy. Of course I'd have to talk to her about this creation and that conversation could be quite an adventure for me!

5) Where can we find you in 2010, if we are interested in either custom jewelry or buying pieces you've created?

My studio in Vineyard Haven is where I can be found nearly every day in the off season. In the summer months I do several shows here on the island that take place weekly, Vineyard Artisans Festivals and Featherstone Flea Market. My jewelry is also available in several island stores, Rainy Day and Shibori in Vineyard Haven. I also sell at Fire & Rain Artisans Gallery in Killingworth, Connecticut.

Thanks, Sarah! Visit the Vineyard Sky website and check out her work for yourself.

Stay tuned for the next Five Questions business, as we help small businesses get the word out in 2010!