Here in the Berkshires, the term "do it yourself" is not just a trend, it's a way of life. Currently, eight Berkshire County makers and doers are competing as nominees in the 2013 Martha Stewart American Made contest.
The initiative "spotlights the maker, supports the local and celebrates the handmade," according to the campaign website. With thousands of nominees involved in the preliminary round of voting, the competition will be fierce, but worth the exposure. Here are the Berkshire County nominees:
Clinton Smith Glass Artisan of Hinsdale
Clinton Smith, 34, lives on the Hinsdale/Peru border with his wife, Katie Malone-Smith, and their new baby. Growing up in Connecticut, Smith started his art career sketching superheroes, but at age 19, he began an apprenticeship in a glass studio.
His work is influenced by a style pioneered by Paul J. Stankard, building miniature botanical worlds using a high quality type of glass called schott inside clear glass to form paperweights. "There are only about 12 to 15 people in the world making them this way, and I believe I'm the youngest," Smith said. He earned the 2013 Award for Excellence in lampworked glass from Niche magazine for his paperweight, "Yellow and Orange Latge Berkshire Summer." Smith's work can be seen in The Wit Gallery in Lenox and will also be shown at the New England Paperweight Collectors Association's fall meeting to be held Oct. 26 in Sturbridge.
Daniel Bellow Porcelain of Great Barrington
Former Eagle reporter Daniel Bellow, 49, lives in Great Barrington with his wife, Heather; and two children. He began making pots at age 15. He said he got serious about the craft 10 years ago and "got really serious" in 2010. He uses a gas-fired kiln to make dinnerware, pots, cups, tableware and other objects for the home. His clients have ranged from Berkshire galleries to Urban Outfitters' lifestyle brand, Anthropologie.
"People have really respond positively to me and my work and what I've done with my life. I think people really respect someone who's in their garage all day making stuff with his hands."
JK Custom Furniture by Josh and Kris Kanter of Great Barrington
Josh Kanter, 40, and his wife Kris, 38, are Brooklyn kids at heart with a background in art. Josh used to work on designs for film sets and worked on houses until he found furniture making. The couple relocated to the Berkshires and established their custom furniture company in 2004, transforming discarded and heirloom lumber into modern, functional furniture with a client's style in mind.
Kris, who also works for the Berkshire District Attorney's Office, has helped expand the business to include coordinating textiles like floral napkins and aprons, as well as home goods like cutting boards and cheese boards.
"We're always going to be Brooklyn kids but we find living here in Berkshire County has a lot to do with what we do," Kris said.
JoAnn Kelly Catsos of Ashley Falls (Sheffield)
JoAnn Kelly Catsos is an award-winning black ash splint basketmaker and teacher. Her designs are influenced by traditional Shaker and New England splint basketry, and woven on molds made with help from her woodworker husband, Steve. She has been teaching basketry full time for almost 30 years. Her teaching venues include art and craft schools, fiber/basketry conferences, local guilds and private groups across the country.
JoAnn and Steve process splint from black ash trees harvested near their home. They also make the wooden molds, handles, and rims needed for each basket. JoAnn uses these materials in her signature baskets, and in her classes. The weaving material is marketed as Berkshire Splint.
Michele O'Hana Ceramics of Lenox
Michele O'Hana, 50, lives with her husband John Dolan in Stephentown, N.Y., but maintains her ceramics studio in Lenox, in the back of her own storefront called Local. Now entering its third year, the shop carries work from about 80 area artisans and homesteaders.
O'Hana has been making tableware for years, she says, but found it labor intensive to travel to shows to sell her work. She particularly likes making simple dining plates by hand.
"It doesn't matter what you eat, even if it's beans on toast, if it's on a beautiful plate you're apt to sit down and enjoy it more. Today, we've become so busy that meal time is a lost art," she said.
Ooma Tesoro's Marinara
by Michael and Robin Tesoro of Windsor
This marinara sauce company has been previously featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine in 2012, and can be found on local store shelves. Ooma, is Michael Tesoro's grandmother. He and his wife used the recipe to jar gifts for friends, but decided to share it with the world by creating their company in 2009. According to their website, the couple, who couldn't be immediately reached by press time, live in Windsor.
Peace by Piece Creations (clothing)
by Tammy Annichiarico of North Adams
Tammy Annichiarico, who couldn't be reached by press time, creates unique one-of-a-kind articles of clothing for adults and children. Her work can be found online in her Etsy.com shop.
Shire City Herbals Fire Cider by Amy Huebner, Dana St. Pierre and Brian Huebner of Pittsfield
Shire City Herbals is owned by Amy Huebner, 33, her husband Dana St. Pierre, 34, and Amy's brother Brian Huebner, 30, all Berkshire County natives. Their primary product is Fire Cider, a "a spicy, sweet, tangy health tonic made from raw, organic whole foods in a base of apple cider vinegar and wildflower honey."
Fire Cider is St. Pierre's home remedy for cold and allergy symptoms. The group's chef and bartender friends discovered that Fire Cider also adds some zing to recipes.
"This is something people can use year-round, even in August when it feels counterintuitive," Amy Huebner said.
Brian Huebner has also created cool art for the company, ranging from the bottle label to new T-shirts. All can been found next week at The Big E in West Springfield representing the Berkshires in the Massachusetts Building, and can also be found on area market shelves. Fire Cider is also slated to be featured in the November issue of Bon Appetit Magazine.