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Pottery by Robert Parrott. Photo courtesy of Griffith Parrott Studio

Pottery by Robert Parrott. (Photo courtesy of Griffith Parrott Studio )


Nantucket-style baskets by Gretchen Biemesderfer. Photo courtesy of Gretchen Biemesderfer

Nantucket-style baskets by Gretchen Biemesderfer. (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Biemesderfer )


Photo courtesy of Stacey Burwell

(Photo courtesy of Stacey Burwell )

Clay, Leather, & Wood: Handmade on the Shore

Published May 30, 2019 • Last Updated 12:34 pm, May 30, 2019

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Anita Griffith and Robert Parrott of Madison

Clay's versatility is an enduring draw for husband-and-wife Anita Griffith and Robert Parrott, who have been making their living as potters in Madison for over 45 years. Their creations differ in design, but share other commonalities. "We have high standards for craftsmanship, and want to make something with lasting value, that feels authentic to the person holding it in their hands," said Griffith.

Griffith's artwork varies in color, clays, and glazes, with designs that evoke the cultures of South America, Central America, and Africa—all places where she spent her childhood.

"Ceramics develops abstract communication through form and gesture, much like music or dance," she said. "There is endless learning and potential for experimentation."

"There's always something to learn, there's always something to experiment with," agreed Parrott, whose iconic glazing technique evokes images of landscapes and seascapes. "It's easy to immerse yourself in it and always find something new."

You can find Griffith and Parrott's work at the Shoreline Arts Trail in November, at their annual fall open house, or year-round by appointment. For info, call 203-245-7837 or visit


Gretchen Biemesderfer of Guilford

Gretchen Biemesderfer made her first wooden basket at a class at Guilford Art Center about 10 years ago. "I became more and more involved.
I just loved making them," Biemesderfer said. "I love the aesthetic of them and the precision and the detail work. I gave them away as gifts and at charity auctions, and I kept making them."

Biemesderfer's baskets are made with traditional methods in the Nantucket style; one of her molds is sourced from a Nantucket basket-maker. The baskets originated in the 19th century on Nantucket Island lightships, ships that acted like mobile lighthouses. The base, rims, and handles are made of cherry wood. Staves are nailed to the rim, then Biemesderfer weaves cane tightly around the staves over a mold to form the basket.

Though she's gotten faster with time, it's still a long process.

"It's very meditative," Biemesderfer said. "It's just a very soothing type of hobby, and you feel at the end of the day that you've made something truly beautiful."

You can find Biemesderfer's baskets at the Shearwater Baskets Company on Etsy, or in person at the Guilford Craft Expo from Friday, July 19 to Sunday, July 21 on the Guilford Green.


Stacey Burwell of North Haven

Stacey Burwell got into leather making about five years ago—she needed a holster for a Firefly costume.

"I bought a bunch of tools and some scrap leather, and I made it," she said. "I just loved it."

Burwell's next creation was a belt bag. She then modified the design to make a clutch bag, which was a big hit among her friends.

"It's really comfortable to hold. Your hand slips through the handle and wraps around the clutch. It fits everything in it that you need," she said.

Today, Burwell also makes wallets, bracelets, and earrings. In tune with the project that started it all, many of her works have a "classy nerd" feel—subtle Dr. Who or Harry Potter designs.

"They are all very unique. I don't like to do the same thing twice," she said.

From cutting to stitching, lacing, and dyeing, everything is done by hand.

"I get asked a lot what machine I use to stitch the wallets, and people are always surprised when I say my hands," she said.

You can find Burwell's artwork at StaceLeeCreations on Etsy, the Guilford Craft Expo in July, or the Parmelee Farm Artisan Market on Saturday, Sept. 7 in Killingworth.


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