Everyday Objects Combined & Assembled
I'll bet you didn't know that in the heart of exotic Algiers, just off Route 5, is the historic Bee Barn. It is full of stuffed stuff -- the Humane Trophies that have been produced here for 11 years. In addition, the little gallery features the one-of-a-kind furniture, lamps, jewelry, handbags and artwork produced by designer Dianne Shapiro.
Dianne has been designing and making things all of her life. She can't help it; the stuff keeps coming. Found materials are a special delight to her. For years she has accumulated materials to use in projects, and those materials were taking up too much space and had to be used or discarded. Dianne hates to discard anything, so she has focused on producing the items now on display.
Bowling balls have been made into lamps. Each has been drilled, wired and fitted with a hand-covered, coordinating shade. Shoes have also been used in lamp bases. Shapiro says, "Shoes are so evocative of the wearer that they can give the lamp a personality." Small cabinets have been découpaged with vintage game parts, maps, etc. In fact, Shapiro has bushels of game parts she has gathered and used in assemblages and jewelry. The small fabric handbags are embellished with buttons, beads, and pompoms. Sometimes assemblages are based on a theme, others on colors and others on shapes.
When one has a large amount of materials, just moving some from one place to another will show juxtapositions unseen before. A new object might need to be combined with others that have sat unused for years. Fortunately, Shapiro has a good memory catalogue of all the things tucked away in the Bee Barn and her home. Her real regret is that there can never be enough space or time to design and make everything she can imagine. Since she is always experimenting, not everything is a success. When she tried casting paper, her husband said, "Oh, look, you made little pieces of schmutz." He was correct and cleaning the kitchen of all the splattered mess was even worse.
"Of every object you see, you should be able to imagine using it in at least three ways in addition to its original purpose. If the new use is also funny, so much the better." But Shapiro is not completely surrounded by quirky or alarming objects. "The results could be tiresome to live with or work around, and I have to think of the needs of my family and staff. The work succeeds very well as a spice or garnish to more mundane things."
Shapiro grew up on a farm in Tennessee and has a BS in zoology from the University of Tennessee. After college she served two years in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, where she married Howard. When they returned to this country, they taught English as a foreign language at The Experiment in International Living. After the birth of her children, Noah and Poppy, Dianne became a craftsperson selling her work at local craft shows. Her business has grown and developed over the years. Now, with the help of staff and manager, Dianne finally has time to play with all that wonderful stuff she has accumulated.
Humane Trophies, 37 Bee Barn Rd., Guilford, is open from 8 to 5 weekdays and other times by appointment. Please call 802-254-4062 for information. Visit online at www.pophouse.com.
Copyright 2003, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont