Ruggles & Hunt Showcases Ceramics by Laura Zindel
SOME SHOP HISTORY
Ruggles & Hunt has been a brick-and-mortar shop in the beautiful town of Walpole, N.H., since May 2003. In May 2016, a second store opened in Brattleboro and will be online very soon. For the record, Ruggles is not a typical shop in any way: "It is a flirt, a laugh, and a blare of color," says owner Vicki Gohl. Most everything in the displays is practical, hysterical, or beautiful—rather like the amazing people who work there.
Its eclectic offering was conceived by a buying mind raised in New York City that spent many years doing theatre, film, and other visually based activities. Vicki was frustrated that Walpole had no shops and was a half-hour drive for a greeting card, a children's birthday present, non-grocery-store soap, a lamp for the guest room, or a pair of socks with attitude. Her idea was to create a local resource as unique as the town in which it was situated. As the business gained momentum, it became clear that clothes for guys and gals had to be part of the mix. Her goal as a proprietress is to match people with goods that best represent who they are.
Vicki with her store managers, Jess and Jaja, are a triangle of opposites, each unique in her taste, style, and attitude. The store merchandise and the staff offer something for everyone.
Brattleboro has been on the store's radar for a long time. This lovely town, like a phoenix, had recently risen from the ashes of the Brooks House fire and also the mud and water damage of tropical storm Irene. Several beloved businesses had closed on Main Street, and it seemed that Ruggles offered what was needed here. Jaja, Jess, and Vicki had more time for business since their kids are now young adults, and so they decided to expand the franchise.
At first the plan was to go into an available space on Flat Street, but then the space at 79 Main Street came up, and they jumped on it. It was a big investment to do a gut renovation, but they worked hard to restore and resurface old details like the tin ceiling and open the ceiling-height windows down the alley on the Fireworks side of the building. They used all local workmen and local materials wherever possible. The floor, for example, is Cersosimo cherry processed by the Kerber Mill in Guilford.
LAURA ZINDEL'S CERAMICS
Ruggles & Hunt's relationship with Laura Zindel began about 10 years ago. Laura and Vicki became friends through The Grammar School. At that time, Laura was still working out of her house in Guilford and had no local retail venue. Vicki offered a bank of shelves, and that began what has been a lucrative relationship in the years since. When the space on Main Street came along, much larger than the Walpole store, it was important for Laura to occupy a major footprint—a window filled with Zindel wares was always in Vicki's mind. The response to this very dramatic representation of Laura's work has been great!
When the Walk asked Laura for a bit of her personal history, we learned that she grew up in Connecticut and received a BFA in ceramics from The Rhode Island School of Design. She studied for a year in Rome with the RISD European Honors Program.
After graduation, she took a job as director of the Farmington Art Guild in Farmington, Conn., where she remained for 3 years before going to UMass-Amherst to earn an MFA in Ceramics. Her studies included residencies at the Moravian Pottery & Tile Factory in Doylestown, Penn., and the Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass Village, Colo.
She arrived in San Francisco in 1993 and taught ceramics part-time at City College of San Francisco and the San Francisco Academy of Art College. Her studio was in the storefront of a former bakery, where she and her husband lived in an apartment at the back. During this 11-year period, she sold work to the public at art shows and festivals up and down the California coast.
Laura, husband Thor, and son Wulff arrived in Vermont in 2004 and moved into the historic Guilford home they had found on the internet. They converted the hay barn into a studio and began selling work to stores wholesale. In 2012, the rapidly growing business moved into the Brattleboro Business Park.
With the help of the Brattleboro Development Corporation, the 8,000-plus-square-foot studio was built into the current manufacturing facility where Zindel ceramic tableware is still made by hand, with the help of seven full-time employees who also ship it to more than 350 stores throughout the U.S., Canada, and overseas. The studio and showroom are open to the public Mon.-Fri. 9-5. The annual Holiday Studio Sale is on the second Saturday in December (the 10th this year), from 10 to 3. Visit online at www.laurazindel.com.
Laura shares enthusiastically, "We are VERY excited to partner with Ruggles & Hunt to bring our work to Main Street in Brattleboro!!"
Copyright 2016, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont