The Ithacan offers a glimpse into the lives of some local vendors at the Ithaca Farmers Market, located at Steamboat Landing on Saturdays and Sundays.
by Silas White
In small stall in the Ithaca Farmers Market filled with enough wooden furniture to stock a small house. Cutting boards, chairs, tables and other finished wood products all find their place on the shelves of Adirondack Furniture.
Dave Parelli, owner of Adirondack Furniture, turned his passion for woodworking into a business 26 years ago. Even though he’s been in the business so long, Parelli said he still finds himself learning new things.
“I started out making chairs, then tables, then benches, and the last several years I’ve been making cutting boards and utensils,” he said.
Parelli got his start when he decided to sell his furniture from the yard of his nearby home. His niece suggested he try the Farmers Market, and Parelli said he’s been there ever since.
“It’s a beautiful medium,” he said. “It’s fun to create something that’s going to last.”
The Ithaca Farmers Market is the only place Parelli sells, and he said he prefers it that way.
“I used to do shows, but it’s not worth it,” Parelli said. “I’m better off staying right here.”
by Silas White
At the very end of the Ithaca Farmers Market sits a roomy store filled with human-sized nets hanging from wall to wall. Each net is hand-woven and intricate, with colors ranging from white or tan to more exotic colors like purple or bright orange. At H&M Hammocks, all products are handmade in a variety of styles and sizes.
Diane Thompson has been making and selling hammocks at the market for over 30 years. Her son, Joe, has been helping her with both weaving and selling for the past eight years. The multicolored display of chairs and nets is the product of many hours of hard work. Thompson said the process is very calming.
“It’s like a meditation,” she said. “The world would be a different place if everyone owned a hammock.”
What brings the pair the most pleasure is not weaving the hammocks, however, but using them. Thompson said lying in just the right hammock brings peace to the world.
“One of my slogans is ‘Where peace is a state of being,’” she said.
17th Century Suds
by Silas White
When entering the Ithaca Farmers Market, one is likely to immediately detect an aroma of freshly cooked meats, vegetables and ripe produce. Tucked away in one of the market’s many alcoves, however, there is another prevailing smell: soap. The shelves are lined with oils, creams, shampoos and bar soap with a faint but pleasant coconut aroma. At 17th Century Suds, each item carries a different but similarly fruity and pleasant fragrance.
Andy and Wendy Ives, owners of 17th Century Suds, have been making soap for the past 17 years. They work out of a factory in Ithaca with the help of their friends and family. Wendy Ives began the business when she found herself unsatisfied with the quality of unnatural brand–name soaps. Everything they sell they test on their own hair and bodies to ensure they are creating and selling their highest–quality products.
In addition to selling at the Ithaca Farmers Market, 17th Century Suds also sells wholesale and mail orders on their website, ithacasoap.com. However, Andy Ives said he likes selling at the Farmers Market the best.
“It’s a wonderful market,” he said. “The energy is great, and people love to come here.”
Making soap is not always easy. Wendy Ives said the process can be tricky and involved, but the end result is rewarding. They make the soap by saponifying coconut oil or olive oil, and then adding additional plants and oils for scent and color. She said the main motivation is to give access to higher quality products.
“We wanted better body care, so we figured it out,” she said.
Under the Tree
by Morgan Gjoen
In the heart of the Ithaca Farmers Market, a stand decorated in wood branches and beams holds an assortment of handcrafted leather bags and pottery.
The store, called Under the Tree, also known as Frog Hill Pottery, is owned by Scott and Crystal VanGaasbeck, who are farmers by day during growing season and crafters by night. Scott VanGaasbeck, longtime pottery lover, has been practicing since 1996 and selling at the Farmers Market since 1998. When he bought his first home and found clay on the property, he began making pieces more seriously.
“He felt like he needed to be using all that clay he found and taught himself how to make pots,” Crystal VanGaasbeck said. “It just kind of went from there.”
Crystal VanGaasbeck said they started selling leather work only three years ago, when she apprenticed with late and dearly missed leatherworker Jacques Coco Reboh. Scott and Crystal VanGaasbeck, both wanting to make shoes, ended up doing the leatherwork together.
“We sell the pottery and the leather products. We like things that will last a really long time,” she said.
The VanGaasbecks sell some of their products through Etsy and from their studio gallery in their home in Brooktondale, New York, but Crystal VanGaasbeck said they mostly sell at the Ithaca Farmers Market.
“This is a great place with great people. We get to meet new customers and vendors from all over. It’s a really wonderful place to be,” she said.
Captivating Clay Creations
by Morgan Gjoen
On the far end of the Ithaca Farmers Market is Captivating Clay Creations, a stand that sells elaborate polymer clay art. Everything from pens to jewelry to household decorations is displayed in a complex array of designs and colors.
Owner Nancy Crane has been involved in the Farmers Market for seven years, although she’s been working with polymer clay for nine.
“I dabbled in a lot of crafts before, but this was the one that just grabbed me,” she said. “It’s been an addiction ever since.”
Her pieces are made using a technique called millefiori, originally used by glassmakers, in which she fuses differently colored and sized clay rods, then cuts them to reveal the pattern they create. She says each piece takes from anywhere between 15 minutes and five hours, and her favorite product to make are barrettes, which she claims are the perfect-sized canvas.
“I really admire these artists that spend a month or so working on an intricate painting,” she said. “I don’t have that attention span.”
Crane said she loves the process, starting out with different colors of clay and transforming many simplistic pieces into something entirely one-of-a-kind.
“It’s like a snowflake: You start with something small, and it makes something you didn’t even know could happen,” she said. “You cut into the clay and look at the design, and you never really know what you’re going to get.”
Mt. Pleasant Woodwork
by Morgan Gjoen
On a sunny Saturday in August, Jolene Lyon of Mt. Pleasant Woodworks stood among her wood jewelry and bowls in a stand on the far end of the Ithaca Farmers Market. The warm lights of the stand matched Lyon’s demeanor as she greeted all the customers as they browsed.
Lyon has been working with wood for eight years but graduated from Cornell University to work at a desk job. She gradually began woodworking with her grandfather in his garage, which she says was a good way to get away from her work. Before long, her stress reliever became permanent.
“I quit my corporate job, and there’s no stress now,” she said. “I get to do what I love every day.”
Lyon’s pieces are made of exotic woods from tree farms all over the world. Each large waxed branch has to dry out for nearly a year before she can even begin cutting it into small enough pieces to make her jewelry and bowls. Even more intricate are her individual style pieces. One particular piece was inspired by an archaeology dig with Tibetan singing bowls.
“I used a metal coating and antiqued it with natural aging chemicals,” she said. “Then I put sand in there to make it pitted and mirror the erosion. Personal art pieces are my favorite.”
In 2007, when Lyon was about to start up her own woodworking business, she broke her back. During her long recovery, she rescued a dog named Ruby. Ruby helped Lyon focus on her love for animals over the setback in her business.
“It was a really rough time for me. In some ways, I think she saved my life,” she said.
In appreciation of Ruby, $2 of every sale goes to animal rescue charities.
Christi A. Sobel’s fine art
by Katherine Segovia
Alternations between light and dark shades along with vibrant blues, reds and greens dominate Christi A. Sobel’s fine art stand at the Ithaca Farmers Market. Her pieces incorporate images of many natural elements such as animals, flowers and trees. After about 10 years of traveling, Sobel has returned home to Ithaca and has been a vendor at the Farmers Market for 15 years.
Sobel begins the process by painting in watercolor or acrylic paint. Then, she digitally prints her work and uses it in a variety of products such as jewelry, paintings, notecards and calendars. However, Sobel said one of her favorite products is her cards.
“I love that people write letters on them and write cards,” she said. “Who knows who’s going to get that card? What are they saying? Is it a love letter? Is it a letter to your kid in college? Is it a letter to your grandma? What’s in the card?”
Sobel said seeing someone buy her work with the intention of giving it to a loved one makes her feel happy. She said she looks forward to the Farmers Market every year because of its family atmosphere and economic strength.
“We are all locals here,” she said. “Everybody makes or grows what they bring within 30 miles, so it’s really keeping the local economy strong down here.”
Gartelins’ Raintree Farm
by Katherine Segovia
Reaching the end of the Ithaca Farmers Market, it may be difficult to believe that there is more to see. However, on the far end of a few vegetable and food stands lies the Gartleins’ Raintree Farm stand, which has been a part of the Farmers Market since 1973, the year the market began. The Gartleins said they are the longest–running vendor at the market.
Ginny Gartlein ’71 and her husband Chris Gartlein work together to produce wood products. Their products include cutting boards, jewelry and coasters. Chris Gartlein has been working in the tree care industry for over 50 years. Much of the wood used in their products is local and cut by Chris Gartlein himself.
Ginny Gartlein said the process of curing and treating the wood can take up to 10 years, leaving time for the trees to dry before they use them.
“We may cut a tree and not use it for a couple [of] years or 10 years,” she said. “It’s fun, or we wouldn’t be doing it for so long.”
Ginny Gartlein explains that the best part about their business is receiving customers from around the world. She recalls, “I had a lady come in the other day who said, ‘I have some of your cutting boards in my home in Germany.’ So, I tell people we travel vicariously.”
by Katherine Segovia
At the heart of the Ithaca Farmers Market stands Mary Shelley, vigorously working on a new woodcarving while greeting customers.
Shelley’s passion for woodcarving began at a young age, starting when her father gave her a painted woodcarving he made. From then on, Shelley recalls always having painted woodcarvings in her childhood home. She has been carving for 40 years, so by now, she said, the whole process comes naturally to her. She always begins with a thorough sketch, and then goes on to carve and later tops her carving with layers of paint.
“Well, I’ve been doing this for 40 years,” she said. “I just say, ‘OK this one has to start with green,’ and it goes from there.”
Each painted woodcarving that Shelley creates tells a story. She said she has used her life experiences as a source of inspiration for her subject matter and many of her pieces are autobiographical. For example, many of her pieces include images of gardening and sailing, which are two hobbies she enjoys.
Shelley said the best part of her work is seeing the enjoyment her customers get from her woodcarvings.
“It’s satisfying to have a skill that people like and want to have in their homes,” she said. “It’s kind of an honor.”
Frosty Morning Jewelry
by Katherine Segovia
Frosty Morning Jewelry, located at one end of the Ithaca Farmers Market, showcases a wide variety of necklaces and earrings. Founder Sandy Yahner is passionate about the art she creates and is devoted to her work.
“I’m a retired art teacher, so I don’t have to be [making jewelry], but I love doing it and I love being here at the market,” she said. “It’s a great place. There’s great energy and great people.”
Making jewelry is something that piqued Yahner’s interest from the start. She was a metals major in college, which was jewelry making at the time. Yahner went from being a metals major to an art teacher and fiber artist, then back to making jewelry. Yahner said while at her other jobs she missed working with jewelry.
“I like doing the weaving, I like doing the felting, but I kept thinking: I like working small, and I like the product that I work with,” she said.
Yahner works with precious metal clay, which is an organic binder with metal particles. Making this kind of jewelry is a time–consuming process, as it can take anywhere from one to eight hours, depending on the material. Yahner said the process is magical. She even laughed and said she is patient when it comes to art, but not when it comes to life.
“When you have art in your life, sometimes it’s not always at the top of the list,” she said. “But it’ll always be there.”