7 Connecticut artisans whose creations bring form and function to the home – Connecticut Magazine


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Whether you’re looking for a gift or simply want to spruce up your humble abode, these artisans’ creations are worth a look.

Photography by Winter Caplanson and Lisa Nichols

Black Creek Designs, New Canaan

Furniture maker Thomas Throop blends subtle forms with surprising touches.


Thomas Throop in his Black Creek Designs workshop in New Canaan.

The story:

Classically trained in England, Thomas Throop is a bespoke furniture designer and maker who believes in the importance of craftsmanship, an ethos ingrained in him from a young age. “Growing up, I had an uncle who was a boat builder, and he showed me the beauty and satisfaction of a life making things,” Throop remembers.

Indeed, the artisan has built such a life. For more than 30 years, he’s crafted pieces that are simple, direct and honest. Throop creates both signature designs and commissioned pieces, though he says no two works are the same. “I generally like to reinterpret my designs,” he says. “It’s an evolutionary process.”


Thomas Throop with his Vivian media console.

The item:

The Vivian console ($9,000) is the epitome of a Black Creek piece: Beautiful, rooted in good design, and a little unexpected. The form is a play on Asian tradition, with a body crafted from West Coast-grown Claro walnut.

The piece is finished with screened panels crafted from Chilewich fabric. “It really has a nice richness that reflects the light beautifully,” Throop says, though the textile boasts a functional aspect as well. If used for media equipment, the screening allows radio waves and infrared light to pass through.

“I thought it was a great combination using a traditionally inspired form with contemporary materials,” the maker adds. “It’s a nice contrast.” And, true to Throop’s evolutionary ethos, the Vivian has seen many iterations of height, width and materials.

Where it will work:

Create a home theater by using the Vivian as a media console, or position it in the dining room as a sideboard. In the family room, discreetly hide children’s toys.


Thomas Throop cuts a piece of walnut using a table saw in his workshop.

How to get it:

Stop by the New Canaan studio at 26 Grove St. to meet with the designer or browse inventory, send him an inquiry via his website at blackcreekdesigns.com or call 203-966-5798.

Good to know: Follow @blackcreekdesigns on Instagram. — Ann Loynd Burton

Iron Ore Art, New Milford

Blacksmith Peter Catchpole turns heavy metal into artful objects.


Peter Catchpole in his studio at Iron Ore Art in Kent.

The story

Transplanted Englishman Peter Catchpole has produced custom iron and metal work — artistic railings, fire screens, garden gates — since 1985 in the blacksmith shop he built next to his house tucked between Route 7 and the Housatonic River northwest of New Milford center. He welcomes visitors and likes to collaborate with clients on designs for custom work he creates using traditional techniques and tools (though his forge is no longer coal-fired in favor of gas). Design flourishes like leaves or dragons turn otherwise utilitarian pieces into works of art. If you visit the studio, check out the plant stand Catchpole made for a client who eventually gifted it back to him. “She came with a picture of Audrey Hepburn sitting on top of a plant stand and said, ‘Could you make this for me?’ The result is a jazzy metal stand infused with an organic vibe from the knots in the legs. “I was fascinated by tying knots … because you ‘can’t’ tie knots in metal,” Catchpole says.


A custom birdhouse/birdfeeder made by Peter Catchpole of Iron Ore Art. Similar pieces range from $3,500 to $7,500.

The item:

Catchpole recently made this custom birdhouse, or more of a bird feeder, for a client in New York. Consisting of 50 to 60 pieces, it’s reminiscent of another Iron Ore Art birdhouse that resides in the garden of a marquee property on Candlewood Lake in Sherman, which also features two of Catchpole’s custom railings whose iron handrails sport intricate twists and turns, as well as leaf motifs. The price range for a similar piece, depending on size and details, is $3,500 to $7,500.

Where it will work:  

Outdoors in the garden, in a greenhouse, or in an indoor solarium.


Peter Catchpole works iron into twisting forms.

How to get it:  

Call 203-893-1984 to make an appointment to visit the studio and forge at 308 Kent Road (Route 7) or fill out the form at ironoreart.com to let Catchpole know what you have in mind.

Good to know:

Catchpole’s background is worthy of PBS Masterpiece treatment. He began apprenticing at age 15, worked in metalworking shops while getting his degree, obtained a post at a college in Farnham, Surrey, specializing in textile design, oversaw the renovation of an 19th-century Welsh woolen mill, and later studied with sculptor Fred Bott before coming to the U.S. in 1981. — Douglas P. Clement

ColeMama Creations, Quaker Hill (Waterford)

Nicole Totino-Clark’s rope baskets are a statement in stylish organization.


Nicole Totino-Clark creates baskets woven out of sailboat cord.

The story:

Nicole Totino-Clark was experienced with needle felting when she met a woman making baskets from recycled materials and decided to attempt crafting an egg basket. The fiber artist posted a photo of the basket she made on Facebook, and almost immediately had requests to make more.

That was six years ago. Today, Totino-Clark creates baskets, bags and other containers out of heavy-duty sailboat cord, which she dyes in various colors. For some of the bigger items, she also incorporates other materials. “I especially love anything I make with driftwood and yarn mixed in,” Totino-Clark says.


One of Totino-Clark's multicolored basket creations.

The item:

The rope and bobbin ends basket ($24–$200) is made primarily out of a heavy-duty sailboat cord which Totino-Clark dyes in various colors. Prices are based on size, which can vary widely based on intended use, and materials.


Nicole Totino-Clark dyes sailboat cord for her baskets and bowls in all sorts of colors.

Where it will work:

Everywhere. Seriously, Totino-Clark’s baskets not only add an instant splash of color to homes, they’re perfect for corralling toys in a kids’ room, containing various odds and ends in a home office, extra blankets in a TV room, and hats and mittens in a mudroom. Leave one wherever clutter tends to build up and quickly scoop it all into a basket when unexpected guests (aka mom) arrive. 

How to get it:

Sign up for ColeMama Creations’s newsletter at colemamacreations.com. Totino-Clark sends out emails when her online shop with ready-to-purchase goods is open, about 10 times per year. Custom orders take two to four weeks and can be ordered by emailing [email protected] 

Good to know:

Follow @colemamacreations on Instagram and keep an eye on her website for show information. — Bridget Shirvell

DBO Home, Sharon

A husband-and-wife design studio crafts handmade modern heirlooms.


Dana Brandwein and and Daniel Oates of DBO Home in Sharon.

The story:  

DBO Home is the collaborative design studio of husband and wife Daniel Oates, a sculptor, and Dana Brandwein, a veteran of the music business who worked with such artists as AC/DC, Metallica and Björk. She launched the venture in 2007 with ceramics and he joined her a year or two later, expanding the line to furniture, lighting and bronze objects. New York City transplants, they moved to Litchfield County and created their design studio in Sharon.


DBO Home's Marilie Matriarch table lamp

The item: 

The Marilie Matriarch table lamp ($750), named after Oates’ mother and inspired by mid-century modern design, is handmade and a true collaboration between Oates and Brandwein. “We designed it quite a few years ago. It’s become really popular this year,” Brandwein says. Available in four glazes, the lamp combines the smoothness of high-quality porcelain with hand-turned walnut for the base, and the bouclé barrel shades are made from vintage fabric. “We both love the combinations of these materials; the warm and the cool was the idea behind it,” Brandwein explains, noting the handwork in the shades and the natural oils used to finish the base: “It feels more cozy than commercially produced lamps, I think. You definitely feel the wood.”

Where it will work: 

These smaller-scale lamps (22 inches tall) are perfect as bedside lighting or on a desk. “We did a customized version of this lamp for the Troutbeck hotel,” Brandwein says, referring to the luxurious Hudson Valley lodging.


Daniel Oates at work in the studio.

How to get it:  

Shop online at dbohome.com

Good to know:  

DBO Home’s website also features The Tastemakers’ Table, presenting collaborations with photographers, stylists, chefs and designers as inspiration. Also follow @dbo_home on Instagram. — Douglas P. Clement

Hardenco (Hartford Denim Co.), New Hartford

These dudes design denim built to stand the test of time.


Luke Davis (left) and Marshall Deming own Hartford Denim Co.

The story:

A hobby begun by school friends in a parents’ garage catapulted into a successful manufacturer of some of the strongest clothes that money can buy. “We set out to create something we couldn’t find in the marketplace,” says owner Luke Davis, who owns Hardenco along with Marshall Deming. “Inspired by the rigors of adventure and work, we applied World War II-era construction to modern materials, fits and functions.” Their line of heavy-duty workwear products include aprons, denim and duck canvas jeans, worker jackets, work shirts and waterproof tote bags. 

Hardenco seeks out the best fabrics in the world, tapping American sources whenever possible, Davis says, and is experimenting with Japanese selvedge denim and cotton twills. “Our favorite mill in the U.S. has been closed since 2016, so we have been using more imported fabrics since. We are, however, always sourcing deadstock USA-made fabrics in addition to Japanese denims.”

They cut and sew custom pieces in their shop using vintage, industrial-grade sewing machines, and offer unlimited free repairs. So you really can use and wear their duds for a lifetime.


The selvedge denim apron is both durable and versatile.

The item:

The selvedge denim apron ($118) is durable, long lasting and purposeful, and can fit a variety of shapes and sizes. It’s made with 13-ounce Cone Mills indigo selvedge denim from Greensboro, North Carolina, and features seven pockets to accommodate all manner of tools, and colored stitching bar tacks. A crossback strap design reduces neck fatigue over extended use.

What it’s good for:

The apron will hold up through tough treatment, and is perfect for home cooks, bartenders, painters or woodworkers. Or just about any activity that can get a bit messy.


Luke Davis at work at Hartford Denim Co.'s New Hartford workshop.

How to get it:

Stop by the workshop at 196 Main St., online at hardenco.com, check them out three times a year at the Brimfield, Massachusetts, flea market and other special events, or call 860-880-0495.

Good to know:

Follow @hardenco on Instagram. — Pamela Brown

Studio Jeffrey P’an, Mystic

Jeffrey P’an’s color-splashed pieces are a “vision in glass.”


Jeffrey P’an’s pieces are “about one thing: utilizing the transparency of glass.”

The story:

Jeffrey P’an did not intend to be a glassblower. In fact, he went to school to study mechanical engineering and industrial design, but somehow ended up in Murano, off the coast of northern Italy, where he learned just that from its celebrated factory floors on up. His unique approach, some 30 years in the making, combines traditional glassblowing techniques with modern technology to “bring his vision in glass to light.” That contemporary-art glass vision includes everything from signature (and highly collectible) sculptures to custom architectural installations, each crafted in P’an’s brilliant studio/gallery at the edge of downtown.


Studio Jeffrey P’an’s Mountain Canvas, an art-glass piece reminiscent of Cézanne.

The item:

When it comes right down to it, “My work is about one thing: utilizing the transparency of glass,” P’an says. Mountain Canvas ($5,000), a one-of-a-kind stunner titled for paintings by French artist Paul Cézanne that pay homage to the interpretation of objects and light that once surrounded Mont Sainte-Victoire in southern France, uses such transparency to create what P’an calls a “painterly effect” as the viewer looks through the piece. The transparency and the placement of the colors reminiscent of those used by Cézanne work together to represent landscapes that are interpretive like a painting, the colors shifting and reacting to changes in light and viewing perspective. 

Where it will work:

This decorative piece begs for front-and-center placement in either a living or dining room window. Oh, those colors!


Jeffrey P'an at work in his Mystic studio.

How to get it:

Go to studiojeffreypan.com, visit the studio/gallery at 25 Roosevelt Ave. in Mystic, or call 860-536-9274.

Good to know:

Follow @studiojeffreypan on Instagram and @studiojeffreypan on Facebook. — Michelle Bodak Acri

Coastal Clay, Cheshire

Sam and Sarah Costanzo’s ceramics bring a beachy feel.


Sam and Sarah Costanzo in their Cheshire studio.

The story:

Husband and wife Sam and Sarah Costanzo, high school sweethearts who grew up on the Connecticut shoreline and later attended Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida, where they fell for the magic that can be made when you toss a hunk of clay onto a pottery wheel, are a couple who have spent a lot of time with their toes in the sand. As a result, “the coast became a part of who we are, and our ultimate definition of natural beauty,” Sarah says. A beauty that is subsequently reflected in the light, airy and decidedly beachy (but functional) handmade ceramics the talented duo creates out of a studio behind their home in Cheshire, where they spend the rest of their days ever molding and shaping their most triumphant works: three beautiful children. 


Coastal Clay's Rio Collection evokes life and movement.

The item:

Coastal Clay’s Rio Collection is inspired by the Costanzos’ son Rio, whose name means river of life. “This is his personality exactly,” Sarah says. “Always on the move, always overflowing, bubbling over, and brimming with life.” The Rio dinnerware set ($150) includes dinner and salad plates, a classic bowl and two tumblers and is both microwave and dishwasher safe. Most sets are made to order and thus take up to four weeks to complete.

Where it will work:

Keep it casual in the kitchen or dress things up for a statement-making dinner party in the dining room. 


Sam Costanzo at work on the pottery wheel.

How to get it:

Order at coastalclayco.com, at etsy.com/shop/CoastalClayPottery, or call 203-641-1290 to make an appointment to see studio stock.

Good to know:

Follow @coastal.clay on Instagram and @coastalclayco on Facebook. — Michelle Bodak Acri 

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