HARVARD — “Art and Cloth” — Sharon Chandler’s new workplace in the Harvard Plaza on Ayer Road — is an intriguing mix of new ideas and old standbys. The space features vintage and recycled treasures, artistically arrayed displays, eclectic exhibits and works in progress, from her own jewelry and visionary fabric creations to student artwork and craft projects.
Tucked in a rear corner of the space like an enticing playhouse is a remake of “The Artichoke,” a unique shop the Bromfield art teacher formerly operated on Ayer’s Main Street with her sister, complete with its original sign and funky fashion sense. Inside, racks of clothing beg to be rifled through. Gently used handbags occupy a nearby cubby. In one of the squares, a fur stole crouches like a sleeping cat.
One part of the big, wide-open room is devoted to project space for classes Chandler conducts, while the other, close to expansive front windows she plans to decorate with seasonal displays, serves as a coffee-house-like gathering spot. It’s outfitted with bright, shiny retro-style tables and chairs, circa the 1950s. The furniture isn’t for sale (although people do ask), she said. It was purchased locally, right out of the box.
During a recent visit, small, individual tiles were set out on one long work table with pictures of masterworks by Matisse, Pollock and others on another, one per seat, like placemats. The tiles, painted with vivid colors and sporting quirky figures, were in various stages of completion, awaiting students to pick up where they’d left off. The pictures on the other table will serve as inspiration for a different project, Chandler said.
On yet another table is a tray of beads of every size, shape and color. Students who select this activity can pick and choose and make their own jewelry, with expert help but no creative interference from the teacher, she said.
For a $40 price tag — the cost of a six-week course — students leave with one-of-a-kind creations whose designs reflect and express their own preferences and showcase their talent. They make great gifts, too.
Although Chandler’s globally aware, ethnically eclectic philosophy doesn’t “do Christmas” per se, she said she embraces and encourages the spirit of giving.
She also urges student clients here to explore their memories and pluck inspiration from the muse. Hers is outgoing, energetic, almost visible, like an aura limned in neon colors. On one wall, for example, Chandler has posted rows of pockets that look like tiny crayon boxes with pull-out tickets inside. She asks her students to write on the tickets, recording how they felt when they opened their very first box of crayons, she said.
Chandler moved into the spacious unit — formerly occupied by an upscale consignment shop — in June. She launched it as a joint venture with her daughter, Rachel Manly, who’s currently a student at the Maine Art Institute and whose fanciful logo adorns the masthead.
From Dec. 15-18, Art and Cloth will host “Handmade Nation Workshop Week.” Workshop classes are conducted from 4 to 6 p.m. daily, with light refreshments provided. Instructors are Chandler and Jennifer Schoenberg.
The four-day menu reads as follows: Monday, Dec. 15: The Art of Adornment and Book Arts with Photos; Tuesday, Dec. 16: Pillow Making and Book Arts with Photos; Wednesday, Dec. 17: Sock Creatures and Book Arts with Photos; Thursday, Dec. 18: The Art of Adornment and Book Arts with Photos.
For more information call (978) 772-5292. Online registration at www.artandcloth.net