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October 3, 2019
Where Creativity Happens: Bethlehem’s Creative Spaces
Our annual arts and culture issue shines light on our City’s creative spaces and those who utilize them—a reminder that galleries, studios, performance spaces, and education venues are centers for new ideas, bold thinking, and collaboration. We have been proudly celebrating artists, makers, and innovators who continuously imagine and re-imagine our city. We pay homage to those adding color to our lives every day with their creativity!
There has never been a time when creating was not part of my life,” says artist Nancy Bossert. “It’s always just been there.” While perhaps best known for her diverse and striking paintings, Nancy also works in mixed media, clay, print, drawings, and more. “There is a definite tie-in, even though it seems quite varied: a love of texture, a freedom to explore, and to truly know my materials.” Working from her Bethlehem studio, Nancy is often commissioned to create paintings for individuals and businesses, and she makes each piece personal and unique by talking at length with her clients. She also teaches private, semi-private, and group art sessions in her studio, in the hopes of passing on her love of creating to others. “Creating takes on numerous shapes and directions,” Nancy says, “both tangible and within thought. Without the creative mind we don’t have discoveries.”
Owner Joshua Ross founded Raygun Samurai Tattoo in August of 2017, on Bethlehem’s South Side. With experience as a comic book artist—he’s got numerous comics in print from publishers Image Comics and Devil’s Due—Josh wanted to build a studio that catered to a unique, illustrative sensibility. As such, he’s built a team of talented artists who, Josh says, “love tattoos that look like tattoos, with strong outlines and bold color.” Driven to be one of the Lehigh Valley’s best custom tattoo studios, the shop has already won numerous awards and has been featured in several industry magazines. And they pride themselves on creating a friendly, welcoming environment for any and all clients, to boot. With thousands of satisfied customers between them, the team always keeps art at the center of their work. “We strive to not be your typical tattoo shop,” says Josh. “We promise to provide you with a unique, custom piece of art that you can be proud to display forever
You’ve probably seen the work of Tim Bream & Derek Wallen, the duo behind Lehigh Valley Printing, even if you don’t know it: since 2011 they’ve been printing tees, hats, stickers, and more for hundreds of businesses, both local to the Lehigh Valley and beyond. Customers range from schools, clubs, and sports teams to businesses big and small, including SouthSide café Roasted, which Derek also co-owns. “I actually started this to have t-shirts for the restaurant,” says Derek. They pride themselves on helping clients find a unique, original approach to creating designs, which is where they start: with a design—or even just a spark of an idea. Then they take it step-by-step through the process with each client, creating it digitally, separating each color for print, printing, and ending with a finished product to show off to your friends, clients, or at events. Tim says, “We love taking someone’s design or vision and being able to turn it into a product that the client will be proud to wear and represent their brand.”
Though she boasts over 30 years of experience, “I’m a kid at heart,” says photographer Judy Reinford. Take one look at her work and you’ll understand: sweet, sleeping newborns swaddled and adorned with flowers. A custom-made fantasy scene of beanstalk-climbing children. Portraits that incorporate a sense of whimsy. An image that brings you eye-to-eye with a giraffe. In her ever-evolving catalogue of work, it’s the animals that have caught her latest fancy. “When I make eye contact with these various creatures,” Judy says, “my heart is happy.” And she uses this gift to make others happy, as well. Recent donations of her giraffe images raised several thousand dollars for special barns for the long-necked creatures. She also sits on the Lehigh Valley Zoo Gala committee and is on the board of For the Love of Alex, Inc., a nonprofit providing funding for low-income families in need of urgent veterinary care. “I have my favorite animals but continue to spend time with creatures I have ignored,” Judy says, “to learn and grow as an artist but also as a person.”
If you enjoy making something, chances are someone else will enjoy it too! “And why not share that with other people?” says Aly Haskins, life-long crafter, and owner and instructor of ArtNCraft Parties by Aly. “Sitting down to create something relaxes me,” she says, “and I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when a project is finished.” She hosts traveling paint and craft parties for all ages, with flexible projects—instead of everyone painting the same thing—so everyone can create something they love. Aly especially enjoys when a participant “thinks they can’t do something, but realize they can. There’s always one person at a party who says something like, ‘I have zero artistic talent,’” she says. “By the end, they’re usually holding their project up and admiring their work.”
To Ann Marie Supinski, Owner of AM Luxe, art is the expression of creative skill and imagination, coming together to make something beautiful. And she is passionate about her chosen art form: creative styling for her clients, making each one feel unique and beautiful in looks chosen just for them. Let Ann Marie help you find your individual style—and make getting dressed your art form.
Figurative artist Michael Hess can disappear into the process. “I tend to lose my surroundings while working,” he says. The better to create a piece that captures the qualities of the unseen—an emotion, an incomplete memory, or a fragmented thought—and give his portraits their auras of vivid, dynamic life. Michael’s primary subject matter is the face and human form at large. “For me they embody the essence of beauty,” he says, “which is the underlying theme of my art as a whole.” Working in oils and oil-based mixed media, he’s been an artist all his life, but he’s not the kind to wait for inspiration. “For me,” he says, “it’s a matter of getting into the studio, picking up a brush, and making it happen.”
A dance of light and dazzling color, timeless yet modern and completely unique: what’s magical about the art of stained glass is even more so in the hands of mosaic artist Dana Hess, owner of The Green Banana Mosaic Company. Inspired by a simple mosaic coaster kit that had been sitting in her closet for years until it ignited a creative spark—“you’ve got to start somewhere!”—her designs have been sold all over the world through her online shop. Now her work hangs beneath the blue skies of the Lehigh Valley as a winner of the 2019 ArtPop Eastern Pennsylvania Artist Billboard Competition. “I have always loved stained glass,” she says: the rich colors, the different hues, and sparkle. “There’s a bit of magic there, just waiting to happen.”
“So much has changed in the hair industry in the last few years,” says The Warren owner Heather Erdosy—better known as Rabbit. “People have accepted trends that make them stand out, to be unique, or go outside the box with cuts, color, and texture.” Rabbit and her team draw inspiration from the world around them: using nature, textiles, or structures as their muse and projecting that into their styles. “There’s so much that inspires us every day,” says Rabbit, “to make everyone look and feel unique!” Using their active social media platforms to educate and inspire, The Warren’s Instagram account pops with cutting-edge (pun intended!) styles and vibrant colors, that speak not just to customers but also to other stylists and barbers. “We never stop learning,” Rabbit says. “That’s the beauty of this industry—there are always ways to keep it fresh.”
Step into Lara Bly’s brightly lit storefront on Bethlehem’s SouthSide, and it’s hard not to smile. For one thing, you’ll be greeted by Lara herself, with a vivacious personality that will make you feel instantly welcome. Then, there’s the color—hues of turquoise and crimson, pops of fuchsia and ochre, splashes of gold and bronze. Mannequins and clothing racks are adorned with Lara’s handmade designs, in styles ranging from everyday separates to elegant cocktail dresses. All with wearability and comfort at their core. Grab something off the rack, if you like. Or perhaps you prefer something one-of-a-kind? Then sit down with Lara in her workspace—at a table strewn with her hand-drawn designs next to stacks of fabrics she’s picked up on her travels—she’s worked in London, Beirut, New York, and Los Angeles—and let her guide you through the process of creating an original piece just for you. “My sole purpose is to create modern, feminine clothes for women who want to look unique,” Lara says, “and not blend into the monotony of mainstream clothing. I want a woman to feel beautiful and special the moment she slips into one of my creations.”
At Young’s Magasin de Quartier on Main Street in Bethlehem, owner Maryanne Young has curated a shop full of hand-selected craft and gift items made by artisans and makers both global and local. Some very local: Maryanne herself is the creator of some of the jewelry at Young’s—a wearable line of bracelets, earrings, and more, featuring natural stones, sterling silver, and leather. Don’t see exactly what you’re looking for on the shelf? No problem. Maryanne will happily create a unique piece just for you. She’s also responsible for a wide selection of hand-poured, soy-based candles found in the shop. “I have always enjoyed the creative process,” Maryanne says. “A few years ago, I began making candles and selling them at festivals and fairs.” And she’ll customize those for clients, too—creating candles as favors for weddings and parties. “I design an original label with my customer and it becomes their own unique gift.”
Susan Bella Linski grew up in the jewelry business. “As a kid, I was always playing with loose gems,” she says, “holding them up to mountings in catalogs to see what jewelry they would look best in.” Now Susan custom designs and sells fine jewelry in her own shop, Susan Bella Jewelry, in Allentown’s West End. But for as long as she can remember, Susan has wanted to design a complete line of jewelry of her own. It was on a trip to Newport, RI two years ago that inspiration hit: “My husband Dan and I happened upon the smallest, most obscure and eclectic antique store, and found about a dozen 18th- and 19th-century clock hands,” she says, and they brainstormed the entire way home. And last spring, Bella Mani ®—a sleek collection whose aesthetic marries a clean, modern sensibility with the romanticism of antiquarian clock hands—was born, with its first pieces available for purchase late this fall. It’s about time, literally and figuratively, and finding true inspiration: “Everywhere I go, I notice the beauty that surrounds me,” Susan says, “even in what may seem like unconventional places, and it moves me to design.”
In 2011, after graduating from Arcadia University, Stephanie Premich and Ryan Zajac found themselves seeking something other than a typical 9-to-5 lifestyle. “We’ve always been firm believers in doing what you love and loving what you do every day,” Stephanie says, “and that’s why we jumped right into opening Mud & Maker in 2012.” Creating beautiful, functional pottery with a quirky twist, the duo’s studio and shop is located in Pottsville, but their work is in over 70 retail stores nationwide—and can be found locally at markets and festivals including Easton Farmers’ Market on select weekends, as well as ArtsQuest’s Oktoberfest and Christkindlmarkt at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. Having grown up playing in the dirt and rivers in rural Pennsylvania, working with clay was a natural transition. “For us, our love for clay is something ethereal,” says Stephanie. “The tactile and raw nature of a material which has come directly from the earth connects with a deeper need to be a part of the land.”