Creative Life

Our series Creative Life offers an audio tour of arts, culture, and inspiration on the Cape and Islands. Our region is rich with creative diversity, and so are the stories we tell. The series airs every other Friday at 8:30am and 5:30pm, and Sunday evening at 7.

Creative Life is edited by Jay Allison.

Creative Life is made possible by The Circle of Ten, ten local businesses and organizations committed to local programming on WCAI.

Back to Creative Life for 2012

Tattoo Psychology

Reported by Alex Crowley
December 9, 2011

Tattoo Artist Angel Quinonez

As the popularity of tattooing reaches new heights, more people of all ages and types are getting tattoos. In this week's installment of Creative Life, Alex Crowley visits the studio of tattoo artist Angel Quinonez in Oak Bluffs.


Stealing from Plates

Reported by Steve Junker
November 25, 2011

Plates stacked in Jenifer Strachan's studio.   (Steve Junker / WCAI)


For this week’s Creative Life, Steve Junker spent an afternoon with Martha's Vineyard artist Jenifer Strachan in her West Tisbury studio, which is a small tree house, just ten feet by twelve. Seated at her work table, looking out into the surrounding woods, she pieces together mosaics - detailed images of animals, and of women - that she usually mounts in antique frames.

Jenifer Strachan: “I have probably thousands of old dishes here, people give me more almost every day. Almost half the space is filled up with stacks of old dishes. Mostly English or French. They’re from the 1800's to 1940's. And most are already damaged. I don’t really like to make my art out of perfect dishes. But you can see they’re very beautiful.

The greens, aren’t they beautiful colors? The pinks I mostly use to do skin of women. I do a lot of mosaics of women. And I just finished this mosaic of a cat, and you can see the nose is pink. I can take it down for you...

Pique assiette is the style of mosaics that I do. And that’s loosely translated into ‘stolen from dishes.’ It means ‘Stealing from somebody else’s plate,’ actually, I found out. Not stealing their literal dish, but from their food. When you reach with your fork across and eat some of their food, is pique assiette.

So before I start a mosaic, first I envision the piece in its entirety, and then I do a sketch of the piece, and then I usually spend about half a day assembling the all plates I’m going to use in the mosaic. Then I just start breaking them up.

Each plate I hand cut. Sometimes people make comments to me, they think I smash my plates with a hammer. But I never do that, because the plates are pretty precious and hard to come by. So I hand cut every single piece with a tile cutter.

I have tile nippers and the old plates, and I think about the curvature of the plate, and I pretty much know how every plate is going to break. And I can break them with a high degree of accuracy. So I just put the tile cutters to the dish, and I squeeze...  See?  They behave very well..."

Jenifer Strachan's studio among the trees. 
(Steve Junker / WCAI)
Steve: "So the other day I talked to you, and you said you were thinking that you wanted to do..."

Jenifer Strachan: "A tiger, yeah. So I found some good old postcards of tigers. And I was looking through circus books. And that day I went to the thrift shop, I just had a feeling that they would have orange plates - which are hard to come by... Orange and black are sort of hard. That’s not colors that people usually make plates out of. So I went to the thrift shop and they said ‘Oh, here you are, and this stack of orange dishes just came in.’ So I was pretty excited about that. And they are from the 1940s. The beautiful orange and the texture and quality will be good for the whiskers of a tiger. So I would like this to be a bigger piece.

Steve: "How big?"

Jenifer Strachan: "Probably about 2 feet across. And I’ve done some mosaics here that are so big I have to open up the windows and put them outside the studio.

Some of my favorite dishes are called Green Feather-edge. And those are the ones from the 1700's. These are so precious that you only get them in small pieces. You don’t even find them as plates. I don’t know if you’re aware that on Martha’s Vineyard, and in other places, there wasn’t a central dump, so they would just put them in the yard... See how they’re all different from each other? I like to make mosaics of waves, so these make the perfect edges of waves.

About half my time is spent making commissions for people, and the about half just making things out of my imagination.

Because I live on an island, and I’m a little bit reclusive and like to hide away in my tree house, people have to come to me. But I do have a steady supply of work. The same way I get dishes, people just somehow find me, and often they’ll have plates that have been in their family for a long time that are broken and they feel badly about throwing them out. I did an entire kitchen on Martha's Vineyard where a grandmother’s plates were on a shelf, and the shelf collapsed, so all the plates broke. So basically I encrusted every surface of the kitchen with dishes and a beautiful white pony. And, ah, I don’t know how much of it was reminder to the person who put up the shelves and let grandmother's dishes break...

I guess the only negativity I get, the negative feedback, if you want to know, are people who are upset that I’m using the old dishes. That’s the only type. It’s not about my art, it’s about the fact that I’m breaking dishes. But as I said before I really do work from already-broken dishes. So. I don’t know why they have to be sensitive about the dishes.

My work is very enjoyable to me. Sometimes it’s so enjoyable that I don’t even get to work, because it’s like a guilty pleasure. But what could be better than sitting in a tree house and creating art out of old dishes?"

Visit Jenifer Strachan's website to see images of her mosaics.

A Dancing Life

Reported by Mary Helen Miller
November 11, 2011

Margaret Rogers, of Falmouth, started teaching dance in the 1930s. She's taught all kinds of dance over the years, and she still teaches tap dancing.

This Creative Life story comes from our production partners at Atlantic Public Media through their media training program, The Transom Story Workshop in Woods Hole. The workshop will present many of the local stories they've produced over the past two months at a free public event on Friday November 18th, at 7pm at the Woods Hole Community Hall.


Nantucket 24

Reported by Brian Morris
October 28, 2011

Filmmaker Kit Noble, organizer of Nantucket 24.   (Brian Morris/WCAI)


For the community event "Nantucket 24," Nantucketers were asked to capture the island on film over a 24-hour period.

Kit Noble parks his yellow Jeep Wrangler along Nantucket’s Main Street and unloads hi-definition video equipment from the back. He’s already been up since dawn shooting video of the island as part of a one-day community project called Nantucket 24. The idea is that anyone with a high-definition video camera can film any aspect of island life over a 24-hour period. The best clips will be used to create a full-length film. Kit Noble is the event’s chief organizer.

Kit Noble: I’ve got, let’s say, another hundred-and-fifty filmmakers helping me out. And the fact that it’s all being done in one day is just, you know, pretty amazing as well.

Kit’s originally from Connecticut, and has been on the island for 3 years, first seeking work as a photographer.

Kit Noble: And I got out here and realized there was a lot of photographers and not a ton of work. So I figured I had to do something a little different.

Noble films hi-def video on Nantucket's Main Street. 
(Brian Morris/WCAI)
So he eventually carved out a niche as a filmmaker. He likens Nantucket 24 to those “Day in the Life” coffee-table picture books, and saw the project as a way to bring the community together. He approached the Dreamland Theater Foundation about sponsoring the event, and they were immediately enthusiastic. Patty Roggoveen is the Dreamland Foundation’s Executive Director.

Patty Roggoveen: This was a great combination of our community sense and our film sense. We will be able to sort of share that excitement with the filmmakers that are being born today out there making their HD videos - all the future Spielbergs on Nantucket.

Patty says she plans to try her hand with a camera, but doesn’t expect miracles.

Patty Roggoveen: I’m technically impaired at some level, so we’ll see. I tried this morning and I hit the button to turn it off when I should have turned in on, so (laughter) get past that, I’ll be fine.

In addition to posters around town, many people say they found out about Nantucket 24 through social media.

Collage of 3 different voices: “I think it was on Facebook.” “Well, I saw it on Facebook.” “To be honest, Facebook.”

Residents can use any hi-def camera - an iPhone 4 will do just fine, for instance. And Kit Noble says there’s another option for those who don’t own a hi-def camera but still want to participate.

Kit Noble: The Dreamland also purchased 50 flip cameras, which are also hi-def. Very easy to use. And we were able to actually rent all of those out, so we know there’s at least 50 people with flip-cams out there.

Some people are shooting unique footage with a camera called a Go-Pro. These have suction cups for mounting on cars, on your body, on a surfboard, or other place you normally wouldn’t be able to film. They also have waterproof housings.

Kit Noble: We’ve got people going out this evening at sunset paddle-boarding, so we’ll set up some Go-Pro’s on the front of their boards. They also have a really wide perspective, so that you can take in a lot of action.

The weather on this early October Saturday is phenomenal - cloudless blue sky, light breeze, temperature around 70 - about as good as it gets. Many folks are filming at the Nantucket Cranberry Festival. One of them is Dirk Roggoveen, Patty Roggoveen’s husband.

Dirk Roggoveen: We sorta started late. My younger daughter Christiana went down to the lily pond with some friends, and tried to film the cattail fluff blowing around in the wind. And they all got covered in cattail fluff, so I don’t know whether the footage is good but they had a great time doing it anyway. It got them outside.

Another Nantucket resident named Georgin holds a rented flip camera and shoots inside a tent beside an old cranberry sorting machine.

Georgin: As I go through my day, whenever I do anything that is out in public, I’ll take some footage, and then tomorrow or tonight select 15 minutes and submit it. And we’ll see what happens.

One possibility is that her footage could end up on the big screen. Kit Noble and his editor plan to pick the best of the submissions - 15 minutes maximum per person - then put together a final cut. The film will be screened at the Dreamland Theater’s official re-opening in May of 2012.

Visit the Nantucket 24 Facebook page

Salley Mavor
Reported by Alex Crowley
October 14, 2011

While some people search their entire lives for their passion, others are lucky enough to find it in childhood. Alex Crowley talks with children's book illustrator Salley Mavor from Falmouth about her passion for sewing and bringing books to life.

Visit Salley Mavor's Wee Folk Studio online

Make Yourself Uncomfortable

Reported by Steve Junker
September 30, 2011

photo: Patrick T. Power

The 19th annual Nantucket Arts Festival runs from September 30th to October 9th. It’s an island-wide event, featuring music, theater, poetry readings, and of course the visual arts too. And in at least one exhibition space, the aim is to provoke artists to work in uncomfortable ways, and to take risks. Nantucket photographer D. Clyde Meyer, artists Danny Henkle and Matt Oates, and co-curator Christie Cure all speak about their involvement in the show, "Jettisoning the Safe, Delving into the Uncertain." The show is at Sherburne Hall, 11 Centre Street.

Click here for the full Festival Calender and more information.

Fado is Life

Reported by Katherine Perry
September 16, 2011

photo: Patrick T. Power
Ana Vinagre singing fado (photo by Patrick T. Power)

New Bedford is well-known for its vibrant Portugeuse cultural scene; more than half of its residents claim Portugeuse ancestry. What’s less well-known is New Bedford’s place in the world of fado, the music known as the “Soul of Portugal.” The city is home to two of America’s most established Fado performers, Ana and Jose Vinagre.

photo: Katherine Perry Photo: Katherine Perry photo: Katherine Perry
Ana and Jose Vinagre
(photos by Katherine Perry)

Listen to Ana and Jose Vinagre performing:

Song: "Gaivota"


Song: "Barco Negro"

Randall Darwall

Reported by Alex Crowley
September 2, 2011

Clothing from the Randall Darwall collection (Alex Crowley/WCAI)

Knitting Mills and factories continue to churn out clothes at a rapid pace. But there are some designers who make clothes the old-fashioned way. Alex Crowley talks with Randall Darwall, of Harwich, about his hand-woven clothing and design collection.

Randall Darwall and Brian Murphy
The store in Harwich

Visit Randall's website to see more images >


Black Brook Singers
reported by Steve Junker

August 19, 2011

Tobias Vanderhoop, Thomas Fantasia, Durwood Vanderhoop, and William Mayberry.  (Steve Junker/WCAI) 


The Black Brook Singers are the community drum of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe, on Martha’s Vineyard. A “drum,” in this sense, isn’t the instrument itself, but rather a group of singers. The drum is not defined in its members, but varies depending on who shows up on any particular day. On the afternoon I sat down with them to make this recording, the 4 members ranged in age from late-thirties to just seven years old.  


As the tribal drum, the Black Brook Singers perform at community events, weddings and graduations, funerals and festivals, wherever they’re invited. They also travel throughout New England to powows and competitions. The Black Brook Singers came to life out of a movement in the late 1980s to reassert Aquinnah tribal identity and traditions.

They sit around a large drum, singing and beating in unison. While the music is immediately identifiable as based in a cultural tradition, the songs they perform are often original, composed by members of the group.
Durwood Vanderhoop, a founding member of the drum, explains teh first song we hear: “That was a round dance song, first of all—sometimes people call that a friendship dance, people will dance in a circle.  But it’s also a love song. I made it for my wife, Jamie Sue – of course – and the words are: ‘**’.  That’s: ‘my number one lover,’ ‘my number one,’ or ‘my sweetheart,’—it can translate to a couple of different things.  ‘**’  ‘You’re beautiful.’  ‘**’  ‘I will always love you.’  So, basically I made that, I said now you guys, you know, you got a couple different lines you can throw at, ahh... you know, to pick up your next Wampanoag honeys.”

Not all the songs have words.  Some are sung with what’s called “vocables” – evocative sounds, without meaning. 
The next song was made by Thomas Fantasia, another member of the group.  Thomas explains, “I made that one when we were on our way back from Dartmouth. That was either the second or third song I ever made.  It’s just a fun, feel-good song to sing.”     
Again, Durwood Vanderhoop: “A lot of the time we get asked the question: ‘Why are there so many songs that don’t have any words in them?’ Our people often traveled great distances, and it was a way for people to share when there were language barriers; you could still go to another community if they had a similar song tradition and sing a song from... from all the away across country, really.”

Tobias Vanderhoop, also a founding member of the BBS, elaborates: “Not every drum that I’ve come into contact with does make their own songs. And I think that that is a distinction marker. No one can tell us, you know, that we’re singing our songs wrong, or that we’re singing it for the wrong purpose, because we make them, we know what the purpose is.

“You know, not everybody sings, not everybody dances. It’s not something you have to do.  If you don’t do that, it doesn’t make you any less tribal, or part of our community.  But there are a lot of people from every corner of our tribe, they call upon us to come and help with whatever significant event is going on for their family, and so... By that, I would say, it’s strengthening our community.”


Contact Durwood Vanderhoop of the Black Brook Singers >

Here are the songs we recorded that afternoon:



Robert Rindler
Reported by Brian Morris
July 22, 2011


A profile of Robert Rindler of Wellfleet, who makes art from what most people would throw away. Reported by Brian Morris.


Alfred Glover

Reported by Alex Crowley
July 8, 2011

art by Alfred Glover Art by Alfred Glover
Alfred Glover, Wood Sculptor (Alex Crowley/WCAI)


Alex Crowley talks with Alfred Glover, a wood sculptor from Cataumet, whose work can be seen at the Cove Gallery in Welfleet.

Jacqueline Schwab
Reported by Brian Morris

June 24, 2011

Ken Burns and Jacqueline Schwab


A profile of Chatham pianist Jacqueline Schwab, best known for her work with Ken Burns on his epic public television series “The Civil War.” Reported by Brian Morris.

Jacqueline Schwab's website

The Anatomy of Allure
Reported by Steve Junker

June 10, 2011

View a slideshow of George Christman's lures and lure x-rays. (Steve Junker/WCAI)


Dr. George Christman creates handmade plugs -- fishing lures -- using insights gleaned from his collection of rare and vintage lures, some of which he has x-rayed.  Reported by Steve Junker.


Making Music
Reported by Alex Crowley

May 27, 2011

Steve Connor, Guitar Builder (Alex Crowley/WCAI)


Alex Crowley profiles local classical guitar builder Steve Connor from Cataumet. A guitar maker for the past 15 years, Connor has created and sold more than 200 guitars to musicians from around the world.


Re-Inventing the Piano
Reported by Brian Morris

May 13, 2011

photo by: Brian Morris (WCAI)
The Stanwood Adjustable Action. (Brian Morris/WCAI)


A profile of Martha's Vineyard piano technician David Stanwood and his adjustable piano action mechanism, reported by Brian Morris.


Perfect Little Boats
Reported by Steve Junker

April 15, 2011
View a slideshow of the models -- mostly boats, and some cars -- of Cataumet model maker Fred Abbe and his wife Sue. (Steve Junker/WCAI)

In advance of the 8th Biennial Model Boat Show in Woods Hole, Steve Junker went to talk to Fred Abbe, a local avid model-boat builder.

The Model Boat Show takes place April 16-17 at the
Woods Hole Historical Museum and throughout Woods Hole. Fred Abbe and his wife Sue will be bringing 3 tables of boats, including the J-class racer, and the Nellie G.  There will also be radio-controlled model boat races, a special tugboat exhibit, and model boats for kids to make.