Bringing New Life to Old Things

It’s surprising what you can create from seemingly broken or time weathered objects. From Brattleboro to Palmer artisans are doing just that whether it’s creating human-shaped sculptures from colored pencils wired together or a Victorian inspired lamp made from a fruit bowl and a candle stick.

Gallery in the Woods, located on Main Street in the heart of downtown Brattleboro includes a plethora of artistic works that were made from repurposed objects. Co-owner Suzanne Corsano, who has operated the gallery for more than two decades with her husband Dante, said one artist featured at the gallery, Gwen Murphy, creates surrealistic faces from repurposed shoes.

“They’re made from recycled shoes,” she said. “She’s been in shows all over the world. They have tremendous appeal. I don’t know where people hang them, but they have a presence. They’re almost like having another person in the room.”

Other artists at the gallery include David Adix, who creates native-inspired figures assembled from puzzle pieces, buttons, and yarn, as well as Mark Brown — an Easthampton artist who makes a series of animal-clocks and robot figures made from repurposed materials, Corsano said.

Mark Wilson builds Victorian-, Edwardian-, and Art Deco-inspired lamps at his apartment in Palmer using found objects such as an old candy dish, vintage parts from gas lamps, and pretty much any retro item he finds at an estate sale.

“Essentially I go out hunting for bits and pieces. I’ll see a piece and from there it develops into a lamp before I even get home,” he said. “Even just a piece of glass or a fruit bowl; a 1950s ashtray on a metal stand; and I see it coming together with other parts.”

The lamps have mood dimming settings that can be adjusted by touching the glass. Wilson, who has tinkered and built computers from an early age, created the electronics himself. He also apprenticed as a coppersmith for two years during his 20s and now, more than three decades later, he’s still putting these skills to use by making copper parts for his lamps, which are now on display at Happy Valley in Northampton.

It takes Wilson about eight hours to make a lamp, he said. Sometimes he needs to drill through copper – a time extensive process that involves lubricating the hand drill otherwise the drill bit would heat up and weld itself into the piece – as well as drilling through glass over a sink. With drilling glass, one slight mistake means the glass would break and you’d be left with just a pile of shards.

Wilson’s art is his primary source of income and said although he’s sold many lamps in the past; recently, he’s only sold a few.

Mixing business and art can be a challenge economically. Samsara, a boutique and gallery featuring work that was predominately made from repurposed objects, opened in late 2016 on Strong Avenue in Northampton and just a couple of months later, closed its doors.

Former owner Keith Harmon Snow said closing the store was the best decision for him.

“If you want to open a store you have to have capital,” he said. “I didn’t have enough capital to last long enough to know we were there. Our store was a very specific niche market. People have to like the aesthetic of repurposed furniture.”

Corsano said she doesn’t make much money from the gallery, but that’s not the point. She has a passion for art.

“The reason to purchase a piece of art is that it inspires your life; that it reflects you. It informs the space that you put it in and should be the center of the space. It’s not about passing it on to make money. I don’t even have a gallery to make money really.”

Contact Chris Goudreau at


Author: Chris Goudreau

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