Up Close & Personal – Shawn Jennings

Up Close & Personal – Shawn Jennings

You may have seen Shawn Jennings in downtown Scranton sporting his top hat at events. He is a 1930s, ’40s and ’50s enthusiast who found a way to combine his love for cars with his passion for art. Jennings attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art and earned a degree in graphic art from Somerset Technical Institute. He owns Jennings Turnpike Garage and Mechanical Concepts and lives in Dunmore.

Meet Shawn Jennings…

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I restore classic cars and build hot rods in Dunmore at Jennings Turnpike Garage. That’s also my art studio for my lamps and home decor. I tie the two together, and they cross paths because some of the parts I use are automotive parts. I’ve been into cars ever since I had my driver’s license. I’ve worked at shops fixing cars then branched off on my own and started my own business, Jennings Turnpike Garage. That’s like a form of metal art in itself. The car restoration, hot rods and customs turned into making these lamps and home decor for my friends as unique gifts.

Q: What made the “light bulb go off” for the concept of Mechanical Concepts?
A: One of the things I like with the lights is the artistic side of the shadows that they cast and the ambiance. A lot of the lights have old-style Edison bulbs, which give off a nice, soft tone with a warm glow. When you combine that with the mechanical objects, which are kind of cold and harsh, it blends together. I want people to be able to look at it and be able to tell it’s mine.

Q: Can you describe what gives your pieces that “signature touch”?
A: Automotive and steampunk-inspired industrial home decor. I like the steampunk aspect of it, which I kind of embellish on. I dress that way when I do shows. The Victorian-based era of steam-powered, mechanical things mixed with science-fiction. All of my work is original where I don’t duplicate anything. I’ll have the same concept, but everything is a little different about each piece. They’re signed, numbered and dated, and I keep a catalog record of them all, so it adds a little extra specialness to each person’s piece.

Q: Tell me about Mechanical Concepts.
A: A lot of the parts are from my shop of scrap metal. The parts may not be of value to a car, but it gives a new life and adds to it. As far as the local mechanics, my friends, I go through their piles of stuff, or they’ll put gears, pulleys and interesting mechanical items to the side for me. I guess I got my style to a point where people know what I would want and they save it for me. Also, the fun of hunting at flea markets and garage sales for unique items.

Q: What goes into the construction aspect?
A: A lot of it was self-taught as well as watching others who were trained in the fields. A lot was trial and error. A lot of it is basic wiring. I like to try and make my pieces unique as far as how to turn them on. Instead of an obvious switch, I’ll incorporate an item on the piece that doesn’t look like it’s the switch; for example, a small gear, but there’s actually a hidden switch underneath it. Visually, it looks like it’s part of the artwork, but it actually serves a function. I took the basics of wiring concepts and added my little artistic touch to it. I just start grabbing stuff that I think will work together and assemble it into a mock-up of what it can be. People say “go make me something,” but it doesn’t work like that. I have to be inspired by my surroundings and what I see and what I’m feeling at the moment.

Q: What is the most memorable backstory to a piece you’ve created?
A: One I am working on right now. It’s a camping lantern, and it belonged to her father. They’re not going to use a lantern in their house, and they don’t go camping anymore. It’s a remembrance to her father; she wants to have it to look at. I’m going to turn it into a lamp so she can have it in her house and look at it and remember those days of camping. That one is pretty special.

Q: What has been the most gratifying part of the business?
A: Seeing the people’s responses. I like going to the shows and interacting with people. Whether they buy something or not, it doesn’t matter, it’s interacting, conversing and seeing their response to my work. It’s very rewarding on that part, but then when they actually buy something and want to display something in their home, something that I created from components that weren’t looked at to have any artistic value, now they’re displaying it in their home. To see their enjoyment in having a unique piece is very satisfying.

Q: What are your interests and hobbies outside of the business?
A: A lot of my life is geared toward classic cars, the hot rod culture. I like the past, so the antiques, the era of 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, really appeals to me. I try to live somewhat in those times. I try to dress the part. That’s more of my art side, and to make a statement and my scene with my business and lights. I would dress like this more often if my job and society allowed it more. If I’m at the shop restoring a car and welding, I’m not as dressed up, but I like to go to events with ’40s or ’50s-based themes.

Q: Have you had a time or moment in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: Probably when I decided to start my own business as far as the cars and having my own shop, 25 years ago. I was working for other people, and I was limited to what I could do. I realized that the only way I was going to continue evolving was to go out on my own, so that was the turning point for me. I started my own business, and it turned into my art. It’s finally come full-circle where I went to school to be an artist and, based on the timing and the age of computers, I was a little behind the times, so I took my other passion of cars and went with that. As time allowed, I combined the two, and I’m hoping that I can switch back to making art a majority of my business.

Photos taken by Emma Black at On&On, 1138 Capouse Ave., Scranton, where Jennings’ products are available

Up Close & Personal – Edward Chesek

Up Close & Personal – Edward Chesek

Edward Chesek’s eye for detail led him down a special path. While he works as a graphic artist at Kevin’s World Wide, his love for vintage and his background in design brought him to start a side business, Your Treasured Junk. He graduated from West Scranton High School and Marywood University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. He recently got engaged to his partner, Kyle, whom he met one night when he was out and asked to try on his 1960s-style glasses. They bonded over their style and now live in Hanover Twp.

Meet Edward Chesek…

Q: Can you describe Your Treasured Junk?
A: My primary points of interest are estate sales, garage sales, word of mouth. When people know you’ve been doing something like this for such a while, they’ll come to you knowing what your specific needs and wants are. I’ll look at their items and evaluate them. I’m not a certified appraiser by any means, so I can’t put a true value on it for them, but I can offer them a price to take it. You have to hunt for the right items. I’ll only find items that have a high level of quality to them. Sometimes I will refurbish. I enjoy sharing the experience with other people.

Q: How did you start Your Treasured Junk?
A: Your Treasured Junk was developed because, through my artistic eye and my love for the display of items, I wanted to incorporate both detail and design from the vintage realm and showcase it in a way that entices people. My artistic nature, in general, is what brought me to enjoying a passion for quality vintage items. I find that a lot of them have more durability. The alluring effects of some of the items from a past day is phenomenal.

Q: Where does your fascination with vintage items come from?
A: I grew up in a home where my mother inherited furniture from the Depression Era from her aunt who had passed away. I fell in love with that furniture. I always had interest in the quality of it and the intricacy in the detail work. Back then, furniture was made a lot differently and wasn’t as mass-produced as it is now. She had such a passion for it and taught me a lot about it. She would explain to me about the chandelier in the room and how it tied in with the set itself. Later down the line, she purchased a parlor set that went with the dining set. I knew right then and there that I just loved things from the past. It was an aspect of life that I wanted to immerse myself in. I remember vividly just having that gravitational pull toward that furniture.

Q: Being that you buy items from other people, have you come across any that have a unique backstory?
A: Interestingly enough, the hats and purses that I have scattered around, Kyle’s coworker had come across them. Two wealthy sisters had many hats and clothes. (The coworker) brought them in and asked if he might like to keep them. There were probably 100 hats. It’s interesting to know that someone is wearing a part of the past, and they’re carrying a purse or a pocketbook or something from that era. The memory lives on. Another one is in the popcorn art. You see the Tweedys, they’re made with melted plastic using rippling effects and formed into shapes. I remember as a child going to Chapman Lake in the summer with my grandparents. Every summer, we would hang popcorn art on the fence outside the kitchen window. I fell in love with popcorn art, and any time I come across popcorn art, I remember my childhood and the time I spent at the lake. Every time I sell popcorn art, I wonder what the person will do with it; maybe they will hang it on a fence. It’s a happy memory of childhood.

Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of the business and work?
A: I like to garden. I like cars. I like automobiles and automobile-related items. Not just vintage, but I like to go to car shows and collect brochures and magazine ads. Vintage-wise, I love radios; that’s one of my big collections. I also collect watches. They don’t have to be vintage, but they have to be bizarre. Collecting is probably how Your Treasured Junk started.

Q: You alluded to a few of the things you collect. 
A: I started collecting watches when I was in high school. I developed a passion for the intricacy of watches. They were reasonably enough priced that I was able to go out and get one when I wanted one. I started wearing and displaying them. I also collected Matchbox cars when I was younger. After the Matchbox cars, I got into collecting real cars. I attached memories to certain items. I’d buy a new car, and rather than trade it, I’d hold onto it. I also got into collecting all sorts of car-related things. As I got into more of the ’50’s and ’60s, mid-century items, radios started clicking for me. It was the best combination of the design of cars from the ’50s and ’60s, which I couldn’t afford, and my love for intricacy of clocks and watches. Just looking at a vintage radio, the knobs, the way the face is laid out, the detailed aspects, such as if it’s chrome or what makes it catching to the eye, really drive me. Not only that, but the fact that it produces sound is great. It has a functionality and is aesthetically pleasing. I have probably 75 and have been really pursuing this collection for the last year and a half or so.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: My mom is an extreme influence on me. She helped developed my creativity, being that she is an artist herself. She always wanted me to pursue my passions and do what I enjoyed. I remember her explaining to me about a chandelier from the Depression Era that we have in our dining room. She had broken one of the shades to it, and she was upset. I remember feeling that same great upsetness over it. It was like a part of history broke. I remember knowing at that point that I had the ability and passion for preservation.

Photos by Emma Black at On & On 1130 Capouse Ave., Scranton, where Your Treasured Junk is based. 

Up Close & Personal – Ed Cuozzo

Up Close & Personal – Ed Cuozzo

Ed Cuozzo is the guitarist and vocalist of University Drive. He has been a member of several bands over the years and also performs as a solo musician. He is self-employed as a construction worker and lives in Throop.

Meet Ed Cuozzo…

Q: What is your music background?
A: In the beginning, the first band I was ever in was called Melded. It wasn’t good; we sounded really, really awful, but that band was really fun and a good learning experience. I met my friend Dan Rosler and my now-fiancee, Chelsea Collins, and I joined a band called A Fire with Friends for a little while. I met some other people, and I started a band called the Social State, and I played with them for probably seven or eight years. We put out an EP and two full-length records. That band fell apart, and I took some time off to focus on home life and writing music on my own. Then I decided I was going to make a record on my own, so I started University Drive.

Q: What first got you interested in playing music? 
A: When I was really little, we had a next-door neighbor to my grandparents. He had an acoustic guitar, and I asked him for some lessons. A couple years later, I went to Gallucci Music, which is no longer there. Then I moved to Scott Twp., and a friend introduced me to Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and it was world-shattering. That’s what really got me into music. I was around age 14 or 15.

Q: Describe University Drive’s sound.
A: The band has been working really hard recording a record at JL Studios. The vibe is definitely super aggressive, but at the same time it can be really slow and beautiful. The basis for everything is melodic. We’re all products of Nirvana’s “In Utero” and the first Foo Fighter’s record, but we like moody stuff, too. It’s like if you took Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Weezer and maybe Nada Surf and you pulled something from the middle, we’d exist.

Q: What can people expect on your upcoming album?
A: We’re all in the studio recording things together. I wanted to make it a point to track everything live. We’re not time-correcting everything, or turning every vocal or making sure everything is smooth and slick. There are some songs that have a bit more of a slick production but the bulk of them have more of a, I don’t want to say raw, but a bit more of an edge. It’s funny how you can hear the difference of us tracking it live in the room together as opposed to just layering things one by one.

Q: Does the album have a theme or message?
A: Back in January, my mother passed away unexpectedly. She was my biggest supporter in everything I did. Nobody else ever had that much belief in what I was doing. She wanted to see me do what I loved to do. It’s emotionally heavy and super dark at times. It’s my kind of way to pay tribute to somebody who had such a big impact in my life. There are a lot of sad moments on it. I don’t know how else to be expressive and honest. It was a horrible circumstance, but I’m happy something beautiful came of it.

Q: What is your favorite music venue to play at?
A: I have to say the Keys. I love playing at the Keys, and that’s not to put down any other venue. The Keys, and Jenn the owner, in specific, have been like family away from family. They actually threw a three-day festival in honor of my mother. It was called “A Weekend for Doreen.” All the bands played in honor of her.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about being a musician in NEPA?
A: There are questions like, “What if I play a song in front of people and they don’t like it?” or “Am I too old to be doing this?” I think that all that stuff is so intrusive. We have a tendency to get in our own way as people and as artists. I urge anybody, young or old, who feels like they want to be involved in the music scene to go to any open mic and start doing it. We have a great scene, and there are a lot of great people. Half of the battle is just shaking off the nerves.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
A: I’ve been doing this for a really long time locally. A lot of younger musicians have said really nice things. I don’t expect it or necessarily agree with what they’re saying. There are super talented and super driven people. When someone says to me, “Hey, that song really spoke to me and helped me a lot,” that’s 100 percent of the reason I do this. I let my dream of rock and roll fame go a few years ago. I do it more because I feel connected to something bigger than me, and if it helps other people in other ways, I feel like that’s a good reason to do it.

Q: If you could perform with one musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
A: My favorite would be Kurt Cobain. He changed the direction of my life. I would do so much to have a chance to bring him back and just be able to sing harmonies on a song with him. He is amazing.

Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of music? 
A: I don’t really have a lot of hobbies, but I love my dog, and I love my fiancee. (My fiance and I) do a lot of stuff together and write silly songs. When we get the chance to make music together, we write really funny things. I also like my dog Wilco; he’s named after the band Wilco. He’s a western Pomeranian mix, and we got him from Griffin Pond Animal Shelter a couple years ago. He is our best friend.

Q: What is something about you that would surprise most people?
A: Probably that I did martial arts. My friends know that, but I don’t think most people know. I did it for five or six years, and before music, that was music.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: Recently, on Facebook, I just posted a song that my mom used to play for me. She’d force me to dance with her around the kitchen to the song “In My Life” by the Beatles. When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand it, and I hated the Beatles. When I started to get into music, I realized how complex and beautiful that song is. The moments I really think of as “defining moments” all involve her. She was a huge music fan, and she taught me a lot about compassion and trying to go in with good intent with people. Anything good that anyone has to say about me, I owe entirely to her.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Marissa Gable

Up Close & Personal – Marissa Gable

Marissa Gable gives photography a new twist. The photographer has taken the art to another level by creating “kaleidoscopic images” using her photographs and prints. A graduate of Riverside Junior-Senior High School, Gable earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Keystone College, where she studied visual art. She lives in Taylor and works for Kentrel Corp.

Meet Marissa Gable…

Q: How did you first get interested in photography?
A: I’ve had a camera in my hands since I was 6. The first thing I was running around photographing was the Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Aerosmith Super Bowl. I was trying to take pictures of it, and I was using a no-flash camera that my mom had. It didn’t work out well. The next thing was my disposable camera. I started to get into digital photography in high school. I thought it was the one thing I was really good at. It was the one thing I wanted to make a career out of. I wanted to create instead of just working a 9-to-5 job, and that led me to Keystone.

Q: What do you like most about photography?
A: Capturing. I’ve always loved capturing moments in life, whether it’s historical, street photography or portraits, you’re really capturing something when you take a photo.

Q: Who are some of the photographers you look up to?
A: Annie Leibovitz is my main. She’s a celebrity portrait photographer. She does all of the Vanity Fair covers. She did the infamous Miley Cyrus one. I really, really look up to her. There are so many others. Sally Mann is another big one.

Still I Rise. Submitted photo by Marissa Gable

Q: Can you describe a kaleidoscopic image?
A: Most recently, I’ve been working with home interiors and portraits. I take a picture of someone’s house, process it and edit the single picture. On Photoshop, I create them into my own kaleidoscope designs using mirror-image effects. I flip them, rotate them and all that. It’s one image flipped, mirrored against itself and mirrored down. It’s almost like one of those old picture-find books with optical illusions.

Q: What led you to come up with this concept?
A: I was in my digital project class one day. The program I was using allowed me to bring images up side-by-side. I had taken photos of my grandmother’s room, and she had this awesome ’70s wallpaper. The wallpaper just went together so smoothly. My professor walked by, and she said, “Do that.” I was just doing home interiors at the time, and I didn’t think it would lead me to doing these kaleidoscopic images. It was right after my grandmother had passed away, so I was in her room taking pictures and just capturing the room.

Q: Why go beyond typical photography?
A: In college, my professor Sally Tosti really taught me to really appreciate the process of things. That’s what she was really big about, especially with print making. She wanted to see a lot of prints of everything. It’s kind of like seeing a photograph in a new light. I always like to look at everything, not just one aspect.

Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of photography?
A: I really like going outdoors and also hanging out with my friends. I also enjoy board games and card games and any type of games, other than video games. This is silly, but I really like WWE wrestling; I’m a total nerd about that. Listening to music is also something I love. I love people watching. To go along with the whole capturing thing, people watching.

Q: What do you hope to do with art in the future? 
A: I don’t know how realistic this sounds or is, but I would absolutely love to be a full-time artist with people buying my artwork and me living off that. Eventually I’d like to move away, and one day I hope to write on my taxes “full-time artist.” I would really like to get into designing textiles with my art on them. I want to do curtains, carpets and all that. It would be brand-new for me.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: I was trying to figure out why I chose to do the interiors for my senior show, and it went back to the story about my grandmother and how I was trying to capture her room and all of her possessions. I think it was my grandmother dying that started it. She was the first person close to me who died, and that really affected me. The photo of her room was the first photograph I ever thought about flipping.

Q: Final word?
A: Don’t let anyone ever talk down to you or tell you that you don’t do something. I definitely used to listen to people too much. So over the years, I’ve just taught myself that peoples’ opinions don’t matter, and you really just need to walk your own path.

For more of Gable’s art and photography, follow her on Instagram @marissa_gable_images or visit her website marissagable.com/

Photos by Emma Black and submitted photos by Marissa Gable

Up Close & Personal – Adam Farley

Up Close & Personal – Adam Farley

Adam Farley is a Scranton-based musician who recently released his first EP, “All the Right Reasons.” A graduate of Scranton High School and University of Scranton, where he majored in communication, he works for ADP as a district manager. He lives in West Scranton with his wife, Mindy, and children, Hailey, 4, and Karson, 1.

Meet Adam Farley…

Q: What first got you interested in music?
A: I grew up a huge N*SYNC fan. From then on, I was really into singing and dancing. I was also a big New Kids on the Block fan. My chorus teacher at the time told me I should enter the talent show as a singer. I did a song called “Please Don’t Go Girl” by New Kids on the Block. After that, the rest was history. People started coming up to me and said they loved it. In ninth grade (some friends and I) formed a band called Evaloution.

Q: Describe your style as a musician.
A: It’s very pop rock. I say that because I have some Justin Timberlake-type of music. I also have upbeat, rock-type of songs that are a little bit more alternative. I wouldn’t use the alternative title; it’s more pop rock.

Q: Describe your new EP, “All the Right Reasons”
A: The songs that I wanted to put together are kind of like chapters, and they tell a story. Two tracks on the EP are an homage to my boy-band days. The other three tell a story of where I am today. I’m married and have two kids. The song “Never Let Go” pays homage to when I first started dating my now-wife to “Hold on Blue Eyes,” which is a cover of a song we did from an old ’80s film that we got license for to cover, to “Here to Stay,” which is a song I wrote for my wife for our wedding. It kind of tells a story of the me from then and the me now. I call it the chapters of the EP and say the first book is now done. After being in a band for so long, you wonder what you can do on your own.

Q: What can people expect on your new album?
A:People can expect a really fun, uplifting album with a little bit of everything. It’s got a little love, spunk, fun and dance. It’s just a good, creative mix of storytelling.

Q: Why is the title “All the Right Reasons” so meaningful?
A: For the longest time, I never wanted to put myself out there, but I felt this was the time. So I thought this was the “right reason” to do it. It’s a story that tells itself; it’s got chapters, and if there’s any time to do it, it’s now. “All the Right Reasons” was born.

Q: What message do you hope to share through music? 
A: You’re never too old to do something. A lot of people don’t realize that there are a ton of musicians in Scranton performing every day. Take the time to really sit and regroup and don’t give up hope that you can’t put out an EP or album. You can be successful in this area, regardless of what genre you do. Go out there and follow your dreams. You’re never too old to do something. I hope this EP gives light that if a 34-year-old dude from Scranton can drop an EP, you can do it, too.

Q: What is your favorite song on the EP, and why?
A: “Here to Stay.” I’m that fun, spontaneous type of guy. If I say I want to do something, I’m going to do it; that’s just how I am. Forty-eight hours before I got married, I got this idea to write a song. I’ve written plenty of songs for my wife in the past, but I really wanted to write a song that had meaning and would be fun to perform at the wedding. I had an idea for a track, put some things together and wrote the lyrics in 24 hours and performed it at the wedding. When I was working on the EP, I really wanted to record the track, because it had such meaning. I really wanted to pay homage to my wife, who has been an incredible wife and mother. I wanted to put the song together the way I envisioned it the first time. It’s catchy, and people can relate to it. It’s a really special song.

Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of music?
A: One of my hobbies is definitely break dancing, popping and locking, whatever you want to call it these days. It’s been something I’ve done since I was a kid. I also like to read, and I think it’s very important. Whether it’s a novel or a magazine, I’m always reading something. I’m into horror films and love horror. My other hobbies are spending time with my kids and wife; that’s always the thing I most look forward to.

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?
A: I’m a really big Harry Potter fan. People know a lot about me, but they know me for singing or dancing. I’m a Harry Potter geek.

Q:Have you had a time or moment in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: When I was in middle school, I had a friend who got into an accident and passed away. She was a huge fan of N*SYNC and Justin Timberlake. I had no idea who N*SYNC or Justin Timberlake was. My friend E.J. and I would make music videos when we were kids. We made videos for (N*SYNC songs) “Tearin’ Up My Heart” and “Drive Myself Crazy.” We did those videos, then I realized that was the Justin Timberlake she was always talking about. I told her I’d make a VHS copy of our Justin Timberlake video for her. I always felt like if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have a clue or be as passionate as I was about N*SYNC. I always felt like that was the breaking point for me to be a huge N*SYNC fan. I have no shame in my game. N*SYNC is the best band ever. That was a moment that I realized I was a boy-band guy and N*SYNC guy, and that’s the type of music I still do today.

To listen to Adam Farley’s EP, find him on Spotify here

Photos by Emma Black and submitted photo

Up Close & Personal – Erika Dutka

Up Close & Personal – Erika Dutka

Erika Dutka is an Archbald native who recently moved back home after living and working in Philadelphia. She attended Valley View High School and later earned a GED. She is a bartender at Barret’s Pub in Archbald and is thrilled to be back home. She gives credit to her daughter, Moira, 3, whose birth she says really grounded her.

Meet Erika Dutka…

Q: What do you enjoy most about bartending at Barrett’s?
A: I love my coworkers because they have all been there so long. Some of them even waited on me when I was little, so it’s nice we are a family. Also we get a ton of regulars who come in all the time. They know you, your kids, your mom and grandparents. If I work five days a week, I see them every day. They keep us going and are so friendly.

Q: You are primarily a bartender but have many other roles. Describe some of your other roles.
A: I waitress. I also do all the menus with hand stamping and run our social media accounts. I’ll hand-write or hand-draw things or design them on the computer. I feel like when you’re a local spot, you should have special things that you put your work into. I recently drew slime on the menu for Halloween to add touches and make it personal. I’ll decorate here and style the chalkboards if people are having parties.

Q: Describe your perfect drink. 

A: My perfect drink is definitely seasonal. It’s beautiful, decently priced and packs a punch so you don’t feel like you’re getting ripped off. I would want a nice warm apple flavor with a little bit of cinnamon, a lot of booze and a nice after-bite.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the work you do?
A: Definitely teamwork makes the dream work. You have to work as a team with everyone involved and make it work no matter how you feel about certain people. That doesn’t mean just the front of the house, it means the back of the house, understanding the kitchen and the customers, and everything in between. I love bussing tables or doing whatever I need to do to help someone else. When it’s busy and everyone is working, you are just like a well-oiled machine, and those are the nights you are most proud and gain from the most.

Q: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not bartending?
A: I love doing stuff with my daughter. We go to the park a lot and for walks. I love to just do little things with her and pull her in the wagon. I’m with her or my family 100 percent of the time I’m not working.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a mom?
A: At the end of the day, just laying down with her. I love to see her learn and grow. I never want to be away from her. I’m super proud of her. It made me have a realization about life and how to treat others. I’ve learned the value of the time you spend with people you love and helping them learn and be successful.

Q: Talk about your community involvement.
A: My family and staff at Barrett’s help me do Baby Pantry Palooza every year. It benefits St. Joseph’s Baby Pantry in Dunmore. We do raffle baskets. Last year, James Barrett and his dad and friends played music, so it was a big open mic of local artists. We gave away a fire pit, and St. Joseph’s is always very appreciative. When I came back from Philly and had my baby shower, I got so much stuff. I remember thinking, “If I didn’t have this, what would I do?” Nobody should not have what they need.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: Having my daughter definitely changed everything. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I care so much more about people. I have more compassion, patience, understanding, and I’m so much more appreciative of every second of my life.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Jeff D’Angelo

Up Close & Personal – Jeff D’Angelo

Jeff D’Angelo had always planned to join his father’s clothing business. The South Scranton native graduated from Scranton Central High School then studied business at Lackawanna College with the intention of one day working for his dad. He did, but he also established Jeff D’Angelo’s Design Group, a “prop shop” where he is the creative artist and owner. He also works for Marywood University as the assistant chief of safety. He has two grown children and lives in the city’s Minooka section with his wife of 37 years, Diane.

Meet Jeff D’Angelo…

Q: Can you describe the work of Jeff D’Angelo’s Design Group? 
A: If I’m doing a theme party, I’ll dress up and bring my actors, and we get the people involved. Part of our job is to get people dancing and make sure they have a good time. I’ll research a theme, I’ll print pictures out and look at them. I now have more than 90 themes and 10,000 props. I’ll make sketches, blow them up, put it on foam, cut it with an old-school handsaw and paint it.

Q: How did you learn about art?
A: I have no art background. I’m all self-taught. I look at different artists to see how they do it, and I try to copy their styles. There was an artist, Jack Davis, he used to work for Mad Magazine. I loved his style. My wife found out where he lived in Georgia and had him send me a birthday card. She said he was really nice. I said I needed to talk to him. I called him up and told him I was a self-taught artist and I asked him questions. He was nice enough to tell me things.

Q: How did you get interested in art, having never had formal training?
A: I always liked to draw even since I was a little kid. Whenever I went to a store and I wanted to buy a game or something, I was always attracted to the box that had artwork on it. I’d play with that toy then look at the box and try to draw what was on it. I used to color in coloring books when I was 4 or 5. I’d go around to my neighbors and rip the pages out and ask them if they wanted to buy them. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world until my mother found out. I just loved art.

Q: What is the most gratifying part about owning the design group?
A: My favorite part is when I take the finished product and people see it for the first time. I love when they say, “I didn’t know you were going to do this. It’s better than I expected.” That, to me, is the greatest compliment. The other thing I like is when people who really can’t afford art want to buy the art. If they can’t afford it and they want to buy something, they really must like it. The average guy who is just making enough money might ask me to paint him something. That’s more important to me than a millionaire asking me to decorate his room.

Q: What hobbies and interests do you have outside the business?
A: I was a golfer back in the day. I was a half-decent golfer. I have not missed a Miami Dolphins game in 13 years. My family and I make sure that wherever we are at that point, that we schedule everything around the game. My daughter, my wife and I, since we’re in Scranton, we meet every Sunday to watch the three-hour game. My son lives in South Carolina. He watches it there. We consider it like a movie because we don’t know how it’s going to end, but it’s full of excitement.

Q: Have you had time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
A: People will come over and say they love my stuff. I like just putting smiles on peoples’ faces. My parents taught me to be good to a janitor the way you would to a president. If your grandmother is having a 90th birthday, I’ll put the same blood, sweat and tears into somebody’s million-dollar celebration. I think that’s what shapes my life.

 

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Lindsay Barrasse

Up Close & Personal – Lindsay Barrasse

Lindsay Barrasse has done a bit of everything. She owns and operates Voyager, a video production company she started with her husband, Dave. She also is the founder of Zen-Doh, teaches yoga and recently self-published a book, “Graffiti d’Italia.” She is a graduate of Bishop O’Hara High School and Keystone College, where she earned a degree in fine arts. She lives in Scranton’s Green Ridge section with her husband.

Meet Lindsay Barrasse…

Q: You have a little bit of everything going on in your life. What is your current focus?
A: My husband and I own a video production company, Voyager. We work together on projects of all spectrums. We travel to New York, New Jersey, and we were recently in Arkansas. I also found so much help with yoga in my life, and I now teach it. I wanted to learn why it is so healing physically and mentally and more about the stretches. It just comes so natural now, and I love teaching it.

Q: What is the concept behind Zen-Doh? 
A: Zen-Doh is an aroma-therapeutic play-dough infused with essential oils. It’s in between a putty and a play dough. I make it at home with all-natural ingredients. It’s like a science experiment, because I have to add things at certain times. It’s a stress-relief toy. You can play with it and mold it and twist it in your hand. Just the act of doing that, even without any smell, relieves stress by sending neurotransmitters to the brain.

Q: How did Zen-Doh come about?

A: My husband and I were in a car accident the day after our wedding party. I had to go to physical therapy where I had to mold and manipulate putty. I didn’t like the way the play dough smelled. My sister got me scented play dough, but the fragrance was overpowering. I thought, “I wonder if I can make something and use the oils I had at home, because they smelled so much better and they were natural.” My first batch came out awesome.

Q: What can people expect in your recent self-published book?
A: My husband and I went to Italy in July. I’ve wanted to see the Colosseum for as long as I can remember. We went to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and I took this photo of (a piece of art of a woman, which is on the front cover of my book). I looked at the photo, and I looked at the wall, and I said to my husband, “I’m going to do a book.” I just wanted to document everything from Florence to Rome and Venice, Naples and Pompeii. Art is everything. I love books and having a tangible object in my hands, and they last the test of time.

Q: Tell me about your upcoming show, “Make Your Own Damn Sandwich” in the Scranton Fringe Festival.
A: I’ve worked with an improv group, Here We Are in Spain. I performed with them last year in the Fringe Festival. I decided I wanted to get an all-female improv group. The show is going to be hilarious. It’s just comedy. It’s half-scripted, half-improv. We have a “Game of Thrones” sketch in there and a lot more. We are having so much fun with it.

Q: What is it like to be an improv performer?
A: I love it. I prefer improv or unscripted material. With improv, you get one shot; you have to think on your feet. It’s not about being funny as much as it’s about being honest. If you try to be funny, you’re not going to be funny. If you’re honest, you can be funny.

Barrasse’s show “Make Your Own Damn Sandwich” will be performed at 518 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton, on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 30 at 3:30 p.m.

Her book, “Graffiti d’Italia” can be pre-ordered through her Indie Go Go campaign here. Individual prints can also be purchased. The money will support her art efforts throughout Scranton and beyond. 

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close and Personal – Melanie DePietro

Up Close and Personal – Melanie DePietro

Scranton native Melanie DePietro is an art instructor at Eclectic City Studio in Scranton. Eclectic City Studio, owned by designer Jeff D’Angelo, features four artists, including DePietro, each of whom teach workshops in their niche. She found a home to display and teach art there after D’Angelo discovered her artwork online. DiPietro teaches glass painting and also is the designer, artist and founder of Painted Wine Glasses by Melanie. She lives in Scranton with her husband, Scott; children, Nicholas, 20; Colette, 16; Maximilian, 9; and Scotty, 7; and their dog, Jolie.

Meet Melanie DePietro…

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I am 43 years old. I’m a mom of four, sometimes six. My husband and I have six kids, two his, two mine and two ours. We have a big family. The youngest is 7, and the oldest is 20. I was born and raised in Scranton. I graduated from West Scranton High School. I went to the University of Scranton for a few years and eventually graduated from Wilkes University. My bachelor’s degree is in psychology; however, I have a minor and focus in studio art and art history.

Q: How did you end up doing art after studying psychology?
A: I’ve liked art my whole life. I’ve been painting and drawing since I was a little girl. I went into the psychology field because my oldest son was diagnosed with autism. I got interested in that field and started researching that. I was a stay-at-home mom for about seven years. I can’t just stay at home; I always have to do things. It was during that time that I went back to school and finished my degree at Wilkes. I just finished my degree in 2016. I started doing art and creating again. A good friend of mine, she and I wanted to do a fundaraiser. She said painting on glass was really big. I just got really into it and became obsessed. I posted a few pictures on my Facebook page, and it just took off from there. Jeff D’Angelo saw my page and said he needed some people to paint in his studio. He paints and stencils giant props. Working with him has enabled me to network a lot and meet a lot of new people. I’ve been able to get into the Eclectic City Studio and work with other great artists.

Q: What types of designs do you paint on glasses?
A: I do a range of things. Dog portraits, cat portraits. I’ve recently done a llama and a goat. Some people want something commemorative. I can do lettering by hand. Some people like glitter. Sometimes people will give me a picture and tell me what they want.

Q: What message do you hope to spread by doing art?
A: A lot of people will ask me to paint their dog that just passed away. Anybody can get a picture and have it printed on a glass. When you get an artist to paint your pet, it’s coming from them, it’s unique, and it’s their perspective of what the animal looks like. People really go for that.

Q: What types of art classes do you teach?
A: I’ve been teaching art workshops for about two years. We do paint and sip, usually BYOB or BYOW. Classes are anywhere between 10 to 60 people. A lot of the paint nights are fundraisers. It’s a nice, fun way to get people together and do creative things. A lot of times, people will get intimidated. I’ll show them the glass, and they say, “I can’t paint that.” I break it down step-by-step and show them how.

Q: What is your favorite part about teaching?

A: I feel like I am putting on a performance when I teach, but I’m sharing my talent and breaking it down. I love when people come in and feel challenged. They are intimidated about it at first. They walk out with a big smile and say, “Look what you helped me do.” Everyone’s piece will be similar but different in its own way, and you want it like that because it’s your own. Being able to create, share and teach something I love has made me feel like I’ve finally achieved my dream.

Q: What artists are you inspired by?
A: I am inspired by the classics. I don’t know if it inspires my style of the way I paint, but I have a deep respect for Monet, Michelangelo, da Vinci. I just love the classic style.

Q: Can you describe your lifestyle outside of art?
A: My kids are in soccer. My one son plays guitar. There is always someone playing music in the house. My daughter plays basketball. It is crazy and chaotic. Sometimes it’s difficult to fit my part-time art in there, but I prioritize it and make time for it. Doing art is my time, and I love to do it.

Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A: We have a boat at the lake, so we like to do boating. I love the beach; we try to go every year. We try to do family things.

Q: What is something that most people don’t know about you?
A: I have a lucky apron that I wear to teach my art classes. I found it at a yard sale. It has a picture of Michelangelo’s “David” on it. I kind of use it as an ice breaker at the beginning of classes. I censored it with a little leaf. Another thing is that one of my weird talents is I can look at colors and I know right off the bat what to mix to recreate the color with paint. I absolutely love the artist Prince. I’ve loved him since the fourth grade. I was about 9 years old when my Prince obsession started. I often listen to his music while I paint.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
A: When I was a single mom for a while, it was very difficult. It was challenging. I always wanted to do something that was for me to try and (get) a little extra spending money. I was proud to be able to develop something that came from me. It didn’t come from anybody else. I was able to show my children that if there is something that you like to do, just do it.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Krista Kalamity

Up Close & Personal – Krista Kalamity

Krista Kalamity is a face and body artist who owns and operates Transmogrification Station. A native of Peckville, she graduated from Scranton High School and lives in Scranton with her son, Casper, 15, and flame point Siamese cat, Spaceghost.

Meet Krista Kalamity…

How did you get into art?
In grade school, the art teachers at Valley View were amazing. I’ve always loved colors and the fact that I can have an imagination. Cartoons were always my favorite thing. When I found out I could watch cartoons on TV and draw them at the same time, I thought that was amazing. Probably my start came from watching cartoons.

What other types of art do you enjoy?
I love watercolor. I’m not the best at it, but I have a lot of fun with the different colors you can come up with and blending one color into another. I also love chalk art. I was working at the Keys on Penn Avenue. There is a chalk board on the wall, and every week I would do up the menu with different designs. I also do embroidery and sewing. My grandmother taught me to sew when I was younger, so I kind of dabble into a lot of different things.

Of all the arts you’ve tried, how did you end up as a face and body painter?
In high school, I would always draw on my hands and arms. One thing I always wanted to do was get into tattooing. I never had the money for an apprenticeship, because to get a really good person teaching you is a couple thousand dollars. My mentor, her name is Rachel; I met her about 10 years ago. She was doing face painting. We ended up just clicking, and she asked me if I wanted to do face painting. It was the next best thing to tattooing, plus, unlike tattooing where you have to be 18 or older, little kids can get it done too.

How did you come up with your business name, Transmogrification Station?
I was trying to come up with a magical, shape-shifting type of persona. I asked some friends. My buddy Rob came up with Transmogrification Station. There was an old comic from Calvin and Hobbes where he’d go into a cardboard box that was called a transmogrifier. He’d walk in and turn into something else. Even though it’s a mouthful, it’s fun to hear kids say. It definitely fit what I was going for.

What is Transmogrification Station’s motto?
My motto is “face painting and body art for all kids at heart.” Young or old, anybody can do it.

What is your favorite part about your job?
All the different things I can come up with. I had a party a few weeks ago at Nay Aug Park. There was an old man sitting in my chair, and he told stories about Nay Aug and how he used to live here. He said he wanted a frog leaping over his head with lily pads and the sun. The things people come up with on a whim, I can paint. I love being able to put someone’s idea and thought on their skin in a way they can see it.

If you could give advice to an up-and-coming face and body artist, what would you say?
If you see my setup, all the paint that I have is for the skin. It’s makeup that’s made for your skin. There are some artists who do amazing work but use sharpies. You can break out. Some people use acrylics that have metals. You never want to use acrylics. You want something that’s going to be safe, especially with kids, who can break out so easily. If anybody wants to get into it, spend the money on the right stuff.

What inspires your designs?
A lot of different cartoon artists and other face painters inspire me. The face-painting community is great. We’re all about sharing designs. If somebody comes up with a design that’s quick for a kid who doesn’t want to sit still, we’re allowed to use it as long as we credit them.

What are some misconceptions about body paint?
I think a huge misconception in the body art world is that you don’t have to be completely, physically fit. You don’t have to have the biggest breasts or tightest butt, and it still makes you feel good about yourself no matter what. Another big thing is people think, “Oh, you’re nude. You’re such a terrible person for posing nude.” It should be about the art aspect, not what you’re looking at underneath. We just want to have fun and show off what we’re capable of as artists without people thinking it’s a sexual thing.

You put in so much time to art, but it is temporary. Why do you enjoy that aspect, i.e. body art, which comes off in the shower, and chalk art, which washes away.
I’ve thought about this so many times. The thing that drew me to being a tattoo artist, when I was younger, was that my art would be on somebody for the rest of their life. That’s an honor to come up with a piece for somebody. Through the years as I really thought about it, there are so many people who regret getting a tattoo even though they were so set on it. I kind of like doing something that’s temporary. It’s in the moment; it’s right here and now. I’ve painted on my legs so many times. I can wash it off and start again. One week they’ll think something looks awesome and it’s so cool, but the next week they’ll think something else is more awesome.

What is your favorite part about being a mom?
My son, Casper, and art are the two things that keep me going. If I have the worst day, he’ll come over and hug me and say, “Hey mom, what do you need?” He’s one of my best friends. We talk about everything, and we’re super honest with each other. He is a great kid, likes video games, plays music, he sings and does sports. He is very well-rounded.

What other hobbies do you have?
I love to hike and camp. Ever since I was 8 or 10 years old, my parents would take me camping for a week each summer. I played in the river and waterfalls. Nature is a huge thing for me.

Have you had a defining time or moment in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
Having my son. I used to skip school. I wasn’t a terrible delinquent, but I had my son at a young age of 18. I decided to step into the role. We do so many things together, and he really grounded me. I’m a kid at heart, but I have to be an adult for him.

 

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Jesse Mower

Up Close & Personal – Jesse Mower

Jesse Mower is a Carbondale native and lead vocalist and guitar player for band Static in the Attic. He graduated from Luzerne County Community College with a degree in music technology. He is employed by Gentex Corp., a helmet manufacturer, in Carbondale.

Meet Jesse Mower…

What is your musical background?
In high school, I was in the marching band. I had the cape and all of that. I started on the drums, which I think helped me a lot with rhythm. When I finally started learning guitar, it was easier to get rhythm down. I was 13 when I got my first guitar. I got it from a buddy, and I just kind of sat on it for a long time.

How did you become the vocalist for Static in the Attic?
It was so bad at first. We were trying to get a singer when we were younger. We were around 16 when we started the band. We realized we all suck at singing, but someone had to do it. I just tried to do it. I never really had lessons, but I should have, I think.

How did Static in the Attic form?
We were all in high school together. Our drummer, Jules Borosky, and I would stay after school with the band director. We asked if we could stay after and jam. It was really weird (and) bad at first because it was just guitar and drums, and we didn’t know what we were doing. Eventually we got more buddies to join. We got Tom Murray, who now plays bass. We didn’t get any gigs for a long time because we were little. We played in some bars when we were younger, which was good because we learned how we had to handle ourselves as we got older. Now we are a three-piece (group). We do the power trio thing. We are trying to play more and record stuff.

Have you also performed as a solo artist?
It was all band at first. I never really did any solo stuff, but now I am trying to get into it. I’m very bad at it, too. It’s much easier to sit in front of two people, and I don’t have to do it all. There’s a lot that goes into getting a set list and picking good songs and getting the full-time musician thing going. I think I like the band more. It’s easier to rely on them. I am starting out doing solo gigs.

What is something you’ve learned in your recent time as a solo performer that is different than being in the band?
You can’t guitar solo as much. That was the most depressing part. But the voice is a lot more important too. Instead of doing a guitar solo for a part, I’ll try to sing it. It’s a lot more work on the voice. You have to take a different approach. It’s cool to figure out songs that don’t work acoustic and figure out a way to do it. It doesn’t always work, but it’s fun to try.

Who are your musical inspirations?
I gotta say Jimi Hendricks, just like every guitar player. I was big into Paul Gilbert, who is a shred metal kind of guy. The technical ability always got me. I love those kind of guys. Guthri Govn is another one. Buddy Guy is also my guy.

Can you describe your style as a musician?
It’s deep-rooted, but I like going fast. It’s a bit of a mix. With the band, we aren’t really a blues band. It’s more funk, rock, blues. I played with the Soul Shakers for a while. They were really a blues bands. They did some funk and stuff too. It was cool to be able to play traditional blues. I love the blues rock kind of thing and guitar solos. I love the jam band kind thing too.

What is the band’s style?
The power trio is awesome. Tom will be driving the bus. We do a lot of improvs, which is the best part. It’s cool because him and Jules drive it and I just bounce off them. We always look at each other and dance at each other. The blues part comes from me I think. They were never really into the blues much until we started playing together. Jules is like a rock punk drummer. She does it all. Tom is the oldest; he’s 24, and Jules and I are 22.

Being so young, what part of being a musician do you feel you display extra maturity in?
Jules’ parents are in a band, so we would always practice in her basement. That was cool because we got to learn what to do and what not to do. That was helpful and a big part. It was really great to have someone to help us learn how to act. We do blues jams. The first time I was invited, I took my guitar. People see a kid come on stage and think this kid doesn’t know how to play the blues. It’s cool to get through tests like that and prove yourself. The best thing about being so young is we have so much time to grow.

How did you first get interested in music?
My folks were really big into music. They love concerts. I remember playing “Guitar Hero.” I was really into it. My sister had a little, cheap guitar with missing strings. I wanted to try it. I also watched old rock videos on YouTube. It’s weird being able to have YouTube; it’s like cheating because I don’t have to buy records.

Talent aside, what would you be doing if you weren’t playing music?
I’d probably try to get a studio or work in a studio where I could bring artists in, record bands and make albums for them. I’d also mix their tracks and put them together. I’d like to get into that or maybe cooking.

What other hobbies or interests do you have?
Cooking, but I’m probably not very good at it. I love video games.

If you could perform alongside any musician living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’d say Jimi Hendricks so I could steal his mojo. It’s cool to be around other players who you can sponge up what they’re doing and add it to your repertoire.

What is your favorite part about being a performer?
I geek out about all of it. When you have a good crowd and they’re in it, the connection. There’s nothing like looking out and seeing someone who’s so into it. It makes it seem like everyone together is making it happen. If you have a less-enthusiastic crowd, the show is going to be less enthusiastic. Luckily we don’t have too many of those.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I bet a lot of people don’t know I have really long hair, because I wear a hat all the time. My hair would stick to my face and I wouldn’t be able to perform.

Have you have a defining moment or time in your life?
One of the big things that helped me as a musician when I was younger is that so much stuff was gifted to me by friends and family. The amp that I play through was given to me. I am way lucky. I don’t know if I deserved it, but that helped so much. I am just grateful for the music and the stuff and to be able to do it. I can’t wait to be able to give a guitar to someone and help out.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?
We are coming out with a live album soon. It will probably be an EP with five to eight songs. We did a show at Mountain Sky, and it was recorded. We are happy to have some newer stuff, since we’ve grown as a group. It will be our first album as the current three-piece. It will have a lot of new flavors. It’s energetic blues rock. It’s pretty upbeat; there’s a lot of improvisation. That’s why we wanted to do the live thing. Even in the studio, we want to do it live because that’s our mojo. It’s hard to do it piece by piece, and we have so much fun being together. It will hopefully be out by the end of the year.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Mark Lucchi

Up Close & Personal – Mark Lucchi

Mark Lucchi owns and operates Lucchi Family Wine Cellars in Scranton, but he considers his business to be more of a means to form and maintain friendships and enjoy camaraderie than a money maker. While he credits his loyal customers for helping allow him to do what he loves, he likes to think of them more as family. He also works for the City of Scranton Department of Public Works. He is a 1988 graduate of Scranton Technical High School and studied radiology at Johnson College. He lives in Scranton.

Meet Mark Lucchi…

What is your role at the Department of Public Works?
I do whatever they need me to do. It can be anything from patching potholes to driving a garbage truck, plowing roads, cleaning storm drains — basically we do it all. My official title is pack master operator.

How long have you been making wine?
I’m a third-generation wine maker. As a hobby, I started making my own wine with my dad. I’ve been making wine about 20 years, but my dad is 80 and he’s been making wine with his father since he was about 4 or 5 years old. My dad made wine his whole life, and I always helped him pick grapes. At Christmas dinner, we’d toast, and I said, “Pop, this wine is pretty good.” And he said that was the stuff from the yard.

How did your hobby become a business?
It’s labor-intensive and costly to make wine. We were making wine and giving it away. It began to get very expensive, and we couldn’t just keep giving it away. People liked our product, and we started making wine for other people. In 2013, I licensed my wines through the state Liquor Control Board and federal government. We became a licensed winery. It went from a hobby to a business and, knock on wood, I am blessed.

Can you describe the labor-intensive wine-making process?
Back in the day, with my dad, we hand-picked the grapes then washed them, de-stemmed them, ran them through the grinder — everything was manual. Now we have machinery doing it. Technology has advanced so much that we’re able to eliminate the grinding and pressing of the past. We can get juice shipped in. Our Pennsylvania products we still grind and press. We get five or six people together and go out there, and it’s all about the camaraderie. We’ll go out and just work eight hours.

What does it mean to do the wine-making around your friends and family?
I am blessed. My parents are 80 years old and relatively still healthy. My dad instilled a very good work ethic in me. It’s a laughing and joking atmosphere. Even though it’s a lot of labor, when our friends come over and enjoy a glass of wine, that pays for itself right there. We get buddies who come over and help us out, and I have employees who give us a hand. We are really family-oriented. Unfortunately I never got to meet my grandfather Mario. You can find my dad, Robert and my mom, Mary, they come with me to events (to vend). My mom will be out, and someone will say “Hey, Mrs. Lucchi, how are you doing?” She doesn’t know them, but they say, “We’ve seen you at the farmer’s market or festival, and we bought wine from you.” Sometimes people we don’t know will come in and have a glass of wine or two, and by the time they leave, they feel like family. My greatest reward is when people send us a nice review or positive feedback. We strive to treat everybody with respect.

You mentioned there is a great camaraderie among not only you and your family and employees but also among other local wine makers?
We buy local as much as we can and we support each other, even the wineries here. Sal Maiolatessi is one of my dear friends. We just all sat down in February and formed Lackawanna Wine Trail with the local wineries. When I was going through the licensing process, Sal was helping me constantly because he already did it. Now, a buddy of mine is opening a winery in Taylor, and I’m helping him. We all work together. Everybody thinks it’s a competition, but we all have our own niche. We’re constantly on the phone with each other. If there’s an event or someone is organizing a bus trip, we help each other out. I don’t know how the other small businesses are, but this is very unique, and that’s what I love about it. We all go to these festivals and work together. If somebody hears of something going on that could benefit all of us, we reach out to each other. Nobody wants to see anybody hurt.

Some of your wines have creative names. Where do the names come from?
We’ll be down in the wine cellar like mad scientists blending wines together. We come up with different names. Sweet Mary Rose is a Concord Catawba. I named that after my mom. Her name is Mary Rose, and it’s a sweet wine, so we call it Sweet Mary Rose. We have a lot of fun with these wines. A lot of people get a kick out of our names, like the Sexy Sisters wine, (which) is a Niagara Cayuga that blends two sister grapes. Another is Sweet Trouble. It’s sweet, and if you drink enough, it’s going to get you in trouble. People love that, and we interact with them and joke with them at the festivals. They laugh at all the names, and we love to have fun with them.

What is your favorite wine either to make or drink, and why?
It’s funny, I still drink beer. I never really drank wine until 20 years ago. I guess my palette has changed. Seventy-five percent of the wines we sell are sweet; now I enjoy drier wines. I like a nice pinot noir. That’s one of my favorites.

Outside of the business, what are your hobbies or interests?
I enjoy hunting and anything involving nature. Whether it’s walking by Nay Aug gorge and sitting by the falls, I just love the tranquility and peacefulness, or boating at Lake Wallenpaupack. I don’t have the time like I used to. Right now, hunting season is starting, but it’s also harvest season. I work full-time, and this is easily a full-time job too. I love anything by the water or outdoors. I ice fish a bit during the winter. The winter months are a little slower in the wine industry, so I get out with my guys and go ice fishing. One thing with the wine, it dictates to you when it’s ready. You can’t say, “Oh, I’ll get it next week.”

What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’m petrified of heights. On ladders and roofs, I get crazy. As big as I am, I’m a little baby when it comes to heights.

Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
I lost a dear friend. We all think we’re going to live forever, but life can change in the drop of a dime. I get up every day and thank God that I’m able to get out of bed. That opened my eyes. I try to do something good every day for somebody else, whether it’s buying somebody a coffee at the drive-through or telling someone they look nice today. I always say if we all took our own problems and threw them in a pile and saw everybody else’s, we’d want our own back.

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Diksha Dosaya

Up Close & Personal – Diksha Dosaya

Diksha Dosaya, a henna tattoo artist who owns Heena Tattoo in Dunmore, brings aspects of her native Indian culture to Scranton. She and her sisters have practiced the art of henna together for as long as she can remember. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business administration from University of Rajasthan in India. Dosaya moved to the United States from India 10 years ago when her husband, Dr. Rajiv Bansal, started his residency following medical school. They have a 3-year-old son, Vihaan, and live in Dunmore.

Meet Diksha Dosaya…

Can you talk about the traditional aspect of henna?
It’s very auspicious. If there is a wedding or festival, we have to put it on. It’s very lucky. Before marriage, you have to put on henna tattoos. They say that if the color of henna gets dark, your husband loves you; that’s just a saying. We grew up doing henna tattoos at home in India. It’s natural and comes from henna plant. We bring the leaves, dry them and make a light green powder. We put water, lemon and a little sugar in the paste to make the color a little darker, then you have to let it sit 12 to 24 hours. We make cones and put the henna paste in it, then seal it. Then you can make your own designs.

How have you expanded your henna art?
I was on an H4 visa, so I could not work. I was practicing because this is my hobby, and I love to do this. I enjoy putting henna on my hands and feet, especially when I get bored. In 2014, I got my visa so I could work. Some of my friends have a yoga studio (and) asked me to come do henna for their clients. I also take appointments to do henna.

What made you want to grow Indian culture in Scranton?
I like it here. I like the people. They are so nice and know so many things about India. They know about henna tattoos. When people see me, some say my henna is very nice and ask how I got it. One of my friends arranged to find some clients for me. I went to do the henna, and they were so happy. I love to do the henna, and I want people to know more about it.

What else do you want people to know about henna?
Different types of tattoos are well-known, so why not henna? It is temporary. There is no chemical in it. It comes from natural plants, and if you don’t like the design, it will go away in 15 days. If you want a certain design, then 15 to 20 days later you want a different design, you can change it. I want to show people we can do this type of body art. There are no needles, and it’s pure organic. Henna can also have a cooling and calming effect. In India, (it) can be 110 to 115 degrees, so sometimes people will henna on their feet, hands or head to keep them cool. It’s cheap, and it’s colorful. It smells good, and you can put essential oil in it as you put it on so it will give more of a relaxation effect. When you do live art in front of other people, they will feel more relaxed.

What makes you so passionate about doing henna?
I like to do different designs for different people. There are so many various designs with different variations, such as a sun or star. I like to do whatever people like. I love when I am able to do the design they want. That is what gives me a reason to do it. When people come back for a second time, after liking it the first time, that feels good, too.

Is henna art meditative for you to do?
Yes. I feel so peaceful and calm when I’m doing this. I am in my own world. It feels like I’m back in my home country. Sometimes you miss your family, friends or things, so when I’m doing this I feel like I’m back there.

Do you do any other types of art?
Sometimes I’ll practice mandala art, but I’m not that good. It is similar to henna. We do those at festivals. We have a festival called Diwali Festival. I do mandala art in my home on the floor.

Your 3-year-old son has taken an interest in doing henna as well. What is it like blending Indian and American cultures in his upbringing?
He is starting to do henna. Sometimes he grabs the cone and does henna with me. He is bilingual. He knows Hindi and English. We teach him our native language. Outside here, he speaks English. We’re trying to teach him all the traditions. I’m teaching him as much as I can, because when he goes back to India, he will need to know the traditions.

What else in addition to a design on their skin can people take away from getting henna done? Is there a spiritual meaning?
Applying henna can be a deeply moving and communicative experience for both the receiver and the artist. It opens a spiritual connection where a gifted blessing can be received. I want to give them the message that this is an art. It’s also auspicious and will bring you good luck, and good things will come their way. Any time anything good happens in India, they put henna on.

You are working with a start-up business called Om Indian Handy Crafts. What is that?
There are a few women who make bags and do embroidery and decorate the bags to make them look good. I sell them at some yoga studios to help them. In India, not many women are working, so I can help. I started this small business in 2014. I got the stuff from there, I sell it here. I go to fairs and hope to show people how pretty they are. Both that and the henna are connected to India. I like that I can bring a little bit of India here.

What other hobbies and interests do you have?
I love to spend time with my husband and my son. We travel a lot. We traveled before him as well. My son likes to travel. We went to Disney World last year. I also like gardening. I have a little vegetable garden at home. Those are my two main hobbies.

Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
I came here in 2008, and I got sick in 2009. I was very sick for two years. My parents didn’t have visas, so they could not visit me, and my husband was so busy doing his residency. I was alone at home in a different country. That time made me so strong that now I feel like I can overcome anything. Health is wealth, and if health is down, you feel so down. That was my turning point, and mentally I am much stronger now.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
I would like to thank my husband and my mom and my sisters back in India. They have always been great support in my life. One of my sisters came last year to visit me. Even though they are in India, my mom and sisters and I talk every day. I miss them a lot. I do like it here, because now I have a family and the community is great. I also get to do my hobby as well.

 

To see more of Dosaya’s designs and art or schedule an appointment visit her Facebook Page Heena Tattoo

 

Photos by Emma Black

 

Up Close & Personal – Valerie Kiser

Up Close & Personal – Valerie Kiser

You may have spotted Valerie Kiser’s recognizable Electric City clothing and home and lifestyle design collection at Lavish Body & Home in Scranton. With a line like that, many would assume she is a Scranton native. But Kiser actually grew up in Clarks Summit and planned to move away from Scranton before she met her husband, David Bosley. She studied fibers at Savannah College of Art and Design and now uses her knowledge of screen-printing as the principal designer of Valerie Kiser Design. She and her husband live in Scranton with their children, Axel, 5, and Liv, 2.

Meet Valerie Kiser…

Talk about your background in screen printing and 3-D fibers.
I went in as a painting and fashion major. I had never heard of fiber art or textile design. I was in the same building with the fibers people, and I’d see what they were doing in the dorm. I got really interested in it. I took an introduction to fibers course and I loved it. I immediately connected everything I ever loved to it. It was the perfect match for me, so I switched majors.

What about the fibers drew you in?
Texture and just anything that’s repetitive. Weaving, stitching, pattern design — they’re all intricate, repetitive things. Anything repetitive or intricate I love. Within the fibers department, there is surface design, which is screen-printing, so I learned how to screen-print with pigments that are acrylic-based on big screens, embroidery, sewing and embellishment. Anything the fashion department would use to create their garments, the fibers department would create. I love really good-quality material and how things feel. I love how relatable fibers are. Every single thing is so tactile, we touch so many things every day, and I love that appeal.

How have you adjusted to keep up with changing technology?
I love technology; it makes my job a lot easier. Instead of drawing things by hand, digitizing them, cleaning pixels, now I can just draw it and it’s automatically a digital file. When I’m creating something, sometimes I like the hand-drawn touch. Paintings have different sort of depths, and you can’t always get that digitally. There is a happy medium. Even though I love the digital pad, I still want it to feel like it’s handmade. If I’m creating something from the pad, I’ll print on something that is tactile.

How did Valerie Kiser Design get started?
When I went to school for fibers, I wanted to be a fine artist. When I graduated, I started screen-printing out of my house to make money. I did that for years but didn’t tell anyone, because I wanted to be a fine artist. I did that for about 10 years, without advertising. It spread by word of mouth. It ran itself, and I thought to myself, “I like this and it’s sustaining me. Maybe I should explore this more.” I found that I actually liked being a designer and producing things rather than just making fine art. I really like to work two- and three-dimensionally. I decided to start the company in 2010 full-time. It was a great transition because, up until then, I had worked for so many different companies that prepared me. Those years were very hard, but I’m grateful for them.

What is your brand motto? 
To produce really great quality items for the home and apparel that last and can transition from season to season that are not a fast trend. I also believe that getting dressed in the morning and putting your house together should be easy. It shouldn’t be a stressful thing.

Why did you choose to make an entire collection based on the Electric City sign?
A friend of mine who is originally from the area moved away but was back in town right before she got married. She went to Lavish and saw a pillow with “Scranton” embroidered on it. I went back to get it for her, and they didn’t have it. It was First Friday, I was with my husband and some friends, telling them the story. We looked over, and the Electric City sign was right there. I thought, “Why don’t I just draw this. I screen-print for a living! I’ll just draw it and screen print it on a pillow.’ Once I got it on a pillow, I loved it and wanted it on a shirt. I wore the shirt on the plane to the wedding. A ton of people from Scranton were at the wedding and said they wanted one. My friend worked for Entercom and was in charge of the Scrantastic Spectacular. He asked me to put that design on shirts; we can put sponsors on the back, and you can have a booth there to sell the shirts. I did that seven years ago, and now it’s on everything. It’s cool because I’m not originally from Scranton, so I always felt like I wasn’t totally connected with the area. Now I feel like I do my part, and I love Scranton and feel good about it.

What message do you hope you can share through your designs?
Positivity. There are so many naysayers in our area, and it gets a bad rep, but when you surround yourself with people who are doing inspiring things and who are doing better things than you’re doing, it kind of pushes you to want to do that. Especially if you surround yourself with goodness, good things happen. If somebody gets very negative about Scranton, I try to shut that down.

What do you enjoy most about living in Northeast Pennsylvania?
There are so many great things. I think that when you can make a connection here, it’s easier, and it’s immediate. In a larger area, it might take longer to get through a system of people. Somehow everyone is related in some way. Everybody knows everybody. (David and I) have really great friendships here. There are people doing things in the community and inspire us to keep doing better. We have kids, so we want to invest in the community and make it better for them.

Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape you into the person you are today?
The most recent was this past December. I lost my sister. I think that has changed me forever. When somebody dies, you realize how final it is. When I can reflect back on that and what that means, you’re here one second and then you’re not. Even though my personality is still that I’m ambitious, I have a vision, I’m curious, and I want to learn and do things, it changed my perspective in a way that if there were things holding me back, they had to be addressed and dealt with then let go.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
My kids, they definitely shape me. Having kids allowed me to let go of some insecurities and things that had to be perfect. I was drawn to fibers in the first place because I liked doing intricate, repetitive things. I am very organized. I’m not like that anymore and realize there is only a level of perfection. They’ve taught me that doesn’t exist. In the moment is the best moment. Even when it’s challenging, there are still parts that are so rewarding.

 

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Tiff Kline

Up Close & Personal – Tiff Kline

Tiff Kline founded and owns Kline’s Korner, a food and local restaurant promotion business. She also is marketing manager of Nina’s Wing Bites and Pizza, Lett’s Eat/Flavors of India, Chain Smokers in West Pittston and the Smoke Shop/Cigar Lounge in Hanover as well as the assistant marketing manager at Nearme Yoga and Nearme Cafe. She considers herself an avid “festival-goer.” A graduate of Keystone College, she earned a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies with a minor in psychology and a concentration in education. Kline has lived in Scranton since 2009 and strives to grow the area’s small business food community. “Every dime we can give the small guy and keep it away from the big guys is a step toward a better community,” she said.

Meet Tiff Kline…

Tell me a little about yourself.
I was born in New Jersey then lived in Bangor. I lived in Ohio from when I was 10 until I was 20. I moved back to Scranton in 2009. I did an internship at Marley’s Mission where I worked with kids suffering from loss and trauma. That was really rewarding, but the four-year program was exhausting and I needed a change of pace. I really like social media. My mom used to joke and say, “One day you’ll get paid to sit and scroll.” I really liked photography and food, so I was trying to think of ways to make money off that. It started as a hobby. I like supporting local restaurants. I started Kline’s Korner in 2015. It was a risk. I started doing one or two food reviews a week, then I was doing three to five. Now I pace it out because the content is better when you’re not rushing.

How did you get into photography and food?
My mom was a photographer. She still is. I really got into Instagram. I started playing around with an iPhone and saw people were traveling around the world and taking pictures of food. I was going into local restaurants, and they were using stock photos for their menus. It was really aggravating and a lot of the people had no idea how to take pictures of food or how to run social media. I started taking pictures of mom-and-pop dishes, and the owners started using them. I think it’s important to showcase your own food.

Where did your interest in food come from?
I’ve always been into food. When I moved here in 2009, it opened up even more possibilities. I grew up on a farm. Traveling to the nearest city was two hours away. Here, I saw all these different cultures and styles of food. Food, to me, is a language. You can talk food with anybody and just open up a conversation. It’s very artistic. I love when the chefs put every ounce of passion into a dish.

At what point did you realize Kline’s Korner was going to be your career?
I didn’t know. It got to a point where I was burnt out on working office jobs. I’m a very outgoing person. I like to travel, I like to eat, I like showcasing a photo, putting it on social media and making somebody hungry. Getting feedback from that made me passionate about helping local restaurants get people in their doors. I guess that’s why I started doing it and why I’ve taken it so far. It’s an intrinsic reward where I’m doing them a service. Food is an art, and photography is an art, so I’m putting my two favorite arts together.

What does your work at Kline’s Korner consist of?
A lot of people get me confused with a food critic. I’m not that. My goal is to promote local mom-and-pop restaurants. I leave my opinion out of it. I give you the facts of where they are, hours of operation, what they have to offer, and I let you walk into them and make your own decision. Everybody has a different taste, no pun intended. If I don’t like a certain food, my opinion shouldn’t over shadow from what the restaurant has to offer. I’ve worked hard to set the reputation that I am a restaurant promoter and a food photographer. My goal is to get more people in the doors. Anything restaurants can offer that I find unique, I’ll share, such as their specials on a certain night, what kind of dishes they have. I try to showcase gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian options and put places in a positive light.

What message are you trying to share through Kline’s Korner?
I like to say that I’m very open and passionate about helping local restaurants. I think it’s very important to be active in the community, and one voice can go a long way. I always say “I’m eating my way through Northeast PA.” Kline’s Korner is a little bit of everything: travel blogging, photography, restaurant promoting, marketing. It makes me feel good that I can help others feel good with their business.

What do you enjoy most about helping the businesses?
When they can get the traffic that I drive in to their establishment and they thank me, it’s not because I need recognition. I feel good that they’ve succeeded. That’s what keeps me going. Even if it’s just one person, that’s one new customer they may have because of a picture I’ve taken or a shout out on Facebook. I don’t like taking the credit, and I don’t want the spotlight on me, but I want the restaurants to shine.

What makes a good restaurant in your opinion?
When the owners and managers don’t look at their customers as another number and they actually greet their guests and get to know them. I go to Sprinkles and Shakes in Plains Twp. a lot, and the owner, Bart, comes out and asks you how your pizza is. If you didn’t like something, he’ll ask you what he can do to make your night better. Joe from Nina’s is the same way. He bends over backwards to make sure his customers feel like family. That, to me, makes a great restaurant.

How has the NEPA restaurant industry changed since you’ve become involved?
I think people are becoming more open-minded. I’d like to point out some local chefs making Scranton so innovative with food are Jon Tabone at Bar Pazzo, Gene Philbin at Peculiar Slurp Shop, Dave Ciminelli at Aurants and Randy Ryan of the Kimchi Dude. As time has gone by, I’ve seen people step outside their comfort zones. I’ve seen burgers and fries become a bison burger at Aurants or What the Fork sliders. It seems like a lot of the chefs are trying new things and trying to keep up with what’s going on in bigger cities. They’re still keeping that mom-and-pop touch where they don’t want to look too corporate, but they know the fine line.

Have you had moment or time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
In 2007, I had a friend pass away. He was just full of life, and nothing could get him down. He was 23. I just started my second year of college. I was in Kentucky at the time. I moved here and started all over. I always remembered that life is short. Try to enjoy every day that you can and push yourself. Don’t give up, and try to find the good in every day. You have to go after what you want in life, because it’s going to pass you by. I don’t want to be a passenger in my life; I want to be the front-seat driver.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
Joe Macciocco and his sister, Maria McLaine, from Nina’s noticed what I did a few years ago. Joe kept an eye on me, and when it was time for his business to expand, he remembered how passionate I am about promoting. He gave me a shot at being his marketing manager and gave full trust to me. If it wasn’t for him opening the door to help me get marketing gigs, I wouldn’t be where I am today. He gave a kid who had no marketing experience a shot. I thank him for helping to get me to the next level. All the chefs I’ve worked with from the start who allowed me to walk into their facility and trusted me, they helped me build my portfolio, so I’d really like to thank the people who helped me get to where I am today. If it wasn’t for them helping me, I wouldn’t be able to help them.

 

Photos by Emma Black