Lyndsey Hughes has always enjoyed making things out of whatever she could get her hands on. The passion to create led her to found Lyndsey Hughes Designs and Illustrations, for which she is owner and operator. She enjoys adding color to her art and life with the simple swipe of a paintbrush, and she also designs stickers, clothing and home decor decals, among many other projects. Hughes is a graduate of Western Wayne High School and studied fine art at Keystone College. She is an administrative assistant at Center City Print. She and her husband, Chris, live in Scranton with their kids, Taryn and John.
Meet Lyndsey Hughes…
Q: After entering college to study fine arts, you walked away from art for a while. What happened? A: I studied for a year at Keystone, and there was something about art school that either you thrive or it sort of sucks it out of you. I ended up having my daughter after that year at Keystone and took the next five years to raise the kids. I had spare time again and started painting all over again. Even just between when I started painting then and now, the internet is great. You can see other artists’ processes, and I’ve grown just in the last few years alone.
Q: Having left art with a bad flavor in your mouth, what made you get back into it? A: I needed to do something for myself, and I didn’t know what. I found some of my old art supplies and just started going at it again. It kicked right back in, and it was fun so I kept going.
Q: Describe your style as an artist. A: I mostly do watercolors. I like mermaids. I know they’re kind of cliche at this point. “The Little Mermaid” came out when I was little, and it was finally a red-headed princess. I did a lot of mermaids, and now I’m getting into oil paintings. I studied a lot of Alphonse Mucha. He was a turn-of-the-century painter. France loved him. I like his style. He did oil, watercolor, posters. It’s really detailed. I just love the turn-of-the-century stuff, back around the Victorian era and the mix of ink and watercolor. The more vintage it feels, the more I like it. I like old-school vibes. Some of my stuff is almost tattoo-inspired. I like how you can play with the different line weights and the colors can be nice and bold. When I was little, my dad was a tattoo artist, and I got to see things like that. I feel like it all factored in. My grandmother worked for a paper company. She brought home crates of paper. All the kids were at her house, and there was always paper there so we’d make things.
Q: Can you describe some of your projects? A: Because of the stuff that’s more tattoo-like with the lines, I thought I could make stickers of all these. I started putting stickers on things. I put them on glass, then started painting them in. I thought it was all cute, kitschy stuff you’d see on Pinterest, or Etsy people will like this.
Q: What has been your project favorite and why? A: Watercolor. It’s fun because it’s kind of controlled chaos. It will do what it wants unless you put it on super thick. I thin it out like crazy. It’s layers and layers, I get the paper wet and let it flow and do its thing.
Q: You also do designs on clothing. A: I’m getting more into it. I hand-draw everything on my tablet, then I’ll watercolor it on paper afterward. I print it all on my watercolor paper and fill it in, then I re-scan and edit in Photoshop and turn it into T-shirts. It’s direct to garment printing. It’s just like a printer and how you put a piece of paper in, but you put a shirt in instead.
Q: What message do you hope to communicate through your artwork, especially the slogans on your home decor? A: I always kind of do it tongue-and-cheek. Life is way too serious. Have a bit of fun. I’m a sucker for bad puns and making everything light-hearted.
Q: What is one way art has positively affected your life? A: I’m one of the many people who has been diagnosed with anxiety. To be able to put things out there that just make you laugh and say, “This isn’t so bad,” and the process of creating them, I can just zone out for a while and not stress about this little thing that’s eating at me, it’ll be OK. It’s my Zen. I make things, I make a giant mess, and then I’m OK.
Q: What is something most people don’t know about you, or a fun fact? A: I was a published poet when I was a kid. That was weird because I’m not a writer. In middle school, I had a couple poems put out in a national publication. I don’t know where they are or the names of the books at this point. I can barely write a grocery list now, but I’m a published poet. Go figure.
Q: And I hear you used to raise peacocks? A: I raised peacocks as a kid. I had them as pets, and they were always around the house. My dad grew up on a farm; my mom didn’t. So we slowly acquired little animals. It started off with just a few chickens and rabbits. My mom said she wanted a peacock, so my dad came home with a peacock. Then my mom wanted a female (peahen), so my dad came home with a female (peahen). We also ended up with a pair of white peacocks. They’re easy to take care of. … One of the things about growing up in the middle of nowhere is you have space for all these strange animals.
Q: Are you part of any community groups or organizations? A: I’m not really part of any group or organization, but I’ve had a lot of random people who know I do artwork ask me to donate stuff to fundraisers. … I’ll definitely give things away like prints or baskets for my kids’ schools when they do fundraisers.
Q: What other hobbies do you have? A: I like to cook, and I love to bake. In the winter I bake a lot; I don’t like turning the oven on in the summer. I also knit. I’ve knitted socks, sweaters, slippers. I make stuff.
Q: Can you pinpoint an event in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A: My family has always been very relaxed and open about stuff. We’ve always been very accepting for growing up in a little corner of Pennsylvania. Me and my sisters have always traveled if we can; (we) try as many foods as we can, meet as many different people as we can, and we’ve always been very open. There’s always something to learn. I think just being open, it’s hard to change your view because you’re open to everything. I have ideas, but I usually don’t have anything that’s so firm that it’s going to shift drastically. I go with the change.
Amber Cipriani is the new owner and art instructor at Electric City Art Studio located in the Marketplace at Steamtown. She runs the studio, which offers classes for preschoolers through adults, with the support and help of her boyfriend, Norman Brown. The Drums native also is an elementary school art teacher in Hazleton Area School District. She received a bachelor’s degree in art education from Marywood University and a master’s degree in education from King’s College. She lives in Scranton.
Meet Amber Cipriani…
Q: What it is like teaching art at your alma mater? A: I love being an art teacher. I’ve always been interested in art of any medium. It started in high school. My high school art teacher was a huge influence. We called her “The Art Room Mom.” My home school hired me, and I’ve been there since. I’m on year five.
Q:What is it like to teach such fundamentals of art? A: Having them learn the elements of art and the different parts of art and a little art history, it’s all about the creative process. I like to base my projects on an artist or a certain painting so they get a little information. It’s a lot of fun having them use different mediums and play.
Q:What message do you hope to communicate to the public about art? A: Creativity is everything. The creative process helps kids turn into who they are. It helps kids with communication skills, socialization, creativity and even some math is thrown in there. It helps with all aspects of a child’s growth.
Q:Describe the projects you hope to see completed through Electric City Art Studio. A:I’m going to try and change it up all the time to keep people interested. If I offer the same things over and over, that wouldn’t be my style. I’d like to try new things and bring new ideas to the studio. I want to take suggestions from people and give people what they want and what the kids want.
Q:Tell me about your own work and style as an artist. A: A lot of people ask me to make different things, so I make what people want. My most recent is murals. I painted the mural at Center City Wine Cellar. I just finished a few weeks ago. I recently won the “Your Art Here” contest, which is a mural I painted on the second floor here (at the Public Marketplace.) They’re very time consuming. I sell some paintings during First Friday. I was into fluid painting for a while. I’ve done them on large canvases. I’ve also started making my own jewelry with different kinds of stones and Brazilian stones. I make a lot of wreaths for people for different occasions, too.
Q:What types of classes do you teach? A: Everything from pre-K all the way up to adults and a glass of wine. Every class will be structured by age. I’ll do messy playtime, sensory nights for special-education students and adults, paint and sip nights, adult and children workshops, drawing, summer camps and open studio which is a cheaper options for kids who want to come in and do their own thing.
Q:What is the most rewarding part about teaching? A: The finished product and the smile on the kids’ faces. I’ve taught everything from kindergarten up to graduate students. Even on a graduate student’s face — when I challenge them with something to make, and the end product puts a smile on their face — that puts a smile on my face.
Q:What is something that challenges you as an art teacher? A:I think my biggest challenge right now is just how many kids and different abilities there are in a classroom at the same time and trying to get to every student in the 40-minute time period. It’s definitely challenging because you want to help every single kid but sometimes it’s just not possible. Doing small group class and keeping it around eight students is what I’d like to do for the art studio, so I can help every single student. I see about 600 students a week, and it’s hard to get to every single kid. Some of them I only see once a week, and that doesn’t help the kids who are really into art.
Q:Art you part of any community organizations or groups? A: I have an after-school art club with seventh and eighth-graders. We meet once a month and do different projects that we can’t really do in a classroom setting. I also do a community service club and run a fitness club. I like to throw art in there somehow, so we’ll make decorations for the nursing home or local businesses. We recently did painted rocks with positive messages and put them around the community. I’m also trying to get involved with a lot of local businesses. I’m pairing up with Paradise Sweets for my summer camp. They’ll provide the lunches for the kids. The paint and sip nights will be booked with Center City Wine Cellar. I think getting everyone else involved is important.
Q:What has been your biggest art accomplishment you’ve had? A:The mural contest here (“Your Art Here”) opened up a lot of opportunity for me and got my name out there. It sort of set everything off.
Q:What other hobbies and interests do you have? A:I like to be outdoors. I have a stand-up paddle board, and we have kayaks, and we like to take the dogs out on walks. I’m in the gym every day and enjoy keeping active. I’m a huge beach person, so any chance I have to get to the beach is a good time, too.
Q: Can you pinpoint a time or event in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A:My advisor at Marywood, Ann Marie Castelgrande. She was my art mom in college. She really helped shape who I am today; everything creative, educational, business, everything. To this day, if I text her, she’s still there to answer me. She talked to everyone and treated us like we were her children. She has been so influential with everything.
Q:Do you have anything else to add? A: I’m excited for the kids to come in and show their creativity and get messy and learn about all the different materials you can use for art and see where things go.
Ryan Gruttadauria is the guitar player for Alma Mater. He joined Jerry Maloney and Vinny Amarando to form the three-piece and they will release their first EP as a group “Fractured” on May 10. Gruttadauria is a graduate of Pittston Area High School and Luzerne County Community College, where he studied music recording technology. He is employed by Guitar Center and lives in Duryea.
Meet Ryan Gruttadauria…
Q:What first got you interested in guitar and music? A:My first instrument is guitar. My grandfather, when I was younger, he was a drummer. I always wanted to do something musical because he talked about how cool it was. He always inspired me to want to do that. I guess that’s where it started. When I found out my grandfather was a drummer I thought that was the coolest thing. He was in a wedding band. I always loved rock music and just ended up here. I stuck with guitar when I taught myself drums. When I started in Alma Mater, I played bass, then our guitar player left and I started doing that. I always wanted to play music
Q:Describe Alma Mater’s style.
A: Alternative is the best way to sum it up. We have a cello in one song and a trumpet in another, it’s kind of all over the place. Our drummer lives in Indiana for school. He’d come in once every few months and we’d write something. We have an EP coming out next month and lyrical content, this was really personal for a lot of us. My grandfather, who I mentioned, passed away in November 2017. It was a lot of internal conflicts with stuff that goes on, at least for the parts I wrote, and those ideas intertwine with Jerry and Vinny’s ideas. I don’t know how it worked so well. It just fell in sync.
Q:What was it like being a newcomer to two people who were already good friends? A:Jerry and Vinny have been playing together since they were teenagers. I was terrified, but it started clicking really well. I’d get together with Jerry and it would be fun and I’d get together with Vinny and it would be fun, then we’d all get together and just kill it, it’s so much fun. I was so scared, because I know people who I’ve written music with since I was 13 and I know how it works and as soon as you throw someone new in the mix, sometimes it doesn’t work at all. I thought I was going to be that dude who was told to go sit over there.
Q: Describe the experience of producing your first music video and EP. A:I’ve never been in a music video before. Jerry had to go back to Indiana, so we knew the single was going to come out while he was gone. We thought ‘let’s just film this really quick while he’s here.’ We went to a bowling alley in South Side at 10 in the morning on a Saturday to film the music video. Little did I know that’s a very busy time for bowling alleys because that’s when all the leagues are there. We went there with a camera and were awkwardly going to have to sing the parts without the music on, so instead we just bowled then went to Cinemark and filmed more in the arcade. It was so much fun. We started recording in early 2018 for the EP. We just finished it in March. It was awesome, but it was nerve wracking because Jerry wasn’t there for some of the sessions. For the most part, it was long days, it was a lot of good experiences. We had a lot of friends help out too. Our one friend, Dan King did the cello, Jay Preston did trombone on one of our songs, Ed Cuozzo and Kyle Lukasewicz from University Drive and Black Hole Heart sang on other songs, so we’ve had people come in left and right and add little touches.
Q:What is the best advice you’ve received on your musical journey so far, and from whom? A:Just hearing tidbits of information from these guys who have been doing this for so much longer than I have is really cool. I look up to Ed [Cuozzo], because he did something that I’ve always wanted to do. His first record was just him. He does every instrument. He always gives awesome advice. He said something along the lines of: don’t waste your time and wait around for people. I thought it was the coolest thing because I constantly wait for people to be ready and want to do stuff. That opened my eyes and I started hanging out with the right people and getting the job done. He literally just said don’t wait for anyone.
Q: Who are your musical inspirations?
A: I’m obsessed with a band called Thrice. Just because they do everything from rock, then they’ll have a song that sounds like it’s from the 30s with piano and jazz. I cry every time I see them. They’re amazing. I’m a huge Frank Sinatra fan. It makes me think of my grandparents and my parents. Listening to stuff like that growing up, I just wanted to do something that sounds that big, I can’t play half the instruments or sing like Sinatra but I’d love to do something like that. I love U2. It immediately makes me think of my mom because she’s the biggest U2 fan. Also the ambience in their songs, I strive to have something like that.
Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have? A:I’m a huge hockey fan and sports in general. My favorite team is the Penguins. I’m a big video game nerd, and a sci-fi nerd. I’m a big Halo guy and Star Wars too.
Q: What advice would you offer to another young musician? A: I tell people to have fun with it. When I was 16, not that I took it too seriously, but I didn’t have as much fun with it. Now that I’m having fun, I’m enjoying the opportunities I’m getting. I used to stress myself out to an extent where I wouldn’t enjoy the show, I wouldn’t enjoy what happened after shows, and everything else leading to that was a big panic attack. Now, having fun and getting a show offer is the coolest thing in the world.
Q: Can you pinpoint a particular moment in your life that has helped shape the person you are today? A: I’ve had a decent amount of things take left turns when I wasn’t expecting it. I think that took the idea that everything is going to be OK at all points of my life away. It made me want to try harder. Even my grandfather dying, it was one of those things that was eye opening and life isn’t all roses, but I don’t want to sit and dwell on it. I want to live the best of my life like he did. I’ve been saying yes a lot more. On a personal level, the reason I connect so much with music is, I’m not a serious person, but music is one of the only things I can be serious about. I try to laugh stuff off but I use music as the time to be serious.
Q: Do you have anything to add?
A: The thing that I like is it’s all fun. We take it seriously but we don’t. By the time we’re on stage, we’re moving around, having beers, … I’d love to not miss any note while playing a song, but if I have more fun while doing it, it’s more fun for everyone involved. We always want to have fun while playing and I’ve fallen in love with that idea.
Laurel Radzieski is a writer, author and spontaneous poet. Throughout April, National Poetry Month, she will do spontaneous poetry in the area, using her typewriter and producing a framed final product. Her book, “Red Mother,” was published last year. Radzieski earned a bachelor’s degree from Keystone College and a master’s degree in fine arts in poetry from Goddard College. She is a graduate of Scranton High School and works as Lackawanna College’s grant writer. Radzieski and her husband, Michael DeSarro, live in Scranton with their fish, Buddy.
Meet Laurel Radzieski…
Q: What is spontaneous poetry? A: Spontaneous poetry is on-the-spot poetry. It’s poetry that’s written in the moment. What I like to do is engage someone in conversation and just ask them about anything. They might want to talk about food, their family or vacations. As we’re having that conversation, I’ll write a poem. I talk to them for two to three minutes, and at the end of the conversation, I have a poem written. I use a lab notebook. It’s carbonless copy paper. I rip out the page for them. I don’t take any notes; there’s no draft. I just write the poem in the moment.
Q: When working in a short amount of time, what types of things do you look to for inspiration? A: I’ve been doing this for about a decade, and it never surprises me how open a stranger will be if you ask the right questions. I think a lot of times people are used to not being listened to. If I say to someone, “What do you care about?” there’s an immediate response. I take a lot of inspiration from science and nature. I do a lot of research with my poetry. I don’t know a lot of other writers who do. Right now I’m working on a poem about coral reefs, so I have all these coral reef text books. It gives me a starting point, and if I can’t write anything, it’s time to do some research and read more. This project keeps it interesting because everybody has something different to say to me.
Q: Why do you think it’s important that the county supports this project? A: I love poetry, so I am a little biased. I think that it’s something that’s accessible and useful. I can’t see anything negative about somebody sitting down and trying to express themselves and share that. This is a Ted Kooser quote that I’m rephrasing, but he says there are a lot worse things that people could be doing than writing even bad poems.
Q: How do you make poetry accessible and all age-friendly? A: I love doing this with kids. When I went to the children’s library, most of the kids have never seen a typewriter before, so I’ll have them help me load the paper in, (and) we’ll finish the poem together. I think it’s something that’s tactile, and it gives poetry more life than just being on the page. I love English teachers, but I think that somewhere in school, everybody had a poem shoved down their throat and had that experience where they said, “I don’t get it,” but we’re told, “You’re supposed to get it.” I think of this as “let me give you an experience with poetry that’s personal.” It’s something that you care about to make it easier and see that maybe it’s something of interest. It also doesn’t have to be this lofty thing that you spend years on.
Q: Do you have a favorite poem or poet? A: I’d say my favorite poet is Marie Howe. I don’t know if I have a favorite poem, but I have a corkboard in my office that whenever the poem of the moment that I’m thinking of (comes up), I’ll stick it up there.
Q: What is the most intimidating part of doing a live poetry reading? A: I definitely get nervous about my choice of poems. I think that because of my theater background, I find that many of the poems I read are memorized. When I’m reading out in the world, I always try to have a few poems memorized so I can read and just show people this is me, there’s not a page between us. In that sense, I always have that concern of, “Do I have the right poems in my head for this reading?” Sometimes I’ll read those first two or three poems and it’s dead silence. I’ll realize these aren’t the right poems for this, so part of it is reading the audience.
Q: Tell me about your book, “Red Mother.” What inspired you to write it? A: In the summer of 2015, I left everything and went out and lived at the Worm Farm Institute. That is an arts nonprofit in Wisconsin, and it’s also an organic farm. I’m gluten intolerant, so that really made me think about my relationship with food. For four months, I lived in a barn with a bunch of other artists; there was no heat. I went to the farm because I thought I’d write a book about food. Instead, I found that I was writing a book about intimacy. That’s where “Red Mother” came about. I figured there was nothing as intimate as having something else living inside of you. The book is from a parasite’s perspective, and it’s a love poem to the reader. I think it shows all sides of a relationship. I did a lot of research about parasites. When I came back from Wisconsin, I had filled eight notebooks, and the manuscript was about 150 pages. I thought I was writing a novel. I starting cutting it, and by the end, I had just poems.
Q: What other hobbies or interests do you have? A: For non-work related hobbies, I enjoy board gaming. I have a very large collection of board games, maybe around 300. I love a game called Gloom Haven. I’ll put it in perspective: the box weights about 18 pounds. It’s a card game in a way; it’s something that my husband and I have been playing for about a year, and we’re not even halfway finished with it. We kind of build a story together. I found that instead of going out with friends to the movies or something, we’d go to someone’s house and play board games. I think it heightened my relationships and helped me work on teamwork.
Q: Have you had a specific moment or period of time in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A: After college, I was working at the Dietrich Theater (in Tunkhannock). For five years, we performed locally, we toured the region, and we did multicultural shows. I know there was a point where I said, “I think I have a book, but I don’t know how to write it.” I said to my now-husband (that) I didn’t have a computer. A computer showed up at my house in the next week. He said now I can write. I told him I didn’t have anywhere to write. He cleared out a room in his apartment and made an office. I still didn’t know how to do it. He suggested grad school. I went to Goddard College, and I felt like that was a tipping point where I said, “This is something I really believe in.” I don’t think I would have written the book if I didn’t go there. My now-husband shares part of that because he kept saying, “If you’re a writer, go write.”
Kristina Laurito often can be found spinning yarn somewhere in Scranton. She makes and sells jewelry, clothing and accessories as well as her hand-spun yarn, which most of her items are made from. Laurito, who studied human services at Lackawanna College and University of Scranton, also teaches knitting and crocheting at the Gathering Place in Clarks Summit. She has six children — Laurel, Elise, Briar, Galen, Aidan and Emmy Lou — and lives in Scranton with her husband, Anthony.
Meet Kristina Laurito…
Q: How did you develop a passion for spinning? A: I had always liked knitting and crocheting when I was having my children. When I realized I was having a new baby, I started it up again. I stared sewing, but I really got into knitting and crochet. By the time she was 2, it had turned into a little bit more than a hobby. I decided I really wanted to learn how to spin my own yarn.
Q: What made you want to spin your own yarn as opposed to buying it? A: Two reasons: I wanted to be able to work with quality materials, and yarn can get really expensive. This is a trap that all spinners fall into because you think it’s going to be cheaper, but it really isn’t. I wanted to be able to make yarns in colors and textures using natural dyes. I also garden and was growing some natural dye plants. I wanted to see what I could do with that. I’m trying to keep things as sustainable and local as I can. I think that’s important.
Q: Can you describe the process of spinning? A: I have a braid of what’s called combed wool top. I dye it, either in the oven or in a pot in the stove. Sometimes I’ll do solar dying in the summer if it’s hot enough. Basically what you need to do is have the acid dye and an acid to go with it, so vinegar or citric acid, anything like that. Once the dye has soaked in, you heat it up to not quite boiling. You dry it, and you have your long braid of fiber, and you do a fractal spin. You split it in half and spin half of it by itself, which will make the color changes longer. The other half will be split and twisted. You can buy raw wool locks — a fleece, they call it. You can wash it yourself and process it through a drum carder, which is a thing with a crank and couple of brushes that brush it for you. You can also use a hand carder. There are other combs and different types of brushes depending on what type of preparation you want. … How you prepare it to spin is going to affect the type of yarn you have.
Q: What is your favorite product to make? A: When I have my own yarns, I usually try to mix them with commercial yarns. I do a lot of crochet and a little bit of knitting. I really like to do free-form crochet. It is the best way, I think, to incorporate both handspun and commercial yarns. That’s where you mix your fibers and patterns and you don’t have to have an idea or a pattern. You sort of let it organically grow and it dictates to you as you go. You sometimes have an idea of where you want to go with it, but it can take you to a different place. Everything I sell is one-of-a-kind. I like being able to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable. You can really get some organic shapes. There are quite a few free-form crochet artists working today who do really beautiful things. It can get into even the realm of 3-D.
Q: What is the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome as an artist or as an instructor? A: Personally, I have some challenges because I’m dealing with an arthritic condition. Sometimes that makes it a little more difficult. I’m hoping to get an electronic spinner. As a teacher, the biggest challenge is when students doubt themselves. They think they can’t do it. I tell them to come back next week and keep working and they can do it.
Q: What is something about yarn or your craft that you want people to know? A: It is easy to go to a big box store and buy a skein of yarn, whether it be acrylic or wool or whatever the flavor of the year is. When you buy an indie yarn, whether it be indie-dyed or handspun, you’re getting something that is truly unique, and you’re getting a piece of art rather than just a utility.
Q: What hobbies and interests do you have? Are you part of any community groups or organizations? A: I recently did an art show with NEPA NOW. I’m affiliated with the Gathering Place, which is a nonprofit. My kids all keep me busy as well. With Emmy Lou (who is 6), she’s my yarn buddy; we go to fiber festivals and do a lot of library activities. I can’t wait to get outside now that it’s spring. We garden. We make jams and jellies, things like that. We grow currants in our backyard. My little one (Emmy Lou) really likes being able to walk around and pick things off the bush and eat them, so my husband planted a lot of the things in our backyard with that in mind.
Q: What is a fun fact about you? A: I am the youngest of a combined family of 17 children, so having six kids is no big deal.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A: When the life you think you’re supposed to live turns out not to happen, sometimes that’s more of a gift than anything. I was in a management position for a long time. So, the transition of moving out of a corporate job. I can’t say I was really suited to it, and I’m much poorer now but much happier. But it all worked out great.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add? A: I’m glad to have found something like this, and I think that crafts are really important. The more we move toward recognizing crafts as art, the more we will appreciate every day. I like the idea of bringing beautiful things into everyday life.
Tammy Pilger is the owner and glass artist at Tammy’s Stained Glass Treasures, 348 Adams Ave., Scranton. She teaches classes and sells numerous types of glass treasures. A graduate of Knock Junior-Senior High School in Saxenburg and Allied Technical School, she lives in South Scranton with her husband Bill and their children, Brittany, 23, and Brandon, 17.
Meet Tammy Pilger…
Q: Tell me about how you discovered your love for stained glass. A: There used to be a glass store in Dickson City called Tingley Glass. I went in, and I loved it. I bought all the tools and equipment to do it at home in my basement. I started working on it and then was going there purchasing glass. The owner saw some of the pieces I was working on and actually hired me. I worked at that shop for a while and made things and sold them on consignment. I helped her with a lot of custom orders, created new pieces, and eventually I started teaching a couple small classes. She ended up closing, so from my home, I started making more things and doing shows.
Q: You teach stained glass and fused-glass classes. What are the classes like? A: I give a brief safety overview and explain the glass to them. Stained glass and fused glass are different things. Stained glass, specifically, is glass with different chemicals mixed in; that’s what makes the colors. It goes into a very hot furnace and comes out like liquid glass. It’s rolled or hand rolled. The fused glass is made pretty much the same way, but it’s tested to make sure that all the colors and pieces are compatible. It’s called the coefficient of expansion (COE). Anything that’s fusing and goes in the kiln, you have to use a specific number of COE, because if you mix the wrong glasses, they could crack. They don’t all expand and contract at the same rate. It’s mostly understanding the different temperatures of the kiln and how that works and relates with the glass.
Q: Making stained glass is a heavy-duty process. Can you describe what goes into it? A: Stained glass, to put a piece together, has a lot of steps. You start with a pattern, cut it out, the pattern gets glued to the glass, (and) it goes on the grinder to ground the edges. We use copper foil, which is the Tiffany method. The copper foil only sticks when you grind the edges and it has something rough to stick to. You copper foil around all the edges, put it back together in the pattern, (and) it has to be soldered with soldering iron and cleaned. After you put the foil and get it back together in the pattern, you use a chemical called flux and brush that onto the copper and then start soldering.
Q: What is it like teaching a craft that many people don’t know much about? A: I enjoy teaching. People will sign up online, and they have no idea what they’re in for. I warn them when they come in, because it’s a lot of work. The intro class is a four-hour class, and you’re working from start to finish. The thing that I’ve noticed is when they take an initial class, they either absolutely love it and they’re addicted and they come back to do more, or they grow an appreciation for what I do. They understand why it’s expensive and why it’s so hard to do.
Q: What is one of the most memorable custom pieces you’ve created? A: I do a lot of pieces that are special to people for lost loved ones. I do a “mom angel”; just like you would buy a mother’s day ring where all the kids’ birthstones are on the ring, the wings (of the angel) are the color of the mom’s birth month, and her hands are holding a circle of life that represents the children’s birthstones. One of my most memorable ones was for a family who lost their daughter. She committed suicide. They wanted her birthstone filled on the circle. I started this recently: I also can fuse cremains into pieces. These can be made into pendants or pocket stones or tie tacks or things like that. I put them in a nice little box. That way, if people don’t want to wear them, they still have a nice way to display it.
Q: What makes you so passionate about your job? A: I love the teaching aspect. I’ve had probably 250 to 300 students in two and a half years here. They’re so happy, and they really enjoy coming here. I’ve made a lot of friends since I’ve been here. It’s just fun, and it’s relaxing for me too. I feel like somebody’s bartender; they come in and tell me their problems, (and) I talk about my problems. It’s just really cool. I love doing the custom work, too, because most of it is my own creation, and I like when I get to collaborate with others.
Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have? A: I read. I love to read. I’ve always been a craft person and done different types of crafts. The other thing about glass, I used to do a lot of folk art painting. Now I can incorporate enamels and paint on glass, and it’s something permanent. I think all of the different hobbies that I’ve had have really been helpful with the glass work.
Q: Are you part of any community organizations or groups? A: We were foster parents for several years. We adopted Brittany, who’s my daughter, when she was 15. We haven’t done it for a few years. We had 75 kids in and out of our house in seven-and-a-half years. It all started when we first got married. We had my son and Bill’s daughter. A week after we got married, Bill’s daughter was killed in a car accident. We were going to try to have another baby, but that wasn’t going to happen. We looked into (being foster parents), and we knew people who were foster parents; they told us about their experiences. We decided to be foster parents with Lackawanna County Children and Youth. It is pretty interesting, and we learned a lot, that’s for sure.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A: I would say since Bill and I have gotten together. We’ve been through so much since we got married. In addition to losing his daughter a week after we got married, then we took care of his parents — they lived with us — then my dad, they’ve all passed away. We took care of them in hospice, and of course the foster care. The boys were in baseball, T-ball and karate, and we would go to all those activities with the kids. We had eight total kids at one point. We still hear from some of them every once in a while.
Martin “Marty” Monahan is the vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the Boastfuls, which formed in May 2018 and won the Steamtown Music Award for best new artist that year. Monahan grew up in Dickson City and is a graduate of Mid Valley Secondary Center. He is studying broadcast, production and digital media and radio at Marywood University, from which he plans to graduate in 2020. He works at Wegman’s and lives in Scranton.
Meet Marty Monahan…
Q: Tell me about your musical background. A: My mom was a singer; she played flute in high school, and she played piano. My uncles were all musicians. I grew up with a piano in the house. I taught myself piano when I was 7 or 8 and learned by watching Billy Joel and Elton John. I started percussion in fourth grade and was primarily a drummer from seventh grade up until about a year ago. I played in jazz band, a few ensembles and had a band through middle school and high school. When I was 16, I got a guitar, so I have only been playing since then. I got my first acoustic guitar from my uncle when I was 17 or 18 and started to gravitate toward that and taught myself guitar.
Q: How did the Boastfuls form? A: Our lead guitarist and I have known each other since seventh grade. We joined concert band and jazz band at the same time, and we were in our last band together. When I wanted to do something different, he came with me because he was a ready for a change, too. Our bassist and I go to Marywood together. He wanted to be in a band. Our drummer I met at work at Wegman’s. We both worked in produce and bonded over the Foo Fighters and drumming.
Q: Tell me about the band’s style and influences. A: We all have pretty similar influences. I’m very drawn to Muse, Nothing but Thieves, Royal Blood, the Foo Fighters; that’s where most of my inspiration comes from. Each person’s influences work together. We definitely fall into alternative rock. As we’re writing, we’re finding a lot of different influences. Our styles blend really well. It was difficult at first to just sit down and say we’re going to write. Chad (Wescott) and I have very similar music tastes, and we vibe really well together. Chris (Benetiz) is a phenomenal musician. He’s one of the best musicians I know. Brandon (Rodriguez), anything you put in front of him, he can play beautifully.
Q: As a new band, what are some things you are dealing with as a band and individual? A: Writing as a group was a big thing for us. Writing and jamming together has been something we’ve learned. It comes very easily to us, but to sit there and come up with a cohesive idea for a song and write lyrics was very difficult. For me, having to deal with the crowd was something thrust upon me. I was lucky for seven or eight years where I could sit back (as the drummer) and watch everyone get hackled, and nobody said a word to me. It was awesome. We recently played a show, and I had to look up lyrics to a song. That was the first time somebody came up to me and argued with me over something. They said it looked really bad to be looking up lyrics. I didn’t really know what to say. Dealing with people now has been different and took a lot of getting used to.
Q: How have you dealt with gaining so much success in a short amount of time? A: We were lucky enough to have one of our first gigs with Graces Downfall, who is really huge in the area. Ken Norton, the lead singer, works with Joe Caviston, who is a booking agent in the area, (and) saw us live on Facebook. We were very lucky to be exposed to them right off the bat. It’s really exciting and cool. It’s something very new to all of us. We’ve all been musicians, but this is kind of on a new level. We go out to places and people recognize us, which is a little weird. We are lucky to have Joe and Ken guiding us through it.
Q: What inspires your original music? A: I didn’t start writing lyrics until a few months ago. I’ve had a lot of people in my family who are very inspiring. There’s a song that I’m working on about my late uncle who passed away a few months ago. He really pushed me to do writing and playing. This has been a challenge; any of my family or friends will tell you that I tend to keep things to myself a lot. It’s very hard for me to just write something and just say what’s wrong or on my mind. I’m finding it to be very difficult but therapeutic. It’s all kind of problems, from toxic people to losing family and friends. I think I definitely have a long way to go. I’ve grown since I’ve started writing.
Q: What is in the near and long-term future for you and the Boastfuls? A: We’re getting ready to record our first song. This will be my first time as a singer in the studio, which will take some getting used to. Long term, I graduate next year, and I’m getting ready for a career outside of working at Wegman’s and playing on the weekends. Right before this band formed, we were all kind of at a point where we were ready to graduate and move somewhere not here. Now we’re kind of locked in here and want to see where this goes and take this as far as we can. We’d like to have an EP by the end of the year. We want to keep recording and keep performing.
Q: What is a piece of advice you’ve received that has stuck with you? A: The whole concept of getting to play with local musicians has been awesome. I love it, and it’s something that I’m very grateful for. It’s been awesome having such a support system. We’re recording with Zhach Kelsch; he’s a phenomenal drummer, (and) having his insight I think is going to be awesome. Ken always tells us we have to pay our dues. We’re very new, and we have a lot of ambition. There’s a lot we want to do, but there’s a lot we have to do before that. It’s being grateful for what you have and working for it and knowing it’s not going to just be given to you.
Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have? A: I spend my time playing video games when I’m not writing or playing. I’m the program director at Marywood’s radio station. I’ve taken a huge interest in doing stuff like that and enjoy working with DJs and broadcast production. I’ve found a lot of fun in doing audio and video production and love learning more about the programs to do that.
Q: Have you had a moment or period of time in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A: In late high school, I was a much sadder person than I am now. There was a very short period of time where I didn’t want to play music at all. When I came back out of that was when I really started playing guitar. That time period was when I got my first acoustic guitar, which was my great-uncle’s. My late uncle, who pushed me more than anyone else, got me my first really nice microphone, which is still the mic I use at every single gig today. That whole time period where I was getting back into music really shaped where I am today, especially as a songwriter, front man and singer.
Mark Zander grew up in Rochester, New York, and prepared to go into a culinary career following his graduation from University of Wisconsin. After a few years in the restaurant business, he found himself in Scranton. He also worked for UPS for a good portion of his life, and even though he is retired, he works as a stone wall builder for his own company, T & M Stone Co. In the last few years, he discovered he has a passion for spinning tops and spends much of his free time exploring the craft of the wooden trinket. He has two children, Nathan and Megen, and lives in Moosic with his wife, Mimi.
Meet Mark Zander…
Q: Tell me a little of your background. A: I studied to be a chef and opened five restaurants (for other people) as chef manager. I ended up in Naples, Florida, after leaving Wisconsin. After working for five years, I was ready for a break. About six months later, I got an opportunity to move to North Carolina. I stopped in Scranton, met a girl, and we got married. I haven’t left Scranton since. I’ve lived in Clarks Summit and raised two children. I found out I had a knack for putting stone walls together and gave up my job at UPS. For the last 15 years, I’ve been building stone walls for a living. It’s seasonal.
Q: What led you to making and spinning tops? A: In 2017, it was a banner year for walnuts. It was called a mast year, which is when the tree reaches its peak performance. I gathered many thousands of walnuts because they were in the way. I found a couple trees in Moosic and parking lots were just covered. I went with a five-gallon pail and picked up 200 in a matter of a few minutes. At first I couldn’t crack them open. I tried everything and even drove my truck over them. I finally learned how to open them, eat them, get the crap off them. One day I was looking at one and thought maybe I could make a top out of one. I had to try. It was not successful, because they’re not solid on the inside. That led me to my love for tops. I did a lot of research and watched a lot of videos. I figured out I could make more if I had a lathe.
Q: Tell me about the spinning tops. You make them, but it wasn’t always easy. A: I started experimenting with blanks, or trunks of wood. They weren’t round, but with knives and carving tools and pointers, I could shape them. It was a very scary tool because the lathe is spinning at a very high speed. I had a couple of really close calls. I realized it was all about patience, and I was able to start fashioning round things.
Q: What goes into making a top? Why do you search for particular kinds of wood? A: You have to have a lathe. I’ve found that any wood works, but harder woods like cherry, walnut, ash and maple are better and keep a nicer shine. For many, I used old baseball bats. They’re roughly round, and I take a large, curved roughing gouge. The wood is spinning at about 800 rotations per minute, and I put it in very lightly and it starts to take off chips. When it gets closer to round, I take another chisel and start cutting in. It took a long time to get this to work properly. After making about 50 to 60 tops, I realized I wanted to share this.
Q: What makes you so passionate about tops, from the building to the spinning? A: The creating of the tops from wood that could be burned in the fireplace or thrown through a wood chipper. If I can turn that into something that can be played with, I’m really doing the ultimate repurposing. I must admit it is somewhat magical to be able to create something as perfect from something imperfect. I’m taking something that has no business spinning and turning it into something that will spin, only if someone gives it direction. One of the attractions to spinning for me is that it’s completely under my control. I decide if I want to pick it up, spin it slow, spin it fast and if I want to watch it until the end or pick it up and abort the spin. It is a challenge to set a solid, unmoving mass into orbit. It’s a mystery if (different types of tops) will spin well; the spin time is always unknown. Curiosity drives me to spin again and again.
Q: Would you say tops are intended to be a children’s toy? Why or why not? A: In certain parts of the world, more adults use them than children. Grown men have arenas where they go and show of their prowess. In Japan, there are top arenas where kids go by the hundreds. They’ve developed these things called beyblades, which you can buy. You can put different wings or spinner bases on them. They get them going then drop them into this arena and battle. The tops will hit each other, and whichever one is the last one standing is the winner. When people take it seriously, it’s adults. Serious tops are made of high-end metals such as zirconium or tungsten and sell for hundreds of dollars. They can spin for more than 15 minutes. What child would wait for 15 minutes? But a grown person might be sitting at a desk on a conference call and be spinning. That’s where the fidget spinners came in. Grown adults will spin if it’s a more complex spin. My grandson loves to spin; he’s going to be 2. He asks for his toy. It’s neat to watch my grandchildren get into it. I think there is a universal appeal, unlike some toys adults will look at and say “not a chance.”
Q: What other hobbies/interests do you have? A: I like to kayak, canoe and fish. I feel like I’m on vacation every day. My wife and I enjoy water, and we live really close to the water.
Q: What has been the most impactful moment or part of your life? A: It would have to be the birth of my children. It made me grow up a little bit, not that much, but some. I realized I need to be responsible and make sure these kids are fed. I endured 15 years of working at UPS so the kids could have a college education and a roof over their heads.
As a kid picking up a guitar for the first time, Alex Olivetti was unsure if music was for him. At that age, he was more interested in playing video games. But a short time later, he found a love for music and now plays across the country with his band Threatpoint. He is a graduate of Mid Valley High School and Penn State University, where he studied information science technology. A Throop resident, he is employed by Mondelez International in Hanover Twp., where he works as a customer order fulfilment analyst.
Meet Alex Olivetti…
Q: How did you first get into music, particularly metal music? A: I got into music at 8 or 9 years old. I was pretty young. My dad is also a guitar player. There were always guitars around the house. I was looking at a guitar one day and asked my dad to show me something on it. I took lessons off of him for about a year. Like every other kid, I just wanted to play video games and eat potato chips, so I gave it up for a while. In high school, I started taking it more seriously. I actually started listening to Metallica and Nirvana on the radio at a young age. When I was taking lessons and trying to balance video games, there was a game I used to play that had a lot of heavy-metal music in its soundtrack. I played the game so much that I naturally got into it.
Q: What were some particular challenges of learning to be a metal musician? A: With the style we do, the music is pretty fast. You’re not just strumming chords; you’ve got to make sure both your hands are coordinated and in sync. I have to go over different scales and practice stamina so I can play a full set of music.
Q: Describe the father-son bond you were able to establish through music. A: We used to play out together a lot. We don’t play out anymore, but around the house we’ll still jam quite a bit. It is really cool to have a bond on that level. When I was younger, I kind of took it for granted, not having to go somewhere for lessons or pay a lot of money. I got to the point where I lost interest in it. As I got older, I took it for what it was, and it was so cool to be able to jam with him and share the stage with him. We’re almost like best friends, so I get to hang out with him on weekends. We can play and learn songs together. I think it’s cool because not everyone has that kind of bond with an immediate family member. He still comes out to my shows and sometimes runs sound for us.
Q: Who are your musical inspirations? A: I listened to Metallica and Rob Zombie on the radio. That was kind of my introduction to hard rock and heavy metal. In high school, when I started taking it more seriously, bands like Pantera and Trivium were big influences on me. Lately, there are a few guitar players I’ve really been into. One is Paul Gilbert; he’s one of the shred guys, a really fast and technical player. I got an instructional DVD by him, and I really nerded out over that one summer. Another one is Mark Tremonti. He has a solo band and plays in a band called Alter Bridge. A couple weeks ago, I got to do a guitar clinic with him. It was really cool. Some of the more modern bands I like are Shadows Fall and Sevendust.
Q: Threatpoint released its fourth album last month. What can people expect from it? A: We’ve definitely progressed as musicians and songwriters. We’re trying to expand our horizon. It’s more upbeat and a little bit faster than our previous stuff. I think it has more energy overall, which translates well into playing live. I think it’s our best to date, and every album you want to get better. I think it’s high-energy, and the songs are more diverse with the vocals too.
Q: What is something people might be surprised to learn about Threatpoint? A: Believe it or not, as heavy and aggressive as our music is, we try to stay positive with our lyrics. A lot of our lyrics take the spiritual realm and are about going through everyday life or relationships and trying to keep your head up. A lot of metal music can get stereotyped that it’s like devil-worshipping, evil or negative. We try to flip it and stay positive. I think that sort of sets us apart from some of our counterparts.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being part of the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene? A: NEPA as a whole is really strong in the music scene. There are a lot of really talented bands, musicians and artists. It’s really cool to be in your hometown and play with all these good bands. Everyone gets along too, so it’s like you’re hanging out with friends, then suddenly you’re playing a set of music.
Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have? A: I enjoy soccer. I like movies a lot and watch a lot of movies. I also like guitar as a hobby. I play guitar a lot even outside of working with the band. I’m a big music listener. At work, we’re allowed to listen to music, so I always have headphones in. Outside of work, I spend a lot of time listening to music on YouTube looking for new bands and guitar videos. I also like hanging out with friends in my free time, too. I’m an Eagles fan, which was great last year.
Q: Tell me about your work at Mondelez International. A: Working at Mondelez, we handle a lot of the Nabisco products, and I’m a big snack guy, so it’s great. I do a lot of reporting. I work with our distribution centers who send the product to our customers. I look at how we can prevent item cuts in the future. It’s based around the supply chain, looking at inventory and getting products to the customers and fulfilling their orders.
Q: Have you had a particular time in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A: In terms of outlook, I’m going to be 30 this year. I realize we’re not going to be here forever, so I want to enjoy my time here. It makes me like playing in the band more, being able to do what I love, the travel and going to places I never would have been otherwise. The band has gotten to play in almost 40 states. We’re going to Canada next month to play. Seeing different places, meeting new people and trying different food is great. The coolest thing in the world is playing in a place we’ve never been with bands we’ve never heard of and people are singing our songs and buying merchandise. When we go back to that place, they bring their friends, and it really builds. To go from the first time playing there to the 10th time and seeing growth is really something. Being able to travel is something I want to do more of. I never would have gotten to go places like Maine and up that way, so I’ve come to enjoy taking it all in.
Anthony Viola has been playing music for 18 years with his best friends, his brother Jesse, and Frank Desando, his childhood friend. With Anthony Viola on drums, his brother singing and on guitar and Desando on bass, the three have performed as a band, Family Animals, for nearly 11 years. They recently released their third album, “The End Is Mere.” Anthony Viola is a graduate of North Pocono High School and Luzerne County Community College, where he studied music recording technology. He lives in Mount Cobb.
Meet Anthony Viola…
Q: What is your music background? A: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been extremely passionate about it. When I was 13, Jesse was 10, and Frankie was 12, we started taking guitar lessons. We took lessons for about a year and made the band and loved every second of it. I was always drawn to music. Jesse and I got all my parents’ old records and were into those. My dad loves the Allman Brothers, the Beatles and Pink Floyd, so discovering that music as a kid was great.
Q: How did your band, Family Animals form? A: We’ve known each other our whole lives. Frank lives two doors down from where I grew up. I don’t even remember meeting him. It was way back before I started taking music lessons. We always talked about forming a band. The three of us started as the Tonix; it was that horrible name you think of when you’re 13 years old. Then we changed our name to something fairly more decent, Family Animals, in 2008. We were in a Battle of the Bands competition in 2008 and needed a name, so we went with Family Animals, and we ended up winning Battle of the Bands, so we kept the name.
Q: What is it like to be able to pursue your passion with your brother and best friend? A: It’s a dream come true. If I can make this work and make a living off of it, it’s just what I want to do. They are my best friends. This couldn’t be cooler. I only hang out with them. We play music constantly, we’ve learned together, and we know each other so well musically and personally, it only helps us click even more musically. I see siblings who don’t get along or have different interests, but we are extremely fortunate that we have the same dream, we’re a team, and we are on the same page.
Q: Describe Family Animals’ sound. A: We’ve been describing ourselves as a psychedelic, indie rock band. There are so many genres these days, and they’re all so niche. The whole idea behind our band is to try to be fluid with the genres we play. Even to say we are a psychedelic rock band is so broad. Our influences come from all over the place. We listen to reggae, classic rock, hip-hop, Jack White and Frank Zappa. There are so many influences, and we want them all to come through without every sound sounding the same or being stale. We’re big fans of Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Butthole Surfers, Nirvana and a little bit of everything.
Q: You recorded your first album almost 10 years ago. Your most recent album, “The End Is Mere” was released in February. How have things changed? A: We recorded our first album with our professor, Paul Sinclair. We started recording it in the beginning of 2009 and finished a little over a year later. We released it in 2010. We wanted to produce “The End Is Mere” ourselves since we went to school for this. On our previous albums, we recorded them and produced some ourselves, but we were still honing in on our sound. We’ve also changed our writing style. For the most part, Jesse did the writing. This time, we all collaborated, wrote together and had a bunch of ideas. We wanted to do better with the producing. We went crazy looking up microphone techniques and bought some old vintage microphones. We really wanted to make the production aspect better. I really hope it shows.
Q: What can people expect to hear on the album? A: It’s kind of a concept album in a sense. It’s about a fantastical other universe world. We hired Brian Langan to do our art; he’s a great artist, and he really pulled it off so well. We wrote this song last year called “Gimme Jim-Jims,” and that had all these fantastical characters, and we decided to write the album about that. It’s really it’s own self-contained story.
Q: Outside of music, what hobbies and interests do you have? A: I like collecting records, buying and selling old stuff. My brother and I have been fixing up old guitars. I really enjoy taking pictures. We’ve also been filming our own music videos for this album, and so we’ve been getting into the video production aspect. That’s a big hobby, learning that. We filmed something in fall that we are just getting ready to release now. We’re doing the sets, filming and editing, and we like it that way. I also love movies and animals; we have a lot of animals.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A: Throughout high school and as a kid, I always had so much social anxiety. I always worried about what everyone thought of me. I guess through music, being around Jesse and Frank and just reading a lot, I’m becoming more sociable. In my 20s, I had a bad time with some tough personal things. Trying to come out of that and relearn who I am hopefully turned me into a better person who appreciates life more.
As a 17-year-old grieving the loss of her father, Amanda Gentile made a decision that would lead her down her eventual career path. A Dunmore native, she is a graduate of Scranton Preparatory School and earned a bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in psychology from University of Scranton. She has a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Rosemont College and is a licensed professional counselor. She also owns the Giving Tree Wellness Center on Penn Avenue in downtown Scranton. Gentile lives in Moscow with her cats Lynx and Kiki and dog Zo.
Meet Amanda Gentile…
Q: Tell me a little about yourself. A: I grew up in Dunmore. When I was 17, my dad passed away, and I didn’t know if I should stay in the area for school or not, but my family needed me. So I stayed home, then realized I wanted to venture out, because I love to travel. I moved to Philadelphia for a few years, probably about five years, and got my master’s and loved it. I worked at a couple places and realized I wanted the whole holistic thing, so I decided to take a risk.
Q: What made you want to be a counselor and open the Giving Tree Wellness Center? A: After my dad passed away, from getting my own help I realized I could help others through certain things. I always wanted to own my own business. My family comes from owning businesses, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps, but I wanted something that was my own. Counseling was a priority for me. I wondered if I could open somewhere that has counseling but also has holistic things. I was motivated by my background in counseling. I’m very interested in spirituality and alternative medicine. I wondered if I could open something that had counseling but would offer all of that and be a one-stop-shop for all of your self-care. When I found this place (on Penn Avenue), I said, “This is going to happen.” I kind of just threw it all together, and it came together pretty quickly.
Q: What are some particular services the Giving Tree offers, and how are they meaningful to you? A: There is the counseling; there is the cafe with smoothies, coffees and teas — all drinks that are good for you. Next there are the float pods. There are major benefits (to those); they help with insomnia, depression, anxiety or mental health issues. They also help with blood pressure and skin problems. The water is set at your average body temperature, and the room is 80 degrees. It’s a place for you to be mindful. I love the float pods, salt and everything that has to do with that. I know the benefits from using them. I also am into the massages, working out and acupuncture. There is a nutritional coach and a fitness instructor who offers all kinds of classes and a spinning studio. I utilize all of them. I try to get in the float pod as much as I can. It helps me sleep a lot better and helps me calm down from the average stress of owning a business. It just lets me turn my mind off when I’m in there. My other favorite thing to do here is work out. Michelle, who owns Trybe, offers classes, private trainings and spin classes. That is my other outlet to de-stress.
Q: What is something you’ve learned about yourself through counseling others? A: I learned that I really do want to help people. I am a good listener, and I feel like I can connect with certain people on a very personal level through experiences. It’s more than just sitting there and having a structured session. It’s more real to me, and I can be myself.
Q: What is it like to interact with so many different people and help someone who could be going through very difficult things? A: I think it’s awesome. I really like working with teenagers and young women. It’s a good feeling to know that they can come here and feel comfortable and they can utilize any other service even if they’re not sitting in my office. Sometimes I see recurring people in the hallways. After they see me, they’ll work out or float, and it’s awesome. It’s satisfying to know that I’m helping them feel comfortable.
Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have? A: I like to travel a lot. My mom lives in Montana half of the year. I like to go visit her. I love to go to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I love to go anywhere warm. Those are big things. Any time the weekend comes, I love taking day trips too. I love my pets; they’re like my children. I love cooking. It’s good meditation for me. I also love working out, especially here. It’s a good de-stressor.
Q: What is a piece of simple advice you would give to help brighten someone’s day? A: You have to remind yourself daily of what you’re grateful for. Even just being thankful that you got up today and you have a roof over your head, remind yourself that things could be way worse if you think they’re that bad. Set your intentions for that day and remind yourself of the positives.
Q: Have you had a particularly moving experience in your professional or personal life? A: I think my dad’s passing was a big thing. I’m at a point where I just have to live my life for every day. You have to take risks because you could wake up tomorrow and not be here. I suffer sometimes from a lot of anxiety, and I need to talk myself through it. I was put here to do something. I think everybody needs to find their path in life. My family and I live for every day. I can say I tried. I can never turn back; I can only move forward.
Sam Kuchwara has exhibited art around Scranton for many years and is a regular First Friday Art Walk participant. His exhibit, “Recent Works in Painting and Mixed Media,” is on display at the Giving Tree Wellness Center on Penn Avenue in the city’s downtown through the end of February, and he will be part of an art exhibit at Adezzo, 515 Center St., Scranton, during March’s First Friday. A graduate of Scranton Preparatory School, Kuchwara studied studio art and psychology at Boston College. The Dickson City resident and avid runner works for Scranton Running Co.
Meet Sam Kuchwara…
Q: Describe your style as an artist. A: I gravitate toward landscapes. I really like landscapes because you can commemorate a place, not only a place you like, but you think about what you remember from the place while you’re making it. Especially if it’s a sentimental place, painting is a good time to just sit and think about it. I think a big part of my style is incorporating the mixed media. It’s partly just me using what I have and trying to add an extra purpose of practicality. It also brings a lot of texture, color and makes some edges more prominent. I always get told I’m an impressionist. That’s just my tendency. I get into this groove where I just keep my hand moving the whole time. A lot of people say my work has a pattern or rhythm to it.
Q: Much of your work seems inspired by the city of Scranton. What about the city inspires you? A: It’s partly because I live here and it’s what I see and I’m more attached to it, but I think the architecture here is so beautiful. It’s something special. I’m obsessed with it even without knowing much about it. I grew up two blocks from Nay Aug Park, so it was basically my backyard. If I was going to go outside, it was always there.
Q: You’ve been a longtime First Friday participant. Why do you enjoy the event? A: I love it. The first one I did was after my freshman year of college. It gave me motivation to draw over the summer. It was exciting and gave me adrenaline wondering who would come. I knew I wanted to keep doing it. For me, especially with bigger paintings that tend to take longer, they might as well be somewhere other than my garage. I also like the involvement with different venues and getting to know the owners and people who come in. It’s become a way to connect with all the new and old places around.
Q: One of your recent projects is a joint effort with NOTE Fragrances creating candles that feature your artwork. How did that come about? A: It was last fall, and the Christmas holiday market was coming up. I was already doing the Scranton mural prints, and they were popular gifts. I was trying to think of what else I could add (that) wasn’t just art — it was something people could use. One of my friends is friends with the people at NOTE Fragrances and suggested I get my work printed on candles. They helped me pick out some scents and names for them. They let me choose what scents I wanted to go with my artwork. People really liked them, and I liked the process, too, of picking scents. They do an awesome job making them, but I enjoyed curating things and picking a match.
Q: You run Electric City Boogie at the Bog. Tell me about that. A: It’s a project that I do with my friend Justin Padro. I used to always go to Panked! (dance parties), and they announced they were going to stop doing it after 10 years. One day I asked if they’d let Justin and I pick it up. We wanted to do a continuation of Panked! but make it our own. We did our first one on a weekend in June two years ago, and it was a super fun, and a ton of people came out. We’ve been doing it ever since. It’s a combination of dance music that is popular and everybody knows; sometimes SaturBae plays, and on weeknights we can experiment and do our own thing. Justin does most of the deejaying, and I’ll do more of the dance stuff and promote it. There is a lot of overlap with that and art. I design posters for it, and it’s become a graphic design project for me.
Q: Running is a big hobby of yours. How does it fit into your life? A: In grade school, I knew I wanted to and should do some sport. I started cross-country. It wasn’t much in grade school, but it was still my thing. I continued into high school. Between cross-country and track, I was with the same kids all year, and we became very close-knit. In college, I didn’t run, but I realized I had a life-long interest in running, and I was in a city that is super running-oriented with the Boston Marathon. It was inspiring to be there. I’m happy I decided to keep running on my own as opposed to running for four years in college and then not knowing what to do with myself when it ended.
Q: Talk about the development of having your Scranton mural featured on the blanket that was given to all of the Scranton Half-Marathon participants. A: It made me really happy. It didn’t happen all at once. I was working at Scranton Running Co. My boss said we needed the logo done, so I painted the logo at the store. Later, he wanted something on the wall and asked if I could do a view of Scranton. It was a long process of working on and off on it when the store was slow. I looked on Google Earth and at satellite images to make a map of Scranton on the wall. It didn’t look like much until the very end (when) it all came together. A while later someone suggested we should get prints made. At the half approached, someone asked if it could be used on the blanket, and that was awesome. Sometimes running and art work apart, and sometimes they work together and sync up. Running sometimes gets me into the mood to paint.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A: There are two things I’ve discovered through art. Art is something that can make me feel good. I know when I’m getting too far away from it. I know that I’m going to be really happy when I’m doing art. Also with the big projects, it’s taught me that I need to make a commitment to it. There will be days that I need to just show up when I don’t feel like it and start doing it. I know I’ll be reminded all over again of why I do art. This is a part of what I do now. It’s more than just a hobby, and there are layers of interest to it. Sometimes it’s fun to work just a little, but if I do more and work harder, I’m going to feel a lot better. It’s not 100 percent my job, but I’m learning more and more to treat it as a job and enjoy it at the same time.
Q: The final word is yours. A: Coming back home and doing more shows, most of my friends are connected in some way. Some of them aren’t artists, but so many of my close friends are somehow connected. Through these shows, I’ve met so many awesome people and made so many close friends, and that’s been inspiring and so supportive. Even just seeing some of my friends’ work makes me want to paint.
Photos by Emma Black, taken at The Giving Tree Wellness Center on Penn Avenue in Scranton, and submitted photos by Sam Kuchwara.
Marisa Fabri always dreamed of owning her own business, but soon after opening Design 2 Consign Boutique in Olyphant, a strong desire to provide the best customer service led her to becoming the personal stylist for many of her customers. She is a graduate of Valley View High School and studied biology at Penn State University. She lives in Jessup with her rescue dog, Wicky.
Meet Marisa Fabri…
Q: Tell me a little about yourself. A: I grew up in this area, but I fell in love with the West during a ski trip. I went to live there for 20-some years and came back to live here when my parents got older.
Q: What first got you interested in fashion? A: I wanted to own my own business, and consignment was a way of getting started without all the hundreds and thousands of dollars of inventory. Consignment stores were popular out West but not as well-known here. They were new to this area, and I wanted to bring the idea back home.
Q: Talk about the styling and work you do. A: When people have a special event and need to dress up with a theme for a gala or event like red carpet, Hollywood, British-themed weddings, Gatsby, Kentucky derby outfits, any theme, people call me to see if I have something that will work for them. I even did Steampunk for the Steampunk festival in Honesdale. Basically if somebody calls me for a Gatsby outfit, I’d pull together all my beaded, fringe outfits. I add hats, headbands, jewelry and anything else they may wear. I go through the entire store and create a rack of only Gatsby-lookalike items. People share their fashion nightmares with me and tell me what they want to hide and disguise with their bodies. There’s nobody the same size or shape. I have to be honest with people if something looks just OK, too big or too tight. We work together until we get fabulous. The best reward is when people come back and say, “I got so many compliments from the outfit.” That is so satisfying and rewarding. Sometimes a group of women will come in at once and help each other out by putting pieces together, and it turns into a girlfriend day. I’ll serve coffee and order pizza because sometimes they are here for hours and hours.
Q: How did the concept of you styling others come out of your consignment store? A: I learned so much from my customers and from Vogue magazine. I was never a big fashionista, but the more demand that was put on me, the more I tried to learn and got the hang of it. Everyone has a particular item they need. Everyone has a different body shape; I’m here to help and provide good, old-fashioned customer service. What’s great is it always turns into friendships, and it seems to be an ongoing thing.
Q: I hear you have a big secret? A: A lot of my consignment comes from referrals. Someone had told a specific consigner that I like show-stopper and statement pieces. The consigner came to me and asked if I was interested in carrying pieces that were purchased for the wardrobe and entourage of a very famous female Grammy Award winner. Due to privacy for the artist, I like to keep it a fun mystery, but many people guess correctly upon seeing the display.
Q: What is your own style like? And include your go-to outfit choice. A: My typical outfit is jeans, boots, leggings, Uggs and almost always black. My friends and customers say I should put some color on. So I like to pop the outfit with turquoise jewelry or other colors, so I’m not in black all the time. And bling. Bling will brighten up black all the time.
Q: For you, what is a show-stopper piece, and why? A: Anything that people are going to admire and stare at and ask, “Where did she get that?” For me, it would be a piece of vintage. A phenomenal white faux-fur vest. I’d mix it with jeans or leggings and boots and a gorgeous sweater. The other piece for me is a hat. I have a hat that is one of my signature pieces. It’s a silver faux-fur hat. I love to wear it all day long. It keeps me warm, and a lot of people like it. It also gets them interested in trying on fur hats.
Q: What other community organizations are you part of or hobbies/interests you have? A: I like to donate coats and clothes to a local church on our block and to other local charities and anybody else in need. There are always clothes that can be given off the rack, and my consigners say if anybody is in need of a coat, give them a coat. I like to go shopping when I’m not working. I like keeping up with new styles in fashion. I also like to go out to dinner with friends. It’s not really a hobby, but it’s something that is near and dear to my heart is being kind to people. I want to show everyone some positivity and happiness. You never know who is going to walk through the door, what may have just happened to that person or what story they’re carrying with them. A word of kindness can help somebody out so much, and you don’t even know you’re doing it.
Q: What is something about you that would surprise a lot of people? A: I’m so serious all the time, but I really love when people tease me or tell me a joke. A lot of jokes go over my head, and that person will get a kick out of me missing the point, then I crack up too.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A: My faith has gotten so much stronger. Meeting so many different people from my travels and my time out West has helped me look for the best in them. People have shared things with me that I never really thought much about. I later realized that what they shared was very giving and real and kind. It made me realize I want to be the best person I can possibly be and keep working on myself. I can’t let circumstances dictate my feelings. I try to find blessings even in lousy circumstances. A lot of the people I met were very happy people. Happiness is a choice, and I am glad that I choose to be happy.
Q: Do you have anything else to add? A: Let’s all spread kindness and positivity to strangers. We don’t know what people have been through. I know people say the world is dark, but I choose to believe that love and people are better.
Tatiana Tell is a Scranton-based musician who recently broke into the local music scene. At just 21, the Scranton High School alumna is working to grow her musical career while majoring in journalism and minoring in advertising and digital media at Marywood University. She plans to graduate this spring. In the little time she is not working on music or school, she can be found bartending at Thirst T’s Bar & Grill in Olyphant. Her recently released debut album, “Unspoken,” received recognition as Electric City’s best new album in 2018.
Meet Tatiana Tell…
Q: What first got you interested in music? A: It started when I was around 6. I really wanted to learn how to play piano. I was always passionate about singing, so my parents put me in classes. I learned how to play piano, they put me in vocal class, and I got involved in theater. It’s been my whole life for as long as I can remember. I was that kid who never did anything else besides music and practicing.
Q: Describe your musical style and who influences you. A: I would probably be categorized into alternative, rock and pop. I’m really influenced by Stevie Nicks, old school No Doubt, Lana Del Rey, and Lady Gaga and her style. I’m a huge Lady Gaga fan. A lot of people say they’re surprised by that, because I like the rock, grunge-era and ’90s (music), but she is just so talented, and she’s what inspired me to start writing. I’m obsessed with the ’90s era, even though I was born in ’97 — so I didn’t experience all of it, but I grew up listening to Nirvana and Pearl Jam and the Seattle ’90s aesthetic.
Q: As a young and new performer, what is something you feel you are lucky to have already learned? A: My whole life has been preparing me for the criticism and the way the industry works. Because I got to experience constructive criticism throughout my whole life, I feel like I handle it maybe a little better than other people. I get that not everyone is going to like my music or even like me as a person. It doesn’t really upset me, because I know who I am. I know what my music is and what it means to me.
Q: Talk about the development of your album “Unspoken.” A: When I was 12, I started writing, and I told my parents I wanted to create an album. I started it when I was 14. I was working on it for about two years. It took so long. I was still in high school at the time. I ended up taking a really big break between the time I was 16 and went to college. I don’t think I was confident enough to put my own stuff out there. When I got to college, I rerecorded the songs at Saturation Acres Recording Studio, and the album was born. A lot of the songs on my album were written when I was really young.
Q: How did you feel about releasing music that you wrote so early in your career? A: That was something I struggled with before releasing the album. I remember talking to Bret Alexander from Saturation Acres. I said I didn’t know if I felt comfortable putting these out there and I didn’t know if they were good enough. I had changed so much. I’ll never forget what he said, and that was (how) that’s still a part of who I am. This is my first album, so it would be a good growing experience. The way I arranged the set list, it’s most recent to least recent, so it kind of shows growth too.
Q: What is the theme throughout the album? A: A lot of the songs have to do with heartbreak and lost love. I wrote a lot of these songs when I was heartbroken, but I feel like there was a lot of resentment and hate put into the songs. The album is definitely angry. It’s a feeling we all feel, and I just had to let it out. I’ve had a lot of not-so-great relationships in my life starting from a young age, but I think anyone can relate to songs like this, because everyone has been heartbroken or resented a person for the way they made them feel.
Q: What are your plans/goals for the near and long-term future? A: My near-term goals would definitely be to perform out more and get into the bar scene. More than anything in the world, I want to be performing my own stuff and covers too. Eventually, it would be great to go somewhere with this. I’m not saying be famous, but go somewhere other than local. If not, it’s OK, because I go to school for something that I still love just as much as music.
Q: What has been the coolest musical experience so far in your young career? A: There’s a competition called neXt2rock. This was for the East Coast, and each area had its own venue. I competed in that. I didn’t win, but it was still an awesome experience, because there were so many people. It was my first real time performing my songs in front of a lot of people in a stage setting. I got to meet other musicians who are also really passionate about what they do. I loved talking with them. I entered the competition, and then later on we found out that the venue was going to be my dad’s bar (Thirst T’s Bar & Grill), so that was pretty cool too.
Q: What are your other hobbies, interests or activities? A: At Marywood, they have the Wood Word, the school paper; I love writing and am the editor for arts and entertainment, so I write about a lot of music-related things and entertainment and pop culture. I am also really into art. I’m really into graphic design and sketching. It relaxes me. At school, I’ve been a TV anchor for TV Marywood. I like everything that has to do with the communications field, whether it is advertising, creating content or something else like that.
Q: What is it like to balance an up-and-coming music career and student life? A: Difficult. I’m not going to lie, it’s really hard, especially when I was still in the recording process. I was in school while I was creating the album. Doing all of that while going to school is hard, but since I love it, I have to push for it.
Q: Have you had a specific moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today? A: At a young age, specifically around high school, I don’t think I liked myself or gave myself the respect that I deserve or that I have for myself now. I was putting myself in positions with people who truly didn’t care about me or put me in bad situations. That was rough, and it’s something that I still think about to this day. Now, I look back on it, and I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t have the experience that I have, and this album probably wouldn’t exist.
Jessica Bredbenner is the owner and founder of Tiddlywinks Boutique, a children’s clothing store in Dunmore, which also offers birthday party services. Her storefront was preceded by a Tiddlywinks camper that has allowed her to take her services to various locations. She was inspired to create the camper after seeing a mobile store parked in front of a mall while she lived in Oregon. Bredbenner is a graduate of West Scranton High School and Marywood University, where she studied marketing. She and her fiance David live in Dallas with their 3-year-old daughter.
Meet Jessica Bredbenner…
Q: Describe Tiddlywinks Boutique and the variety of services it offers. A: It started with just the camper. My vision of this was to have something totally unique to the area and give girls this unique experience. At least 75 percent of the business is private parties, so moms will book birthday parties for their daughters. I also do public parties so moms or grandmothers can bring their daughter. We do princess-themed tea parties, and for older girls, we do what we call “makeover balls,” which are themed makeup, hair and a craft. They can dress up in as many costumes as they want, and we do fashion shows.
Q: How did you come up with the name “Tiddlywinks Boutique”? A: I wanted something meaningful. I didn’t want to just pick a name. My grandparents were a huge influence on my life. My grandfather, who is almost 90 years old, is everything. I’m his only granddaughter. He helped me remodel the camper. I remember playing the game Tiddlywinks when I was younger. I used to play it a couple times a week when I went to my grandparents’ house. I’ve always been into vintage and old-school, retro stuff. I try to find and collect the game Tiddlywinks now.
Q: Where does your interest in sewing and making come from? A: I’ve always been very artistic. I was never into TV and movies. I was always sitting there cutting things out, drawing and coloring as a little girl. I’ve always been the creative type. I started doing craft shows as a teenager. I guess that was the entrepreneur in me too. When I got into high school, I was very into the arts. My senior year of high school, I took a sewing class by mistake. It was a random elective that I got placed into. I just picked it up like that. I was planning to study art and thought I was going to be an art teacher or professor, but I loved making clothes throughout college. I loved the fashion industry. I did an internship for, at the time, a startup fashion magazine in New York City. I got to do Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and I sat next to Betsey Johnson and did her show. It was a lot of fun.
Q: What is your favorite part about making clothes to be worn? A: The creative oven and designing the clothes. In college, I always thought, “I don’t want to buy this skirt for $20 when I can make it for $5.” That’s just the bargain-hunting and business part of me. That aspect along with the creative aspect and being able to make something my own and unique.
Q: How does your own daughter inspire your clothing design ideas? A: There are so many different styles to children’s clothing. A lot of boutiques have their own style, just like any clothing store. I try to keep things different to other boutiques out there but make them youthful, whimsical and princessey. The first dress I made for my daughter was a vintage, whimsical dress. It had princesses on it and was such a pretty fabric. I put lace and satin on it, but it was also modern so she could wear it to church too. I’m going to put her in a dress until she tells me no.
Q: If you could only make one clothing item for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? A: A dress. It’s just classic. It’s the time of times since back in the Victorian age. Styles have changed, but today, a lot of girls don’t wear dresses that often. I don’t send my daughter out in dresses everyday, but back in the ’50s, you wouldn’t be caught dead leaving the house with your kid in pants; so, definitely a dress.
Q: What influence do you hope you and your business can have on your daughter? A: I want to show her that any of her dreams are possible, but it takes hard work and you have to keep at it. As she gets older, I want her to realize she should follow her dreams and keep her mind to it.
Q: What is the biggest message you hope to give the young girls you interact with? A: Girl empowerment is the main thing. Coming in, being creative and feeling special is the mission. I see it so many times where the moms aren’t here and the kids just get so into it. They’re so excited when they get here because it’s something different.
Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have? A: I did a big fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation before I opened this store. The theme was “Enchanted Winter Ball.” There were vendors, and everyone came dressed up. I like to support that organization. I am also a part of the Rising Tide Society. I just became the group leader, which was pretty exciting. There are different chapters throughout the United States. It’s entrepreneurs, business owners (and) people in the creative industry, so photographers, wedding planners and stuff like that. We have monthly meetings. Our vision is community over competition, and it’s a nice group we have.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today? A: My family has been my support system with everything. My grandfather helped raise me and watched me every day and has been my backbone and my support system since I was little. Growing up with that has shaped me to be appreciative. I didn’t come from a lot of money, so I was taught to work hard for things if I wanted them.