Spotlight: Summer at Southern Vermont Arts Center
May11

Spotlight: Summer at Southern Vermont Arts Center

West Road, Manchester — SVAC.ORG, or 802-362-1405   The Artists of Southern Vermont: A Fresh Look, will open the 2014 season at the Elizabeth de C. Wilson Museum. The exhibit is made up of pieces from the Permanent Collection that haven’t been seen for decades. It is the first in a series of exhibitions being planned to commemorate a remarkable legacy of 90 years of artwork and patronage by SVAC’s member artists and their patrons who have generously donated more than 800 works of art to the Arts Center’s Permanent Collection. Thanks to gifts from SVAC board members Linda Oskam and Georgine MacGarvey Holman, the full content and history of the Permanent Collection is now being catalogued for the first time and will soon be made available to art historians across the country through the Smithsonian Art Inventories Database. A Fresh Look will open with a festive opening reception on May 3 and continue through July 20. This show will be complemented by the opening of a Collector’s Gallery at the Yester House, showcasing work for sale by SVAC’s leading artists practicing today. This gallery will be an ongoing feature at the Yester House, and will be a significant attraction for art collectors throughout the northeast. Later in the summer, the Wilson Museum will premier a major retrospective exhibition of Brian Sweetland, the beloved Vermont painter who tragically passed away in 2013. This retrospective will celebrate his importance as an artist and underscore the inspiration, friendship and support he gave to the community. The exhibition, titled Brian Sweetland’s Nature: A Vermont Artist’s Journey, will run from August 2 through October 26. Running alongside the Sweetland retrospective will be the 85th Summer Members’ Exhibition, which will fill the ten galleries of the Yester House mansion with original art for sale from July 26 through September...

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The Art/Life Balance

Southern Vermont artists reflect on juggling their creative pursuits and the realities of parenting By Arlene Distler In the first four days after The Atlantic published “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” a remarkable essay by Anne-Marie Slaughter, an academic, foreign policy analyst, and public commentator, in its July/August 2012 issue, the piece whipped through the social media sphere and was debated hotly — among friends and in top periodicals — around the world. Slaughter’s intent was to reveal that “having it all” is a destructive myth, certainly a jarring idea to many women professionals working to juggle families and careers. Destructive? I was intrigued. Setting aside boardrooms and aprons, how do Southern Vermont mommy and daddy artists balance art and family? Can they have it all? Renee Bourchard: Letting it be Visiting the studio of Renee Bouchard started the wheels of this project in motion for me. I’d come to know Bouchard as a painter of luminous abstract oils: their dense surfaces often inspired by nature, but when I arrived at Bouchard’s new studio — a room on the second floor of a house she and her husband had recently bought in Bennington — I found big pieces of thick Arches watercolor paper decorated in sweeps and bursts of watercolor. Among them were lively images of her 8-month-old, Ensor, which stared out in purples, oranges, and blues. One painting showed a swooping arc inside plump curves of arms and legs. “I did that from an ultrasound when I was still pregnant,” said Bouchard. She explained she’d embraced her baby as a muse, and that her change to watercolor was a return to her artistic roots. A six-week class in watercolor portraiture at a New Hampshire artists’ retreat was her first formal training in that medium. Watercolor is perfect for the mommy (or daddy) artist. Paints can be left out, dried, and used again, blooming to life with just a dip of brush into water. And cleanup is a “non-issue,” Bouchard says with a smile. “We’re good if I have time to change the water,” she tells me. Another plus of her studio space: access to water in the adjacent bathroom. “I wet the paper and begin working right away. This gives me the soft washes and puddles I like. My one rule is, Let it be,” she says. For Bouchard, gesture — the way a mark is made — is the poetry of the medium: “It’s like a dance performance: there’s one chance with it. It is what it is. I really appreciate that.” She also relishes not having to worry about hustling back to finish a...

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A new look for the heavens and the earth

The Latchis Hotel and Theatre Building, completed in 1938, was built as a memorial to the life and work of Demetrius P. Latchis. A Greek immigrant, Demetrius had developed Latchis Enterprises from a single fruit stand in Brattleboro into a family chain that at one time included 15 movie theaters and three hotels along the Connecticut River Valley. After his death, his four sons decided to honor their father with a building that would be incomparable to anything in the region. The four-story block on Main and Flat streets featured an Art Deco exterior and an interior that honored the family’s heritage with murals of Greek mythology, reproductions of the ancient Acropolis in Athens, and statues of Greek gods and goddesses. Now, After 75 years of faithful service and two and a half months of reconstruction, Latchis Arts celebrates a successful $550,000 Campaign for The Heavens and The Earth. The theatre’s historic zodiac ceiling represented the Heavens. Twelve astrological signs made out of wood adorned the dark blue muslin midnight sky. Years of damage and deterioration (and the fact that the 30 foot ceiling was impossible to reach for repairs) took their toll. Back on the Earth, the tired old theatre seats were ready to go. Generations of moviegoers since 1938 wore through many a cushion, and metal springs poking through horsehair batting were a common sight… and sensation. So on August 1, 2013, the theatre was officially closed for renovation. Over the next months and weeks, the old seats were removed and scaffolding was erected. Preservationists scaled to the Heavens to make stencils of the old zodiac designs and remove them and the old muslin. Later on, new fabric and replicas of the original zodiac signs were re-installed. Once the ceiling was done, the scaffolding came down— and then it was onto the seats. Newly refurbished seatbacks and cushions were married with the original art deco aisle ends and maple arm rests. The addition of enhanced lighting for the hand painted murals that line the walls gave life to these beautiful sections of artwork in the theatre. Other electrical upgrades, new carpet and paint, and the addition of accessibility features rounded out the project. For generations the Latchis– with its theaters, hotel, brewpub, restaurant, and shops — has drawn visitors to downtown Brattleboro and was a touchstone in the lives of many area residents who brought their dates to the movies, held their wedding receptions in the ballroom, or worked in the theatre selling tickets and popcorn. The preservation of this family legacy continues while at the same time staying true to the family tradition of enhancing the cultural life of area...

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Peggy Farabaugh: Success borne of vision and necessity

By Steve Noble Peggy Farabaugh has a different take on that old predictor of retail success – “Location, location, location.” Vermont Woods Studios, the company she founded in 2005, just opened a showcase for the fine Vermont-made furniture it sells on a hilltop that’s accessible but a little off the beaten track in Vernon. Once you get there, the views are spectacular, and the setting is idyllic, but really, Peggy, you opened a retail showroom there? “There has always been a vision of having a place where people can come to see Vermont-made furniture and the forest where it came from. The word we’re going for is ‘experience,’” said Farabaugh, who doesn’t look like a revolutionary but has spent the last eight years forging a unique path to business success. Vermont Woods Studios began with a mix of vision and necessity. Farabugh’s husband, Ken, who has the title of Vice President of Possibility on the Vermont Woods Studio website, is a furniture-maker who needed a way to sell his work. They decided to work with other Vermont furniture-makers, and launched a website to sell fine furniture over the internet. “People didn’t really believe that you could sell fine furniture over the internet. We had to prove ourselves,” said Peggy, who believed the plan would work, especially once she started looking at the furniture business. “We noticed the other furniture stores were going out of business, so there was something wrong with the old model. … We also noticed that people love to come to Vermont.” The trouble was, in Vermont Woods Studio’s early years, they had little tooffer the people who came to Vermont. Operating out of Farabaugh’s home and some rented warehouse and office space, Vermont Woods Studios had just a small retail space on Route 142. The company did most of its business through http://www.VermontWoodsStudios.com and didn’t need the space. “We used to say it’s not worth the trip, and people would come anyway,” said Farabaugh. “Now, we can say it’s worth the trip.” Located at 538 Huckle Hill Road, the new Vermont Woods Studio is indeed worth the trip. Perched on a hilltop, it occupies Stonehurst, a 220-year-old farmhouse that was once home to the Pine Top Ski Area. Vermont Woods Studios completed a year-long renovation to restore the farmhouse and outbuildings, renovate them for the showroom and fill the space with furniture made by Vermont furniture-makers carefully selected for sharing Farabaugh’s commitment to high quality, sustainable, local and regionally sourced woods, non-toxic finishes and safe and fair labor practices. “Vermont does make a lot of furniture. We’re trying to reclaim it as a fine furniture...

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Gail Grycel: From music to woodworking, with classes for women

By Steve Noble The first time Gail Grycel tried to teach a woodworking class for women, she met more resistance than an axe hitting knotty pine. “No way are women going to use my shop!” she recalls the shop teacher at the public Massachusetts high school where she was going to teach saying. But Grycel persevered. She finally persuaded the teacher to let them use the shop, and the class was a hit. Now, nearly 20 years later, Grycel is still teaching woodworking classes for women _ and still pushing back against the kind of cultural small-mindedness that made people think that shop classes were for boys; girls could do home economics. “I grew up in a family that’s very gender-specific,” said Grycel, a custom cabinetmaker whose business, Twin Birch Woodworking, is based in Westminster West. “By the time I got into my adult life, I didn’t think woodworking was a thing women can do.” For a time, Grycel was set on a career in classical music. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music performance as an oboist and studied for a time with the English horn player with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. But even then, something about playing music for a living didn’t sit right. Call it the lack of anything tangible about it. Once you performed something, it was gone, to live on only in the memory of the listener or on a recording. But it was never the same. Around then, in the midst what she calls her “reality” crisis, two things happened which sent Grycel on the path she’s still on. First, she stumbled onto a book about women carpenters, and it gave her an “aha” moment. “‘What would it feel like to actually build my own home?’” she found herself asking. A couple of years later, needing a job to supplement the income she earned teaching private music lessons, she answered an ad for a paid part-time apprenticeship with two men who owned a cabinet shop. She stayed there for 10 years, the position grew into a full-time one, and the two men proved to be patient teachers and mentors for what has become her life’s work. “It’s so tangible,” said Grycel of making things out of wood. In her early days, she would often go to a table she had made and run her hands along it, appreciating the simple, real fact that it was still there. “My skills as a musician actually transferred really well to woodworking, in terms of attention to detail … and practicing skills,” said Grycel. She also discovered a gift for teaching woodworking to others. At first,...

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Charles Shackleton: Writing messages in objects

By Steve Noble Charles Shackleton does not fit the image of the lonely craftsman toiling away in the solitude of a studio “I’m a people person. I really enjoy people. These things that we make are really our way of connecting with people,” said Shackleton, a fine furniture-maker whose studio and gallery are located in an old mill in Bridgewater. “They’re like messages written in objects.” A native of Dublin, Ireland, who followed his friend, legendary glass artist Simon Pearce, to Vermont in 1981, Shackleton has lately hit on an innovative new way to deliver his messages through the Naked Table Project, which melds art, environment, education, experience, community and charity. Conceived in 2008, the Naked Table Project invites people to a two-day workshop where they make a table using sustainably harvested local maple and finished with Vermont Natural Coatings’ non-toxic, whey-based finish. Participants are taught by master furniture makers, and along the way, they receive instruction in the source and sustainability of the materials, guided on a walk in woodlots by forestry experts and sawyers. When the tables are done, they put them together – often all in a row inside a covered bridge in Woodstock – and all the participants sit down to a meal together. Proceeds benefit local organizations working toward sustainability The idea came to Shackleton in an existential moment he had around the time he turned 50. “I started thinking about ‘Why did I get into this?’ One of the reasons I got into furniture-making was my love for the environment,” he said. “What was mind-blowing for me is that people don’t connect furniture with the environment. Wood is the most sustainable, re-usable, re-growable builing material.” To date, Shackleton has done roughly 20 Naked Table Projects, including one in his native Ireland, and has helped open people’s eyes to seeing wood and furniture in a new, sustainable light. But something else happens in the Naked Table Project. “It is so powerful. It is almost a spiritual experience,” he said. “People come back (from the forest), and they are just more madly in love with their tables.” Beyond that, they bond with each other. Sometimes two or three people get together to make a table for their family. Even if they come alone, people leave feeling closely connected to their fellow Naked Table Project participants. “Everyone bonds. It’s just the most incredible community of people,” said Shackleton. “It sort of captured the essence of why I love making things.” Community is intrinsic to the furniture made at ShackletonThomas, the studio and business he shares with his wife, acclaimed potter Miranda Thomas. In their 180-year-old mill,...

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Popping up

Temporary stores emerge with local art for the holidays …in Wilmington Mother-daughter team Meg Streeter and Charlotte Hoffman with backgrounds in business, art and real estate will open a Holiday Pop Up Shop in Wilmington every weekend in December. The shop, called Display Wilmington, will be located in the historic Home Center at 1 East Main Street. It will feature a selection of art and gifts by artists from Vermont and around the world. Blown glass ornaments, hand-crafted wooden trays, Vermont balsam wreaths, and ceramic plates are among some of the shop offerings. Charlotte grew up in Wilmington and currently lives in New York City and her mom Meg owns a local real estate business. They’re thrilled to be doing something for Wilmington following the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene. …and in Brattleboro Cynthia Reeves New England pop-ups in Brattleboro with several curated shows that will be on view over the coming six months. Cynthia-Reeves New England has an eighteen-year history of exhibiting innovative contemporary artwork in the Connecticut River Valley. In 1995, the gallery originally opened under the name Spheris in Walpole, NH. After mounting exhibitions in Hanover, NH for the past seven years, the business will be moving back to Walpole in the summer of 2014. Prior to that date, the gallery has planned several exhibitions on Flat Street. The December show CHOATE/CHAOS explores the tension between the two states as seen through the lens of six international artists in their respective media of painting, video and sculpture. The show features the works of Shen Chen, Michael Mulhern, Lee Jung Woong, Magdelena Fernandez, Oliver Marsden, and George Sherwood. Beginning January 3 through March 1, the works of Ray Ruseckas and Daniel Kohn will be featured. Following that from March 7 through April 26, the works of Sarah Amos and Lorrie Fredette will be featured. The final show will open May 2 and go through June 30 and will include the works of Dawn Black, Lionel Smit, Daniel Julian Norton and Thomas Munita.   For more information visit Cynthia-reeves.com or call...

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The Hatch: Storytelling with a mission

It is rumored that the state of Vermont has more nonprofits per capita than any other state in the U.S. So why another one? That question was answered over coffee in early 2012 while the four founders of The Hatch were hatching their nonprofit plan, before they realized it was happening. The players were four Dummerston residents: National Public Radio and Motel 6 TV ad personality “We’ll leave the light on for you,” Tom Bodett, Rita Ramirez (Bodett’s better half), Elizabeth Catlin and Rich Korson. Collectively, they had the following life and career responsibilities: member of eight nonprofit boards, television producer, radio host, author, parent to six children, members of various fundraising committees, homeowners and a budding BBQ & pizza restaurant. During their visit, they lamented at how many times they have been approached for fundraisers in the area, and, as part of area organizations, they have asked the same people for funds for worthy causes. “We keep hitting up the same people over and over for money and time,” said Catlin. “Isn’t there a way to consolidate efforts?” “What if we put on two or three really big, fun events a year and focused the benefits on one or two efforts and organizations at a time?” said Bodett. “We could bring new people to the party and give them something for their money.” “I know a lot of really funny people who live within four hours of here.” said Korson, who is a former Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report TV executive. “Let’s get four or five of them to come up and tell us funny stories.” That conversation spawned The Hatch, the new fundraising machine that produces live events with the goal of broadening listeners’ minds and hearts while simultaneously generating funds to support the social and cultural infrastructure of the greater Brattleboro area. In short, The Hatch exists to raise money for our community and to have fun doing it. The Hatch has focused on the popular movement of storytelling, which has become an urban sensation for years and is now leaking to smaller communities, like Brattleboro. The stories are real. Sometimes funny, sometimes raw, but always real. And that personal connection has taken with all ages. There has been a resurgence in storytelling,” said Bodett in a recent radio interview. “My uninformed theory about this phenomenon is that it is a response to all the digital media in our lives that has no real human connection. It’s that ‘look me in the eye and tell me something about yourself.’ That’s how we learn to be human.” The first Hatch event was held...

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Airbnb: A New Era of Green Mountain Hospitality

By Troy Shaheen “When I come up to Vermont and stay somewhere through Airbnb, I feel like I’m staying with old friends,” explains Marie O’Brien, a Connecticut resident who travels to Vermont often. She’s headed to Montpelier this week, and will be staying in the home of someone she has never met. Long a cultural staple and economic contributor in the Green Mountain State, the practice of renting out a room in one’s house has evolved along with the state. Bed & Breakfasts date back to the colonial era when land was not yet settled and hotels were few and far between. They reemerged during the 1930s when struggling Vermonters opened rooms in their farmhouses to make an extra income, and greatly expanded throughout the 20th century as historic preservation gained popularity and regulations made an official industry out of letting one’s room. These days, the internet hotel service Airbnb is deregulating the traditional B&B experience and perhaps ushering in a new era of Green Mountain hospitality. An online platform that allows individuals to rent out rooms in their homes to short-term visitors, Airbnb empowers locals to operate their own mini-hotels out of their apartments, houses, and barns. Users post their rental property on Airbnb’s website, where those looking to visit the area can view listings and contact hosts. Airbnb collects and culls the listings, vets hosts and guests, and keeps a small fraction of the money exchanged. Guests are drawn to the site for both it’s competitive rates and its unique access to local culture and human connection. “Staying in hotels is so impersonal,” O’Brien emphasizes, “it’s as if you could be anywhere in the world.” She prefers Bed & Breakfasts to hotels, but has chosen Airbnb over both many times. “Every experience has been positive,”” she says. Started in San Francisco in 2008, the service’s popularity has ballooned and the site currently operates in 192 countries, offering options for all price ranges and property types. Three million guests found accommodations using Airbnb in 2012 alone and the site has over 400 Vermont properties for rent, ranging from spare rooms in towns like Bennington, to mountain lodges outside of Manchester, to a luxury tree house in Lincoln that was recently featured in Vanity Fair. With a steady flow of visitors, a cultural climate that values sharing and supporting small business, and an economy in which many could use a little extra income, the service seems to make both dollars and sense for Vermonters. Bellows Falls resident and Rockingham Arts and Museum founder Robert McBride rents three rooms in his home using Airbnb and feels it is a natural...

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Wine Observed: A bit of the Vermont terroir

Unique and delicious dessert spirits from the Green Mountain State By Marty Ramsburg For those looking to shop local and support Vermont businesses this holiday season, we have some truly unique and delicious dessert wines and ciders that make great additions to gift baskets. For those adventuresome wine drinkers with whom you want to share a bit of Vermont “terroir,” we highly recommend the following. Putney Mountain, Cassis The Putney Mountain Cassis, once made only from blackcurrants from Cherry Hill Farm in Springfield, is now blended with Putney blueberries and raspberries.  We were delighted to discover the Putney Mountain Cassis when we first moved here. For us, cassis reminds us of our friends in France who begin our evenings together with a lovely Kir Royale—about one part crème de cassis to 4-5 parts sparkling. Alternatively, you could enjoy the Cassis as a dessert wine that pairs beautifully with berry desserts, chocolate or, for something truly decadent, combine those in a cheesecake. Eden Ice Cider We confess to having been skeptical when Eleanor Leger stopped by 5 years ago with samples of their first batch of Eden Ice Cider. One sip and we were absolutely enchanted and have become zealots. This is gorgeous stuff!! Made at Eleanor and Albert Leger’s property in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, their Heirloom Blend includes apples from their orchard, some from Champlain Orchards, and a healthy dose from our own Scott Farm. The apples are harvested in the fall, kept in cold storage, then pressed into varietal-based ciders after temperatures fall below freezing. The juice is then left outside until the water freezes, leaving a sugary nectar that is fermented, blended and bottled the following September. Think creamy and sweet for food pairings—maple crème brulée, frangipane, blue cheese and cheesecake are all desserts that have been enhanced by pairing them with a small glass of chilled Eden Ice Cider. Bon Appetit!...

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How Sweet Is Is: Vermont Maple Weekend

Open House Weekend, March 22-23 Plan to visit the 16th Annual Whitingham Maple Festival in Whitingham on March 22 and 23 to learn about sugar making and its historical importance in the town. Whitingham is the birthplace of Brigham Young and there are two monuments in town noting Young’s achievements. In addition that weekend, the town hosts a Craft Fair on Saturday /Sunday, Pancake breakfasts/luncheons on both Saturday and Sunday and a sugar on snow supper on Saturday evening. That weekend is also Vermont’s Annual Maple Open House Weekend and an opportunity to visit one or more “sugarhouses” throughout the state. Info: http://www.vermontmaple.org. We suggest you call first. Participating sugarhouses in Southern Vermont: Evans Maple Farm 61 Spaulding Hill Rd, E. Dummerston, VT 05346 802-257-0262, roger@evansmaplefarm.com   Green Mountain Sugar House 820 Rte 100N, Ludlow, VT 05149 802-228-7151, gmsh@tds.net   Hidden Springs Maple 162 Westminster West Rd, Putney, VT 05346 1-888-889-8781, info@hiddenspringsmaple.com   Havoc Hill Sugarhouse 190 Havoc Hill, East Dorset, VT 05253 802-362-4136, havochil@myfairpoint.net   Jim and Josie’s Maple Syrup 1055 VT Route 11, Londonderry, VT 05148 802-824-3295, windrows@sover.net   Mitch’s Maple 2440 Green Mtn Turnpike, Chester, VT 05143 802-228-5242, cpmit@tds.net   Robb Family Farm 822 Ames Hill Rd, Brattleboro, VT 05301 802-258-9087 robbfarm@together.net   Smith Family Maple 327 Atcherson Hollow Rd, Cambridgeport, VT 05141 802-869-2417, smithfamilymaple@hotmail.com   Sweet Maple Alpaca Farm, LLC 154 River Rd, Westminster, VT 05346 802-376-9846 or 802-380-0750 info@sweetmaplealpacas.com   The Corse Farm 773 Corse Rd, Whitingham, VT 05361 802-368-2420, thecorsefarm@myfairpoint.net   Wood’s Cider Mill & Sugar House 1482 Weathersfield Ctr Rd, Springfield, VT 05156 802-263-5547, cider@tds.net  ...

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Local Flavor: A Love Affair with Yeast

By Molly Leuschel — Photos by Emily Hale “Yeast and I are really happy together,” says Rachel Laliberté, owner of a home-based bakery business in Grafton, appropriately named the Grafton Village Bakery. Rachel’s love affair with yeast began nearly ten years ago, shortly after she moved with her husband, Keith Hermiz, to Vermont from the Washington DC area. She had been working as an executive for a national retailer whose headquarters were in the process of being sold and Keith had a new job that allowed him to telecommute. They had already purchased some land in Vermont so together they decided it was a good time to make a move. Not long after settling into their new Grafton home, Keith signed the couple up for an Easter holiday baking class at King Arthur Flour in Norwich.  “Except for the basic brownies in a box, I hadn’t done a lot of baking,” says Rachel. “I had been living more of a corporate life so I didn’t have a lot of time.” It was love at first sight. “I couldn’t believe that four ingredients—yeast, flour, salt, and water–could make so many different things. I became hooked.” Rachel’s weekend fling rapidly developed into a full-fledged love affair. “I started asking friends to try different breads that I would make.”  Then one by one, Grafton residents began signing up to have her breads delivered to their homes. In 2006, Grafton Village Bakery became licensed in the State of Vermont at which point she began distributing her breads, cookies, scones and pastries through retail outlets. It has to be true love to remain faithful to a baker’s schedule. On bread-baking days, Rachel gets up at two o’clock in the morning. On pastry days, she gets to sleep in—until 4:30am–keeping up this schedule six days a week. Sunday is her day off which she likes to spend with her husband, at least until around five o’clock in the evening when preparations for Monday’s baking begin. “Most of my breads aren’t straight or ‘one day’ breads,” says Rachel, “they are based on a starter that is prepared the day before baking. The next day the majority of ingredients are added, there’s hours of rise time, shaping, followed by a second rise and then baking.” That labor of love pays off. “Rachel’s quintessential French peasant loaf is the bread for a sandwich.” says Chef Jane Newall of Jersey Girls Farm Café and Market. “It has a beautiful crusty exterior with a chewy middle. Finally a baker who get’s it.” When she talks about croissants and croissant dough, Rachel’s eyes light up and her smile broadens.  “There’s nothing...

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