Spotlight on the Hanningtons
Mary Ellen Hannington of Pippen Tree Arts and Justin Hannington of Standing Stone Arts Of Island Pond“Artwork of all sorts is a family affair,” Mary Ellen Hannington said in mid-July prior to setting the artist-stall she and her son Justin Hannington share at the Colchester Farmers’ Market. Together they work three markets a week: Colchester, Westmore and Jay Village where Justin is the market manager. Mary Ellen is a ninth-generation Vermonter and recalls a long lineage of artist that extend to her father, five siblings and her son and daughter. The Hanningtons currently live in Island Pond where they say “people are fewer and farther between.” “The blessing of being an artist is that you can do it anywhere,” Mary Ellen noted. Here Mary Ellen and Justin share their art and the life it has created for them.
MARY ELLEN HANNINGTON
When Mary Ellen Hannington’s daughter Lucy decided she wanted to learn about stained glass for a school project roughly 14 years ago, Mary Ellen decided — like any mother would — she’d learn too. After the project ended, Mary Ellen continued her study with Tim Burn, a glass worker from Derby who does mainly restoration and church glasswork.
“I learned the principals of restoration work but prefer Tiffany style,” she said. Church-style or the more original method is when the glass is held in channels of lead. Tiffany style is a technique where the edges of the glass are wrapped in copper coil and soldered together; according to Mary Ellen it allows for more detail and work can be crafted in three dimensions.
Glasswork is only one area of interest for Mary Ellen and her art company Pippen Tree Arts.
“It’s hard for me to not see what something can become,” she explained. “When I see something shiny I pick it up and see what I can do with it.”
Some things she collects are shale pebbles from Isle la Mott, sticks, and avocado pits.
“I can’t grow the avocado plant so I carve the pits… I was originally thinking I’d make beads for Justin, so I cut up the pit and put it on the window sill to dry and instead I saw fat pigeons and birds sitting on the window sill.” Mary Ellen can get six “birds” from one pit.
“I really like sticks too,” she mused. “I’ll find the perfect tree in the woods, cut it down and work the wood, then paint stripes, spots and add ribbons and bells.” She says sometimes her daughter jokes with her saying “what if it just wanted to be a stick Mom?”
Mary Ellen also paints with watercolors and acrylics.
“My sister thinks I was a Bower Bird in an earlier life; they collect things and make fancy houses for display,” she said. “Here I am collecting things and putting them on display at the market.”
“I love working with color, but shouldn’t be trusted with a paint brush so I work with gem stones instead,” Justin Hannington explained.
A 1998 North Country High School graduate, Justin considers himself a perpetual student and has gained his experience through hands-on learning. He also spent two years training in stained glass restoration and design with Tim Burn, after which he helped with four or five church restoration projects.
In 2006 he began making jewelry. “I’m entirely self-taught,” he said. “I figured it out by trial and error.”
Justin typically works with semiprecious stones like jaspers, agate, aventurine and sometimes with emeralds and sapphires. “I’m willing to work with any material,” he clarified. “I’ll make anything I can.”
Most of his gems come from a wholesaler in Montpelier and online stores. After being in the jewelry business for nearly 8 years, Justin knows which stones sell well. “It’s usually birth stones and certain colors that do well; blues and greens are very reliable.”
Prior to his career in gems, Justin spent six years as an EMP and five years working at the hospital in Burlington.
“I left in 2005 because I got hurt working as a medical orderly,” he said without too much elaboration. “It can be a physically demanding job; we backed up security regularly.”
That line of work had Justin driving 1000 miles to and from work each week. Now that he runs his business from home, he is thankful for the stars, darkness and quiet of Island Pond. Not to mention, Justin loves “to be able to work for myself and not carry a pager.”