The Hippo


Jun 2, 2020








Leather cuffs by Claire Renaud. Courtesy photo.

Handmade holiday
See how it’s done at Studio 550

By Kelly Sennott

 Sure, you’ll find an assortment of handmade goods at Studio 550’s Handmade Holiday Market this weekend, but more importantly, you’ll get to see just how these intricate, distinct items are made.

“The focus on this market is that it’s all handmade. We just really want to encourage people to support artists and shop for handmade items this holiday season,” Monica Leap, the owner of Studio 550, said in a phone interview. “While people are coming in, it [on-site art-making] gives them another point to engage with the maker, to see the story behind the pieces they’re selling. It’s more interactive, it’s more engaging and it’s more fun. You learn something from it.”
She compared it to visiting your local farmers market. 
“There is always a story behind these pieces that artisans are compelled to make,” Leap wrote in a press release. “It’s delightful to learn the history or the reasoning behind a piece, and to get to know the artist who made it. The appeal is similar to getting to know your farmer.”
One of those artists exhibiting and demonstrating is Claire Renaud, a juried League of NH Craftsmen member who creates cuffs, earrings, baskets and goods from leather. Renaud also owns Costume Gallery in Derry (, which she’s run for the past 35 years. She stumbled into leather art about five years ago.
“One year, my son, who’s a runner, asked me if I could make him something simple to wear on the bottom of his feet,” Renaud said. (He’s a minimalist runner.) She made him a pair of sandals from costume scraps of leather. One of the spare pieces she found, however, was in the shape of a cuff.
“I did some stitching on it and started wearing it,” Renaud said. “My leather addiction was born.” 
Renaud uses all sorts of techniques in building her leather items, like boiling, dying, carving and branding. 
Renaud teaches leather art classes at Studio 550 and through the League of NH Craftsmen. Currently, she’s working to build a leather art party business (when ready, the website will be
“I think it’s unique and different,” Renaud said. “And you need zero artistic ability in order to come up with a really nice piece.”
Another artist working the event is Concord resident Olivia “Liv” Kau, who makes handmade hula hoops from irrigation tubing and tape. She teaches a few different hoop-making classes at Studio 550 now and organizes local hooping events, too (visit for details). Hoop-making is quite easy, she said, and the hoops she makes are of much better quality than the ones you’d purchase in a store. 
“Oftentimes, when you buy hoops at a normal store, they’re kid-sized with flimsy tubing. They have weights inside, which is counterproductive if you want to learn more hooping tricks,” Kau said. “It makes you lose your momentum, and it makes it harder.”
You might need a magnifying glass to glimpse some of the other art on sale; Bow resident Lisa Rogers creates “wearable art” ( in miniature acrylic landscape, seascape and even portrait fine art jewelry. She’ll demonstrate her technique on Saturday with a good light, a steady hand and a collection of very fine paint brushes. The smallest, she said, has just six hairs. 
“I’ve been a painter for many years. I’ve done a lot of commissioned work, a lot of theatrical work. I worked on set designs with huge stage backdrops. I never envisioned myself going so tiny!” Rogers said in a phone interview. 
Rogers has been creating this style of jewelry since January. 
“I started out because when I picked up this wonderful vintage brooch, the top popped off. I decided not to put the bead back in. I thought, wouldn’t that be a cool place for a painting?” Rodgers said.
Turns out, it was; not only was she pleased with the finished piece, complete with acrylic paint, but after the product was posted online, she received a slew of commissions. But she enjoys this way of creating, she said, because it feeds her love of painting and antique thrifting.
“Part of what I like to do is upcycle. I’ll go to flea markets, antique shops, and sometimes family members will give me pieces,” Rogers said. “I’ll deconstruct and reuse them to give them new life.”
There will also be a “2nds pottery sale” at the event (which means discounted prices — Leap said most of the pieces will be less than $10). Leap said that most of the other items for sale are priced between $5 and $60. 

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