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ITHACA, NY – Coinciding with Ithaca Festival, Handwork’s official birthday bash will be June 3rd , Gallery Night, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. That night, Handwork members Renata Wadsworth and Chet Salustri will be demonstrating how they make their one of a kind ceramics, using hand building and pottery wheel techniques.

Handwork Co-op began in 1975 with 12 local craftspeople looking for a place to sell their wares. At the start, creative input was shared over dish to pass suppers in Stewart Park. Eventually the group formed a partnership and opened a cooperative craft store.

Ten of the original artists contributed $100 each and signed a Handwork Partnership agreement which was drafted by friend and local attorney, Larry Reverby.

After some false starts, that winter they had their first official Handwork event, a collaborative craft fair in the student union building at Ithaca College. This event only increased the desire to find a store location in the downtown area.

A wonderful space was discovered on the 2nd floor above Heads Camera Shop (now Viva Taqueria).  It had plenty of natural lighting and good visibility in three separate rooms – if only people could be encouraged to look up!

To promote better customer flow and allow one person to tend the store, members created thoroughfares between the rooms. Artists built all of their own display units, created signs and banners, and began to advertise the grand opening.

In June 1976 Handwork, Ithaca’s Craft Cooperative store became a reality!  Although there were regular monthly business meetings, they also continued to enjoy social gatherings and dinners. Friendships were formed that have lasted through the years.

The members eventually decided that a downstairs location was needed, and in 1980 after some relocations, settled into 102 West State Street, with a total of three large rooms to display their wares.Now Handwork, Ithaca’s Artisan Cooperative will officially celebrate its 40th Anniversary during the first weekend in June.

Handwork has been eminently successful in meeting the objectives that 12 artisans set up 40 years ago. Over these many years there have been nearly 300 members who have enjoyed both the financial benefits of belonging to Handwork and the community of sharing derived from running a cooperative business.

At the beginning of 2015, there were 44 memberships, 3 of which consisted of 2 or 3 persons.  Art and Craft categories covered include: ceramics, fiber/leather, glass, jewelry, mixed media, and wood. The coop expects to continue thriving, fill an important niche in the Ithaca community and provide a unique Finger Lakes destination.

(Featured info courtesy of Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance)

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.