Where to find creative pieces in creative places.
By Leksey Maltzman
Photography by Alexa Nahas Photography (alexanahas.com)
Every year for the past 30 years, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Main Street for a weekend at the Manayunk Arts Festival, but that’s not the only time of year when you can find unique and beautiful artwork in this neighborhood. All year long, local artwork can be found in many of Manayunk’s small businesses. From jewelry to woodwork, from ceramics to greeting cards, there is no shortage of art available in Manayunk.
Iluminé Gallery – 4386 Main Street Iluminé Gallery is a unique gallery that features a variety of affordable fine jewelry, as well as paintings and sculptures. Owner and operator Lynda Berdin has been in the jewelry and art industry for over 30 years. Even though Lynda has relationships with jewelers and artists from all across the world, she still makes a point to incorporate local artists and jewelers in Iluminé.
“I like to support local artists because supporting them is investing in my community,” Lynda said. “It also empowers the individual artist and creates a whirlpool effect on the community to support one another.”
Local jewelry designer and crafter Bopbe is a staple at Iluminé. This husband and wife team create necklaces and earrings with natural stones, gems, and shells while still achieving a clean and modern look. Look for Bopbe at the 30th Annual Manayunk Arts Festival this June.
There are many artists from out of town featured in the Manayunk Arts Festival, so it is especially nice when small businesses in Manayunk form relationships with artists and carry their work all year round. Iluminé sells work from both Kristiana Parn and Cindy Kaiser, two artists you can find at the festival this year.
This will be Kristiana Parn’s second year at the festival. Her whimsical illustrations feature adorable woodland animals in a variety of natural and urban settings. Cindy Kaiser is new to the Manayunk Arts Festival and is excited to showcase her delicate gold jewelry inspired by her childhood in Europe and Zimbabwe. Cindy’s booth will be right outside of Iluminé on June 22 and 23.
Lynda also showcases her own abstract mixed media artwork at Iluminé. She enjoys using vibrant colors to inspire joy and bring the earth and spiritual worlds together.
The Little Apple – 4361 Main Street
The Little Apple is known for having unique, sassy, and fun gifts, many of which are made by local artists and craftsmen. One local artist who was at the past two Manayunk Arts Festivals, Pepper Pop Paper, can always be found on the greeting card wall at The Little Apple. Every individual card has hand cut and assembled shapes that “pop” off the page!
“You can see how much love and care the artists put into their pieces,” said Brandy Deieso, owner of The Little Apple. “They’re not just mass-produced in some factory — there is attention paid to every detail.”
Sarah Brett Ceramics is new to both The Little Apple and the Manayunk Arts Festival. Her quirky animal hiney wall art and butt buds succulent vases have both been flying off the shelves since they arrived at The Little Apple earlier this year. You can find Sarah Brett Ceramics in the Emerging Artist tent at the festival or in The Little Apple all year long.
This year’s Arts Festival poster artist, Samantha Carell, also has her work available in Brandy’s store. Her paintings combine fluid acrylic paint with scientific methods to create a fascinating and colorful end result. While you can purchase her prints online, The Little Apple stocks coaster versions of her popular pieces.
Brandy enjoys keeping a close relationship with the local artists she features in her store and has been thrilled to see many of their artistic endeavours flourish.
“One of the best parts about working with local artists is getting to watch their careers start — sometimes as a small side project then grow into their full-time job as they become more and more successful,” said Brandy, “which is just so cool and exciting to see!”
Soft Illusions Fine Art Gallery – 4226 Main Street
Artist Diane Vaughn and her daughter, Malika, opened Soft Illusions Fine Art Gallery on Main Street in 2010. As Diane prepared to retire from her position as an art teacher with The School Board of Philadelphia, Malika encouraged her to take the leap into entrepreneurship and open her very own art gallery.
“After receiving such a positive response at solo art shows and group exhibits with other galleries, we felt the time was right to design a space showcasing my mom’s beautiful artwork,” Malika shared. “As fate would have it, I saw an empty retail space on Main Street that was a perfect fit for our venture!”
The following summer, Soft Illusions participated in the Manayunk Arts Festival and has been doing so ever since.
“It’s such a joy to have people stop by and say, ‘I bought a piece of art from you and I love it!,’” Malika said. “They often send pictures of their paintings prominently displayed at home or in the office. It’s very gratifying to see.”
Not only are Diane’s paintings beautiful and captivating, but according to Malika, they radiate positivity.
“I’ve actually coined the term ‘Feel Good Art’ because it genuinely makes people feel good,” Malika explained. “They stare at the paintings and smile as if a magical secret has been revealed, not to mention the colors – everyone loves the colors.”
Soft Illusions solely exhibits Diane’s work in a variety of forms including original paintings, hand-embellished prints on canvas, greeting cards, and more. Diane also creates commissioned artwork to express her clients’ visions and ideas and makes the process more collaborative.
“I’m very proud of Soft Illusions,” Diane added. “We are a mother-daughter team and we have always fit perfectly together, however, this creation is exceptional.”
Soft Illusions’ booth at the 30th Annual Manayunk Arts Festival will be right in front of their gallery at 4226 Main Street.
Pineapple on Main – 4347 Main Street
For Kathy Piccari, owner of Pineapple on Main, working with local artists and craftsmen started out as a practical decision to save money as a new business owner, but turned into many amazing relationships and inspiration to work with more local artists.
“There’s just a personal connection you get with local artists that I don’t have with bigger brands,” Kathy shared. “When I know the artist, I know the story behind each item and can provide personal testimony to my customers.”
Kathy’s relationship with graphic designer and illustrator Alisa Wismer has grown exponentially. Kathy stocks her greeting cards, and Alisa also became Pineapple on Main’s graphic designer and assists Kathy in creating her gorgeous window displays. Alisa is releasing a children’s book about modern art, which will be available at Pineapple on Main in the near future.
As Pineapple on Main expanded their baby collection, Kathy found TWEE, a handmade small batch sidewalk chalk company created by a local preschool teacher and artist, Kate Leibrand. Her unique and colorful chalk comes in a variety of shapes including unicorn horns, donuts, sushi, and more! Plus, a portion of sales from TWEE’s Solar System Set benefits Autism research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
In addition to baby products and greeting cards, Pineapple on Main is known for their high quality home decor and gifts. A great gift for fans of the Manayunk is Mara Foley’s photography. Her photographs feature a lot of Manayunk gems including Pretzel Park, local murals, and of course, the Manayunk bridge.
As Pineapple on Main continues to grow, Kathy is able to help her local artists grow as well, and nothing makes her more proud than seeing them thrive.
“It just makes me very happy,” Kathy said. “I get to help make their personal dreams come true!”
Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex 4327 Main Street
JD Korejko, owner of Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex, has an interesting perspective on why he supports local artists because he is an illustrator and t-shirt designer himself. His work can only be found in his comic book shop, where he also stocks other local artwork in addition to his expansive collection of comic books, Japanese manga, action figures, and more.
Most of the other artists JD carries are also related to the comic world. His friend, Gina D’Angelo, is the seamstress and fiber artist behind Supersox Shop. Gina creates plush interactive art made of felt, including Captain America’s shield and Thor’s hammer. Her work is fun, cute, and detailed right down to the hand-stitched price tags.
“Gina brought some of her work into my store and I just put them out on a table and they kept selling,” JD said. “So, I asked her to create an actual display and now she has a permanent spot in my shop!”
Tegan Belitta, also known as Illusoryart online, is an artist JD met in the Emerging Artist tent at the Manayunk Arts Festival a few years ago. Her watercolor, oil, and gouache paintings mostly feature characters from movies and television shows like Stranger Things, Mad Max, and The Fifth Element.
“It was a year where nothing at the festival really struck me until I came across Tegan’s work,” JD explained. “She does these great pop culture paintings that I liked and thought would be a good fit in my shop as well.”
JD is always looking for more artists to feature.
“Not all artists are lucky enough to have a base of operations where they can showcase their work and try to get it out to the people,” JD said. “I feel like it’s my responsibility help other local artists get their name out there.”
Orbit Art Gallery – 4312 Main Street
David Decca and Sandy Zanetto, owners of Orbit Art Gallery, have been active members of the art community in Manayunk even before they moved their gallery from Center City to Manayunk over 20 years ago. As long-time residents of Manayunk, they formed relationships with local artists while working in Center City. In fact, most of the artwork at Orbit is from artists based within 90 miles of Manayunk. David finds it very valuable for both the gallery and the artists to keep everything as local as possible.
“We are helping our neighbors and they are helping us, so it’s a reciprocal relationship,” David shared.
Manayunk has always had a draw for artists, particularly painters, because of the unique landscape, water views, and historic architecture. You will often find artists set up along the canal or Main Street sketching or painting the scenery.
“There’s always been a strong connection between artists and Manayunk,” David explained. “If you walk around this area, you will see people up and down the canal, on the bridge, and in the neighborhood with their easels set up.”
Charles Cushing is a local artist you may find around the area with his easel painting the scenery in Manayunk. You may even recognize some events and locations in his work such as The Philadelphia Bike Race riding up “The Wall,” or families dining outside at Winnie’s.
Another local artist you can always find at Orbit Art Gallery is Emily Keifer, a jewelry designer based out of The Mill Studios on Leverington Avenue.
“I’ve known Emily since probably 1990 and we carried her work right after she graduated from University of the Arts a few years later,” David explained. “We’ve had great success selling her work over the years.”
You can find Emily’s and Charles’ work at the 30th Annual Manayunk Arts Festival.
Latitudes and Longitudes – 4331 Main Street
When you walk into Latitudes and Longitudes, it’s obvious owner Meredith Gornick loves to support local artists. Many designers she carries have Philadelphia and Manayunk-themed products including wooden signs, coffee mugs, jewelry, and more.
One of the newer product lines Meredith brought into her shop are Julia Max Design’s Philly-themed baby onesies. Julia is an illustrator and graphic designer known for her prints of Philadelphia landmarks, mascots, and city views. Her adorable illustrations and cute puns make for the perfect baby onesies.
“The ‘whiz wit’ onesies are by far the most popular,” Meredith shared.
Meredith is also a proud alum of Philadelphia University, now Jefferson University, just next door in East Falls. Thanks to her connection to the school, she found two young women with a chic and modern jewelry line, EMAYE, that you can now find in her shop. Their jewelry is modern and geometric but still has an earthy feel thanks to the natural wood material they use. There’s no need for shopper’s remorse when you buy any of their pieces because 10% of EMAYE sales benefit Laurel House, a women’s shelter with a mission to end domestic violence.
One of Meredith’s most popular artists is Rustic and Luxe. Local artist Christina Lauria creates handmade home decor crafted from natural tree slices and individually wood-burned with interesting quotes, sayings, and logos.
“It’s so nice when artists and their supporters come into my shop and see their work on display,” Meredith said. “It’s nice to give back to my community and the people who shop here.”
Not only does supporting local artists give back to her community, but also provides Meredith’s customers with unique products they can’t find anywhere else.
UrbanBurb Furniture – 4313 Main Street
In addition to owning and operating UrbanBurb, a consignment furniture store in Manayunk, Joseph Donahue also creates custom live edge wood pieces. Formerly a part of Consignment Marketplace down the street, Joe moved his business to a big new space in the heart of Main Street. This gave him the opportunity for more exposure for both his consignment furniture and home decor, but also for his growing woodworking business.
Joe encourages his customers to bring in natural materials to transform into working pieces of furniture, like coffee tables, bar tops, desks, and more. No two pieces are alike and the customer gets to work with them on how they see the piece fitting in their home.
“We do really fine furniture work,” Joe said. “They are each one-of-a-kind pieces that I couldn’t replicate if I tried.”
You can see some of Joe’s woodwork in person at UrbanBurb, as well as custom projects on UrbanBurb’s Insatgram page — @urbanburbfurniture.
As someone who has been in the Manayunk community for several years, Joe became familiar with many artists who return for multiple years at the Manayunk Arts Festival and enjoys seeing their work change and evolve.
“It’s neat to see what they’ve been working on from year to year,” Joe said.
Joe is very proud to be a part of the art community in Manayunk, both as a business owner and an artist himself, and hopes to see the art community continue to thrive and support each other.
“There are so many local artists who might have a regular nine-to-five job but keep doing what they are passionate about,” Joe explained. “Manayunk supports those little artists that really are passionate about their work.”