BELFAST—Within the high-arched studios above the Belfast Post Office on 1 Franklin Street, a little shop draws people from around the world. Rooms are awash in hand-printed kozo and linen botanical lampshades, with a myriad of textures radiating luminous coastal blues and greens, mellow earthy and amber hues, rich jewel tones, soft neutrals, and vibrant bold block print colors pulling from Japanese, Thai and nature themes.
Interestingly, there's a demographic of regular customers who routinely come through the doors just to bask in the light and color, and they happen to be hospital employees, doctors and educators. Stuck all day in somewhat aesthetically sterile environments doing highly demanding work, they often come drifting up the back stairs and ask owner Dina Petrillo: "Can I just walk around, maybe just sit here for a while? I just need to be surrounded by all this light and color right now."
Petrillo, A sculptor, printmaker, and designer since 1980, opened Belfast Bay Shade Co. with her husband in 2013.
"I do think this place is a full sensory counterpoint to a long day inside white walls for people with high-intensity jobs," she said.
As close as Belfast and as far as Hawaii, Belfast Bay's typical customer is anyone who wants to bring the outdoors inside all year round and tends to draw in people in the healing arts, acupuncturists, midwives, masseuses and naturopaths who want illuminated colors into their offices and home studios for their own clients.
Petrillo’s lampshades are functional artwork molded into cylinders of Thai Unryu Paper, a lightweight, semi-translucent paper ideal for overlays and lamp shades.
"The imagery, the plants and vegetables–all of that comes out of a sculptural process," said Petrillo. "I especially love found materials, particularly industrial things."
She points to a lampshade dominated by greyish circles, reminiscent of a foreign coin.
"Believe it or not, that was made with a disc of hardware cloth mounted into a mixed media plate," she explained. "My family business was a hardware store, so I tend to gravitate toward metals, power tools, and all manner of construction materials. People walk in though, and have their own associations with it: they see a manhole cover or a 45 album. In others they might see a fingerprint or the growth rings of a tree."
Petrillo has been exhibiting and teaching in the Midcoast since she moved to Maine from New York City in 2000. She taught sculpture and printmaking with the University of Maine's Hutchinson Center since 2003.
"My work has always toggled between two- and three-dimensional, mixed media and sculpture," she said. "I create plates or molds first in my production studio and with every inking, get a new incarnation. I started making metal plate intaglio prints while I was a grad student and then faculty at Columbia during the 1990s, and then really dove deep into mixed media printing at UMO while teaching printmaking and sculpture. I had access to the print studio and I'd make these high relief collagraph carborundum plates that riff off the pressed and textured clay slabs used in sculptural forms. And out of that process, I experimented with using the textures that would eventually become the high-relief patterns on the lampshades. The textures are important, but I wanted to figure out how I could infuse them with color. In 2007, I spent a month in Vermont on a fellowship tethered to a large Charles Brand etching press. I brought along a huge number of plates, and worked feverishly day and night trying to figure how to print them. Experimenting with ink viscosity and modifiers, I layered papers and played with multiple pulls and ghost prints, until I got a result that qualified as a successful print. When I returned to Maine and the post office studio, these prints evolved into on-site art installations and commissions for sculptural light forms in April, 2012.”
Petrillo's show of collagraphs and light forms "Creature Botaniche: Piante e Forme Umane Congiunte" opened at Castello di Galeazza, Pepoli, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. By August, the light forms had become "lampshades" and in January 2013, the company was launched as Belfast Bay Shade Co. in NYC at the Javits Center's winter market NY NOW.
Her shop carries products that range from floor clothes to room screens, throw pillows to table runners, unique lamps and a wide array of wall and ceiling fixtures. Belfast Bay sees the evolution of the company as a collaboration with other artisans and their customers. "Bring Your own (old) Lamp" or BYOL engages folks in the design process themselves as shades are selected or designed for the very specific and often funky lamps they tote up the post office stairs. An extension of their on-site light consultation, Belfast Bay can see growing into event lighting and pop-up installations.
"I'm happiest when I'm inventing and I work with people who share that excitement,” Petrillo said. “The maker movement in Maine is vibrant and I feel blessed every day that this is my home and the cultural garden where we can grow innovative applications for technologies and honor the life's work of so many deeply creative artisans!"
For more information visit: belfastbayshadecompany.com/.