By Julie Horner
Framed in a spray of electric snowflakes behind watery glass, John Updike’s words hung in pieces; simply arranged snips of cut paper that read, “The days are short, the sun a spark hung thin between the dark and the dark.” This discovery framed within the tall window that so struck my curiosity was a mid-winter stirring of life foreshadowing an intriguing new downtown destination soon to bloom in Boulder Creek.
Inspired from the Danish words for “little box,” lille æske is an art house collective inspired by owners James Mackessy and Sarah Farrell Mackessy’s relationship with intimate spaces. The couple has lived and created together in the renovated back rooms of this downtown space for some time – the gallery, which is now open to the public, is the extension of their journey to create objects of intrigue, honesty, and beauty for the home utilizing wood, paper, metal, rope, leather, and other natural materials.
Once inside this warming place, the unusually vaulted wood ceiling immediately held me enthrall, built plank-by-plank by James and hung along its length with vintage theater spotlights. It was like stepping reverently into a place of worship, surrounded at every turn by found objects and relics repurposed; a matrimony of reclaimed wood to reworked iron, wood grain and linocut prints hung against smooth white walls all somehow woven together in a tapestry of pure minimalist, rustic simplicity. The dry, sweet aromas of herbs and handmade paper combined evocatively with the scents of leather, jute, natural plant dyes, a hint of earthy oils and the salt of human hands on vintage metal tools.
James is the furniture maker. He loves wood. Using reclaimed timber, old fences, barn wood, and salvaged pieces, he joins organic suppleness with the inorganic sturdiness of iron and steel. “The fact that wood is grown and has life brings the story to the space.” Using light fabrication skills to marry the wood to iron, the thrill is in working with materials that have come from the earth in one form or another.
He also creates hand-rubbings on paper from the grain of the cut wood. “The rubbings create an illusion of two-dimension, there is a story hard-coded in the wood’s surface…where the wood was cut, where a branch was…there are a lot of things happening.”
Sarah loves paper, textiles, mixed media, and the art of placement. She carefully designs the expressive window installations that passersby have enjoyed for nearly a year. Each has had its own whimsy, introspective nuance and message to share, ultimately showcasing the Mackessy’s ability to dream, build and create. The installations are also a declaration of independence together and an invitation to explore the story of home, telling it through the objects Sarah and James design and make.
But objects d’art are not the only offering being presented in this gorgeous venue. The Mackessy’s have also dreamed up “Events @ the ænnex” by reservation in the gallery. The Supper Table Series features local culinary artists curating extraordinary meals in a unique family style setting, and the Performance Series showcases guest artists for an intimate journey into their works. Says James, “Whether filling stomachs or observing things of beauty, everyone is looking for a new experience.”
The Mackessy’s goal is to promote an artisan way of thinking. Lille aeske is the staging ground, a multi-faceted hub for art, performance, and the culinary to bring different types of people together in one inviting space. “Whether it’s a dinner, a piece of art, a piece of furniture, we’re looking to share stories in a visceral sense and to forge friendships across the spectrum.” They invite you to share in the journey.
On the web: http://www.lilleaeske.com/
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lilleaeske
(c) 2015 Julie Horner – Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin print edition.