Eliot School Blog

Charlie Sandler retires, Julio Fuentes steps in

Charlie Sandler, who for 46 years has set the tone at the Eliot School, is retiring. His corny jokes, thrifty ways, affectionate banter, salt-of-the-earth personality, old-fashioned generosity and newfangled inclusiveness have defined the atmosphere at the school since 1966. Charlie is turning 80 in September. We plan to name our wood shop for him at a birthday and retirement party in the fall.

Charlie joined the school as a woodworking teacher in 1966, after stints as a Korean War soldier, shipyard worker and cabinet-maker. He continued his day job as a vocational teacher in the Boston Public Schools, earning a Masters degree in the field, but he fell in love with the Eliot. He showed up in early mornings to straighten up the wood shop, then returned to teach after school and evenings. For years he ran the school nearly single-handedly, fixing machines, hiring teachers, meeting with the board, and weathering ups and downs in the neighborhood. His wife and young children helped mail out course catalogs, and he brought in friends from vocational education programs and the Cabinetmakers Union who populated the school as skilled teachers of craftsmanship. Children he taught return now with grey hair and memories of building wooden boats, clocks and stools.

He loves to say, “The Eliot School has been my life.”

We are fortunate to welcome Julio Fuentes, 43, of Roslindale, to the new job of Facilities Coordinator. As Charlie did, Julio will maintain the school’s 19th century building. He already teaches both adults and children here, and plays a key role in woodworking classes through our School Partnership Program at Boston Public Schools in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Dorchester, South Boston and the South End. Julio starts his new role here May 1.

Before he arrived at the Eliot School, Julio graduated from North Bennet Street School’s Preservation Carpentry program, then renovated high-end homes for fifteen years for The Classic Group, based in Lexington. He has led the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of Holy Name Parish in West Roxbury for nine of those years. For almost as long, he has also led workshops for new homeowners for the city’s Dept. of Neighborhood Development.

Julio says, “I feel very privileged to be here in this wonderful environment. I’m especially thrilled to be bringing woodworking to a whole brand new generation of kids who have never, ever experienced it before.”

A new collaboration: the Eliot School and Uforge Gallery

uforge2Imagine this: it’s opening night, and as you arrive at the gallery you feel an increasing sense of excitement and anticipation. Through the windows you see that the space is alight; people are moving about, looking at the work and chatting with one another. You step through the door and are greeted by, music, the hum of conversation, and familiar faces. You walk the perimeter of the gallery admiring the work of your peers, when at last the moment you have been working towards is here: The piece you are standing in front of is yours. You’ve been working on for weeks – it’s a painting, a photo, a sculpture, a drawing or a mixed-media piece. It is the realization of your hard work, your creative journey, the explorations made through materials and ideas. Perhaps this is a moment you thought would never come, or it is a moment you’ve experienced before and are glad to be experiencing again.

This moment could be yours, whether you are an absolute beginner or a life-long artist. Are you ready to make it happen?

This Spring and Summer, we are offering a workshop series, in collaboration with UFORGE Gallery in Jamaica Plain, that will allow you to study with well known artist-teachers for 4 weeks, and exhibit your finished work with the work of your fellow classmates and other artists in a group show at the UFORGE Gallery.

We are very excited about this series, and since the concept is new, we thought we’d talk a little about it here on the blog.

UFORGE Gallery is right around the corner from our schoolhouse on Eliot Street. Tucked in among fashionable and funky boutiques and cozy and creative restaurants, openings at this neighborhood gallery are events that bridge a number of communities – artists and lovers of the arts and those just discovering the arts; folks from Jamaica Plain and beyond.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of UFORGE is its spirit of inclusiveness for all visual artists.  Anyone can participate in a UFORGE show, as long as the work submitted meets the criteria for the given month’s assignment. Assignments are chosen well in advance of each show and are posted on the gallery’s web site. There is a small fee for participating, but what this all means is that both seasoned and emerging artists have a venue to exhibit their work.

Here is Uforge’s mission statement: “UFORGE Gallery’s mission is to foster creativity by facilitating diverse and affordable project assignment based, non-juried (open door) art exhibitions; to provide a venue to exhibit these works; to cultivate both a collaborative and inclusive arts community at large through educational workshops and special events.”

This is “Art for All” in action, a concept that we strongly believe in, a concept that is at the foundation of our programming here at the Eliot School.

Here’s how the Eliot School/UFORGE series works: Each class in the series corresponds with an upcoming show at UFORGE. Student work produced during the four-week class will be hung for a month-long exhibit at UFORGE, along with the work of other participating artists. The entrance fee for the exhibit is included in the cost of tuition. More information, including registration info, can be found in our course listings here.

Here are the class offerings; click the course titles below for full info and registration information:

Chris Fowler

© Chris Fowler Photo

Feb 21 through March 13: Documenting American Communities: Space and Place. Immerse yourself in the theory and practice of documentary photography. Choose a community (broadly defined) and begin a documentary photographic study of it. Students will exhibit their finished pieces in the April show titled Unseen at Uforge Gallery. This class is taught by Chris Fowler, photographer and folklorist, and Documentary Fellow from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Chris will be returning to North Carolina once his fellowship at Duke is complete, so don’t miss this opportunity to study with him while he’s here. You can view some of Chris’s work on his web site: chrisfowlerphoto.com.


NY Laundry, Maggie Carberry

NY Laundry, © Maggie Carberry

May 1 – 22: Mixed Media Manipulations. Fun and challenging – choose your favorite work of art and manipulate it in a way that changes viewers’ perceptions, using a variety of media in 2D and 3D formats. Students will exhibit their finished pieces the June exhibit titled Manipulation at Uforge Gallery. Class instructor Maggie Carberry is a print maker, jeweler, painter, photographer and teacher who has taught and exhibited her work worldwide – from Boston to Brazil and beyond. View her work on her web site: maggiecarberry.com.



Brian Crete

© Brian Crete

May 30 – June 20: Painting the Subconcious. Tap into your creative subconcious. In this class you will be painting a spectrum of acrylic colors on wood panels; there will be demos and group discussion at the end of each class. Students will participate in the July show Spectrum at the Uforge gallery. This class will be taught by Brian Crete, artist, curator and co-founder of UFORGE Gallery. View Brian’s work on his web site: briancrete.com



Detail of Mysteries upon Mysteries (The Clearing) by Amy Hitchcock

Detail of Mysteries upon Mysteries (The Clearing) © Amy Hitchcock

June 23 – July 14: Assemblages. Learn how to use mixed media and found objects to create a visual narrative. You will look at the work of other mixed-media artists, you’ll discuss ideas and processes, and create your vision under the guidance of artist Amy Hitchcock. Students will exhibit their finished work in the August show titled Stories at the UFORGE Gallery. Teacher Amy Hitchcock has exhibited her work at the Fuller Craft Museum, the Arlington Center for the Arts, and Provincetown Art Association & Museum, to name a few. View Amy’s work on her web site: amyhitchcock.com

Workshop Experience: Altered Books

IMG_2593In her book of essays titled Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, author Anne Fadiman muses that there is more than one way to love a book: There is courtly love, in which the devoted reader regards the physical book itself, not just the words within, as sacred; and there is carnal love, in which the reader sees the physical book merely as a vessel for the concepts contained inside. But there is also a third form of love not considered by Fadiman, a sort that would have most bibliophiles sweating under their full–spectrum reading lamps. Yes, I am talking about altered book love, a concept wrought with controversy in some reading circles.

Courtly lovers are those who read a book so gingerly that its spine will not crack; they cherish their books, coddle and protect them. In their view, the use of anything other than a proper bookmark to keep one’s place is an unforgivable offense. The body of the book – covers, spine, pages – is as valuable as the thoughts, facts and adventures within.

Those whose love is carnal will consume a book’s contents and willingly sacrifice the physical form in pursuit of the words inside. Thomas Jefferson, for example, dismembered a priceless first edition of Plutarch’s works in Greek, then interleaved its pages with those translated into English. Some in Fadiman’s own family, she divulges, fall into this category. Her father would tear chapters out of a book he was reading to render it lighter for air travel. Fadiman says this about her family’s penchant for devouring books:

“To us, a book’s words were holy, but the paper, cloth, cardboard, glue, thread, and ink that contained them were a mere vessel, and it was no sacrilege to treat them as wantonly as desire and pragmatism dictated. Hard use was a sign not of disrespect but of intimacy.”

Now what of this third category of book love, the one not mentioned in Ann Fadiman’s essay? There are those who look upon a book in its traditional form and recognize it as a vehicle for creative expression. These are book lovers who fearlessly dive between the pages and slice through bindings; cut away at text; put brush, pen, chalk and glue to page. There may be some folding, burning, and outright dismantling and reconstruction. (Breathe deep, you courtly lovers, I can sense your panic.) The idea is to transform the familiar form and its contents, rather than destroy them in the process. The end result is a work of art, an homage to the book. Altered book artists love books in such a manner, and Jennifer Erin Hughes is among them.

Jennifer is a printmaker, book artist, and a teacher at the Eliot School. On January 7th, six of us gathered on the second floor of the yellow schoolhouse for an afternoon of instruction on book manipulation in Jennifer’s“Altered Books” workshop. Though not a totally new experience for me (there was a minor bit of book dismantling going on in last November’s Collage Workshop), I confess I’ve had a tendency for courtly book love for much of my life. I allow myself exceptions, and mark and dog-ear textbooks, manuals or grocery store paperbacks (you know the ones) with less guilt. But I can’t fully shake my reverence for printed and bound text, and taking this class was a way for me to challenge my own perceptions and explore new avenues of creativity.

At the start of class, we watched as Jennifer deftly dismantled both hardcover and paperback books. She described different types of bindings and why they are used. She showed us how to cut through layers of pages, discussed her preference for certain tools and  archival materials, and gave us wide range of suggestions for manipulation and transformation. We looked at examples of work by other book artists. With our primer complete, we were free to experiment and manipulate books we had brought to class, or those Jennifer provided for us, with a multitude of supplies and tools.


As with any class of this kind, a big part of the learning experience happened in the dialog among the participants. People tend to question and contemplate together, not only talking about process but also about each other’s lives, and no doubt this verbal exploration is as important as the physical one.


I was glad to have two of my former classmates from November’s Collage Workshop with me in Altered Books, including Boston collage and assemblage artist Amy Hitchcock, who also teaches at the Eliot School (her upcoming Winter Assemblage with Found Objects class is already full, but keep an eye out for her in our Spring/Summer catalog, due out at the end of February.)

Amy Hitchcock's creation from the Altered Books Workshop

Amy Hitchcock's creation from the Altered Books Workshop



Heather finished not one, but TWO projects!

Jennifer’s class was informative and fun. What of my reservations about this process of altering books? In the end I was able to shed some of my inhibitions–and, after all, isn’t that a sign of true love?

Jennifer has more classes coming up this winter. Learn bookbinding techniques in February’s class Do-Si-Do & French Doors, and March’s Case Binding Workshop.

Visit Jennifer Erin Hughes’s web site here.

Here are some interesting book-art links to check out:

If you follow us on Facebook, you may have seen our link to this article on the mysterious paper sculptures that appeared in libraries in Scotland recently. Very intriguing, and elegant examples of altered book art.

The Boston Atheneum is currently featuring an exhibit called Artists Books: Books by Artists that runs through March 3rd, 2012.

~ Kelly Knight

Wood Turning

Five students finished a wood turning workshop with Ken Lindgren today. Ken brought in a bin of wood that he collected from fallen trees and prepared into rounded plugs.

WoodPlugsWoodWithBark BowlInProgress

We peeked out from the office in back of the wood shop now and then as the students took the plugs of raw wood and began to transform them.


The sawdust smelled sweet as it filled the air.

At first there were some sharp nicks as one student’s chisel and then another’s caught the wood the wrong way. But it seemed as if students got the knack pretty quickly and then there was a steady whir from each workbench. Ken roamed from bench to bench checking, correcting, giving tips and teaching.

The finished pieces are just lovely. One student’s goblet will become a gift for her parents’ 60th wedding anniversary this weekend.


Children, Holiday Traditions and the Eliot School

We are fortunate to be immersed in a very diverse community here in Jamaica Plain. In this season of darkness, as the New England cold settles in around us, there is also an opportunity for celebration as many of us participate in winter holidays. Some of us celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Solstice, Kwanzaa. While each has roots in its own traditions, they all share some common themes – bringing light into the winter darkness; honoring life, creation, and the bonds of family, friends and community.
In the spirit of the season, the Eliot School opened its doors on Saturday, December 17th to children and accompanying adults, and invited them to create their own holiday ornaments. Our yellow schoolhouse was aglow and filled with live music, good food, and all manner of festive ornament-making supplies – felt, glitter, glue, paint, markers and more.


We had five or six tables set up with different materials and projects – all filled to capacity with kids. Boston artist Marilyn Mase helped kids make her trademark stuffed felt ornaments; Michelle Brooks and several wonderful volunteers helped make snowmen, wreaths, and all sorts of wonderful creations.
We were delighted to see so many smiling faces streaming into the school, to see the fun the kids had playing and creating, and to bid them happy holidays as they left, proudly carrying their handmade treasures with them. Our thanks to all who joined us for this special event. Perhaps this will become yet another holiday tradition in Jamaica Plain – Holiday Ornament Making at the Eliot School!

Workshop Experience: Collage

Examples of collages from the “War and Peace Project”.

I was really fortunate to have the opportunity last Sunday to participate in workshop at the Eliot School entitled Collage: The Art of Collaboration. For those who may not have read the workshop description on our web site, this class was taught by members of Team Tolstoy, a group of artists who embarked, over a year ago, on a collaborative project creating collages out of every page of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It was inspiring to hear about this project, how it came to be; how each of the team members have approached this endeavor creatively, and how they have been impacted and influenced by the process. If you’d like to learn more about the “War and Peace Project”, including opportunities to view the project in person, visit Team Tolstoy’s blog.

There were 8 of us in Sunday’s workshop, including a couple of Eliot School instructors. We each came to class with varying levels of creative experience, but all of us with enthusiasm and curiosity about the process.

When I walked into the classroom I was immediately struck with a familiar sensation of delight and anticipation – the long wooden work table in the center of the room was heaped with with an intriguing assortment of supplies and ephemera: paints, glue, twine, stamps, scissors, pens and pencils of various sorts, and stacks upon stacks of magazines, books, plain and fancy papers, catalogs, and more. There is a childlike sense of play that comes with diving into a new stash of art supplies, and I had it in spades on Sunday. Propelled by the invitation to freely create with minimal restrictions, we all dove in head first and the tidy stacks of supplies were quickly transformed into a chaotic mass stretching from one end of the table to the other (a true indication of creative inspiration!).


Our instructors (Lynn, Emma, Lucy and Adrienne) explained our project for the afternoon: we would each be assigned a stanza from the poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens, and would interpret that stanza visually through our collages. The only rule was that at least some of the words of the poem be visible in our finished collage.

This experience was all about learning to manipulate a variety of materials, and exploring ways of translating the written word into visual expression. The experience was as challenging and as playful as each of us chose to make it. The opportunity to meet this wonderful group of women and work closely with them for 3 hours, to hear snippets their own life stories and bond with them over our group project really enriched the experience for me.

At the end of the class, we laid all of our collages out on the table in the order of our corresponding stanzas, and read the poem aloud. Viewed in this manner, it was fascinating to observe that we each approached the project from a different perspective and that while each individual collage was very different, they really came together to form a cohesive whole – an effective representation of this beautiful poem.



I walked out of the workshop on Sunday regretting that the time had passed so quickly, but also inspired to continue to explore this medium on my own, and so grateful to have had the time to spend with this amazing group of people. Thanks to the Eliot School, my classmates and Team Tolstoy!

~ Kelly Knight

Members of Team Tolstoy: Lynn, Lucy, Adrienne and Emma.

And more kids’ summer fun

I regret having been on vacation while kids in our Summer Program made wooden boats and sailed them on Jamaica Pond. It sounds like it was so much fun.

Kids Summer Program, June 21-25

Week 2 of our Summer Program for Children came to a close. What a talented, creative, fun bunch of kids.

They took home go-carts, amazing mobiles, cardboard portraits and photo portraits, altered photographs and photo albums, cardboard houses, pencil holders, 3-D collages, indefinable and wonderful pieces of art – and a lot of skills and connections with new friends and old.

Week 3 is underway, with wooden mini-racing cars, pincushions and pillows, giant animals, a painted town, and other painting and drawing as well.

We’ve moved our photos to our Facebook page. You can watch the Summer Program unfold before your eyes as we continue to upload photos each week.

Has your child enjoyed the Summer Weeks so far? Give us a good review on yelp.com.

Summer Program for Children-First week ends on a high note

What a great week it’s been. The first go-carts have gone home with their proud makers, complete with license plates and racing stripes. The Fabulous Fabric crowd were too shy for a fashion show. Last thing this afternoon, two teams on self-designed catapults armed with water balloons. (We’ll post those photos next week. One more house item: we’re working on ironing out some formatting issues we’re experiencing here. Bear with us and we’ll have things looking better soon.)

Boston Magazine sent a photographer this morning. Look for the Eliot School among great kids’ programs in the August issue.

And in a free moment, please contact Governor Patrick and urge him to keep the Mass. Cultural Facilities Fund in this year’s state budget. This great fund pays for building improvements at cultural organizations across the state. Click here to find out more.

More kids at work

There’s a lot of excitement here as the week winds to a close. One more day! Tomorrow we’ll see completed go-carts, books made of prints, a fashion show — and the kids will all view each others’ work.


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