MiVT: Wirezzz

Published: Jul. 15, 2019 at 1:18 PM EDT
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It's a green way to display the best bits of the beach. One woman's Made in Vermont rain chains and artwork are really striking a cord.

When she's not walking around the rain chain collection in her South Hero yard, Carley Tillinghast is walking various beaches, collecting the driftwood, hag stones and wishing stones that make up these pieces unique in nature.

"I like this one because it's like knotty. It's got a bunch of knots on it," Tillinghast said.

Rain chains have been used by the Japanese for hundreds of years and have been around since the days of the Vikings. They were used instead of the downspouts and gutter systems we use today.

"They are beautiful when the water runs down them," Tillinghast said.

She uses copper, ballast and mechanics wire that she either finds or is given."With this, we would take this plastic coating off, but we wouldn't necessarily strip the white or the black off. That's what we usually use to assemble the inside of the rain chain," Tillinghast explained.

Before the rain chains and wreaths, there were bugs and trees. "I do it for a living. I was having to throw out my network cables and phone cords. It bothered me so much throwing it out, I tore one apart one day, looked at it and thought, that looks like a tree," Tillinghast said.

Her artistic skills and penchant for repurposing come from her mother, who used to make these hand braided rugs out of wool that came from Johnson Woolen Mill. "It fulfills my art and creative side," Tillinghast said.

Items can also be found in shows throughout the year, and in eight stores in Vermont from the Northeast Kingdom to Bennington. Two-foot rain chains run around $30, with additional costs for sea glass or custom work. The wreaths and trees run from $15 to $40.

"I've always tried to keep the pricing of my art reasonable, and not because I don't believe in my talent, just because I think the everyday person should enjoy art too," Tillinghast said.

Because this driftwood is from the lake, it's untreated, which means people buy these rain chains, put suet or peanut butter and birdseed on them to use them as bird feeders. "You can't find the same driftwood, so it's a totally unique product," Tillinghast said.

A long-running venture, mixing artificial with authentic.