As the owner of Harvard Art & Frame, Tony Tisei carries on what the original owners started in 1938. He's been manning the old Boston shop for the past four decades, overseeing the staff as it crafts custom frames using acid-free materials. After the artisans help clients select mattes and frames from hundreds of options, including products from Omega Moulding, they encase pieces ranging from maps, prints, and paintings to antique 3-D objects. They also restore old photographs so you can always look fondly upon the scowling face of Great-Grandpa Earl.
Art teacher Bessie Blum shares her love for handmade objects at Made by Me, where she teaches classes that uncover each painter's hidden creativity. Under her guidance, attendees learn the fundamentals of craftsmanship, using a potter's wheel to fashion pottery pieces or fusing glass into bowls, picture frames, or whale-proof aquarium windows. Bessie's selection of pre-made pottery, meanwhile, serves as a canvas for results-oriented DIY-ers, who can skip the creation process and go straight to adorning pieces with custom layers of colorful food-safe glaze.
Experienced framers Barry Stahl and Bob Clayton built Big Picture Framing from scratch in 2000, holding meetings around an old card table as construction roared around them. Today, framers at 15 area locations craft custom frames to display artwork, photographs, and record sleeves, and shadow boxes protect three-dimensional items such as ballet slippers, macaroni art, or a swarm of wasps. Patrons can dictate all design choices, choosing from metal and wooden frames in a multitude of colors and styles, or ask for recommendations from one of Big Picture Framing's resident experts. Big Picture Framing also stocks pre-framed art, prints, and posters to spruce up bare-walled homes or a drab doghouse.
Jewelry made from twigs. Surrealist birdhouses. Old bike parts retrofitted into robot statues. These items are just a taste of the unique goods popping up on––and flying off of––Magpie's shelves. But don’t fret—there’s plenty more where they came from. Indeed, impermanence is part of the charm at Magpie, an eclectic bazaar of indie and locally made crafts that are as aesthetically beautiful as they are stunningly unique. What began as a booth at the annual Bazaar Bizarre craft fair transformed into a brick-and-mortar shop when Magpie’s owners recognized the public’s taste for one-of-a-kind items that weren’t manufactured in a factory or built by creepy elves. So they tapped local artists and crafters and filled their shelves with quirky, handmade, and entirely original items that run the gamut from hand-bound journals, to t-shirts, to Queen Bee vinyl handbags. A true champion of local artists, Magpie not only sells artists’ work, but also displays it on its walls, and the shop hosts a regular artist-of-the-month promotion to help promote some of their favorite local designers.
The tiny Fairy Shop is an anomaly on trendy Newbury Street: it’s not a salon, a high-end clothing boutique or an upscale café. In fact, it’s about as far from trendy as can be. The first clue might be the “Reward: Missing Unicorn” sign posted on the fence outside, or maybe it’s the tiny fairy door installed in the main door to the cutesy shop. This, if anything, is the place to find unicorn stuffed animals, bottled fairy dust, Alice in Wonderland books and endless other trinkets and charms that evoke the magical and science fiction worlds. T-shirts, jewelry and a variety of gifts feature themes from fairies and gnomes to Dr. Who and Star Wars, all wrapped in colorful décor that adds to the whimsy. Even those who don’t often indulge in mystical realms find it impossible to not be charmed by the unusual store.
Though the horse-drawn vacuums of yesteryear have come and gone, North Shore Vacuum and Appliance retains its family-run ethos from when it first opened in 1934. Now helmed by fourth-generation salesman Wayne Simonelli, the shop carries vacuums from dozens of brands, such as Dyson, Eureka, and Panasonic, and the staff performs repairs on a slew of models as well. In an interview with the Daily Item, Simonelli said, "I know vacuums. I go to seminars, conventions. I probably repair 1,000 machines a year." This dedication has earned North Shore Vacuum and Appliance the distinction of Miele Diamond Dealer, with access to limited-edition models only made available to exemplary retailers and scientists still trying to build a time machine.