22 Questions with Patty Thomas

22 Questions with Patty Thomas

1. Name: Patty Thomas

2. Age: 55

3. Hometown: I’m in Pittsford and I’ve lived here for a number of years. My hometown where I grew up is Abington, Massachusetts.

4. How would you describe yourself in three words? I’m creative, I’m kind, and I am outgoing.

5. What’s something not a lot of people know about you? There’s a lot of things (laughs) I have a massive collection of Pez dispensers, like hundreds, maybe thousands. I would get them as gifts all the time and I didn’t want to throw them out.

6. How do you start your day? Coffee in bed.

7. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life? My wife and I ride dirt bikes, so we went dirt bike riding last summer in the mountains of Washington.

8. What’s your favorite food? I love chocolate.

9. Do you have a day job? I’m a school-based occupational therapist but it sprinkles into my creative life. I’m a maker, I belong to the MINT Makerspace and I create adaptive devices for individuals with disabilities.

10. What medium do you work in? First and foremost how I identify if I’m being artistic is I sew and I use fabric. But I am learning woodworking and I’m learning to turn on a wood lathe which I love. So wood, and I also dabble in electronics and I have an invention, an electronic device that’s not patented yet. And I’ve mashed up electronics with my sewing. The MINT brought in an artist from New York City who taught us how to sew circuits and lights into fabric. At the MINT there’s a metal shop, a wood shop, electronics, computerized laser cutting, so I usually need a little bit from each shop. It’s really an eclectic mix of media that I use to create what I create and it’s usually a collaborative effort because I don’t have the skills for each of the shops. There’s people who do, and if you ask a question most people are really kind and will show you how to weld or weld something for you or teach you how to use a wood shop tool. I also use triple thick cardboard called tri-wall and you work it like wood and finish it off with primer and paint, and I make all kinds of adaptive devices like chairs, devices for kids with special needs, and all kinds of stuff like that with cardboard.

11. Why this medium? (See next question)

12. What inspired you / how did it start? Different reasons but I would say the main reason, my work overflows into my creative life and vice versa and it’s for me finding solutions for everyday challenges for people that can make things accessible for people who couldn’t otherwise access things.

13. Do you have a process for creating? I’m a therapist so I know body positions and what’s necessary, so I visualize it and do a quick sketch in a notebook — pencil paper, very raw Pictionary-style sketch — and then I might sit down and draw it out in a little more detail. From there I take it to the shop. Or my kitchen counter.

14. When are you the most inspired / what’s your favorite time of day to work? It ranges, what I really need is large blocks of time. I do have an 11th hour phenomenon that goes on, something kicks in and I get into that flow and go for hours.

15. Which artists inspire you? There’s a couple of occupational therapists that people probably wouldn’t know. But Alex Truesdell came and spoke to us in OT school and what she had to say stuck with me. She went on to open a studio in New York City called Adaptive Design and it’s all nonprofit adaptive devices for people. They go in and from soup to nuts design and walk out with a device. That would be one person who’s definitely inspired me. Locally for the wood-turning, when Vermont does Open Studio weekends, Rich Detrano in Ludlow is an incredible, gifted wood-turner and I was brand new at it and he took me under his wing. Rick Gile is an electrical engineer and also an entrepreneur and inventor and he’s another guy who’s taken me under his wing and given me a lot of support.

16. What do you listen to when you work? I don’t typically listen to anything because I have a hard time multi-tasking. Some people have to have music, it distracts me.

17. What are your thoughts on being an artist in Rutland? We are incredibly lucky to have the MINT Makerspace. It is a really uncommon thing even in more urban areas. I’m so profoundly grateful for that space. Being a maker in Rutland and having access to it, I can’t say enough about it. Most days if you go you’re going to see a bunch of empty shops but when you get connected with the community and put yourself out there, people donate hours of their time and expertise and even materials sometimes. 

18. What’s your earliest memory of making art in Rutland? I have been a maker of cardboard adaptive devices, I make one particular chair it’s called a Corner Sitter. Before I joined the MINT I was cutting the cardboard with a box cutter on my kitchen counter — not safe, and very tedious. And then I reached out to the MINT and they showed me how to use a band saw. The precision and the amount I could put out in a day and the quality — I went from one chair a weekend or a day to five in one two-hour session at the MINT. It increased my productivity and accuracy dramatically. When I’m cutting at home with a steak knife or a box cutter it’s jagged and doesn’t look professional but at the MINT putting it through a band saw it’s beautiful.

19. Why do you think artists are attracted to Rutland? In my case because we have a great maker space here. Art in the Park, and Open Studio weekends I think draw people to the area.

20. Which arts organizations in town are you involved with and how has it impacted you? The MINT

21. What’s your favorite art exhibit/project you’ve seen in Rutland? I love Open Studio weekends. I missed that terribly this Fall. We went into Peter Huntoon’s studio and to see the different styles, and his studio, you could eat off the floor. I won’t forget it. And to see people just doing what they love is incredible.

22. What would you like to see for the future of the arts in Rutland? I’d like to see more classes available and more opportunities for everybody to have a chance to try things.

Click to view all the “22 Questions With” artists. Check back tomorrow for the final interview.