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No.18 The Various Shades of Heather

Puerto Rico was the site of my first encounter with Stylist Heather Chontos. The environment was sweltering and just as colorful as it was hot, a far cry from the place of our recent encounter in chilly and muted Portland, Maine. I really liked working with Heather, and back during our first high-humidity collaboration I suspected she had a lot more up her sleeve than styling tables and arranging food.

Back then, Heather had just made the trek back to the US from London, young daughter Cody in tow, after completing an art history and conservation degree at University College of London. There she had gotten her start in textiles and design working on carpets with Christopher Farr of the British Rug, and with the legendary Egg shop (now sadly closed) on Kinnerton Street. (For those who never got the opportunity to visit Egg, for years it was a destination for eclectic clothing in the most exotic natural fabrics.)

Even though our paths had not crossed for some time, I occasionally caught a glimpse of Heather’s work. And when I recently came across her new label, Milk Farm Road, seeing that it was based in Portland, Maine, I took a detour to see the latest Heather Chontos work and to catch up.

I picked up a car in Manhattan and hit the road just as a blizzard was approaching from the west. By the time I crossed the city limits of Portland, it was pretty much a white out. Thanks to my trusty GPS, I soon found my way to the hotel. Next morning, I shoveled out the SUV and headed over to the Heather Chontos studio.

Heather Chontos Studio Visit | Bearleader No.18

It’s a big space, huge by Brooklyn standards, which was Heather’s last stop. In fact there is, according to Heather, a steady migration under way of former Brooklynites heading to points north in search of space to work and play.

The collage on the wall is as bold as the painted cotton carpet lying in the entry way. You imagine her (Heather Chontos) at work, hands moving frenetically, riffling through scraps of paper and wood …

Heather arrived avec donuts, which were to the taste buds what Heather’s space is to the eye. Holy Donut! No, that’s really the name, Holy Donut. Take it from me, a must visit on your next trip to Portland.

Heather Chontos Studio Visit | Bearleader No.18

I am most drawn to Heather’s intense relationship with color. The surface she applies it to seems a secondary concern. Whether a chair, canvas, paper, bowl, linen or dish, she paints with a stroke and intensity as if she needs to lay it down before it is lost – like a dream you know you might not remember in the morning. And edges are no limit to her work. If color needs to extend from canvas to wall, chair to floor, bowl to tablecloth, so be it – like an abstract painting that’s gone rogue.

The collage on the wall is as bold as the painted cotton carpet lying in the entry way. You imagine her at work, hands moving frenetically, riffling through scraps of paper and wood … or you think of that Eames chair that she decided to paint over that now stands in the corner of the studio. Or did that chair just get between Heather and another project one day?

Heather Chontos Studio Visit | Bearleader No.18

Paintings can be small and compact or immensely large. She shows me a “tablecloth” that she crafted from the remnants of a color coordinated dinner. Made from paper the guests used up during the event, it was later thoughtfully stitched back together and hung—intricate yet bold.

Heather Chontos Studio Visit | Bearleader No.18

Surveying the work, one has the impression that it is the result of a very focused and agile hand. The ease with which paint and a variety of mediums interact, suggests that Heather’s work has so many places yet to go. I feel honored to have seen the work up close before it is widely discovered.

Heather Chontos Studio Visit | Bearleader No.18

We finish up the donuts (or more precisely, I finish up the donuts) and then it’s time to go pick up Cody and Zana, Heather’s two daughters, as free-spirited and individual as Heather’s artwork. Then we all head over to Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth, to walk along the beach and enjoy the famous late afternoon Maine winter light. As the sun set, we said our goodbyes and made plans to visit again soon.

Heather Chontos Studio Visit | Bearleader No.18

Details

For more insight into the work and process of Heather Chontos I highly recommend her paint blog.

Bring some color into your home with your own Heather Contos creation.

Heather occasionally runs workshops. To participate and get your colors flowing, look at the website for more information.

And for your Portland Doughnut fix, don’t forget The Holy Donut.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Planning a visit to the Heather Chontos Studio? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

21°
partly cloudy
67% humidity
wind: 22mph NW
H 35 • L 19
40°
Thu
52°
Fri
50°
Sat
36°
Sun
34°
Mon
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