Stuff people made over the past year

stuff people made 2015 composite

With 2016 starting, we're asking a bunch of people about favorite/interesting things from 2015.

Last, but certainly not least: To get inspired for the new year, we checked in with a bunch of people about stuff they created over the past year -- from companies to foods to gardens...

Answers have been lightly edited.

thacher-state-park -Ben Karis- Nix.jpg
Ben Karix-Nix
Designer, illustrator, artist
This year I'm proud of a particular screen print I created: an image portraying Mine Lot Falls of Thacher State Park and its surroundings. My buddies at Fort Orange General Store are carrying it, which is nice because their shop is more-or-less en route to the park via Delaware Ave. It seems many people are fond of the image and it felt good to promote and celebrate a special place that I love. The process of tromping around at Thacher -- photographing, researching, and drafting the print -- was so much fun that I've begun more work that explores the natural world, illustrating what's beautiful and important about places like Thacher.

Peter O'Toole
Photographer, specializing in nighttime photography at Twentyone3

This was taken in Schuylerville off of Degarmo Road.

Lightening photo Peter O'Toole.jpg

The weather had been calling for strong storms late afternoon early evening. I had wanted to be in a spot that afforded me a good view. The nature of storm cells like this from a safety standpoint alone get you to a heightened sense of awareness. Setting up the gear (tripod, camera, nemo trigger), watching real-time weather and lightning data can become a bit overwhelming.

Right before I took this image, a very large lightning strike happened in back of me. Scared the shit out of me and almost ended the quest. I hit pause in my anxiety, looked at the lightning data and decided for five more minutes. When I saw that I had gotten the shot, I hightailed it.

I have so many images that have been incremental improvements in my photography, but this one I am proudest of because I didn't run until I got the shot.

latkes -Ric Orlando.jpg

Ric Orlando
New World Home Cooking, New World Bistro Bar chef
I guess if you mean what I made food-wise, the dish I'm most proud of would be my potato latkes.

Not that I invented them in 2015, but they hit national awareness and regional madness this year when I beat Bobby Flay using my tricky latke technique. Go figure -- another unassuming dish, done with passion and science could be such a highlight of the year, but it was. It is funny that the same thing happened about 15 years ago when I made my blackened string beans on NBC's Today Show and later for other media outlets. It also happened back in 2013 when my eggplant ball made it to the national finals in the World Food Championship Next Top Product competition. Three pretty simple vegetable-based dishes that honor regional-ethnic cuisines with enough flair to make them stand out -- but not so much to over phrooff them [and mess] them up!

Marquise Productions Circus - Photo- Douglas C. Liebig.jpg
photo: Douglas C. Liebig

Aaron Marquise
Executive artistic director Marquise Productions
This past year was probably the most personally successful year of my life. I started my own contemporary circus, theatre, and live performance production company in Troy called Marquise Productions. Our mission is to collaborate with international artists to provide them with the tools and space to create, present, and produce their work. In a nutshell I want to bring contemporary circus that is so popular in Europe to Troy. So far this past year we put on two circus shows in the historic Gasholder Building in south Troy, a free performance in the Frear Building, and participated in the CBS 6 Melodies of Christmas at Proctors. I think I was always meant to be a self-made producer/director since the day when I tried to cast my first grade peers in a production of Peter Pan that I wanted to do on the school playground. Now that I am older, and a bit wiser, I finally have the capability to do it. I like to think that my younger self would be proud that I decided to take the leap and follow my dreams... something that I have always tried to do.

R.S. Hirsh.jpg

Robert Hirsch
Author, maker, father, dreamer
I've been involved with The Enchanted City event since its inception. We created characters and events for it (I even wrote a backstory to it, and a followup with two more enchanted city characters). So this year when Sue thought up the "Inventors Challenge" and asked me to put in an entry -- the Enchanted City electric car -- I was happy to do it. I totally over reached and spent many many hours and long nights putting it together with the help of her husband who did a lot of the mechanicals with me. I did all the electronics and controls. In the end it worked pretty well. The controls and programming, for the first time in my life, worked on the first shot. Most of all, I got to show it off, despite my lack of artistic abilities. Now we have a platform future use. Its just nice to complete a project, that adds something to a festival like The Enchanted City.

Youth FX.jpg

Bhawin Suchak
Youth FX program director
In 2015 the things I created that I'm most proud of are growing Youth FX into a full fledged year-round program. With our six-week Youth FX summer intensive going strong and continuing to produce award-wining films (our film Falling winning best narrative short at LA Film Festival was the highlight) we grew our after-school program at Albany High School and started new weekly film programs at the Albany Public Library. I'm also very proud of A Piece of the Dream, an incredible immersive multimedia theater piece that highlighted the struggles of low wage workers in the Capital Region. Directed by Noelle Gentile, the show incorporated short films by Youth FX filmmakers, theater, dance, spoken word, installation art and photography, selling out all three nights of performances at the Albany Barn.

Looking forward to an exciting 2016!

Dan Swinton
Producer at WMHT
I'm really proud of the work my team at WMHT has done with the Times Union around heroin addiction and recovery in the Capital Region. It's a really tough subject and one that impacts so many people. I'm also really happy that to tell this story we experimented using an all-digital story telling platform. The project was called "The Dragon Lives Here" and featured articles, photos and videos in a really dynamic mobile-ready format.

Avner Ben Natan
lightexture, Troy
One of the things I'm proud of in 2015 is making the lighting for The Hill at Muza:

Avner lights The Hill at Muza.jpg

It was a fun project that sprouted from our successful Kickstarter campaign. We had to come out with new models that we designed specifically for the needs of the place, We made Iris sconces and developed them for outdoors as well, We lit the alley with a huge reflector to make light patterns over a whole building wall, and now we can come there and have a beer.

Tim Fealey Compas Life

Tim Fealey
Graphic designer/artist
My job as a graphic designer provides me with the opportunity to create on a daily basis. Over the course of 2015, I've worked on several projects both for work and for fun. One particular project is not only my favorite, but is also one that is sure to change my life forever. It is called Compas Life, which is an apparel brand I launched this year.

As an artist, it can be hard to find your own voice. It can be even harder to reach the greater public with your voice in hopes of spreading your message. The goal of this brand is to build and celebrate a community of makers, doers and adventurers. Having worked in the clothing industry for many years, Compas Life is the first time I have been able to truly develop my own voice through apparel design. My goal for the brand is to inspire every day people to break boundaries and get more out of everyday life. I'm proud to share that in 2015, I finally had enough courage to release this project to the public.

Annmarie Lanesey
President, Greane Tree Technology in Troy
Computer software development is increasingly important, as ever more of our professional, educational, artistic, and social activities are mediated through digital devices. There is a chronic shortage of people who know how to build software. There is no shortage of people whose lives could be transformed by having that knowledge. I created an initiative called Albany Can Code -- it's an inclusive software talent training program for the Capital Region. It's been really exciting to find allies, to mobilize us toward something that could fundamentally transform our region: good jobs for the people who are already here, but are not being invited in to the tech economy.

Maria Zemantauski
The creation I'm most proud of in 2015 is my very first organic vegetable garden. I like knowing where my food comes from, so for me, as soon as I moved where I had a bit of land around me, it was a priority.

Zemantowski garden

Being a guitarist means a lifetime of pampering my hands too, so it was an extra decadent bonus to dig into the earth and get my hands dirty! No gloves, just dirt. The garden became a classroom with something new to learn every day. Among the veggies, I discovered so many new creatures like cabbage worms, flea beetles and hornworms. Who knew the wasps would try to rescue my tomatoes by killing the hornworms? Wow! The garden became a metaphor for life: symbiotic relationships, survival of the fittest, peaceful coexistence, and finally a practical reminder to get rid of the leaves and branches that are weighing us down to make room for new growth. I can't wait for next season!

Justin K. Rivers
Writer, performer and member of the Mop and Bucket Company, who also collects and grows cider apples and obscure fruit in Cranesville

Voles are evil. They are cute little field mouse critters. And they kill apple trees.

Some context: I have about 300 trees, mostly French and heirloom American hard cider varieties. When the trees are young, the trunk is especially tasty to voles; if they chew that thin green inner layer of bark around the complete circumference of the tree, then it dies. Might not happen right away. The tree could bloom and sprout a bit in the spring, but then it would wither and turn brown. It's like a slow-mo tree decapitation.

Orchard suppliers sell all sorts of gadgets. White plastic trunk guards, pre-fab mesh, "tree wrap" that's basically tin foil or cardboard, there's even a thing that's a plastic and zips. None of them work. The plastic guards leave a cozy space for voles to tunnel under and then munch to their content. The wrapping material traps moisture against the bark of the tree and is a vector for disease. It also must be removed and then reapplied as the tree grows, and it only lasts a year.

I needed a cheaper solution that was also foolproof. The one I came up with is cheaper, lasts longer, can be instantly adjusted to conform to the tree's ongoing growth, doesn't trap moisture and is vole-proof:

Vole protector.jpg

I purchased a giant roll of green plastic mesh, cut it to size and fastened it with cheap bulldog binder clips. The mesh lies nearly flat against the bar. Even if a vole tunnels underneath the guard, there's not enough space for the critter to slip under it. The clips provide tension and also make them easy to install and remove. And the mesh offers enough air circulation to prevent fungal infections. Throw a shovel o' rubble around the trunk to offer further deterrent.

Last year, the voles destroyed nearly 200 trees within the month of August. This year -- none.

Patrick White & Chris Foster
First, we feel obligated to say that we could never pick a favorite. Our plays are our creations and like children, each one is beautiful, lovely and necessary in its own singular way. That being said, the one that immediately comes to mind and we both mentioned first as standing out would be The Night Alive, by Conor McPherson at Curtain Call Theatre. It was our first time onstage together in nearly five years and like Gross Indecency, the play in which we met each other 15 years ago and always mention as our favorite production or role, it would be easy to choose Night Alive merely for its personal significance in our lives. But this was far more than a Burton/Taylor Private Lives as we dug into these characters straitened by life's circumstances and their own limitations, life sentenced to solitary confinement yet tenaciously clinging to each other.

It was a difficult poetic play, in dialect, whose meaning was not spelled out for us or the audience. We can't imagine anyone else in the Capital Region attempting it. We loved our cast -- John Noble, Alex Perone, and Beth Pietrangelo and couldn't wait to get to the theatre every night. We kind of felt, like we read Conor McPherson say in an interview , that if you believe your life has meaning, you're only one step away from believing in God. Despite some of the grisly aspects of the script, we all felt imbued with a reason, meaning and a purpose for doing it that had us feeling quite optimistic and romantic. Most nights we would have gladly done the show twice! And the audience response was incredible. We sold out many nights, standing ovations every night and soo much support from the Capital Region theater community. We hope to never forget the experience and grasp on to as many details as we can for as long as we can.

Aaron Holbritter & Casey Polomaine
Creative License Productions
We founded Creative License in March of 2014. Over a plate of chicken parm and a slice of tomato pie, we discussed the need for a theatrical group in the Capital Region that would break down the barriers between the artistic world and the general public. We focus on the written word and the honest, rich performances of its actors, and have already enjoyed critical acclaim for A Steady Rain and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, both presented at The Albany Barn.

But in 2015 we created Upstage New York, our scripted podcast, and Divided, our New Year's Day production happening at The University Club in Albany. Creative License reached its goal of presenting the work of local writers even sooner than intended in 2015. Partnering with local writers gave us the chance to broaden the scope of the work we present, and we are so proud to have had the opportunity to bring their words to life. Divided is a completely original concept that we pieced together over coffee earlier this year. Part of Creative License's mission is to present theater in new and interesting ways, so while Divided was exciting to think about, it was also completely uncharted territory for us. We knew we wanted to do something interactive, as well as tap into the writing community (because there are so many talented writers out there whose words never leave their computer screen). We were lucky enough to work with three writers that were willing to start from scratch and tailor their pieces to very specific parameters. It made everyone involved more invested in the process, and more collaborative, which we've always made a priority.

Jeremy Buchner
2015 was a proud year for me. My theater company took on some tough shows and the theater is thriving. I also got married this year, so personally that's a reason to be proud, too. But theatrically speaking, I am most proud of our last production, Chasing Charles.

Buchner -Chasing Charles.jpg

Chasing Charles is an original play that I wrote in 2014. It's the story of my cousin, who died of AIDS. The play was successful and sold very well. That would make anyone proud enough. But what made me very proud, if not humble, was being able to perform the show in front of Dennis Bergevin -- the real life person I was playing onstage. I wasn't sure how it was going to feel -- staring at the person whose life you are portraying. But after the first Saturday matinee Dennis came up to me, gave me a big hug and said, "You should be very proud of yourself." This play was such a labor of love and took a lot of emotion to write that I felt after it closed that I could never write another play. I guess stopping is not an option. Dennis requested I write a play where the main character doesn't die of AIDS but lives. And my mother asked me to write a play about her. So, hopefully, I will have two future shows to be proud of.

Alana Streifert
In October 2015 Not-So-Common Players produced the musical Violet. The production, filled with a stellar cast, received rave reviews and nightly standing ovations by the audience. This piece was sincere, heart-felt, and thought-provoking. It's one that touches on so many aspects of innate human needs -- the need to be accepted, to forgive, and to allow yourself to be loved by yourself and others, and in turn, be vulnerable to love another. What I loved about this story was the simple humanity in it. It was truly an amazing experience and one I am tremendously proud of!


It was for me a crazy year in which I had the sheer joy of working with some very special people of the theater…Pat Reilly, Winnie Bowen,Yvonne Perry, David Girard, Patrick White, Beth Pietrangelo,Chris Foster, Kathleen Carey, John Noble,
Laura Graver, Charles Fitzgerald, Denis Skiba, Tom Durkin,
Brian Massman, Kevin Miller, and many more who make this region come alive with the wonders of dramatic imagination.

What can be more beautiful than that?

The arts are alive in the Capital region despite so many efforts to reduce their impact in educational institutions from grade school through university level. As long as there is the utter commitment of so many people here in music, theater, and all the arts toward making the public aware of the profound depths of the human spirit, this will surely remain a great place to live.

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