Amy Ragsdale: Inspired by the Elkins Estate
Producer: Karen Smyles
Amy Ragsdale is a jewelry designer who lives on The Elkins Estate in Cheltenham PA. In 2008, looking for a venue for a craft show she was putting together for a non-profit organization, she was invited to hold the event on the property. After the event, she was asked to stay on to help look after the estate. A lover of horses from a very early age, it immediately felt like home when she moved into the former stablemaster’s cottage.
In her home/studio, Ragsdale creates handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces from metal. Her work often centers around symbolic pieces that represent important aspects of the lives of her clients and resonate with people on an emotional level. Ragsdale says , “Waking up here and walking around here and having access to the buildings” fortifies her work and ability to create.
The Elkins Estate is 42-acres containing seven buildings, the most notable being Estowe Manor. The mansion was built in 1898 by William L. Elkins and designed by architect Horace Trumbauer. Having considerable wealth, Elkins spared no expense when he built the mansion, furnishing it with the finest art, furniture and decorative materials, from around the world. The estate also contains another Trumbauer commissioned mansion, Chelten House, built for his son George W. Elkins, along with the stables, a casino and it’s very own powerstation.
Elkins, born in 1832, was a Philadelphia businessman who played a big role in the formation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, the forerunner of SEPTA. Like many of Phildelphia’s wealthiest residents of the era, he built his summer home in Cheltenham. Elkins died in 1903 and subsequent family members resided on the property up until around 1932.
By then it was overgrown with vines and The Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine de’Ricci purchased the estate for a retreat. The reason the estate is in such amazing condition today, is because the sisters repaired, maintained, and took such loving care of the property. Until recently, it also served as a rental venue for weddings and other major events. The sisters still own the estate, however it is currently up for sale.
The property is well-known to neighbors and others who see it’s grand presence from the road, but tours are extremely rare. So Friday Arts was thrilled for the opportunity to take our cameras throughout the estate with Amy Ragsdale, to witness it’s incredible beauty. We also sit down with Amy in her studio to talk about what life is like experiencing this on a daily basis and how it all inspires her to work wonders with metal.
Savoie Farm and Chef Shola: A Collaboration Dinner
Producer: Monica Rogozinski
Chef Shola Olunloyo has long been regarded as one of Philadelphia’s best-kept culinary secrets. He first met Carol and Barry Savoie at the Headhouse Farmer’s Market in Society Hill, where Chef Shola religiously stops by their farm stand to buy fresh organic arugula. After seeing him every Sunday morning around the same time, they started to chat and soon the chef and the farmers became friends.
Despite his reputation as one of Philly’s best chefs, Chef Shola’s cooking is not known by many. He runs a private kitchen, StudioKitchen, where he hosts monthly, seasonal inspired, forward thinking menus, showcasing his modernist techniques and creative approach to food preparation and presentation. The first 6-10 guests to sign up on his website, get the privilege to watch and taste the evening’s fare in an intimate, secretive setting.
Knowing the Chef’s private way of cooking, Carol first hesitated to invite him to collaborate on a farm dinner, but to her surprise, Chef Shola did not hesitate to accept her proposition. As part of the Chef’s monthly offerings, October will bring a collaboration dinner between the farmers and Chef Shola, outdoors, amongst the rows of vegeatables and fruits grown at Savoie Organic Farm.
Friday Arts follows Chef Shola Olunloyo as he plans an Italian-inspired menu that will feature seasonal vegetables from the farm, freshly milled pastas, and naturally raised meats. A meal that is as much a show as it is a dinner, featuring dishes carefully planned and prepared, by people who care about every step of the process of the food they offer and share with others.
Producer: Michael O’ Reilly
Founded in 1999, Heyne Bogut is an independent company based in Philadelphia. Married couple Paul Heyne and Karen Bogut make up the core partnership of the company. While Heyne Bogut has clients in New York City as well as all over the world, it continues to be run from Philadelphia. One of the techniques used when starting out was to go into big-name stores, in New York, with little more than the self-designed clothes on their backs (literally). Invariably, the fashion professionals working there would notice them and ask about the designer. The answer – “I designed this myself” – invariably got them a trip upstairs to the buyers room and a request/order to deliver more of the same style in a week.
This is one piece of the many pieces of advice that Paul and Karen now give to students at Philadelphia University as an adjunct and consulting instructor. Philadelphia University used to be known as the Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science, and was started after the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, to improve “the quality and variety of American textile products”. It is no surprise then that the winner of the first season of Bravo’s Project Runway was a Philadelphia University student.
Often surrounded by interns and hires from the many Philadelphia fashion colleges and universities, one feels like the designs of Heyne Bogut are channeling the vitality of these youthful workers, in a building that was at one point, in its long life, also a place for the creation of textiles. Paul and Karen, as they say, “tap into new trends in music, art and lifestyle choices” to inform their design choices. But in their studio and with these schools and students, without really realizing it themselves, they have strengthened the long lineage of Philadelphia fashion and secured their place in the fashion history of this city.