Art is life to Kathleen A. Duncombe, and for 20 years she has been sharing this sensibility with all who come to her gallery Made on Nantucket.
Duncombe can’t remember a time when she wasn’t interested in art. “I was very fortunate to have parents who supported my creative aspects,” she says. She summered on Nantucket her entire life, “my parents loved Nantucket: my whole family would gather here in the 1950s.” Being able to combine her two passions—art and Nantucket—was a dream come true.
Before she opened Made on Nantucket in 1993, Duncombe taught art to island children of all ages: at Nantucket High School, as a volunteer at the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club, at the Teen Center, and then at her own school, Shredder’s Studio, which she established in 1991. The idea for her gallery grew out of an exhibit she designed and coordinated while on the Board of the Artists Association of Nantucket: a show that included a variety of artwork made on the island— finished pieces as well as examples of work in different stages of completion.
Duncombe’s passion about Nantucket, about art, and about promoting local island artists is expressed in the wide variety of exquisite pieces in her gallery. Made on Nantucket is filled floor-to-ceiling with original art, prints, jewelry, art glass, baskets, photography, bags and bangles, holiday ornaments all created on Nantucket by more than 15 different artists and craftspeople. Though she has not painted in years, Duncombe does show some of her own monoprints, as well as her rings, earrings, and bracelets.
Most of the items in Made on Nantucket cannot be found in other island shops, and many are one-of-a-kind. Duncombe has exclusive rights to sell the superb hand-pulled silk screens of island artist Donn Russell—his full portfolio and even some of his notecards. “His work is magical,” she explained, “he has a vision that is totally different from anyone else.” And her Pre-Owned Nantucket Collection has stunning work by Polly Bushong, George Davis, Katie Trinkle Legg, Graham White, Sherre Wilson Rae Liljegren, and other renowned Nantucket artists.
There are just two items in her shop that were not made on the island: vintage Bakelite and Native American jewelry. Both come from Duncombe’s own collections, and the pieces she sells are rare and highly collectible. Bakelite jewelry became expecially popular during the 1930s and 40s; Coco Chanel was one famous designer who offered Bakelite jewelry and accessories. Duncombe’s collection of vintage Bakelite is the largest in the Northeast, with a number of beautifully and intricately carved Bakelite bracelets, earrings, rings, and necklaces, as well as some stunning barware and kitchenware sets. She began selling Native American jewelry when she realized her private collection had just grown too large. “I’ve collected it for years—since the 1960s—some of it is really gorgeous, especially the ‘Dead Pawn’ pieces,” she commented.
Whether you’re drawn to Made on Nantucket by these rare collections or by your own passion for art and for Nantucket, it is well worth the stroll down Old South Wharf. You’ll find Kathleen Duncombe in her gallery at 18 Old South Wharf after 11 am every day but Monday, which she reserves for teaching.