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Business offers craft workshops

Date: 3/13/2009

By Lori Szepelak


WESTFIELD " Pamela Leigh of Lydia s Gathering Place is among the downtown s businesses this spring participating in Westfield State College s Community Education Program.

Leigh is offering four workshops at her 51 Court St. business between now and mid-April.

As Westfield State continues its efforts to build-up its presence throughout the city, in particular the downtown area, more businesses are encouraged to be a part of the transformation.

For Leigh, her crafting workshops fit perfectly into the Arts and Humanities programming offered through the college s Division of Graduate and Continuing Education. Her workshops are Colonial Penny Rug Table Runner, March 2, 9, and 16, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Garden Wreath, March 31, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and Dried Flower Topiary, April 15, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Leigh noted during an interview with Reminder Publications that children and adults should learn crafts for personal expression.

The art of crafting helps raise our level of confidence, she said. We feel a sense of accomplishment for having designed a piece which is visually pleasing and grateful for the knowledge consistent with early techniques. Being able to embellish our surroundings with a piece of ourselves is both rewarding and artful.


Any visitor to Lydia s Gathering Place will see Leigh s masterful talents at work. Her circa 1845 Greek Revival home embraces the ambiance of an earlier time " complete with period photos of the original owners of the home, Merwin and Lydia Loomis, as well as embellishments ranging from period sofas and chairs to folk art.

Her beautifully designed home (which encompasses her business) is warm and inviting, and her gathering rooms are perfect for a small class workshop.

I have a strong interest in historic times, the stories of people and the ways in which they maintained their lives, Leigh said. Back in earlier days, it was natural and expected that all daughters would learn the art of quilting, rug hooking, and general stitching as these were used day-to-day in every home.

Leigh noted that all scraps of fabric and fiber became useful when mending a torn sleeve, designing squares to complete a quilt, or pulling wool to hook a rug.

It was a time when resources were appreciated and craftsmanship was abundant, she added. Sadly so in today s world, craftsmen are only a modest percentage of our workforce.

When Leigh isn t hosting workshops, she also offers special dinners and can accommodate small groups for events including bridal showers, birthdays, anniversaries or retirement parties.

At one time or another we all will gather to celebrate, she added. Sometimes we are celebrating the upcoming birth of a baby, First Communion, bridal shower, birthday or anniversary, or we are celebrating one s life that has just passed. Lydia s opens its doors as a place that offers privacy to families and their friends, while in the comfort and ease of a time gone by.

Leigh also offers specialty menus for tea luncheons, Italian buffets, Lunch Boxes To Go, and themed parties for children. In addition, she can also cater breakfast or brunch events, and features platters ranging from fruit, cheese and crackers, cookies and desserts, to tortellini alfredo, mini quiche and potato ham wraps. She also specializes in platters of meatballs, prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella, antipasto kabobs and bruschetta.

Leigh is also active in the community and serves as a volunteer and event planner for Westfield on Weekends.

I wanted to bring more awareness to our community and offer a place whereby one could socialize out, yet feel completely at home, she said. The idea inspired me and one year later, I meshed my shop (With Heart & Hand) with the idea of a dining alternative for small group gatherings. Today, Lydia s has expanded throughout the first floor, inviting guests to sit in the parlor, socialize in the foyer, or dine in the two adjoining front rooms.

Leigh s plans for this year include hosting a special themed event every month at Lydia s. Her most recent event was a specialty dinner is a Mardi Gras evening on Feb. 27 featuring saxophonist Jonathan Berman.

Leigh is a one-woman show who easily manages the cooking and running of her kitchen since she can only cater to small gatherings.

I feel it is a great honor when Lydia s Gathering Place is chosen by a patron as the setting for making their memories, she said.

For more information on Leigh s classes, as well as others this spring at Westfield State, visit or call (413) 572-8183. For more information on special events at Lydia s Gathering Place, visit or call Leigh at (413) 568-2600.