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Neighborhood Finds: Studio 33, downtown New London

Published 12/18/2012 12:00 AM

Studio 33 Art and Picture Framing Gallery

140 Bank St.

New London, CT 06320

860.442.6355

studio33gallery@ct.metrocast.net

Open weekdays, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; until 7 on Thursdays.; Saturdays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Closed Sundays except 1-4 p.m., Dec. 16 & 24

When Sara Munro stepped across the threshold of the storefront at 140 Bank St. four years ago, she knew almost instantly that Studio 33 Art and Picture Framing Gallery had found its new home. With their exposed brick and sand-colored hardwood floor, the rooms reminded her of the 1840s-era home she grew up in.

"I got about two feet in and I said, 'this is it,'" the New London resident recalls, smiling. Studio 33 had been an institution on State Street for the previous 29 years, so it was important to Munro to select a new location that would resonate with her clients. "It felt warm, and that's how I want people to feel — immediately cozy, relaxed, at home when they come in, like they can stay and look around."

Browsing at Studio 33 is not only welcome, it's necessary if you really want to take in the creativity and diversity of the local artistans highlighted here.

There are seriously beautiful things to see — locally recovered sea glass, jewelry and pewter sea creatures, original photography and paintings, sea-washed pottery, delicately hand-drawn greeting cards, and the Marguerite line of Greek leather bracelets shown above ($15-$55). Each bracelet is custom-cut to perfectly fit the wearer's wrist, and distinguished by bold groupings of beads — ceramic, porcelain, enamel over copper, Israeli pewter, or glass.

"We emphasize here the individual style of creation," she said, noting that the items she carries can't be found elsewhere locally. Munro believes exclusivity is not only good for business, but a gift to local shoppers.

"People who shop downtown can go from store to store and never see the same thing twice," she said. "That is what is making New London a destination for higher-end, handcrafted items."

Items like the "Enwraptured Gemstone" pendants ($155-$350) shown above by James J. Heilman of Wallingford. Heilman selects semi-precious pieces of gemstone that look like miniature painted landscapes at first glance. The natural variations of color in the Picasso marble stone lend the appearance of spindly trees and reflections in a river. Plume agate from Idaho resembles a smoky mountain range as daylight is leaving the sky.

And then there is Munro herself, a conservation framing specialist. (If you've never seen the difference between museum-quality framing glass and other kinds, ask her to show you. It's astounding.)

"It's a very sought-after look," she explained. "It cuts way down on reflection. People want to be able to see their art." Her frames are drawn from a range of styles and eras, from tin ceiling moulding to distressed barn board. Some are repurposed wood, recovered from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Others are a bit more sparkly and fabulous.

If custom framing isn't your speed but you still want a unique border for your photograph or work of art, Munro also operates a "self-serve" frame store — Frames Down Under — right downstairs from Studio 33.