Home Commentary DOT'S BEAT: Local's Unique Vocations and Avocations

DOT'S BEAT: Local's Unique Vocations and Avocations



by Dot Helling

like to write about the uniqueness of “Montpeculiar” and its downtown and area residents. Many of our residents work at unique vocations and avocations.

Photo courtesy of  Carole Burns
Photo courtesy of
Carole Burns

In this anti-smoking age which she likens to “Prohibition,” Carole Burns of Montpelier makes her living as a tobacconist dealing in tobaccos and fine briar pipes. In 1980 Carole and her ex-partner started Pipeworks in New York City. In 1983 they bought and merged with Wilke Tobacco which was founded and established in 1872. The couple operated Pipeworks & Wilke on Madison Avenue until 1995 when Burns moved to Vermont. Since then she has operated the business from outbuildings at her various Vermont homes. Pipeworks & Wilke is renowned and award winning, offering 30 different tobacco blends to discriminating smokers around the world. Burns’ loyal customers include old school pipe smokers for whom she provides special blends of tobaccos, handmade pipes and services such as pipe refurbishment. Carole hand mixes the tobaccos; her special blends are trademarked.

Furniture by Dan Wetmore
Furniture by Dan Wetmore

For a decade Daniel Wetmore of Dan Wetmore Carpentry, Shelf and Furniture Design worked from his cabin in Adamant as a puzzlemaker, regionally known as “Dan the Puzzle Man.” His handmade wooden puzzles are novel, educational and beautiful, a Vermont grown hands-on experience for kids and adults. Wetmore moved to Montpelier in 1996. He tutored and taught math in area schools, from pre-algebra to Advanced Placement calculus, in order to spend more time with his family, while always yearning to do more design. Today, in addition to teaching at the Pacem School, Wetmore specializes in individualized carpentry and has created a line of unique design furnishings, particularly shelving. He takes on custom projects like kitchens and cabinetry, wooden stencil designs, and even an abstract mirror for discriminating customers. Wetmore admits to being “design heavy.” His future dreams include a line of block and repeat pattern toys. He is also a fiddle and banjo player and can be found performing Southern “old tyme”  music on Sunday mornings at Bagito’s or at weekly Wednesday night jam sessions.

Tom Mulholland's truck as it is today with the log exhibit.
Tom Mulholland’s truck as it is today with the log exhibit.

Tom Mulholland is a certified Master plumber whose avocation is artistry, sculpture and poetry. He drives a 1994 Ford Ranger truck currently painted cobalt blue and uses the bed for exhibits. Tom is known for his “roving bulletin boards” a.k.a. Bulletin Board Art. He gained notoriety from his roving exhibit called “Bulletins from Neptune,” so named because, astrologically, Neptune governs the arts. In 2009 Tom transformed an unoccupied Montpelier Main Street storefront into a gallery. He once shipped his truck to France and did roving exhibits around Paris with backdrops like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. There he exhibited a woven copper chair which was so unusual you could not give it a style. This fall Tom’s roving exhibit is an assemblage of a dozen logs of different native Vermont tree species mounted vertically to create a primeval grove. He does these things to be “playful.” Tom originates from New York City, lived many years in France and calls Central Vermont his home. Tom and his art are distinctly unique. As Tom says, “To be a radical, to go to the root, is not sufficient. I am a germinal. I am going to the seed.”

Charis Churchill of Middlesex is a bartender and the event manager at La Puerta Negra. Charis (pronounced as “Karis”) has served drinks to Montpelier residents for 25 years at downtown venues including Positive Pie, Julio’s, Conoscenti’s and Charlie O’s. Her avocation and passion is as a costume designer. Her interest in costumes began as a young girl when her mother had a cellar full of fantastic costumes and was always organizing themed parties with Charis’s help. For some time Charis operated a costume shop on Langdon Street called Wicked Wardrobe. Her first performance jobs were designing costumes for the Montpelier Theatre Guild’s “Oliver,” Moving Light Dance Company’s “Alice in Wonderland, “ and for Union School performances. She spent six years as the resident designer for Quarryworks Theatre in Adamant and often works for Lost Nation Theatre. Charis especially likes the challenge of quick changes such as tear-away pants, gender changes and building characters. Two of her favorite shows were the “Hounds of Baskerville” and “Treasure Island.” In “The 39 Steps” she had to define “about 35 supporting characters (amongst a cast of only four) with instantly recognizable traits” engineered through quick changes, all depicting the 1935 period.

Montpelier’s Beckie Sheloske is a bartender and the event manager at Charlie O’s, and owns a perfume business. Rebel Intuitive is a line of synthetic-free all natural perfumes currently sold only online and at Salaam Boutique on State Street. Sylvia Maratova worked at local food coops for over 20 years and once exhibited a piece of her handwoven basketry made of colorful original telephone wires at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Ron Koss of East Montpelier, and his twin brother Arnold, invented the first organic baby food, Earth’s Best, and now have co-founded Brio! ice cream, the first nutritious, probiotic, non-genetically modified ice cream that tastes good. August Burns of Middlesex, Carole Burns’s sister, worked as a midwife in Vermont’s first family friendly birthing center in Randolph under Dr. Thurmond Knight. Burns went on to become a Physician’s Assistant and is now an acclaimed artist recently commissioned to do Governor Shumlin’s portrait for the State House. Knight left the practice of medicine to hand make and repair violins, first in Montpelier, now at his business called Northern Knights Violins in Glover. We are a region full of alternative occupations, including naturopaths, rolfers, chocolatiers and telecommuters, and plenty of traditional professionals, e.g. attorneys and bankers. It’s refreshing and fun to recognize those in our community who are unique, unusual and out of the ordinary.