From gardening to glass art, Layne Gregory is all about creation
Layne Gregory likes to make things. A garden. A meal. An article of clothing. It’s constant, this creation. She’s carved her life around her creative impulses, helping other people to expand their artistic talents along the way.
Gregory, 59, spent six years studying social work in college. With her master’s degree in hand, she focused her skills working in the field of family violence prevention. Her most-recent job was as the executive director for the Yarmouth-based nonprofit Boys to Men. “Running a nonprofit was really challenging,” she says. “Art has always been an important outlet.”
When Gregory left the world of social work seven years ago, she decided to organize her life around creativity. And she knew right where to start—in her own backyard.
Gregory and her husband, Daniel Oppenheim, moved to their Falmouth home 25 years ago. What was once a 19th-century dairy farm now consists of an art-infused colonial, a garden wonderland and Gregory’s art studio. She spends half of her year gardening and the other half immersed in her studio. She grows a large percentage of the food she and her husband consume all year long. She makes soups from summer vegetables that she freezes and enjoys in the winter. She makes chutney from her pear trees and mustard from her garden. The list goes on. She’s even learned the fine art of beekeeping.
“I started working with bees because I needed to bring in some pollinators to boost my vegetable and fruit production,” she says. “Honey is a wonderful byproduct. I got 85 pounds of honey from two hives this July and August.”
From October through May, Gregory lives in her studio, less than 50 yards from her front door. What once held carriages and tractors now holds books, art supplies and bins of beautiful glass. Named the Lincoln Farm Studio, this former shed serves as a beautiful, light-filled space for Gregory’s own creative work, as well as her workshops and classes, which have included mosaic bird bath and table runner classes, wreath making and stepping stone workshops . The couple also offer it as a community meeting space. “It’s really big—we can hold 30 people comfortably,” she says. “We host salons here as well as potluck movie nights. The space gives us a variety of options.”
Gregory works primarily with glass, and her studio is filled with pieces from Maine and far beyond. “I’ve always been a collector of little funky pieces of glass,” she says. “Driving around Maine, antique shops dot the landscape, and it’s easy to find stuff.” She’s even found old milk bottles, medicine bottles and enameled pots while digging garden beds around her property.
“It was amazing what I was finding. I was trying to figure out what to do with it all.” She started taking stained glass classes and fell in love with making glass panels for windows using found glass objects. Other people fell in love with them, too, and started buying her creations.
Today, most of her glass work is creating custom pieces for clients. People will bring her pieces of glass, such as old perfume bottles, saucers and tea cups, to turn into a collage for their homes. Gregory sees these nostalgic pieces as a kitchen graveyard. By creating these eclectic panels, she is giving new life to family treasures that would otherwise be packed away into boxes, never shown the light of day.
Her glass work finds its way into her gardens. “I have a lot of garden stepping stones and bird baths,” she says. “Mosaics are so beautiful. Engaging in creativity is incredibly therapeutic.” Many people who sign up for her mosaic workshops are elated to find out how easy it really is to create a personalized work of art—especially when you have a passionate and patient teacher urging you to just let go and trust your instincts.
“I think people long for opportunities to bring creativity into their life, but they’re so busy and they don’t know how,” she says. “I always get deep pleasure out of sharing it with others.”
During the holiday season, Gregory offers wreath-making workshops. These workshops began out of necessity. “I started making holiday wreaths with friends at the Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts in the early 1980s,” she says. But when the organization stopped the program, she and her friends still wanted to get together to usher in the spirit of the season. So she started holding wreath-making workshops at her home. “Word spread and more and more people wanted to come!” Today she offers wreath-making workshops to groups of eight or more people—and she brings all the supplies. For $45 you have someone help you to create a gorgeous wreath, and you have a blast doing it.
Gregory has always excelled at bringing people together, whether it’s around a dinner table or an art table. She stays active in the nonprofit world as a volunteer for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the ACLU of Maine. Giving back has always been a part of her life—whether serving on a board or helping others to bring joy into their lives through art.
Melanie Brooks loves to write about Maine. Her work has been published in magazines and blogs throughout New England.