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Mackerel sky showcases its end-of-year events

No strangers to change, Tom and Linda Dufelmeier, both 68, have been operating an art and contemporary craft gallery across from MSU’s campus for nearly 30 years. The couple has weathered variances in consumer tastes, moving the business and learning in a quickly developing landscape. It’s all fitting, however, because change and adaptability are exactly why they called their business Mackerel Sky.

Tom Dufelmeier explained that the name came from a Meryl Streep movie, “Plenty.” “In one scene, she looked up and said, ‘Oh, it’s such a wonderful mackerel sky,’” he recalled.

“When we looked it up, we found out it was a sailor’s and fisherman’s term that means a change in the weather. We were between things at the time and making choices about how we were going to go forward. That was a perfect name for it.”

The couple quickly found their niche when they set up shop at the Ann Street Plaza, although it is now located on M.A.C. Avenue.

“We opened in 1990 and there was a lot going on in town at that time, but we tried to open with things that people didn’t have,” Linda said. “At that time, there wasn’t any place to carry artisan-made jewelry.”

Tom Dufelmeier said that their approach to their business is the only thing that has stayed stationary. The gallery is now located on M.A.C. Avenue.

“We have tried to carry quality, handmade crafts,” Tom said. “We work harder and harder to find excellently made things at a price that people are willing to pay — that’s our biggest challenge. Styles have changed over 30 years, but primarily, we’re still doing the same things we did when we opened.”

Now, the Dufelmeiers are getting ready to host a variety of local artists with their upcoming events schedule. First up on Oct. 1 is Debra Oliva. She is a Chicago-born artist, who moved to Okemos and maintains a ceramics studio there.

“She’s a phenomenal, nationally recognized potter who’s quiet in her community, but has been in numerous group and single shows throughout the country,” Linda said. “We carry her work on and off in the gallery and had a trunk show with her. But I really wanted to have a single exhibit with her.” The show will continue through Thanksgiving.

From ceramics, the couple will move on to hosting a jewelry exhibit from Arlee Kasselman. This trunk show will show off a large selection of the Tucson-based jewelry-maker’s work for a week from Oct. 21-28.

“She concentrates on gems primarily,” Linda said. “But she uses them in extremely tasteful and affordable ways — sterling silver, 18-carat gold over sterling silver over gems.”

The gallery will also host two ornament exhibits in time for the holidays, although next week the ornaments will be spookier than usual.

“We have been carrying the work of David Barber — he’s a Flint artist. He makes ornaments made from nickel sheet that he hand cuts with a miniature jeweler’s saw,” Linda said. “He makes different forms and we carried his Christmas ornaments for a long time. A number of years ago, we discovered that Halloween is his favorite holiday, and he makes these outrageous nickel sheet ornaments that are all Halloween-themed.”

More traditional ornaments can be purchased on Saturday, Nov. 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., as Mackerel Sky marks an 8-year-old store tradition of offering signed ornaments. Martin Biedermann of Biedermann & Sons will autograph these works for interested buyers.

“Biedermann & Sons is a company in Chicago that is from Germany originally, in a certain town in which there’s an old tradition of making hand-sawn ornaments,” Tom said. “These are actually in the same vein as David Barber makes, only these are gold-plated brass.”

To finish off the year, Mackerel Sky’s Christmas show will display quilts this year by Haslett-based artist Carol Trojanowski, whose works appear to be paintings from a distance.

The couple is looking forward to each of these events and working with the many artists that they’ve developed working relationships with over the years, but they urge visitors to come not only for the exhibits.

“We always have things from all media in the store,” he said. “The exhibits are just one part of what we do.”

Mackerel Sky Tues. – Fri., 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sun., Noon – 4 p.m. 211 M.A.C. Ave., East Lansing (517) 351-2211