BY INDIANA NASH
BURNT HILLS- Although Judith Connolly is reluctant to call herself an artist, her shop in Burnt Hills reveals an undeniable sense of creativity.
The Northumbrian Cottage, which she opened six months ago, is dedicated to preserving the past and serving up local artistic talent.
Paintings and framed photographs line the walls of the shops eight rooms.
The building used to be a doctor’s office and many customers still remember going there.
“I promise there won’t be any injections here,” Connolly jokes whenever a customer remarks upon the cottage’s previous use.
There’s another surprise for customers stepping into the shop: Connolly greets everyone in a genuine Northumbrian accent.
One of the perks from coming the United Kingdom is, of course, the accent.
Connolly said that it hasn’t been too much of a barrier (despite confusion with things like her pronunciation of “butter” at the dinner table or at the grocery store) and it’s given the shop a more genuine sense of entering a Northumbrian cottage.
The artist and shop owner has only been in the United States for about four years.
Love initially brought her across the pond.
“I was a school teacher for 37 years, and ended my career as a school principal,” Connolly said.
During a brief vacation to Dubai, Connolly met Timothy, a Schenectady resident and General Electric employee who would later become her husband.
“It was just eyes across the hotel lobby,” Connolly said of the moment they met.
The two tried long distance for a little while and then Connolly decided to retire from her teaching days and come live in the U.S. (more specifically, Schenectady).
Transitioning from the hectic and involved job of school teacher and principal to that of a retiree in a new country was difficult at first.
But that’s what led Connolly back into the world of art.
“I’d worked all my life so it was weird,” Connolly said, “Taking the time to think creatively is hard though. You do need time and you need confidence and mentoring.”
Thus Connolly began working on watercolor painting again (which she’d done in the past, but that teaching had not allowed her time for).
However, she didn’t stop with working on her own art. On what began as a typical afternoon lunch at the Tailored Tea in Latham, turned into a jump into the local art scene.
Connolly noticed that there was a lot of wall space not being used in the upstairs area of the tea house. So she inquired as to whether or not the owners would be okay with it becoming an art gallery. The owners consented and soon Connolly was getting in touch with local artists and planning out different exhibits within the space.
But it wasn’t quite enough.
Thus, Connolly founded the Cottage.
Beyond allowing artists to exhibit throughout the shop, Connolly allows them to display their work without an exhibition cost. Connolly just takes a cut of the sale once the piece is sold.
“These are very talented people who didn’t have a chance to show their work,” Connolly said.
She also hosts art classes during the evenings and takes the time to work on her own pieces.
“Creativity is your lifestyle. It’s not just in the arts. People need to see that in themselves,” Connolly said.
Throughout her years of teaching, Connolly found that she was constantly trying to find new ways to teach the same lessons or plan new activities that students would want to participate in.
Connolly came from a very creative family (her brother is a musician and there are a few other artists in the mix), but she believes that the same spark that it takes to be a musician or an artist can be used to fuel every aspect of life.
Check out Connolly’s work and the work of other local artists at The Northumbrian Cottage, located at 813 Saratoga Road/Route 50, Burnt Hills.