Business owner turns debris from Storm Sandy into art

Local business owner Susan Ashelford has found a way to turn debris from Hurricane Sandy into art.

“It’s turning lemons into lemonade,” said Ashelford, who owns the downtown shop Given to Gauche, located on Daniel Street.

Ashelford lives off East Broadway, an area that Hurricane Sandy hit hard. She had elevated her house a few years ago with the help of block grant funds, so the damage her property suffered was minimal. She fared much better than many of her neighbors.

“Mine was nothing to whine about,” she said.

Still, there was debris all around her. She lost a fence that she and her nephew had put up around her yard, and there were fences and pieces of fence in the marsh behind her house, along with other debris.

She collected the wind-strewn fencing, cut it, sanded it and refinished the pieces to create nautically inspired wall hangings and picture frames.

The shabby chic beach-themed art sells for about $40 to $50 a piece, with a portion of the sales going to United Way of Milford’s Hurricane Sandy Recovery Fund.

Ashelford brought a dozen of the wall hangings, all of which include coat hooks of one sort or another, to a craft fair in Litchfield and nine of them sold. People were pleased with the look of the locally created art, and the story behind the wood that went into creating it.

“These now serve as a lasting reminder of the importance of family, community and perseverance,” Ashelford said.

The nautical pieces come in different colors and designs, many with decorative sea stars (not real) attached to them. The picture frames may be customized for different occasions, Ashelford said.