Hinterland: A Catskills Creative Cooperative

By   |     |  Makers

For almost a decade, Jennifer Salvemini nurtured the nebulous idea of a utopia she called Hinterland, where all her disparate passions, from music and design to cooking and flower arranging, could flourish. A place that included a creative studio for design projects, a kitchen for large shared meals, a space for gatherings. “In my mind, it was this fantasy of a playground where I could get to do all the things that bring me personal joy, and hopefully, through that, bring joy to other people,” says Salvemini.

The New Jersey-raised interior designer studied anthropology at Pace and worked in hospitality, fashion, and event planning in New York City before finding her way back to her lifelong love of home design. A thirst for nature drew her upstate, where in 2017 she found a property that gave wing to her Hinterland dreams.

Ceramics on display at the opening of the Showhouse at Hinterland. Photo by Phil Mansfield

“I grew up in the suburbs, so everything felt very sterile and structured. After 20 years in the city, I didn’t know how badly I needed to be in nature,” she says. “The wild child that was always in there is truly at home up here.”

Located in Shokan, Salvemini’s 2,500-square-foot, cedar shingle-sided rambler sits on almost two acres sandwiched between the Ashokan Rail Trail and Route 28. When the COVID lockdown hit, she moved upstate full-time. She didn’t take long to plug in. Amid social distancing orders, she bought a vintage ice cream cart, got a peddler’s permit, and started scooping sundaes from the end of her driveway in summer 2020 with the rest of her COVID pod. Aside from her own steady stream of design clients, Salvemini is also the strategist for the Kingston Design Connection’s annual showhouse (as well as frequent participator).

A Playground for Many

Salvemini had originally planned to convert her Shokan home’s former garage into a studio space for her own design work and meetings with clients—the first inklings of Hinterland in the real world. “As the concept developed and as I matured as a person, I came to understand bringing joy to other people is how I bring joy to myself—not the other way around,” she says. “That is where the urgency about forming the co-op came in—a collaboration to give voice and access and a platform to other creatives.”

As her web of connections with area creatives grew, so did the cooperative of women artists and artisans. Today Hinterland has 10 members, including Salvemini. The current roster includes visual artists Katie Westmoreland and Marcie Paper, ceramicist Erica Recto, metalworker Alison Zavracky, textile artisan Nancy Geany, wildcrafted skincare maven Babs Mansfield of Phoenicia Soap Co., stained glass maker Brenna Chase of Willow Deep Studio, event planner Sophie Grant, and singer-songwriter and clothing designer Nyamka Ayinde.

“We have this shared worldview of cocreating as a way of thriving, not just as an economic tool, which it does function as, but as a support system for our emotional and creative lives—it is a sisterhood,” Salvemini says. “To keep your craft yours while leaning on the talents and resources of a group of others that are mutually interested in your well-being and success without it being competitive is really a remarkable thing.”

The Hinterland co-op is as much about emotional and creative nurturing as it is about practical support. The group embraces resource sharing—from software and online tools for accounting to workspace and materials. The members collaboratively manage the Hinterland social media accounts, contribute to its blog, and produce products for the showroom.

Members of the Hinterland cooperative, from left: Nyamka Ayinde, Babs Mansfield, Alison Zavracky, Jennifer Salvemini, and Erica Recto.

“The reason the co-op is exclusively tailored to makers of homewares and lifestyle products is because that is how I can drive business to it,” Salvemini says, referring to her own interior design and lifestyle consulting clients. “The real intention of the showroom is to operate as an example of collaborative custom work rather than as a purely retail shop.” The showroom is a departure point; an invitation to engage; a sense-based, immersive Rolodex of potential creative collaborators who are capable of customizing everything from wall coverings, drapery, upholstery, and art to hardware, tableware, and clothing.

To guide the cooperative’s collaborative creation, Salvemini puts together biannual mood boards with colors, textures, words, and imagery to serve as inspiration. “What comes back to me is however they want to interpret that direction,” says Salvemini, who piloted this approach for fall/winter 2021. “For the first season, I was completely shocked when that last bit of product arrived and I was staging it. I was able to step back and say, ‘Holy shit, it worked!’ There was so much cohesion. Without having to be super directive about what I was requesting, they were able to run with loose directions and when we plugged it all in, this magic happened.” Salvemini hopes that when the infrastructure for collaboration is more fleshed out, the artistic direction will come from a more emergent place or that members will take turns in they curator’s seat.

The stoneware of Erica Recto. Photo by Winona Barton-Ballentine

For now, the makers are each at work on their contributions to the spring/summer 2022 collection. The showroom is currently only open by appointment, though Salvemini hopes to have regular weekend hours by the end of June. The cooperative recently participated in Field + Supply’s annual Memorial Day weekend market at Hutton Brickyards. While there were some smaller items for sale, the concept of the booth, like the showroom, was primarily to serve as an example for future custom collaborations.

This summer will also mark the launch of a variety of Hinterland programming, with multiple art exhibitions on the horizon. In June, the Shokan property will host “Rhythm of Light,” a collaborative installation featuring the work of co-op members Katie Westmoreland and Nymaka Ayinde exploring the vibration of the summer solstice through light, sound, and color. In July, Hinterland will participate in the third-annual Upstate Art Weekend, with an immersive, multisensory concept designed to highlight art as a dialectic between the external world and internal processes—a dance between the art and the experiencer. In August, Hinterland will host a one-day Fungi Funday with talks, demonstrations, a market, a multicourse mushroom dinner, and a dance party.

Photo by Winona Barton-Ballentine

“It’ll be a one-day festival in honor of mushrooms because we love them so much,” Salvemini says. “Because we really believe they are a fantastic symbol for what we do—information and resource sharing, supporting the ecosystem around themselves. And then the creation of these beautiful fruits. We’re captivated by that as a symbol for the co-op. And I didn’t need an excuse to throw a party.”

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