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Patty and Michael Cancilla are seen on June 4 in their respective artists' booths at the American Craftsman Artisan Show at the Kenan Center Arena in Lockport.
Patty and Michael Cancilla are seen on June 4 in their respective artists' booths at the American Craftsman Artisan Show at the Kenan Center Arena in Lockport.

Artists in tandem: Patty & Michael Cancilla are work, life partners

Sat, Jun 17th 2023 07:00 am

By Karen Carr Keefe

Senior Contributing Writer

Patty and Michael Cancilla of Grand Island share paths in work and life.

They have pursued parallel art careers and are happy to be celebrating 40 years of marriage on June 18.

Patty creates one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, and Michael works in fine art and photography. Their work will be on display and for purchase at art festivals this summer, first on June 24-25 in East Aurora, then on Aug. 12-13 in Lewiston.

Patty didn’t start out in the fine arts. Her first creations were larger than life, so to speak.

“I was in construction when I first started working,” she said.

Patty drew blueprints and designed kitchen interiors for her father’s construction business.

“Then I stayed home to raise my children, and my husband worked. It was a real blessing,” she said, to be able to do her craft at home and do shows once in a while.

That started 29 years ago, and now she is a full-time jeweler who has won many awards for her designs, including numerous best in show and best in jewelry honors.

She is self-taught, although Patty said she took art classes early on when her parents recognized her artistic talent. She has flourished in the specialized art of wrapping gold and silver wires with a weaving technique done by hand. Then she incorporates gems, natural stones, pearls and beads in one-of-a-kind creations.

Patty also makes her own stones, using glass, porcelain and gold leaf. In addition, she hand-paints floral designs with overglaze on small porcelain stones, kiln fires them multiple times, and then hand sets them.

On her website, www.pattycancillaart.com, she describes another specialized art in which she uses signature pieces to create jewelry.

“Some of the most interesting items that people bring me are things such as their grandmothers’ chipped tea cups which I cut, grind and set so they can wear a little part of it as an heirloom,” Patty said. “All have sentimental value especially to the one wearing them.”

Skilled with saws and with the sensibilities of an artist, she sets heirloom pieces into pendants, earrings and bracelets. Her hallmark is doing custom and unique creations for her customers.

“They are never going to see that jewelry on somebody else,” Patty said.

"I want my customers to be noticed and complimented when they wear my jewelry so that they really feel good about themselves. And, I want them to know that the piece is truly unique,” she said in her online artist’s statement.

“I keep my pieces at a fair price” so that people can afford them, Patty said. “She does work on commission and also does jewelry for weddings to match the dresses of the wedding party.

Patty also has a license from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation to receive the copyrighted Roycroft pottery from the Roycroft Inn.

“I receive the pieces that are damaged, and I hand cut them and I set them, and those are signature pieces, as well,” she said.

The couple has three grown children: Michael, Marshall and Mandy. They also have six grandchildren and two on the way.

Michael’s first career was education, but he had his hand in the arts since he was a child. He works in oils and gouache. At age 12, he won second place in the New York State Conservation Poster Contest. While preparing for his career as an educator, he enrolled in graduate fine art classes in painting, printmaking and sculpture, he explains on his website, www.michaelcancilla.com.

“When Patty and I first met, we just kind of hung out and did art together because we were both artists,” he said. “In the middle of the time between age 12 and now, I was an educator of students with disabilities.”

Michael taught for several years, and then went into educational administration, first as assistant principal, elementary building principal, then he retired in 2018 as director of special education, all in the Wilson Central School District.

“Then I just jumped into the art profession full-time, doing local shows,” he said.

Michael specializes in both painting and drawing. He describes his art as “representational realism – painting with my own interpretation or style of the world around me.”

Mostly it’s landscapes, seascapes and other specific images that catch his attention. He also does portraits and will create pieces on commission. Michael also can do what is called emulation studies, which is reproduction of a famous artist’s work.

“It’s a little bit of fun doing that, besides doing the stuff I want to create,” he said.

Michael is a member of several different art groups, including the Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society, the Buffalo Society of Artists, Carnegie Art Center in North Tonawanda, and the Grand Island Historical Society. He was past president of the Grand Island Art Society from 1986 to the early 1990s.

“It was a wonderful little group,” he recalled.

Michael said those who see his work always have a really positive response.

“It’s a starting point to strike up a conversation and get to know people better,” he said, “A lot of times at shows, I’ll run into younger artists, kids, and I always offer advice, support – anything I can do to help out.”

Michael and Patty find that summertime festivals are a welcome way to share their art with the public, as well as showing their interest and compassion for those they meet along the way.

Earlier this month, they showcased their talents at the American Craftsman Artisan Show at Lockport’s Kenan Center Arena.

Next weekend, they travel to East Aurora to show their work in the Roycroft Campus Art & Antique Show from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, June 24-25, at the Classic Rink, 41 Riley St. Both Patty and Michael have earned the distinction of being Roycroft Master Artisans and both are on the Roycroft board of directors. The Roycroft Campus, founded by Elbert Hubbard in 1897, is often considered the birthplace of the American Arts & Crafts Movement.

The next stop is the Lewiston Art Festival, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13, on Center Street in Lewiston. They will be in booth 823.

The Cancillas are planning to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in a small gathering with close family and friends sometime this summer.

“And we’re hoping for a little trip to Italy – maybe in September,” Patty added.

They were married in Angola, had their wedding reception at the Buffalo Launch Club on Grand Island, and eventually moved to Grand Island, to a home that Michael’s mother, a real estate agent, found for them.

Patty is an ordained minister who works part-time through CrossRiver Tabernacle, 2920 Grand Island Blvd. There is a spiritual quality to the work that she and her husband do as artists.

“Every time somebody compliments me, I try to be very conscious, giving God the glory,” she said. When they praise her talent, she replies, “It is a gift from God.”

Michael has a similar outlook, and some of his images have a spiritual focus.

“Anything I create, is nothing I do in and of myself, but it’s a gift from God, the ultimate creator. And he’s blessed me with that gift in talent,” Michael said.

“When Michael and I are together and doing these street shows at Lewiston, we’re not just there to display our stuff. You ask somebody how they are and they’re going to tell you,” Patty said. “Michael and I always look for an opportunity that we can pray with someone. We’re both very much people of faith.”

Patty and Michael Cancilla are seen on June 4 in their respective artists’ booths at the American Craftsman Artisan Show at the Kenan Center Arena in Lockport.

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