Once upon a time on the East End local crafts fairs featured local artisans, folks who loved to make art, and show and sell their unique, authentic wares at reasonable prices because, well, they were doing it for their neighbors and community as much as for visitors. Water Mill resident Lorraine Otto, who owns the small, elegant women’s shop Miankoma in Amagansett Square, harkens back to those days, offering handmade jewelry, tunics and, for the season, charming vintage car ornaments.
Indeed, Otto really reflects back because, she smiles, she started making—and selling—ornaments when she was eight years old. Her parents owned a motel at Ditch Plains, right on the beach, and one day she got the idea to make tomahawks out of stones and driftwood, which she sold for 15 cents. Alas, two boys who bought the tomahawks decided to use them as weapons on each other, and soon she was out of business. But let it be said for her entrepreneurship, that retirement didn’t last long. One year later, she was in a crafts show in Montauk, painting lighthouses on stones, these going (according to stone size) for 10 to 25 cents.
Fast forward to East Meadow High School and eventually to C.W. Post College in Brookville, where Otto majored in art—painting, doing pottery, weaving and, of course, making ornaments, which she began to show at arts and crafts fairs in Montauk. Doing well, she decided to open her own shop, and Miankoma has been in Amagansett for approximately 15 years. Before that, for 10 years, it was on the Napeague Stretch. She is a compassionate, community-minded person, and regular visitors to her shop know her particular devotion to caring for parrots, most of them rescue birds. She now has nine who live with her. One of them, she insists, Jake, an African Grey, is “psychic,” intuiting her mood, as the other day when she got back from work by welcoming her with a great sigh. On another occasion, when she had been dithering over letting someone go, he squawked, seeming to read her mind, “You’re the boss,” and she knew what she had to do. She contributes a monthly column to the Long Island Parrot Society newsletter and follows animal rights issues with heartfelt interest. Humans also claim her attention. She is thinking of starting a one-day-a-month sale at the shop, with a percentage of proceeds going to support different local charities.
Those who visit the shop around Christmastime will see her one-of-a-kind vintage cars, trucks, vans, tractors and buses, each adorned with miniature trees she made, embedded with gemstones, that sit atop or alongside the vehicles and hang on a small white tree near the door—“I go home every night and make new stuff…how can I let the tree go unadorned?” The cars ($12–$25), come in handmade boxes and—a Miankoma specialty—are exquisitely gift-wrapped for free. One customer recently came back to say that her son liked his car so much, it never got onto their tree—he slept with it. Once the season is over, handmade jewelry once again rules— stunningly simple earrings, necklaces and bracelets, adored with semi-precious stones, sterling and adjustable fasteners. And then there are the handmade tunics (“slimming, easy to fit, no ironing”) in a variety of colors, made from the finest cotton from India. “Miankoma,” it’s said, is Indian for “assembly place,” but at Lorraine Otto’s it unintentionally takes on additional meaning indicative of how she artfully puts materials together.
Miankoma, 8 Main Street, Amagansett, 631-267-3455, amagansettsquare.com