December 11, 2016 - “I was looking to create something beautiful and artistic - twisting and organic,” says Sea Cliff artist and craftsman Chris Zeppieri describing the menorah he spent the past month sculpting out of steel tubes. The 9 foot wide, 8 foot tall, 700 pound candelabra was commissioned by the Sea Cliff Menorah Committee and will stand on the John Burns Village Green this holiday season, complementing the 30 foot tall spruce that has for years served as the Village Christmas tree and that has been ceremoniously illuminated each December.
The sculpture, strikingly beautiful in its simplicity, has an appearance that is both organic and industrial. Formed from stainless steel tubes, the menorah’s base, like tree roots, sprout from the ground and join together to form a trunk that then twists and divides into branches aligned side by side bending outward and upward - the evenness of the eight cylinders, pointing to the sky, broken only by the central shamash holder rising a half foot above the other limbs. Topping each offshoot is a clear jar-like cover protecting each bulb from the elements.
Mr. Zeppieri, 28, a Sea Cliff native and North Shore High School alumnus, graduated from Tufts University’s Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston in 2011. This past July he moved into a workspace on Littleworth Lane near the corner of Glen Cove Avenue that he refurbished and opened in October as the Make Everything Shop. A do-it yourselfer’s dream, the space is equipped with an amazing assortment of machine tools for both metal and woodworking. Not only is it a place where Mr. Zeppieri fashions his inspirations into creations, but one that is also available, for a fee, to artists, artisans, and those who aspire to create beautiful and useful things, but do not have the equipment or space to make their ideas become a reality. “Being in this shop,” he says, “you are just immersed in ability to make stuff.”
This February, Mr. Zeppieri says that he will begin offering adult education classes in woodworking and welding. His own educational philosophy is that you learn by doing. And it has been by doing that he has become so skilled in both woodworking and metal work.
“I like to make different things,” he explains as he shows a folding knife that he had designed and fashioned. “It forces you to learn the processes that enable you to make other things. I don’t ever tell myself that I don’t know how to make it.”
As for designing and constructing the Menorah itself, Mr. Zeppieri says that “figuring it out was so difficult - but now that I’ve done it, I would love to do it again.”
There’s a good likelihood of that happening after visitors from other communities see the fruits of Mr. Zeppieri’s and the Menorah Committee’s efforts.
That committee, a group that is independent of village government, was organized last winter by Sea Cliff resident Dina Epstein, who also serves as a Village Trustee, along with residents Joyce Segall, Julie Gordon-Hert, Ed Lieberman, Talia Smilovits, and Mr. Zeppieri.
Ms. Epstein explained that the idea for the Menorah was sparked by a question from someone new to the community at last year’s annual “Hanakkah Happening” at the Sea Cliff Fire House. She had asked where the public Menorah was displayed and when it would be lit, as is done in many municipalities throughout the holiday season.
The committee was formed a couple of months later and set out to raise $3000, said Ms. Epstein. The group actually exceeded its goal, allowing it to not only cover the costs of the Menorah design and construction but also the costs for advertising and holding the lighting ceremony. The Sandra and David Mack Foundation jump started the effort with a $1500 contribution with the remaining amount covered by many generous donations - some made at this past June’s Sea Cliff Springfest at which a 2 foot model of Mr. Zeppieri’s design was on display. Donations will still be accepted so that the menorah can be properly maintained and to support lighting ceremonies in future years.
The Sea Cliff Glen Head Lions Club has also offered considerable support, and just as it has sponsored the Christmas tree lighting, will sponsor Sea Cliff’s first ever Menorah lighting ceremony that will take place on December 18th at 5 pm on the John Burns Village Green.
The annual Hanukkah Happening will by held at the Sea Cliff Fire House on Wednesday December 21 from 7 to 8:30 pm.
Story by Northwordnews
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Chris Zeppieri (left) poses with Dina Epstein, Julie Gordon-Hert, and Bruce Kennedy after they had assembled the menorah on the village green on Sunday afternoon.
The Menorah in Mr. Zeppieri's workshop