Double play: Chelsea chips to synthetic ball gloves

Photo by Clayton Patterson 

Scott Carpenter manufacturing his synthetic-fiber baseball gloves in Upstate New York.

 

BY CLAYTON PATTERSON  |  When Stanley Bard managed the landmark Chelsea Hotel, just passing through the front door of the 12-story, redbrick building one could feel the energy the space exuded.

The walls were saturated with the art trophies Stanley had collected. Stanley would trade art for rent if the artist couldn’t pay, which eventually led to a significant collection.

My friend Linda Twigg, R.I.P., was a major player in the Downtown pot world. Her reputation was — cheat or rip her off and there will be a price to pay. Linda was also in the gambling business. She sold the usual gambling equipment, but what fascinated me was her chip-stamping machine, which embossed the value and the casino label onto clay chips. She had a list of major clients, as well as, some local ones, like Mickey “The Pope of Dope” Cezar, who ordered $100 chips that could be used to buy his marijuana.

Linda rented a room in the Chelsea that she used as a game room. Her main game was poker. This was a quiet, small, private, invitation-only game. I am not a gambler, but once in a while I would hang out and take photos. Since Linda lived on the Lower East Side and not in the hotel, she let Herbert Huncke stay in her room at the Chelsea. His job was to keep the place clean, oversee the games, handle orders and sometimes follow up on one of Linda’s unusual demands. And he did!

Herbert, one the original Beats, was credited with coining the name “Beat.” He was the guide who opened the door to much of the illicit world these naive Beat writers so desperately sought to enter. Huncke also has the undistinguished reputation of being the one who turned William Burroughs on to junk.

In 1990 Huncke’s autobiography, “Guilty of Everything,” was published, and Linda honored his moment with a book-signing party in her Chelsea room. The room was filled with many of the underground creative-world luminaries: Bob Fass of WBAI’s “Radio Unnamable,” Roger Richards of Greenwich Village’s Rare Book Room, Louis Cartwright, Elsa Rensaa, Marty Matz, Ira Cohen, Jamie Rasin, Jeremiah Newton and others.

It was then that I met and became friends with Jeremiah, and we have remained friends. (I just recently showed his “Candy Darling Warhol Superstar Diary” show at the Clayton Gallery.) Jeremiah is one of the featured players in my “Captured” biopic and we have worked on many projects together.

Jeremiah produced the award-winning documentary “Beautiful Darling,” which was directed by Jamie Rasin. Jamie and Jeremiah bought a house in Cherry Valley, New York. On the last weekend in June I went Upstate with Jeremiah to document some of his Candy Darling archive, which is going to either the Warhol Museum or Yale.

 

AND THEN — THE SHOCK OF THE GLOVE

 

When I entered Jeremiah’s house I was completely bowled over. He had rented out a portion of the house to Scott Carpenter, a baseball glove maker. Since Elsa and I had made baseball caps, I immediately understood what was going on, and I thought, This is incredible. Incredible for many reasons: It is a small, individually owned, private, manufacturing business; it is making an American product in Upstate New York; this is art, craft, a business and a small industry. What could be better?

Rebuilding America — independent, small-time business, not some international corporate conglomerate making its product overseas. I was enthused and had to meet this man.

It’s not easy to make products in America. I know that with the Clayton cap, many of the materials that went into making the cap were becoming impossible to get in the States.

In Scott’s case, the microfiber material, which is most of the glove, is made overseas. There is no U.S.-made microfiber available. Most other ingredients, like felt, thread and so forth, are U.S. made. And I connected with his contribution to changing the direction of a piece of classic Americana. Baseball is as American as apple pie.

The Clayton cap changed the direction of the baseball cap by moving the embroidery off the front panel and peak to going around the whole cap. We were the first to put a label and a signature on the outside of a cap. We were the first to make custom caps, and we produced many custom caps. Scott’s glove, by switching materials from leather to a synthetic fiber, is creating the same level of change.

The years of developing this new idea have started to pay off. The Carpenter “synthetic leather“ glove is the only all-synthetic glove ever used in pro ball. The Baseball Hall of Fame honored the Carpenter glove by acquiring one for its permanent collection.

“The first Hall of Fame glove in 2008 was the first non-leather glove ever used in professional baseball,” Scott told me. “ ‘Professional,’ in this case, meaning the minor leagues. The 2011 Hall of Fame glove was the first non-leather glove ever used in Major League Baseball — as well as the lightest glove currently used in Major League Baseball, and a notable evolution of the glove.”

His glove uses no leather. The glove is made of a synthetic fiber produced by Clarino™, although when you look at the glove you would swear it was made of suede leather. People even pick up the mitt and smell it and think they’re smelling a new leather glove.”

The microfiber cloth is defined as a woven material and is much lighter than leather, about 5 to 10 ounces difference in weight compared to a traditional leather glove the same size. Ten ounces is about equivalent to carrying two baseballs. The Clarino™ microfiber is more durable and lasts longer than the traditional leather glove and doesn’t change shape or get the flat, relaxed form a worn, traditional leather glove does.

Each baseball mitt is custom-made to fit the wearer. The customer follows the directions on the Web site and traces his or her own hand onto paper to mail in. This is used as the blueprint for each, one-of-a-kind glove.

Scott is a trained artist, and has also designed sneakers. I wanted to know what he thought the future of his glove was.

“I’m not against importing Carpenter gloves, which I may do in the future,” he told me. “Perhaps I’m exploring better alternatives to some of the negative connotations of globalization. I’m seeking an alternative ‘trade’ — commodity, consumption, materialism, American iconography — that might serve as a better symbol of America than whatever the World Trade Center had symbolized to terrorists on that day. I’m searching for a response to 9/11 without believing I’ve found it, or ever will.”

My own feeling is you build up America and you make the country stronger. American-made stops the need to war our way into other countries, resources, production and labor. You make it in America, you make America a friendlier, economically stronger country. Make it in America and we make America stand proud. We all benefit by making products in America.

Just as I saw the Clayton cap as a work of art, Scott sees his gloves as works of art. Scott and I hold the same view about art after the time of Warhol: Art went from being an independent, stand-by-itself item, all the work done by one person, to a mixture between a commercial product made publicly available, with multiple production, where others can work on it, but the art belongs to the person who came up with the original concept. This is similar to printmaking, or how things were done in the Renaissance, where the master did the initial work and many details were finished by hired staff.

Since the cap and now the glove are made one at a time, this will never be McDonald’s — but like Warhol’s soup can painting, the object is understood by everyone. The difference between our products and Warhol’s is Warhol copied someone else’s idea verbatim. We worked on an already existing item, but we changed the whole concept.

 

For more information on Scott Carpenter and his synthetic-fiber baseball gloves, visit CarpenterTrade.com.

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