Grapevine shutterbug spells it out

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Off the Water/CRAIG HAUPERT Linda Spitzer takes photos of the grapevines in her family’s vineyard in Stevensville. She searches for vines that resemble letters in the alphabet.

STEVENSVILLE — Where most people see the knots and gnarls of a well-aged grapevine, Linda Spitzer sees the potential for art.

The Stevensville woman searches her family’s nearly 100-year-old vineyard for vines that have grown naturally to take the shape of letters in the English alphabet. When she finds what she is looking for, she takes a photograph and stores it on a disk.

One of Linda grapevine letter art pieces rests against a post in her family’s Stevensville vineyard. Her father makes the frames from old barn wood.

Over the past year, Spitzer photographed hundreds of grapevine letters, giving her numerous representations of each letter in the alphabet. She uses the letters to form words, which she frames and sells as grapevine letter art.

It is in the spirit of the popular architecture letter art, but with a Berrien County wine-country twist.
In fact, Spitzer’s first framed grapevine word was “wine.”

“Being in wine country here, I thought it was the perfect thing to do,” Spitzer said.

Spitzer got the idea while riding in a golf cart through the family vineyard with her 5-year-old chocolate lab, Drake. Drake almost always accompanies Spitzer in sniffing out new letters.

“When (Drake) sees the golf cart, you almost can’t get her off of it,” Spitzer said. “We’d just go up and down the rows, and I’d see them. My husband thought I was crazy. He said, ‘How do you see an ‘E’ and an ‘R’ in that?’”

About 95 percent of Spitzer’s photographed grapevine letters come from her family’s Concord grape vineyard, which has been in the family for three generations. The rest come from other vineyards in the area.

When looking for letters, Spitzer says the older the grapevine the better.

“They are so gnarly and have so much character because they are old,” she said. “They are really chunky and bulky, while the new ones are really skinny and straight because they just started. Old ones have grown in different directions with twists and turns.”

Spitzer’s father, Cal Bennett, hand makes each picture frame using wood taken from old barns.

“The color and the texture of the barn wood fits perfect with the pictures,” Spitzer said.
Spitzer has sold her art at various wineries and craft shows in the area. She plans to do art shows in the future.

Spitzer doesn’t have a website, but can be reached at (269) 930-8050.