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VEME Studios offers art workshops led by Verona Peñalba and Melissa Gabrielsen. (Credit: Lilly Parnell)

Two Greenport artists have teamed up to share their studio space and workshop series with those curious about exploring their creative side. 

VEME Studios is the brainchild of Verona Peñalba and Melissa Gabrielsen, who plan to open their Greenport space beginning March 31 for those looking to experiment with art, meet like-minded individuals or just turn off their brain for a short while. 

After meeting in 2014, their friendship quickly blossomed into a familial relationship. The pair explored their artistic passions separately yet simultaneously. Peñalba, a portrait turned abstract painter, connects to her work through her eyes while Gabrielsen, a hair stylist turned ceramic artist, connects to her work through her hands. 

As their friendship grew, they encouraged the other to delve deeper into their respective artistic practices. In 2020, they moved into their first shared studio space.

“It was in an old blue barn infested with spiders and had a leaky roof, but it was special to us,” said Peñalba. “It was an unrestricted way for us to find our independence as artists.”  

Now, they’ve blended their artistic passions to create VEME Studios. At the end of 2022, they found their dream space — with the potential for both women to grow and provide a place for others to unlock their creativity.

“The cozy classroom and studio space is a plus,” said Gabrielsen. 

VEME, pronounced vey-may, is the combination of the first syllable in Peñalba and Gabrielsen’s first names. 

“In Spanish, veme translates to ‘see me,’ which fits with our connection to eyes,” Peñalba explained. “It’s like the art is saying ‘see me, come to me.’ That’s what we want to happen with our workshops — for the art to take charge and all other thoughts and worries can float away.” 

The weekly workshops are held on the first floor of the studio and kept small, often ten people or less, to maintain the intimacy between the art and the artist. However, Peñalba and Gabrielsen are eager to host larger gatherings as well, capping at around 20 people. 

People are invited to gather around a large wooden table that was refurbished by hand by Peñalba. Colors of deep blue and peach fill the space and art by both women line the walls and shelves, providing inspiration as well as a sense of serenity. 

They currently host two types of workshops. Gabrielsen leads pottery classes, guiding those who join on how to make mugs and candlestick holders. 

“All of our workshops for ceramics focus on handbuilding items,” said Gabrielsen. “You’re making it with your hands and we want to see the impressions of your fingers. It doesn’t have to be perfect — you want it to be yours. It’s not just a mug you bought from the store, you made it. It’s special.”

Peñalba’s workshops focus on abstract painting. Those who participate experiment with alcohol inks to create pieces of art to bring home. 

“The medium wants you to let it free, it’s so hard to control,” said Peñalba, demonstrating how the mixture of ink and alcohol takes on a mind of its own when combined, bleeding in multiple circles and lines across a small piece of cardstock. “This practice invites us to let go of the control that we always want as humans. Life always has a way to switch things up for us. I want people to embrace the unexpected. And my biggest lesson is for people to understand that whatever unfolds, it’s beautiful.”

All necessary tools, aprons and even a complimentary beverage are provided by VEME — the only thing you need to bring is yourself and an open mind. 

Besides pottery and painting workshops, VEME will also offer sip and sketch events, master classes and much more. They hope to experiment with other mediums such as collaging, drawing, natural dyeing and cyanotype, also known as sun bleaching. Outdoor workshops are also in the works asthe weather warms up. 

“We are planning to also teach workshops for children in our series we call ‘Freedom Art 4 Kids,’” said Peñalba. “We’ll be focusing on letting children express themselves and the freedom that comes with that. And that’s what art truly is about.” 

Peñalba and Gabrielsen are eager to open up their studio space to the public and invite everyone curious to try. A full list of available workshops are posted on their website as well as @veme__studios on Instagram. Once a class is scheduled, the address and further details will be sent via confirmation email.  

“We want to share our interests with people and learn from others,” said Peñalba. “We have made the space relaxing and welcoming to anyone wanting to explore their art, no matter the experience level.”