Testimonials & Press - Media

"Your marvelous glass art work takes my breath away, Yvonne! I adore my precious fish! And spend way too many hours drooling over the other pieces I want to acquire. You rock!!" Susan W, San Diego, CA

"Each piece is more stunning than the next and I should know because I own several of her fabulous masterpieces. Every time I wear one I always get lots of compliments." Melanie, Red Bank, NJ

"My name is Jill S. from South Bend, IN and I was the fortunate receiver of a gift from a mutual friend of the most beautiful glass necklace made by Yvonne Yaar-Sharkey a few years ago. It is one of my favorite accessories and so gorgeous. Made in colbalt blue (my favorite color) with her signature decorating of same. It's one of a kind and I wear it any time I have a chance and have received more compliments on it than any other piece of jewelry I own It is priceless to me."

"I purchased a beautiful, stunning, unique black plate with turquoise flowers as a gift. The recipient instantly fell in love as did I and almost kept it for myself!" Stephanie L, NJ

"I cannot wear my fish anywhere that I do not get at least two people complementing me on it, and asking where I got it. It definitely gets the attention it deserves! The other pendant, that I purchased as a gift, almost did not leave my possession- So beautiful with amazing depth and striking colors...I wanted to keep it for myself. I am glad I did not, because my friend loved it- and left me with an excuse to do more shopping and buy one for myself." Jules M, Lakeville, IN

"I have been a fan of fusion glass jewelry forever. It is the one thing I search for when we travel. Now to know someone personally who does such beautiful work........I am thrilled to death. It's like having my own private jewelry designer." Nan C-Z, Florida

"Dear Yvonne,
Well it happened again. I was out Saturday at the mall and wearing my orange and red leaves and two women stopped to compliment me on the beautiful necklace. Every time I wear something you made I receive compliments, and I do love compliments. Thank you for doing such beautiful and creative work. You are a wonder."
Denise Stephenson
New Jersey

"The custom art work was perfect for my hard to please friends who are as close as family - All I needed to know was a favorite shape and favorite color, and with the artist's help picked two useful and beautiful wearable pieces of art. Fantastic!"
Fran Ashton

Cafe Customers Enjoy a Side of Art

The NY Times
Published: September 5, 2008

In the Region
Long Island, Westchester, Connecticut and New Jersey
Go to Complete Coverage »

ASHLEY WAHBA didn’t particularly like the serious-looking portraits hanging above the thrift-store tables and worn settees at the Van Gogh’s Ear Café here.Similarly, Jude Gomez wasn’t sure what to make of a sculpture of a woman holding a bespectacled Chihuahua on the wall of the Artist’s Café and Bagelry in Brick. Ask them, though, if their enjoyment of the panini or the cappuccino was hindered by their less than enthusiastic reactions, and the response is: “No way.”

“I love art — I have a tendency to go wherever they pay attention to it, whether it’s to my taste or not,” said Ms. Wahba, 20, of Ridgewood, a Rhode Island School of Design student who recently lingered after dinner at Van Gogh’s Ear with her friend Megan Amorosa, 19, of Union.

Jude Gomez, a 13-year-old on a day trip to the Jersey Shore from Jersey City, also believes that art only enhances a meal — even when she thinks the art is weird. “This really captured me,” she said after breakfast while gazing quizzically at the sculpture at the Artist’s Café. “The art makes this place fun to be in.”

When Todd and Suzanne Kwitchoff decided to leave their office jobs and open the Artist’s Café in a strip mall in March 2007, having fun was more or less the idea. “Art is pretty much what we’re about,” Mr. Kwitchoff said. “We thought, Hey, let’s bring some culture into Brick.” In the Kwitchoffs’ busy 2,200-square-foot shop, on a wall opposite reproduction of Matisse’s “Purple Rose” and Mary Cassatt’s “Breakfast in Bed,” Jersey Shore scenes by Hutch Martin, a Bayville photographer, recently mingled with a complicated-looking glass sculpture by Yvonne Yaar of Toms River and a bright watercolor of sunflowers by Carol Abel of Lakewood.

The Artist’s Café has a bring-it-on attitude in its scattershot displays: The work of up to 20 artists may be shown in any given month. “We’ll tackle almost anything,” said Mr. Kwitchoff, who is approached several times a week by hopeful artists amid his regulars — locals who pile in around lunchtime for the cafe’s homemade bagels, burgers and free WiFi, not to mention the art. “We once had a guy come in who does road kill art, and we turned that down. Otherwise, we’re very open.” As is standard practice, all the original work at the Artist’s Café is for sale; most is between $30 and $500, according to Mr. Kwitchoff.

At spots like the Frozen Monkey Cafe in Hoboken, opened in 2003, the display of art is less fanciful. Recently hanging on the walls of the 1,400-square-foot space were about 20 pieces of Pop Art by Robert Piersanti, a Jersey City resident whose vivid paintings have been shown at Art Basel in Miami. Louie Zhelesnik, co-owner of the Frozen Monkey, selects a new local artist to feature every two months; there is an opening gala with Frozen Monkey specialties such as crab cake panini and smoked salmon roulade salad. Mr. Piersanti had sold only one piece of his work, priced at $600 to $1,200, at the Frozen Monkey since hanging it in July, but Mr. Zhelesnik, who takes a small commission when a piece is sold, said that’s typical.

“People pay attention to the art — they definitely notice it,” he said. “That’s why I do it. But it’s usually hit or miss when it comes to selling. I don’t really promote the selling.” Instead, recruiting artists — Mr. Zhelesnik follows his favorites online and approaches them about showing — is more about creating ambiance. The effort is rarely lost on customers. “I always notice when the art here changes — I look at it every time I come in,” said Katie Lynch, a Hoboken resident who had an early lunch at the Frozen Monkey recently with two other mothers and their toddlers. “If I liked something enough here I’d buy it. But I come more for the food and the relaxed environment,” she said over the thump of the Beastie Boys, typical of the hip music Frozen Monkey tends to play.

Hipness is also an important part of the equation at Van Gogh’s Ear. Joseph Lantini, a Scotch Plains artist known as JOS-L, has sold dozens of skateboard- and graffiti-inspired works, priced from $50 to $250, during several monthlong shows at the 1,700-square-foot shop; more recently the cafe has been showing scenes of Portugal by Miguel Garcia in oil pastels on black watercolor paper.

“We attract an artsy clientele who want good food and good, interesting things to look at,” said the owner, Catherine Smook, who has owned the dimly lighted, eccentrically furnished cafe for seven years. She estimates that 40 percent of the customers come just for the food — like the quesadilla appetizer and the sour cream cake — and 60 percent come for the atmosphere and the art.

The ratio is probably somewhat different at Café Monet in Millburn, a two-and-a-half-year-old French bistro and cafe more serious in mood than the others.

On his three-course bistro menu of small plates, Wes Sawi, the co-owner and chef, orchestrates flavors in classic dishes such as coq au vin with a skill that elevates the art-cafe into serious foodie territory. (It was rated “very good” by David Corcoran in a Jan. 15, 2006 review in The New York Times.)

Barbara Dalton, a Morristown-based artist whose oversize paintings of pears and other fruit currently complement Cafe Monet’s 1,500-square-foot French-country interior, said she would almost rather have her work at Cafe Monet than in a proper gallery.

“In a nice restaurant, you have husbands and wives looking together. They can visualize how a piece might look at home,” said Ms. Dalton, whose work, in the $500 to $3,500 range, has been on display since late spring and will soon be replaced.

Mr. Sawi said, “People come here for the food, which matches the art, which matches the whole experience.”

Art Appreciation, While You Eat
Following is a sampling of New Jersey cafes that display local art.
BRICK The Artist’s Café and Bagelry,
55 Brick Boulevard; (732) 864-1500. www.artistscafebagelry.com. Open daily, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Live entertainment every other weekend, when the cafe stays open until midnight. Bagels, sandwiches, salads.

HOBOKEN The Frozen Monkey Cafe, 526 Washington Street; (201) 222-1311. www.frozenmonkeycafe.com. Open Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to midnight. Salads, panini, breakfast, brunch, desserts.

MILLBURN Café Monet, 309 Millburn Avenue; (973) 376-8555. www.cafemonet.info. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. One side is a bistro serving dinner; the other is a cafe open all day for soups, salads and light fare.

UNION Van Gogh’s Ear Café, 1017 Stuyvesant Avenue; (908) 810-1844 or www.vangoghsearcafe.com. Open Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday, 6 p.m. to midnight. Eclectic menu, lunch, dinner and desserts. Wine or beer may be brought in.

Downtown Shows Off Toms River's Arts, Music & Culture

May 21, 2008 The Toms River Times
By Jo Ann La Russo

--Photo By Jo Ann La Russo Works of art, music, dance and more were on display recently in downtown Toms River. For more photos from this event, visit our photo galleries at www.micromediapubs.com.
Art, music and song ushered in a new season of happenings for downtown Toms River at the Toms River Business Improvement District's annual Cultural Festival.

"Celebrate downtown Toms River" showcased local musicians and artists and featured exhibits that offered a history of the downtown area that goes back to the whaling days.

A local group, the Porch Pistols, performed live to an exuberant audience outside of 218 Main Street, the TRBID office.

On the library courtyard steps, young artists Michael Hansen and Richie Brown dabbled at their artwork while inside artists such as Yvonne Yaar and Wendy Ritch displayed their artwork, making downtown a festival of colorful sights and sounds.

Yaar, who focuses primarily on flame working which is displayed in her unique jewelry, wall art and outdoor sculpture, is president and founder of the Toms River Artist's Cooperative Exit 81, or TRACx8, which is housed at the TRBID office,where several works of art by local artists are showcased.

Brown and Hansen worked on an unusual interactive painting that had sound bites on the canvas that created an eerie echo sound, fascinating festival visitors with their electronic music show.

"The art is totally killer," said Courtney Williamson, with friend Julia Stoddard and James Bronson.

On Main Street, the Porch Pistols sang and entertained downtown visitors with Torrise on acoustic guitar and Chafee accompanying on harmonica. A large contingent of the group's family, friends and fans gathered to hear them play.

"We all grew up together," said C.J. Torisse as Chafee picked up his harmonica and the duo went into a set of music.

"We all love them," said friends and family as C.J.'s father, Carmen Torrise, commander of VFW Post 6063, his wife, Georgia, and another son, Tony, watched them entertain.

"I'm very proud of my son," said Torrise.

Porch Pistol fans Marc DeParto, wife Holly, twin sons, Nigel and Orion, and daughter, Emilia, settled in to listen.

"They are totally unique," said DeParto.

"I'm a big fan," laughed a self-termed groupie, Michelle Bailin of Toms River.

The downtown festival featured varied cultures as part of the day's entertainment, said TRBID spokesperson Arleen Read.

In the library's Mancini Hall, the Island Singers performed Broadway hits accompanied by Brian Gilmore of Toms River. The female trio of Janet Tartanella, Diane Phillips and Lisa Paterson sang with a '60s girl group sound, while Jack McGuigan sang songs from "South Pacific."

Polly Moore of Toms River, music director at Christ Church and Harrogate Assisted Living, who has directed the Island Singers for 20 years, said the chorus will perform at the Stafford Arts Center, Manahawkin, on June 23. Information call, 609-361-0671.

Arts and crafts workshops in the library's Green Room featured TRACx81 artist Sally Cornelison, who created magic window drawings, and Wendy Ritch demonstrating finger painting.

In the library atrium, the African Dance Lady, Audrey Davis, entertained with a spirited foot stomping routine accompanied by the pitch of cow bells and bongo drums.

Booths in the courtyard between the Ocean County Library and town hall featured exhibits from the Toms River Seaport and Ocean County Historical Society with displays and information about early downtown activities.

Historical Society President Robert Garthwaite said the museum, located at 26 Hadley Place, has lots of new exhibits and the society's upcoming calendar of events includes participation in Founder's Day on June 7, and an Antique and Collectible Faire, to be held August 30 at the parking garage across from the museum.

The Toms River Seaport Society and Maritime Museum will hold its Wooden Boat Festival on July 19 in Huddy Park, said Crickett Kersens, Karen Porcello and Alicemary Wright, who manned the Seaport's Maritime Shop booth featuring nautical Tshirts and a ship's compass from 1941.

"We were pleased to have the seaport and the historical society join us this year," said Read.

Yaar said the annual art and cultural event is popular and a good venue for local artists.

"Our goal is to bring more art and culture to downtown Toms River and to make residents aware of the art and culture that already exists," Yaar said.

Upcoming downtown events are scheduled throughout the season and visitors are welcome, added Read. "We want to point out all the downtown has to offer."