The greater Capital Region has its fair share of unusual spots: Howe Caverns, the National Bottle Museum, the Amsterdam Castle, etc.
The latest to add to the list is The Glove Museum, which opened in Dorloo, a hamlet of Seward, Schoharie County, earlier this week.
Daniel Storto, the founder, has been working to reshape what used to be a Methodist church and turn it into a museum, studio, fashion library and a place to learn a disappearing art: that of glove making. People from Cooperstown and Sharon Springs to Hudson have been coming by to explore the museum and, as Storto puts it, to cheer him on.
Storto, frequently called the last glove maker in Gloversville, knows first-hand how rare the art is becoming. He spent much of his early career in Los Angeles, New York City and Antwerp, Belgium, designing everything from swimwear to accessories, with a focus and passion for designing gloves. But after working for Dries Van Noten for a number of years, he decided it was time to head to Gloversville and specialize in glove making.
He converted a former children’s glove factory into a home for him and his son, Andre, and opened up a studio next to the Glove Theatre. Storto befriended people like Joe Pagano, a glove maker who owned Pagano Gloves, a glove factory that closed in the 1970s.Pagano passed the torch and gave Storto glove-making tools and materials that were all used in local factories. With calloused but careful hands, Storto continues to design gloves for his own shop, magazines, celebrities, and others.
Vogue fashion journalist and editor Hamish Bowles declared Storto “the haute couturier of glove makers.”
The Glove Museum brings the history of the art together with its modern-day creations and creator.
“I didn’t want to focus on vintage [gloves],” Storto said.
That’s not to say that he doesn’t pay homage to history.
Upon entering, visitors can step into a workspace that clearly combines the new with the old. Storto created a studio through time, piling in glove-making tools from factories around Gloversville and the greater Capital Region, along with a pique machine that was once used to add detailing to the gloves, and pairs upon pairs of vintage gloves from all around the world.
It's a glimpse of what his studio and job as a glove maker would have looked like 200 years ago. There are wooden patterns, used mostly in the 1800s, as well as paper patterns, hung up as they might have been in the factory.
“That’s how you can tell the age and period of the glove, by the construction,” Storto said.
Then there are glove irons, which were used to press the finished gloves, hand sizing tools, heavy scissors, cutting blocks, tools for making doll gloves, and every tool one could possibly imagine, and a few one probably can’t.
Storto also presents a modern take on glove making, displaying some of the more avant-garde gloves he's created. Next to the 19th-century tools lay his first collection of gloves, called his “Ten Commandment” gloves. Created in the 1980s while he was working as a designer in Los Angeles, the gauntlet-style gloves are both bold and heavy with commandments sewn on each.
They reflect a sense of chaos that he experienced while living in LA, at a time when the city was living in fear of the next serial killer or the next violent crime. In some ways, they feel relevant today, in terms of both Storto’s social critique and style.
Close by, Storto displays his “handbag,” in which a soft leather glove cradles a bag. He mixes in some other vintage pieces, some that he’s collected from his years working in Hollywood and others that people have sent to him.
But as fashion is always moving forward, so is Storto. His new studio sits adjacent to the reimagined “studio from the 1800s,” with some of his recent works on the walls on the work table. Pieces of soft Italian leather with carefully typed stories lay beside a typewriter, with a strip of mostly blank leather poised and ready to be typed on. There’s also a vintage stocking, laid out and ready to be recreated into a glove.
“It’s about using old tools to create new things,” Storto said.
When he first purchased the church over a year ago, he was mostly looking for another space to create. He was outgrowing the small studio in Gloversville and needed something else. But after talking with town officials in Seward, it turned out they were interested in, of all things, a museum.
“There’s a real community here . . . they’re accepting of what it’s become. They’re happy that it’s being preserved,” Storto said. Dorloo is a small area and neighbors often stop by to see what’s going on with the church that their parents went to or where they were married.
Storto kept as many elements from the church, which was built in 1852, as he could, including the stained glass windows and the church bell. He had to replace the ceiling in what used to be the Sunday school room and remove a few pews so there would be more room to walk.
He also replaced the pew Bibles with bibles of a different sort: copies of “Hollywood Costume: Glamour! Glitter! Romance!,” by Diana Vreeland and Dale McConathy. It’s a brocade-covered testament to the sort of design aesthetic echoed in Storto’s designs and on the walls of the museum.
One installation placed in front of the pews is a sculptural take on glove making. Over a dozen black leather gloves, created by Storto, seem to almost float in various twisted positions.
To the side of the pews hangs another installation, one that Storto is encouraging people to interact with. At first glance, it seems like these mysterious black pieces of fabric are cascading down to several pairs of bright white long-toed -- known as poulaine -- shoes on the ground.
“I wanted to design an inaugural glove,” Storto said, “So this is a wrap glove that wraps around the wrist.”
Anyone who wants a pair can pay as much as they’d like and take a pair home. There is no cost of admission. Storto said the point of the museum is not to make money.
“This is to be used,” Storto said.
There’s an extensive fashion and art reference library, which Storto is constantly adding to. Editorials and sketches of glove designs from decades ago hang on the walls, curated by friend Susan Manno, adding to the sense of history. There’s also a copy of one of the Vogue covers that Storto’s work is featured on, with the actual gloves hanging next to it.
“We walk through the vintage drawings, walk through the vintage tools and this is to show [what] you can do with those tools,” Storto said.
Storto’s son, Andre, has been learning the art of glove making little by little and plans to start in earnest this summer. But Storto hopes that others will also get involved.
To use the space to be inspired, to read, to learn something about glove making, which was once such an important industry in the area, and learn what can be done with it today.
“Experimentation for the next generation,” Storto said.
He plans to teach glove making classes next summer. He’s also looking to bring original plays and lectures to the museum, as well as hold jazz band performances, fashion films, and other events.
It may be called a museum, but it’s anything but stodgy. The Glove Museum presents history without getting stuck in it and hints at how the art of glove making is moving forward without forgetting its aesthetic roots.
The Glove Museum
Open Noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays - Sundays from now until Nov. 1
2155 State Route 165
For more information visit theglovemuseum.com