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Artist Thrives by Recycling

Sugarloaf Craft Festival News

Miles Tonne Zone Photo

Miles believes that we all fit into this "Patchwork Puzzle" of life in our own unique way. "The trick is being able to recognize the path when it is revealed to you and then, just doing your best to follow it."

One path that was revealed to Miles happened by chance in 1964. "I was living with my parents in Glen Cove, Long Island and had just won a full scholarship to Adelphi University which was nearby. While walking the dog one evening, I took a shortcut by a new factory near my favorite woods. I happened upon a dumpster that was overflowing with pieces of suede and leather and couldn't believe that this luxurious material was being thrown out and hauled to the dump." He proceeded to sort through the pile of scraps and take home some of the larger pieces. A little experimentation and a few lessons on his mother's sewing machine started him making simple things like pouches and bags.

Soon, the dumpster became a regular stop on his route and his stockpile of material grew as did his innovative ways of patching them together. "In the beginning, I made vests for myself, but when I was recruited to make some mini-skirts for some girlfriends, I was hooked."

While attending college and working as a lifeguard on the beaches in summer, Miles would do his patchwork clothing in his spare time. "Someone suggested I try selling my things at a local craft show and it worked! Since my materials were free it was also very profitable."

After graduating form college, Miles was accepted to the famous Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a MBA degree. His recycling was put on hold. "Luckily for me, I realized that I was not cut out to be a cog in the corporate wheel, so I left graduate school to follow the creative side of my nature."

Throughout this period, playing guitar, singing and writing songs was also a major part of Miles' life. "Since high school, I've played all kinds of groups from rock to jazz, but at this point, I hit the road as a solo acoustic performer." After experiencing the difficulties and frustrations of pursuing a career in music, Miles returned to Long Island and that bountiful dumpster. His recycled leather designs were in such demand that he couldn't keep up with it. He recruited a helper to do some sewing and started doing craft shows across the country.

For more than 22 years, Miles has been recycling these suede and leather scraps into wearable art for men and women. His designs range from bikinis to capes.

Through his unique combination of luck and hard work Miles now runs his life from his own piece of heaven on earth where he is able to spend time with his family and pursue his work. In 1979, he and wife Judy, bought an old, European style, hand-crafted stone house in Huntington, Long Island, complete with iron gates, turrets, ponds, water falls, and a gazebo surrounded by a moat. "It had been neglected for many years and my restoring it has been a labor of love." Miles' "Solar Castle" is now near completion with the addition of energy-saving solar greenhouses and modern insulating technology. "It is turning out to be a very energy efficient structure as well as a joy to look at and live in." Miles' latest addition has been a recording studio "to enable that musical part of me to re-emerge" and he expects to have some recording of his songs ready for release soon.

"I believe that a lot of my success is due to my desire to give people a unique, high-quality product at a good price. Since I've been using recycled material for all these years, I also feel like I am doing my small part in helping to make this world a little cleaner, a little more efficient and a little more creative.

A Place to Buy Suede

The New York Times
Shoptalk, August 7th, 1977 by Muriel Fischer

In winter we hunger for summer; in August many yearn for autumn. So it may now be a pleasant pastime to shop for suede and leather garments for the fall. And Patchwork by Miles, a custom shop in Manhasset's Miracle Mile, is an ideal place for browsing or buying.

Tucked away under The Magic Pan, at 1360 Northern Boulevard, the shop is akin to a gallery, with tapestries and toadstools, sheepskins and cushions, and a variety of jackets, jumpsuits, ponchos, and skirts - some with multicolored feathered designs, some with acrylic scenes, and all individually created to the customer's size and taste.

Prices range from $19 for a suede beret to $650 for a geometric quilt. (The latter, a three-dimensional dazzler of black and brown suede blocks, currently blankets a wall.) A black antelope wraparound jumpsuit sells for $300 and an earth-toned skirt with painted zebras at pasture costs $200. A "scenic" bikini is $65. The bikini is practical, the artist-owner contends, "because pigskin holds up in water. It stays soft, it doesn't dry out or shrink."

The "Patchwork" evolved 10 years ago from the disposal habits of a local factory. "They were throwing away scraps of suede," Miles said. "I hated to see waste in any form, so I gathered up the pieces and patched them together." He won awards in craft shows and sold select items in a Manhattan gallery; and eventually a demand generated a business. Also, the patchability is practical as well as artistic. "I give extra patches with each garment so we always have a piece that matches if the garment is soiled or needs repair."

Note: The shop mentioned in these articles has not been around for quite a while. Miles chose the gypsy life of traveling around the states. It is now being replaced by the Miles Tonne Zone

Patchwork by Miles

The Locust Valley Leader
Gadabout, 1977

The next time you are in the Manhasset area give yourself a special treat. In the Bloomingdale shopping center a very exciting shop has recently opened. Patchwork by Miles is the name of this unique combination gallery and shop featuring wearable art and unique home accessories. Miles, a multi-talented young man from Bayville, has been creating works of art for many years. He has exhibited and won awards for his designs at craft shows and fairs all over the country. Last Christmas Miles won the Most Innovative Craft of the Fair award at the annual Madison Square Garden show. He has taken many first and second prizes at craft fairs including the Northeast Craft Fair at Rhinebeck, New York.

Until recently Miles has been selling his elegant suede creations privately to such personalities as Mrs. Joel Grey, Roberta Flack, and Mrs. Dustin Hoffman. His clothing line was also featured at Julie: Artisan's Gallery on Madison avenue. Now Long Island shoppers will be able to browse through this one-of-a-kind gallery of leather and fur fashions.

Every creation on display is breath-taking to behold. How about a hand-painted horse grazing in the pastures of a skirt, or a desert sun on a jumper. Either the jumper or skirt can be had in varying lengths. For that special New Year's Eve party, we saw an elegant sleek black antelope jumpsuit -- guaranteed to be the only one at the party.

Also on display you will find jackets, skirts, gauchos, dresses, ponchos, coats, vests, hats and handbags that match and even a cute suede bikini. Evident in each piece of clothing is expert craftsmanship and attention to detail.

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