When it comes to creativity, Carlisle Pike is not generally regarded as a center of innovation.
But about halfway between Camp Hill and Mechanicsburg, across from HoneyBaked Ham and Arooga’s, is a place that definitely doesn’t fit the usual mold. A huge, rusted anchor leans against the front of the building, giving a clue to what’s inside.
Jason Kreiger and Douglas Koozer created Brain Vessel, a branding business, in 2013, and now have expanded it to include an art gallery and crafty shop. Koozer said the name describes “a container of creativity, getting our clients to their destination.” He added that it is a metaphor for developing a product from scratch and experiencing unforeseen events along the journey.
The nautically themed (though not exclusively) gallery contains jewelry, glass, paintings, furniture and sculpture. Many of the pieces are functional works of art. The liar’s dice sets, for instance, have hand-stitched, vegetable-tanned leather cups and marble-finished dice. Koozer refers to the benches and stools wrapped in hand-forged, twisted wrought iron, created by Don Shelton, as “generational furniture.” Pewter jewelry includes rings and necklaces engraved with a compass rose, captain’s wheel and anchors.
The gallery’s foundation is its playing cards, ornately decorated with pirates, high seas adventures or creatures resembling the legendary sea monster, the Kraken, all original art work by Kreiger. Some of the decks are licensed by Bicycle. Licensed or not, they bring a “Pirates of the Caribbean” air to any Saturday night poker game. Koozer said the cards serve as a sustainable, go-to product for Brain Vessel, which has shipped sets to 20 different countries.
A few art pieces are designed specifically to house the decks of cards. The quadriptych holds four decks side by side in a superbly engraved wooden frame. The engraving resembles scrimshaw, an art form in which whalebone is engraved then ink applied to the etching. While in the frame, the decks create a complete narrative—whaling ships on the hunt. The decoration continues on the inside of the frame, when the cards are removed. Poster-sized sheets of uncut cards are available for sale, as well.
Koozer describes the gallery’s contents as being “about detail and quality. It’s affordable and collectible.”
The gallery, according to Koozer, “is a product of everything that I’ve ever experienced, put all into one.” Those experiences include his many business ventures, such as a sign business that he owned for 10 years, an events company, which he sold to Motorama Events, and Gotta Pea, a children’s entertainment property.
His combined business experience also has driven Brain Vessel’s branding expertise. Although it may not be obvious at first, art and branding work together, Koozer said.
“We want to build a community of artists, creatives and brands—have resources for them either that they wouldn’t normally know how to find or be able attract themselves,” he said, adding that artists and startups often know how to create but not how to get the word out.
Brain Vessel is in the process of building out studio space for artists and increasingly wants to host artists’ showings and events for area residents. In October, Shawn Feeney, an artist, musician and master vegetable carver, featured on Food Network’s “Halloween Wars,” taught a seven-hour pumpkin carving class. Classes like this aren’t just for artists—Brain Vessel welcomes and encourages participation by novices.
Upcoming events include a Feb. 22 and 23 show by Thom Glace, a local watercolor and oil artist who specializes in fish, dragonflies and landscapes. Local gear heads might be interested in an April exhibit by Casey Hall, who focuses on painting carburetors. This show coincides with the spring Carlisle Collector Car Swap Meet.
Whether it’s branding businesses and products or providing space for events and artists, Brain Vessel focuses on collaboration. It doesn’t simply exist for itself, but desires to serve as an anchor in the artistic community, helping to brand artists and leverage its creative prowess to help businesses.
“I want to come into work every day, not even work—my space—and be able to love what I’m doing and inspire people and also be inspired,” said Koozer.
Brain Vessel is located at 4702-04 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg. For more information, visit www.bvcargo.com or Brain Vessel’s Facebook page.