Meet Julie Powell: Jeweler Extraordinaire

Year after year I am struck by the creativity of our jewelers.  Oftentimes I will discover that in addition to making jewelry, they also design textiles or sculpture or wall art.  Enter Julie Powell, one of the newest additions to our jewelry department!

When I found Julie at a recent show, I was completely charmed not only by her beaded jewelry designs but also by the sketches she was working on in her booth while not engaged in conversation with buyers.  It reminded me that creative people use every spare moment to do what they most love.

Watercolor by Julie Powell

I love learning about these amazing designers after their jewelry has arrived in our office.  I research and read all the many pieces of information I can find in order to help our salespeople and customers know that behind every craftsperson there is an individual who has spent a lifetime learning his or her trade.

Julie’s story is a fascinating one.  She has a background in weaving, knitting, quilting, embroidering and dyeing fabrics, and has used this experience to design her beaded earrings, bracelets, pins and necklaces.  I was particularly delighted to discover that Julie is featured in the latest issue of Ornament Magazine.  I invite you to read her unique story and be dazzled by Julie’s immense gifts!

Artist Spotlight: Robin Cage

By Naira Ruiz

It’s been more than 35 years since Robin Cage decided to turn her passion for making high-fired pottery into a full-time career. These days, the Virginia-based artist is usually “up to her elbows in clay” in her studio in Richmond.

 

Cage’s work, which has been recognized by the Artisans Center of Virginia for excellence in design and craftsmanship, is known for incorporating a harmonious aesthetic with utility. Wonderful examples of this are the rust and green chip and dip, and hors d’oeuvre platters. These pieces feature graceful brushwork and come with a small bowl and tray that can be used together or separately.

 

 

Robin Cage pottery is also versatile color-wise, thanks to a neutral palette. Both the rust and green, and blue and white combinations could work with almost any décor and could easily be incorporated with serving pieces by other artists.

 

 

This is just one reason why her work is so popular with people shopping for themselves and people shopping for a gift. However, if you ask Robin Cage what makes her work so beloved, she’d probably say it’s the fact that it’s made by hand. In fact, this is a source of great pride. In an interview with Richmond Magazine last year, she had this to say:

“Each piece that I do, every single one, is mine from the time I wedge the clay and throw it until it’s fired and ready for the shelves. Each one has my fingerprints on it. It means something to me, and generally, I find it means something more to the person who receives it, as well.”

We couldn’t agree more!

 

You can check out a selection of Robin Cage’s pottery at Appalachian Spring here, or stop by one of our stores to see the quality design and craftsmanship of her ceramics.

 

Inside the Holly Yashi Studio

By Kylie Hiemstra

While driving up the California coast this spring, I noticed a billboard advertising the Holly Yashi studio. Having grown up admiring and proudly wearing lots of Holly Yashi pieces, I was excited by the chance to visit.

 

 

Once there, I met Paul “Yashi” Lubitz and introduced myself as Dawn Hill’s daughter. He was very friendly and eager to show me around the studio. I saw creative and detail-oriented people hard at work designing and crafting beautiful and unique pieces. Seeing all of the different tools and stations helped me understand the many steps in the process of making such intricate jewelry. My favorite part was watching niobium transform into the vibrant colors that are a hallmark of Holly Yashi’s pieces.

 

 

The store portion of the studio was full of bright and interesting items which I also got to explore. Visiting the studio gave me the opportunity to further appreciate the intricacies of Holly Yashi’s pieces and the labor that goes into making them.

 

 

Celebrate Non-Traditional Wedding Gifts

By Naira Ruiz

Stumped on what wedding gift you should choose? We’ve got you covered.

We all know that weddings are a big deal. A lot of effort goes into making the event a day a couple will  cherish for the rest of their lives. Since we’re currently in the thick of wedding season, there’s a good chance you need to buy a gift for an upcoming wedding or two.

But what should you consider?

If you know the couple has a wedding registry, it makes choosing a gift somewhat easier. But if they don’t, or if you’re anxious to purchase them something that’s a surprise, it can  be a challenge.

Don’t let the wedding gift conundrum stress you out. Here are some gift ideas that will definitely be a hit!

If you don’t know their style… go with wood

Do they like bright colors, or are they more into subdued hues? You have no idea, so buying that stunning red vase is too much of a gamble. Since you’re not sure about their taste in décor, getting them something in natural wood is perfect because it goes with almost everything.

This hand-turned wooden bowl by Andrew Pearce would look gorgeous in any setting.

You can find a selection of his work here.

Another option is this puzzle board by Hardwood Creations. The leaf-shaped boards are designed to fit together in a multitude of arrangements. Continue reading>

Ikebana: A simple way to create beautiful floral arrangements

By Naira Ruiz
Ikebana— the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging—is a relaxing way to tap into your creative side. In fact, this artform is known for its meditative qualities.
It’s also surprisingly simple and you don’t need a full bouquet of flowers to create elegant arrangements. Just one special flower combined with a curved branch or long leaf instantly creates a beautiful botanical sculpture.
Virtually any vessel can be turned into an ikebana container. All you need is a kenzan (a flower frog) to hold the flowers in place. When choosing an ikebana container, the trick is to pick something that enhances your arrangement.
Appalachian Spring carries a number of ikebana containers to suit a variety of tastes and arrangement styles.
For example, these small iridescent ikebana containers by Abelman Art Glass are great if you want to add a pop of color.

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 Since they’re small in scale, they won’t distract from the arrangement.
Or, if you want something more sculptural, these wooden ikebana containers by Kovecses are perfect.

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If these pieces seem architectural, that’s probably because one of the studio’s craftspeople, Joseph Kovecses, has a background in architectural design.
Looking for something with a more natural and rugged form?  You couldn’t ask for a better choice than this turned Buckeye Burl container by Warren Vienneau.

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Vienneau carefully selects woods with distinctive figures and grain patterns to create pieces which he describes as “preserving some of the natural existing beauty that was already there.”
If you’re aiming for something sleeker, check out Studio Paran.

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This ikebana container is part of the grass series which pays homage to “that lowly plant beneath our feet that so much of civilization is built upon.” Hand cut silver foil makes each piece unique.
If your theme is fusion, try a piece by Charlton Glassworks.  This mother and son team fuses metals between layers of glass to create striking glass art. The 1500-degree kiln turns the metals into unique, fiery images.

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This piece incorporates hand-cut copper into the design.
You can find these, as well as other beautiful ikebana containers Appalachian Spring offers here.  Create a stunning arrangement for each season.  All you need are the materials in your surroundings and your imagination!

Birdhouses with Curb Appeal

By Naira Ruiz
Spring is here…finally! That means increased daylight, budding plants and the return of migratory birds.
Since we tend to spend more time outdoors in spring, it’s important that our outdoor spaces are as beautiful as the insides of our homes. A great way to complement any yard is to add a charming birdhouse from Appalachian Spring. Humans will be drawn to the beautiful design and birds will be drawn to the structure’s usefulness.
Just as there are a multitude of home designs for people, the same is true for birdhouses.
For example, birdhouses can be elegant, like this mahogany “avian bungalow” topped with a hand-burnished copper roof and large hanging loop.

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According to the makers at Heartwood Architecture, the design was inspired by the “graceful lines and angles of a migrating flock.”
If you’re looking for something more whimsical, Heartwood Architecture also makes this Nottingham birdhouse.

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With its curved asymmetrical design, it looks like it was plucked straight out of a fairy tale!
This cherry and copper birdhouse from Abby’s Acre also has a fairy tale feel.

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The craftsperson, Al Buss, says he drew his inspiration from the Gothic Revival barns and farmhouses of his native region.
Birdhouses can also have a decidedly more modern vibe. Thanks to TV shows like “Mad Men,” mid-century modern design is all the rage once again. With Five Ply Designs, you can bring a little mid-century modern to your garden. These birdhouses were inspired by the famous Case Study Houses.

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They’re constructed by hand and the facades are painted in retro colors and topped with an untreated, solid cedar roof. They can be mounted on a wall or hung with the attached cable.
You can also find styles that blend in with nature, like this rustic birdhouse by Maine Line Products.

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It’s made of native Maine white birch and trimmed with striped maple.
Of course, all of these birdhouses not only look great from the outside, they’re safe, durable and designed to appeal to nesting birds. Birds can inhabit a birdhouse anytime of the year, but since they typically begin searching for a home in spring, putting your birdhouse up in early spring will increase the likelihood that it’ll be inhabited.
You can find these styles, as well as an assortment of other birdhouses Appalachian Spring carries here.
Happy bird watching!

Inside the Ed Levin Studio

 

Visiting the Ed Levin Studio was one of the highlights of my jewelry career.
I’ve long loved this studio for its fine quality and attention to detail, but
the thing I love most about Ed Levin Studio is its personal touch.

shaping jewelry toolroom

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Appalachian Spring has featured Ed Levin Jewelry for 48 years. Ed spent his
early years learning the trade in Argentina and continued to create art his
entire life. One of the highlights in visiting the Studio was seeing his early
sketches and designs. Ed combined classic and ethnic in an innovative way,
always keeping fashion and taste at the forefront of his creations.

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A Colorful Valentine’s Day

Even in the stark landscape of winter, we are surrounded by color in all its glory!  Living in Washington DC enables us to take advantage of a plethora of colorful cultural offerings, all at the end of our fingertips.

The reopening of the National Gallery of Art East Building in September 2016 showcases brand new spaces, including this stunning Calder room.  Stepping into this room with its bright pops of color makes my heart sing!

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Alexander Calder

 

Take a quick walk to the West Gallery and catch the current Stuart Davis exhibit and witness a virtual explosion of color.  Davis was an early American modernist artist whose bold and brash paintings celebrated jazz and the proto pop art movement of the 1940s and 1950s.

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Stuart Davis

 

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, we often turn to color.  Red comes to mind, with hearts and flowers, and most importantly, jewelry!  Appalachian Spring is ready with a collection of varied and diverse offerings, including these Valentine’s Day favorites.

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Help celebrate Valentine’s Day with your friends and loved ones and choose glorious color to brighten the day!

 

 

The Joy of Soup

By Naira Ruiz

During winter, with its cooler temperatures and shorter days, a hearty bowl of soup becomes the ultimate comfort food.

It’s not just eating that brings pleasure—making soup is relatively simple and the options are endless.

Since I’m somewhat of a soup aficionado, I couldn’t resist trying out the recipes in “A Beautiful Bowl of Soup” which you can find here.

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I love that this cookbook has recipes from around the world and even includes dessert soups I’d never made, like Berry-Wine Soup and Strawberry Bonbon Soup.

So far, my favorite recipe is the Polynesian Peanut Soup, but since I’m not even halfway through the book, that might change.

In fact, I’ve had so much fun trying out new recipes that it’s inspired me to serve soup as a main dish at gatherings this winter, and an attractive tureen is the best way to present it. Ceramic tureens not only look great but will also keep soup warm on the table because they hold the heat.

On Appalachian Spring’s website, you can find beautiful, handcrafted tureens by Barking Spider, Royce Yoder and Robin Cage.

Barking Spider’s tureen comes in a charming rust color (find it here)

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Royce Yoder’s tureens, with their textured ash glaze, are absolutely striking (find it here).

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Robin Cage’s glossy, two-toned tureen which is both simple and elegant (find it here).

robin-cage-tu-rust-green-1Enjoying a warm bowl of soup on a cold winter day is one of the pleasures of life!

Holiday Bling

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Nothing says holiday like that sparkling piece of jewelry!  Pave pieces, with their dazzling diamonds, make their grand entrance during this festive time of year.

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We are delighted to showcase the gorgeous pave diamond pieces created by Alicia Van Fleteren.  Alicia’s pave pieces will spark up your wardrobe and help you feel ready for those holiday parties that await your arrival!