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.

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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!

The Beauty of Fall in Your Home

By Naira Ruiz

There’s so much to love about fall. The temperature is perfect, our favorite treats get a pumpkin spice makeover and fall foliage, with its vibrant red, gold and orange tones, is absolutely gorgeous.

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It’s the one time of year where I’m constantly stopping to soak in the rich, natural beauty around me.

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But it wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized fall décor can be equally stunning. Take a look at these high-quality, hand-crafted items that evoke the spirit of fall but also work if you decide to display them all year round!

A nod to fall’s rich colors 

From the moment I first saw them, I fell in love with these metal leaf ornaments by Still Life.

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They start with an actual leaf that’s then preserved in gold, silver or copper. Each ornament takes approximately seven hours to create and the detailing is so remarkable that you can actually see the leaf’s intricate vein pattern.

 

These make perfect host or hostess gifts. You can give one by itself or use it to spruce up a bottle of wine.

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Go here to choose the Aspen Leaf style or here for the Sugar Maple. Once you decide on which leaf you want, you can specify if you want it in gold, silver or copper.

 

A nod to fall’s cheerfulness and whimsy
Jack Pine’s iridescent, mini glass pumpkins look charming displayed on table tops and bookshelves.

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And you don’t have to stick with traditional orange— they come in an assortment of vivid colors!

Click here to see a selection.

 

A subtle nod to fall

These functional, stoneware leaf trays and plates by Hank Goodman are great for those looking for fall décor that’s very subtle.

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With their simple but elegant lines, they complement both contemporary and traditional settings. You can use them to serve appetizers or use a plate stand to display them like art.

 

You can find the leaf tray here.

 

Four Gifts That Will Spark A Child’s Imagination

By Naira Ruiz

Have you ever given a gift to a small child but soon discovered they were more fascinated by the wrapping paper or box the gift came in, than the gift itself? If so, you’re not alone. Almost every parent has a story like this. That’s because small children can be notoriously finicky when it comes to toys.

Over the years, I’ve learned that high-tech or expensive toys aren’t necessarily the best toys. Good toys, the ones kids cherish, engage their natural curiosity without feeling too obviously educational. As one wise blogger at Babble put it, if a toy “screams ‘this is for learning’” it feels too much like school and that can turn a child off.

But don’t fret! If you’re determined to buy something that a child will actually play with, I’ve got you covered. Here are five simple gifts that are sure to spark a kid’s imagination.

1.) A Wooden Teleidoscope (for ages 9 and up)
Teleidoscopes allow you to see the world around you as though it were an intricate quilt or creative work of art. Unlike kaleidoscopes, teleidoscopes use objects outside the instrument to form patterns. This means the possible visual effects are endless.

For example, see how a teleidoscope transforms a crosswalk and my face into quilted patterns.

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But what truly makes this wooden teleidoscope so special is that not only is it fun to play with, it’s also gorgeously designed. Older children will be able to treasure this gift into adulthood.
You can find a wide range of teleidoscopes in our stores or click here to check out the kaleidoscope and teleidoscope section on our website.

2.) Stack and Scare Wood Block Set (for ages 3 and up)
The traditional wood block set gets a quirky spin with this stackable monster set. It’s crafted from sustainable basswood and printed with non-toxic inks. Children can mix and match shapes to create numerous creature combinations.

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You can find the Charlie Monster Block Set here and the Rodney Monster Block Set here.
3.) I Can Dance /I Can Play Board Books (for ages 2 and up)
Parents who are just beginning to read stories to their small children will appreciate this interactive board book. Using the holes (which are on every page), little kids will get a hoot out of making dancers tap and athletes sprint just by wiggling their fingers.

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You can find both books in our stores. Click here to see which store is closest to you.

4.) Walnut Shape Stacker (for toddlers)
This beautiful, handcrafted, developmental toy will provide a baby or toddler with hours of fun as they work on their fine and gross motor skills. The different shapes and types of wood encourage shape and color recognition.

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You can find the walnut shape stacker here and other handcrafted toys for babies here.

Inspired By Nature

Recently I had the good fortune to travel to the beautiful city of Barcelona.  There are many things to love about the city, but the most impressive of all was the proliferation of buildings designed by the renowned architect Antoni Gaudi.

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Sagrada Familia Cathedral Interior

Gaudi was highly skilled and used nature as one of his primary inspirations.  The magnificent Sagrada Familia Cathedral is one of the finest examples of this fact.

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Appalachian Spring features jewelry that is also inspired by nature.  Michael Michaud is the designer of Silver Seasons Jewelry.  This unique jewelry is made by creating molds that are taken from an actual leaf, branch or flower.  A mold is created around the botanical element and as it is heated the plant matter burns away and leaves behind a beautifully detailed mold of itself.  The result is a stunning piece of jewelry that captures the exquisite detail of nature.

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Color Your World

 

Ann Carol Bracelets

Janet Schroeder has been fascinated by Classical and Modern art from an early age.  When she was a teenager she discovered that she loved to create jewelry, and she began honing her skills to become proficient in silversmithing.  In 1999, Janet began working with Carol Baretz of Ann Carol Designs and was then able to combine her two passions.  Carol introduced Janet to resin enamel colors, and the two began to fabricate unique pieces of jewelry.
Earrings

Using sterling silver as a canvas, the resins are hand painted and then allowed to air dry. Meticulous care is taken to ensure that every detail of Ann Carol Designs jewelry is special and something to be treasured. Some pieces may take many cycles to fuse the colors into an intricately beautiful piece of wearable art.  The result is a beautiful treasure meant to last a lifetime.

Janet Schroeder

Janet Schroeder