Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger

hhoffman@appalachianspring.com



Posts by Guest:

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.

Abelman

 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.

Kovecses

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.

jpe 2

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.

studio paran grass black

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.

cpr ikb 2

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.

heartwood 123A Avian Bungalow

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.

heartwood 197A

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.

WC8NTA

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.

BirdHome Collection02

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.

maine line 4

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!

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.

a-beautiful-bowl-of-soup

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)

tu-rust-3

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

ladle outside

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!

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.

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

fall1

 

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.

still-life-pile-of-leaves

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.

fall3            four-leaves

 

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.

sm-pump-w-11

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.

gallery-leaf-tray

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.

teleidoscope-images
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.

image_4

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.

image_5

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.

image_6

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

The Serving Piece that is a One Handed Wonder

Kentucky springs 2

In my humble opinion the coolest thing that we carry here at Appalachian Spring is small and very curious.

Can you guess what it is? It is one of my favorite go to gifts.

I always ask the recipient to guess what it is and most can not figure it out.  Give up yet?

It is a one handed serving tong!

kentucky spring salad tongs

Don’t be fooled by this picture, these tongs are not just for salads, try using them for asparagus, green beans, hot bread, fruit platters, on a tray of appetizers, in a bowl of pasta, etc. Makes every holiday buffet an easy endeavor.  Be creative.  More than a couple of times I have personally given away my own pair, to guests who marveled over them.  When I first learned about these tongs, I gave a pair to every friend and family member that year for a holiday gift.

st st 3

When folded closed they lay flat and can easily be stored in the most crowded kitchen drawer or stuck into the fullest countertop utensil holder.st 2

The Parrish family makes these clever utensils from a very old pattern which was found years ago.  It’s not all magic, they steam the wood in order to bend it in to shape, then cools it.  Much the same way chair backs and musical instruments are made. The two sides are held together with a brass pin.  The Parishes use cherry, sugar maple, white oak and black walnut to create these gems.

They make a very fun gift and are very easy to store.

Fire & Light makes brownies better

Hello, my name is Barbara* and I am a baker.  Not a professional one, I bake for fun and to have tasty treats to feast upon.  This weekend I wanted to bake some brownies for the birthday of a dear friend.  I have not made brownies in a while and was in search of the perfect recipe.  I surfed, Googled and pulled out actual cookbooks until I found a recipe that made my mouth water as I read through the list of decadent ingredients.  Brownies all look pretty much the same, so I needed something really special to showcase them.  I found this beautiful recycled glass pedestal cake plate from Fire & Light that just called out to me.  After all, why shouldn’t a brownie have a delightful presentation to add to the anticipation of that first bite…

brownies

 

*For many years Barbara was a member of the buying team at Appalachian Spring. The office misses her and the goodies that she often baked and brought to us on Monday morning!