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!

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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Gardening in DC in April!

It’s springtime in DC and we are enjoying the bounty of the Cherry Blossom bloom!

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Photo credit Copyright: David M. Dworkin 2016.

 

Now all things turn to gardening and spending time outdoors.

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So we set out our birdhouses

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including our latest acquisitions from Five Ply

 

5 ply bird houses

and plant Carruth critters in the moist mud.

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And we wander back down to the tidal basin for inspiration.

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Photo credit Copyright: David M. Dworkin 2016

 

 

 

The Key to my Heart

David Klenk has been a woodworker in New England for the last 20 years. He designs and makes a diverse range of work including large projects such as home libraries, custom office furnishings, tables, chairs and jewelry boxes.

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Appalachian Spring is pleased present David Klenk’s handsome jewelry boxes in our collection.

Most of David’s boxes are made of North American hardwoods including maple, cherry and oak.  However, he occasionally uses mahogany and other handsome hardwoods.

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The work includes fine joinery, custom hardware and a hand rubbed varnish finish which is rubbed to a silky smooth polish.

Each box is fitted with a custom key and lock. The beauty of the wood, the workmanship and the attention to detail completely stole my heart!

 

 

Winter White

I am particularly drawn to white at this time of year.  In a season that can be dark and colorless, white provides a spark of light that is both bright and uplifting.

Art by Nel Jansen

Art by Nel Jansen

My cousin Nel is an accomplished artist, and I love seeing her blog posts every day in my inbox.  Last week she posted this stunning painting of white tulips.  Before I had time to begin to consider buying this piece, it had sold.  Lucky buyer!

Necklace by Meghan Riley

Necklace by Meghan Riley

The onset on winter also brings with it a different fashion dynamic.  High collars, scarves and the like call for an alternative in our choices of jewelry.  We might choose a long necklace to wear with a sweater rather than a short one, or a post earring instead of a long French earwire to avoid having it catch on our clothing.

Earrings by Silver Seasons

Earrings by Silver Seasons

Invariably our minds turn to the beauty of white when we have our first snowfall.  Who ever thought of carving letterforms out of freshly fallen snow?  Celebrate the creativity all around us, no matter the season!

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Calligraphy by Denis Brown

Socks for Shelters

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Appalachian Spring is partnering with Solmate Socks to provide warm, knit socks to local shelters.  In recognition of the annual national celebration of American Craft Week in October, Solmate Socks will donate a pair of their socks for every pair purchased at Appalachian Spring stores in October to one of four local shelters in the metro DC area.

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Solmate Socks has been producing their colorful handmade socks in their family owned Vermont studios since 2000 and have been a part of Appalachian Spring’s merchandise collection for many of those years.  Known for their unique idea of creating pairs of unmatched socks, Solmate knits all their products from recycled yarns. The designs come from the sock lady herself, Marianne.

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American Craft Week began as a small, grassroots effort to enhance the knowledge and appreciation of handmade craft.  Now celebrating its sixth anniversary, American Craft Week is a well-established, national event celebrating the tradition of American craft in galleries, artists’ studios, museums, schools and festivals.  This year’s official celebration will be held Oct 3 – 12, and for the first time all 50 states are participating, including the District of Columbia, and US Army bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

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This effort will benefit clients at Georgetown Ministry Center, The Community for Creative Non-ViolenceClean and Sober Streets, The Embry Rucker Community Shelter and Stepping Stones Shelter. Please join Appalachian Spring and Solmate Socks in our Socks for Shelters Campaign.

Buy one, donate one!

 

The Serving Piece that is a One Handed Wonder

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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!

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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.

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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.

Chic and Stylish: farm to table serving stones

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Round Stone Beach on an island in Maine

I have spent almost every summer for the last 45 years in Maine. So if there is something that makes me feel like I am on the rocky coast of Maine, it’s going to be stones. I collect stones when I walk on Round Stone beach. I love to listen to the waves tumbling over the stones. I stack them in cairns when I walk in the woods. I have a small stone on the ledge of my vanity representing each member of our quickly growing family of 7, now 8! In my “garden” is a heart shade stone I lugged home to DC.

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Stone Cairn found on our beach walk

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Heart stone on my front step overlooking the “garden”

 

So when American Stonecraft stone slabs arrived- I was thrilled! These New England field stones are harvested, sliced, polished and then sealed.  Every field stone holds within a spectacular beauty that can only come from nature.  Each and every one is different, not only in size and shape, but the array of colors and amazing patterns of the interior.

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Field stones in New England are commonly called “New England potatoes”.  Farmers must constantly clear their fields of them.  Created by glaciers eons ago and buried within the soil, they rise to the surface and have to be removed, again and again, before the land can be farmed.   Historically they were used in the stone walls you see all over New England but these walls are too costly for today’s farmers to build and maintain so they often end up in piles.  The folks from American Stonecraft reach out to these small local farmers who are happy to supply American Stonecraft with lots and lots of field stones!

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Stone slab sandwich board

Whether you have a set of slabs and use them as plates or make it your favorite cheese serving platter, you will find hundreds of ways to put them to use. I keep one slab on my table as a trivet. I serve sushi, smoked fishes and cheeses on another. I definitely bought one to give and one for me–twice!

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Slightly large slab for summer rolls

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Keeping cheese at the perfect temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singing the Blues for Summer Dining

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Newest work of Mark Matsui, in stores now!

Blue is my favorite go-to color, it’s calm and soothing. Blue ranks number one around the world as a favorite color, slightly more popular with men than women but mostly equal regardless of age or nationality. In advertising green is associated with nature and environmentally friendly products. Red and yellow are often used to suggest speed, energy or urgency as in fast food logos. Blue is thoughtful, contemplative and peaceful.

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Colony Hotel, Kennebunkport ME

There are only a few naturally blue foods (blueberries, some cheeses and the errant ear of corn), fewer people have blue eyes,  blue seems to be a color that is just a little rare and special. It comes in bold cobalt, the softest of powder tones, or add a smidgen of green and it moves to aqua or turquoise.

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Kaser Shells

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When setting my table for a summer dinner party- I love to have a few blue pieces that catch the eye. Starting with my Fire & Light condiment dishes in cobalt and aqua, I might add a platter from Silver Ridge Studio with the fish imprint.

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Silver Ridge platter, Greenheck bowl, Byers serving dish, Schultz vase, and #Goodthingsnyc container

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Aronin platter and bowl, Cohen trivet, Massarella mug and Jeselskis plate (and more!)

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Matsui bowl, Fabrico long dish, Hillborn aqua tray, Massarella chip & dip and mugs, Meuller pitcher and plate

When I serve red potato salad gremolata*, I use a Winthrop Byers deep oval serving casserole. Crisp white linens and blue accent pieces can make my table feel cool and breezy for summer. Add some turquoise or aqua and my table suddenly feels at home at the beach or lake house. Visiting friends on the Cape-perhaps I will bring a hostess gift in blue: a bowl, a mug or two, or a vase. So many choices and each one appealing to the eye and satisfying to use.

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Byers serving dish makes a great container for a big batch of Red Potatoes Gremolata

*Red Potato Salad Gremolata

1# of “new” or red skinned potatoes, boiled in salt water (cook through but not too soft)

6 hard cooked eggs, peeled and cut in to 6 wedges each

3-4 cloves of finley chopped garlic

1 Bunch of parsley, finely chopped

3 ripe red tomatoes, chopped in chunks

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Toss potatoes with olive oil, tomatoes, parsley and garlic. Fold in the chopped eggs. Season with Salt and Pepper.  Garnish with additional Parsley. Serve in a blue bowl!

 

 

 

 

Introducing Springscene

 

Springscene is a celebration of creativity at Appalachian Spring, from the people who make it work: our buyers, craftspeople, store staff and office. The creative lifestyles of our cherished customers and the dedicated people who work here go beyond using and appreciating the unique creations of our artists.  Our “scene” is about celebrating all of this–the pottery used to serve a special meal, the scarves or jewelry that you reach for when going out on the town or dressing for a day in the office, the wine glass in which you enjoy your favorite Cabernet and the vase that makes the perfect accent to your décor. Join us as we explore how these objects come alive, the people behind the craft and the special events and activities that enchant us in the neighborhoods surrounding our stores and the city that first inspired a young couple in the mid 60’s to take a chance.

Polly and David moved to the DC area from West Virginia and North Carolina respectively, both regions rich in American handcraft.  Getting to know their new home town, they found no venue in or around the Nation’s Capital offering the American craft that they had taken for granted in their youth. While walking around Georgetown one day, Polly noticed an empty storefront and decided to solve that problem.  In 1968, she and David opened the first Appalachian Spring store in that very storefront.

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Their plan to bring high quality American handcrafted items to the Nation’s Capital became a reality.  Knowing that people from around the globe travel to Washington, DC, they wanted to showcase the work of talented craftspeople living and working in this country. When the store first opened it offered handmade objects from the Appalachian states, hence the name Appalachian Spring.

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Over time, and working as a team, Polly and David found beautiful handmade objects in other parts of our country, and added them to their merchandise mix.  Today Appalachian Spring features work from American craftspeople from all over the country as well as a few select artists from other parts of the world.  The collection is as unique and as diverse as the people of America.

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Every artist represented in Appalachian Spring has a distinctive perspective. We work with wood turners who source their wood from local landfills and turn it into breathtakingly beautiful turned wood serving bowls for your dinner table, a community recycling used glass into a symphony of colorful place settings and serving pieces, an artist who draws on her years of studying textile techniques to produce extraordinary contemporary fashion scarves , potters interning at the EnergyXchange in North Carolina who use green energy to fire their kilns, an amazing array of handmade kaleidoscope artists continuing a history of creating a whimsical and sophisticated art form that showcases the marriage of refracted light and color and artists who pass down their craft from generation to generation. Today we are proud to carry work from several second-generation artists.

Things have changed a lot since 1968.  We are in the age of technology and we recognize that our customers are not just walking into our stores; folks from all over the world visit our website. In the tradition of our stores we offer our hospitality, stories, insight and additional information on the world of Appalachian Spring via our blog. You will hear a number of different voices on Springscene, as we have an assortment of friends and colleagues writing on a variety of topics.  Each person brings their own idiosyncratic perspective and writing style. We hope you will delight in learning more about our artists, our lovely wares and our stores.  Enjoy our celebration of creativity and join us in crafting our blog by emailing your comments, compliments and queries to the authors.

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