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.

 

 

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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We love Joanna Alot!

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Joanna studied silk painting and art in a traditional artisan school in Milanowek, Poland where more than a hundred years ago, mulberry trees were cultivated for the specific purpose of growing silkworms to supply the fiber for the renowned silk for which the region was rapidly becoming famous. She draws inspiration from nature using leaves, trees and the hues of changing seasons to spill out onto her silk paintings in vibrant colors and patterns.

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After composing and designing, Joanna transfers each pattern to the fabric by hand. Painting on silk achieves effects that go beyond the constraints of paper; colors blend and hues saturate. Starting with lighter colors, followed by darker colors, it is much like working with watercolor paint.

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Each swath of silk is steamed to set the colors, hand washed to to elicit the silk’s soft, smooth “hand” and then stretched on frames and sun-dried in the Midwestern air outside of Joanna’s studio.

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The fabric is then cut to order for the scarves, shawls and other fashion garments and finished with meticulous attention to detail. At this point Joanna adds embellishments, stamping with gold or silver leaf to highlight the natural elements found in her designs. Today, Joanna’s work can be found in galleries across the country and we are proud to be one of those galleries!

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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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My New Role

As the calendar changes to spring I am taking a moment to reflect on my early months in my new role at Appalachian Spring.  For 15 years I have worked in the stores and now I am working in the office/warehouse. This time of year is inevitably a slower period in the stores than the busy days leading up to the winter holidays, but not so in the office! We have been extra busy since the beginning of January and I love it! Although I am in a new position with the company, I have jumped into the exciting buying season with both feet. With the exception of lending a hand during our annual inventory of the stores, every aspect of my job is new to me. I had a wonderful experience attending 3 out of 4 trade shows in January and February, where I met many of our fabulous artists face to face.

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Orders were placed with existing artists, as well as with new craftspeople we discovered in our travels. Speaking of orders—new items are arriving daily to the warehouse! We are working as quickly as possible to process the new arrivals and to get them to the stores. We can’t wait for our customers to come in and see and shop our collection of the finest of American craft!

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