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.

 

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!

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!

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.

 

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

 

 

 

Terrafirma has arrived!

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Ellen Evans, owner and artistic director of the Terrafirma studio, produces exquisite place settings made from a base of warm, natural stoneware juxtaposed with vibrantly colored and patterned porcelain surfaces. Her creative focus is to design and produce high quality, functional works of art for the table and home using a unique, original process.

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Patterns are created by painting through textiles and lace using liquid porcelain to produce a distinctive casual yet sophisticated look that has become her signature in both dinnerware and accessories.

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Terrafirma products are made entirely by hand and kiln-fired to extremely high temperatures, giving each piece its own personality and great durability.  Slight variations in color, texture and surface blushing are the natural and desired result of the hand building and high-firing process, and assure each piece of its individuality.

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Each collectible, copyrighted design is signed and dated.  All Terrafirma pieces are food and dishwasher safe. Place settings can be ordered in our stores where you can mix and match 3 glaze colors with 11 fabric patterns across plates and bowls for your own personal set of dishes.

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Jewelry Inspired By Architecture

As a jewelry buyer, I am drawn to bold color and clean lines.  This photo of the JFK TWA terminal shouts “Good Design!”

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I’m also a fanatic about laser cut designs in any medium.  Kathleen Dautel of Spark Metal Studio creates laser cut stainless steel that is hand finished and hand colored with epoxy resin.  The forms are both architecturally based and drawn from nature with a linear graphic quality.

fizz necklace

Fizz Necklace

Kathleen has always had artistic influences in her life.  Her father was a printmaker, painter and art professor.  While at the University of Oregon, she took her first metalsmithing class and loved it.  After graduating, she returned to the U of O to receive a BFA in Metalsmithing.

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Kathleen moved to Portland, Oregon in 1994, and the city, its buildings and environment inspired her to pursue architecture.  She continued her education at NC State, earning a Masters in Architecture.  Since graduating, she has had the opportunity to work as a project designer for architecture firms in the area, winning several design awards for many of the projects, but her love for metalsmithing has always been in the back of her mind.  In the fall of 2009 Kathleen launched her own jewelry and metalsmithing line, Spark Metal Studio.

Kathleen Dautel

Kathleen Dautel

Eye Candy

My world revolves around what I call “eye candy.” It might be a photo, a piece of art or a landscape – I’m surrounded by beautiful things every day.

A beautiful small town scene with colorful buildings…

Kinsale, Ireland

Kinsale, Ireland

A gorgeous piece of wall art by my calligrapher friend Denis

Art by Denis Brown

Art by Denis Brown

And last but never least, new jewelry designs arriving every day! New designs came today from one of my favorite jewelers, Alicia Van Fleteren.  Alicia’s metals and gemstones are colorful and striking. I couldn’t resist and already bought a piece! What fun!

Alicia Van Fleteren Garnet

Alicia Van Fleteren Garnet