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>

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.

 

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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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!

 

 

 

 

Japanese Inspired American Crafts just in time for the National Cherry Blossom Festival

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photo credit: ©DavidMDworkin

March heralds the arrival of spring in Washington DC along with the celebration of the cherry blossoms that bloom along the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. In 1912 the mayor of Tokyo bestowed upon the United States 3000 Japanese cherry trees as a gesture of lasting friendship between the two countries. The initial gift was commemorated by a simple ceremony that featured First Lady Helen Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planting the first trees along the banks of the Potomac River.

In 1915, the United States government sent a reciprocal gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. In 1981, when thousands of Japanese cherry trees were destroyed in a flood, cuttings from the original gift of trees were sent to Japanese horticulturists to replace the lost and damaged flora.

Over the years the festival has emerged and grown. It is a time in which Washingtonians celebrate the arrival of spring, the beauty and variety of Japanese art in America, Japanese cultural experiences from drumming and dance to tea ceremonies and historic dress. In addition to events that are scheduled to honor Japanese culture, there are traditions that draw over 1.5 million visitors to the nation’s Capital each spring including among others: the annual Cherry Blossom parade, paddle boats on the tidal basin, throngs of photographers-professional and amateur alike, and the daily bloom forecast telling us that spring has truly arrived! Over the years we have seen Japanese influence in hand made objects ranging from glass to wood, pots to silk and jewelry to kaleidoscopes.

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I love that American made objects owe so much to the craft, practice and techniques of untold people who came before us throughout history and across the globe.  As these trades and crafts passed through cultures, countries and time, they reflect the particular flavors of the people and period. And yet the origins of each can still be seen and felt in the very fiber of glass, wood, silk and metal today.

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I see the Japanese influences in a surprising number of our American or Japanese-American artists. Nichibei, which translates as Japan and America, is a studio that blends the elegant tradition of Japanese folk art with the flair of contemporary American pottery. The “chop” used to sign Matsumoto’s pieces is the Japanese character for Pine Tree, the English translation of his familial name.

Good Elephant Studio produces rice bowls, plates and platters evocative of her Korean roots and contemporary graphic design training.

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Marc Matsui uses the simple elegant lines of his finely thrown bowls as a canvas for his spectacular glazes that integrate color and geometric designs. Marc is truly a master of the glaze, transforming clay into a glass-like finish with brilliant colors.

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The Japanese art of flower arranging is known as Ikebana. Over the years various American artists have begun to create forms or vases that can be used to make Ikebana flower arrangements in which heaven, earth and humans are united in a pleasing design. The use of a kenzan in the interior gives a firm base for these elegant arrangements.

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 Ikebana artists study for years to acquire the knowledge and skills that eventually can lead them to mastery. It is not surprising that we see Ikebana vessels made from wood, glass and clay. All of these materials were available in early Japanese culture and utilized to create organic presentations that were one with the environment.

Several of our woodworkers have been inspired by the Japanese aesthetics of elegant refinement, delicate detail, and subtle metaphors using archetypal shapes and forms. Cherry blossoms represent classic beauty and fragility. It reminds us that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful and yet tragically short.

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The architectural flavor of Japanese influence can be seen in the boxes made by Bill Bolstad. Using spalted woods infused with colored resins, he has created a limited edition set of boxes in various sizes. The ebony detailing and the shapes are evocative of miniature pagoda like buildings.

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Silk originated in China in 1700 BC, but there have been silkworms in the oldest of Japanese mythology. Shibori is credited as being a Japanese dying method that clearly gave rise to all of the many forms of tie dye that we have seen over thousands of years. Vivid colors and repeated geometric patterns can be seen in the Antrim Street designs.

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Theresa, one of our textile artists, spent 7 years in Japan as a university administrator, where she fell in love with the local textiles. She was immersed in Japanese culture and came to appreciate the embroidered silks and hand painted fabrics used in making kimono. Vintage kimonos are given new life in these handmade silk scarves by her studio.