Farming is no Fable: Farmhouse Pottery

Shhhh….can you hear that?  It’s the sound of serenity.  The traffic thins, the mountains rise around you, the rivers start to rush, and the people slow down and smile.  It’s not a Splenda smile either – all Emily Post etiquette.  It’s warm maple syrup, tapped from the tree where the wind whispers a happy tune.

Vermont is a special place.  Oh it has it’s troubles like any place, but when it’s you, the smell of firewood burning in the distance, a brisk breeze making your cheeks rosy, the smell of fir pines as you tromp through the woods, they do seem far away.

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Eight Days a Week.

On my annual work retreat we tucked away to Woodstock, Vermont, a storybook New England town, to work, and to hear one another, away from the noise of the city.  We worked, and it worked.  Maybe it is as simple as clean air, clear ideas, renewed spirit?  Whatever the reason, I feel lucky and inspired.

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Artisan’s at work.

On my way out of town I stopped into Farmhouse Pottery.  My Boss Lisa gave me a beautiful parting gift from this store, and having seen a blog post from Erin GatesElements of Style, I couldn’t leave without seeing more.

Zoe and James have created their very own American dream.  Harvested from the land, mined, tooled, and worked by artisans – all here in the states, they have created something sophisticated in its purity, and simplicity.  The retail store and the workshop juxtapose mud and beauty.  Thoughtful vignettes abound, a wall of pottery, a whitewashed stump turned side table, a linen pillow, apron or napkin, a custom crafted table set with wooden bowls, dried flowers, and decorative clay fired trees.  A floor stained in a custom pale gray.  I’d move right in – though I am pretty sure that Zoe, James and their two little girls live upstairs and would find my presence unwelcome.  Now if I could perfect my pottery making skills, it might be a different story all together.  One of the artisans assured me that after making 500 or 600 vases – I’d really get the hang of it.  He wasn’t kidding.

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Linen Pillows . from $85.

Happinest: isn’t an illusion

It can be found in Verellen’s new line of lower priced upholstered pieces.  Sofas, chairs, ottomans, and benches, Verellen knows just how to put a smile on my face.  The Belgian based company is all about artisanal goodness.  They craft their pieces with love – I still cannot get over the fact that their base is located on a farm where chicken wander freely around the property, offering their support and contributing to the happy vide.

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Happinest by Verellen Dreamy Club Chairs

I first learned that this new line would be released this summer at Artefact in Belmont, MA where Tom Verellen spoke about the companies history, craftsmanship in an age of mass production, and disposability over heirloom.  He talked about bonding customers to the brand for life, forming partnerships, and …. still being accessible.

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Happinest by Verellen Dreamy Sofa

Here’s where Happiness comes into the picture.  Verellen, can only be found in a few select locations across the United States and it’s pricy.  In my opinion it’s worth every penny.  I have had my Verellen since my first flip and if I have my way – you’ll see it in number 10 too.  It’s perfection – it’s lines are sexy, its compact but sits deep, its graceful and welcoming after a hard day in the city.  It offers comfort, but it was not cheap.

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Happinest by Verellen . Quirky Ottoman

Didn’t my ears perk up at the mention of their new – less expensive line.  A line that 20 and 30 year olds could afford, and begin a life long love affair with this delicious brand.  Not a vast collection, but one that will likely suit many tastes.  The names of each are fabu; Dreamy, Happy Modular, Love, Lucky and Quirky.  Of the five – I love Dreamy the best.  Interestingly I don’t love:  Love, and Lucky doesn’t feels boxier than I think Luck should feel, but there is something that is so Verellen wonderful about the collection- and I hear from Sue Marsh at Artesan that they have been tweaking the design to give this line – the lines that curve and embrace.

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Happinest by Verellen . Happy Modular

It’s the happiest surprise I’ve had in a long time.

 

Robshaw: Revival of the fittest

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Step back in time…were it not for the sneakers.  Robshaw in India from his website.

John Robshaw strikes me as an old soul with an adventurous heart, and an appropriately reverent appreciation for the commingling of history, and artisanal craft.  It’s a mouthful, but I suspect, though I have not met Mr. Robshaw, that his waters run deep. Therefore, they are worthy of the words. One little post from a gal on a modest quest like me, cannot possibly do this man justice.  I can however attempt to share with you all, some of elegance of what he creates. From the dusty roads of Rujistan to NYC’s Bowery, Robshaw has pioneered a revival.

 

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The Bowery . in a time gone by.

From fine artist to artisan, from the studios and classrooms of Pratt, to the dirt floors, and open air markets of India, where the ancient and traditional techniques of hand blocked fabrics, found an eager student in John.  He has made a living, in living his passion.

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Aerial Light Indigo

I can only imagine he has a heart born for exploration, an inquisitive nature which led him to ask how, and why this ancient tradition was carried out in this fashion.  Crouched in small covered shacks, carving wooden blocks, which will later form the pattern.  Robshaw heralds the imperfections of the design, as a sacred sign of authenticity.  He imbues a sense of awe, infuses his own stylistic technique for overlapping pattern, and natural variation in color, that is the result of something made with adept skill and pride, rather than the cold, formulaic drone of mass production.

 

Left:  Robshaw: Aleppo Light Indigo. Right:  Malik

Robshaw is a fine artist indeed.  His Bowery based shop is gritty, and full of curiosities.  It doesn’t feel at all far from the farmland that its Dutch name indicates was its origin.  Before all all the shops, and bars and restaurants sprung up, before its neighbors in Chinatown called themselves by that name, and long before the Lower East Side was hip and called The LES, and before it was inhabited by writers, and Wall Street Brokers, Hasidic Jews and bejeweled starlets…it was just farmland.  Like a seed planted in that rich soil, Robshaw sprung up, flourished, and spread from East to West and back again.

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Robshaw . Murmur Kashmir

While many of the patterns feel Bohemian, I envision them in The Manse’s – Cape Cod Coastal setting.  The watery blue hues, the organic leafy patterns, vines and blossoms, feel right amidst the sand and seagrass.  Crisp, not rumpled.  Roman, not flowing reams of fabric for windows, upholstered stools and benches, not soft hassocks and floppy pillows.  Whatever your preference, Robshaw’s refined designs are both unique and familiar.

Left:  Robshaw . Citadel Lotus.  Right:  Robshaw . Faris Silver.

Sold to the Trade, and not here in Boston, you must email:  fabric@johnrobshaw.com.  Pillows and sheets can be bought at ABC Carpet in NYC.  I often find pillows at Hudson in Boston’s South End, and Target http://www.target.com/p/john-robshaw-bedding-collection/-/A-50746566 has an amazingly vibrant and playful line of bedding designed him.  Something to suit all budgets this Saturday.

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John Robshaw . Kalmala

ART in Fact: ARTEFACT offers hidden gems

artefact4Where it not for my dear friend Joanne Difrancesco of JDCommunications, I may never have found this quietly dignified Home and Garden store in Belmont . MA.  ARTEFACT . 1000 Pleasant Street. Belmont . MA  www.artefacthome.com,  owned by two sisters, Sue and Maureen Walsh, is an oasis off of a busy suburban street.  It was a lovely surprise…why you ask?  It features furnishings, and art that is one of a kind, or nearly one of a kind.  As a professional shopper(the kind that only spends money, doesn’t get paid to shop for others), I can assure you I run into the same lines again and again.  I nearly ran over the designers assembled, eager to receive their continuing education credits for the presentation that was to follow, in my frantic desire to grab a glass of wine, and get an up close look at those gold guilted mirrors.  Quel beauty.  They were worth the stares I received.

While the mirrors may have been the first thing to catch my eye, they weren’t the last.  The lighting that was displayed is dramatic, and very unusual.  Statement pieces abounded, and as I circled the showroom floor and later chatted with Maureen, I learned that they represent local artisans.  The floating shelves, made by an wood worker out of Beverly are so uber chic.  My love of sixties design has me envisioning them in a sleek bachelor bad, displaying a “floating bar” with the perfect bottle of bourbon, and a glass carafe for stirring up an early evening aperitif.  Admittedly, my eyes might be glued to the 6’2″ male model of a man, making me that cocktail, but for you, I offer this dark, sleek, floating vision of perfection.  Enjoy.

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Floating Shelves:  18″w x 14″d x 4″h $1500.  36″w x 14″d x 4″h $3000.

The event featured Verellen – a Belgian Furniture Maker, and Libeco, the Belgian Linen supplier with whom they partner.  I own a Verellen.  It’s the only sofa I ever owned that I have never wanted to be something other than it is.  It’s deep, comforting, has sexy lines, and is perfectly crafted.  I had no idea that there was a Tom Verellen, son of Ellen, that was responsible for my beautifully crafted piece.

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Sue Walsh and Tom Verellen confer before the presentation.

Mine is called the Charlotte, and while I admitted to Tom that it’s beautiful Belgian Slip Cover got tossed last year, it held up well through dinner parties and red wine spills, little sticky hands, and hard to identify stains.  I washed it, and scrubbed it, and loved it.  In the end, it’s pale gray color was ruined by chocolate.  If only I had known Catherine of Libeco, I could have gotten that out of it too.  No worries, I reupholstered it, and love it all over again in its new streamlined form.

Verellen, like true Artisans does not sell to big companies, but rather chooses small business owners with whom to partner, and select just one or two in the city or region.  This means, you simply must visit ARTETACT to see what their chairs, sofas, and chaises are all about.  The pieces, made by real people, on a farm with chickens – I am not making this up, are not inexpensive.  Something made with that much love, shouldn’t be.  Having said that, they are coming out with a new line in just a few weeks that will be at a more affordable price point for those starting out…..Happy Nest.  Please, I don’t think adorning the name anymore is possible.  My Quest for the Nest will be making good use of these happy pieces.  While options are limited, they are super quick ship, and will be made with the same exacting standards for which Verellen is known.

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Verellen in Libeco’s Belgian Linen.

I didn’t get out of the store before securing a hold on a pair of French Art Deco, flush mount fixtures.  They are indeed pieces of art.  I spied them across the room.  I found myself catching their eye again and again throughout the evening.  We’ll meet again.  I have just the place for you.