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JOEL Joel's Blog

July Fourth Weekend and Objects That Connect.


July Fourth Weekend and Objects That Connect.  4On July 3rd I went down to the South Street Seaport of visit the Hermione, a reproduction of Layfayette's ship when he returned to the US in 1780. The line was crazy so instead we had lunch and went over first to Federal Hall and then to the Custom House. The latter is the home of the New York branch of the Museum of the Native American. There were two fabulous exhibits. First, a superb exhibit of modern jewellery by the Yazzie family, a Navajo family of silversmiths. What a treat (which I was forbidden to photograph)! I was just blow away. Then across the hall was an exhibit of really fun Central American ceramics.

As a rule I am not as enthused by ceramics as is my wife (who missed this visit) but this was really really nice stuff. Now I rate all exhibits with one rule "DO I WANT THIS" and I did, but a thought crossed my mind.

My dinnerware, a set of china my parents gave us, is nice stuff, but it is factory produced. It doesn't say much about us as a family. We have some a few pots and dishes that we picked on on trips and stuff that we use for company. Some of that is hand made. And I have a set of rice bowls that I bought at a craft fair directly from the maker over 20 years ago. I loved and still love the idea of using craft goods in my everyday life. But we don't. We just never bring out the interesting stuff except for company.

And this is what I was thinking of when I was looking at the ceramic bowls in the picture above. Did the users of these bowls appreciate the decorations and the designs? Were they used regularly or only trotted out for special occasions. Did some bored diner turn the bowl to see what the designs were on the other side, instead of hearing yet again the story of Uncle Fred and the Big Bear. And the sixty four dollar question: Why is it that some much of the things I own (and I have way too much stuff) are so forgettable? There is of course a big exception. The furniture I made, which sees daily use.

This is important and for me at least is at the core of why I started building stuff as a kid, continued as an adult, and eventually focused on making furniture. As a kid I built models and dreamed of big stuff. But I didn't have access to a real shop or grown-up materials. As an adult I had spent way to much time looking at great, but un-affordable furniture in museums to really not be disappointed by the mass market stuff I could actually afford. (good furniture is expensive - always has been). And my dream has always been to live in a home with nice stuff and the only way I could get nice stuff was to build it. And I did. I'm not done, and selling tools and raising a kid has limited my time at the bench by a lot. I also started a project over twenty years ago of making pieces for relatives. I didn't go far in that project, but I still get comments on the pieces I did make.
But, getting back to the thread of what I wanted to say, every day I sit on settles I made, and eat at a dining table I made, I have other pieces here too, but these are the ones I use daily, and feel good that I have real wood furniture, that is the right size for us, and fits in our apartment, and isn't expected to fall apart anytime soon.

(One of the settles is solid walnut and eight feet long. I don't think Stickley never made one that long, or out of walnut, and he certainly never made it using bed hardware so that it can be taken apart and moved from apartment to apartment as life changes.)

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10/07/2015 Marshall
Last year my wife and I bought a few pieces of stoneware made at Boles�awiec in western Poland. While the pottery is factory made, each piece is decorated by hand by an artist. While not Chinese cheap they are inexpensive for their beauty and durability. We use them every morning and each one brings a smile on a gray day.
10/08/2015 Jeff
Not only do I use Grammercy Tools, but my wife and I are Cave de l'Association de Producteurs Les Vignerons de Tavel members. (Credentials on the wall). Duly initiated into the Societe with a large (LARGE) goblet of Tavel. wine, where Lafayette was born and raised.
Both the tools and the wine are superb.
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