Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sneak Peek: New Work by John Zentner

New Hampshire potter John Zentner sent me these pictures yesterday of newly-thrown pieces drying in preparation for bisque firing. Pottery like this gets fired twice: once before glazing and once after. This is the before picture.

These pieces will have to wait a little while before they're done because John is rebuilding his kiln, which is necessary from time to time. The kiln has to be taken down brick by brick and then built back up after necessary interior repairs are made, which is no small task. But we will have pieces from this batch in store this fall!

John makes lots of nice things, but to me his mugs take the cake. Just about every potter makes mugs, but not all mugs are created equally. John's mugs are always so well-balanced, well-proportioned, and friendly to handle and drink from. They are sturdy without being clunky, earthy without being homely, and creative without being whimsical. They are also a reassuring presence to me, though maybe this is because I've lived with his mugs at home for so many years. John has a gift for mug-making, and it's such a privilege to offer his quintessential mugs at Greenjeans. Anyone who collects handmade mugs definitely needs a Zentner mug or two!

A small sampling of finished mugs available at Greenjeans ($18-$35 ea.)

John peering into his kiln at a new firing (taken July 2005)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Studio Visit: Janice Ho, Metalsmith Jeweler

During our Midwestern adventure, Jae and I visited the studios of two metalsmith jewelers whose work we offer at Greenjeans. Yesterday I wrote about our studio visit with Erica Schlueter. Today I'll tell you about our visit to Janice Ho's studio. Click here for the slideshow!

As an aside, we just got a new digital camera that takes close-ups, so I'll be able to post images of their work soon, too.

Janice's studio is in Madison, WI, a few miles from the beautiful State House. She shares the huge warehouse space with a few other metalsmiths. It's a pretty wonderful place to visit if you're like me and LOVE getting an inside look at working studios -- it's filled to the brim with mysterious tools, machines, and inspiring objects like jars of dried pods and funny cartoons.

Most of the studios I've visited house a couple of well-loved plants, but Janice's has a veritable garden growing along one window ledge. She showed us one plant that just the night before had produced a humongous hibiscus-like flower (which she's pantomiming in one of the slideshow pix), and another little succulent that had been retaining a tiny bead of water for the whole day. It is easy to see where Janice gets some of her ideas for the finely constructed botanical forms in her work!

Janice showed us some fresh pieces to pick from for Greenjeans, and as I sorted through the beautiful earrings and pendants and bracelets I came across a sweet little leaf-shaped ring that for some reason just looked like it belonged on my finger. It's a little sliver of oxidized silver textured with a thumb print and accented with a tiny sphere of gold, like some strange found treasure sleeping on my finger. I don't normally do this, but I asked her for one in my size. Now I wear it every day. Thank you, Janice!

Erica met us at the studio after we'd been there for a while and the four of us walked along the train tracks to State Street where we supped on delicious Nepalese fare and local brew. It was a lovely studio visit, and a splendid day in Madison.

Many thanks to Erica and Janice for their hospitality and letting us take a peek into their studios!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Studio Visit: Erica Schlueter, Metalsmith Jeweler

Two weeks ago, Jae and I visited the Midwest (see previous post) to celebrate a wedding, see some great architecture, and visit the studios of two wonderful metalsmith jewelers whose work we offer at Greenjeans: Erica Schlueter and Janice Ho.

Today I will share the story of our studio visit with Erica. Click here for a slideshow of pictures from our visit.

We arrived at Erica's home and studio late in the evening after dining with Erica, Janice, and Janice's husband, Adam, on State Street in Madison. The drive from Madison to Paoli (near Verona) took about 30 minutes, and ended in a short driveway in front of a massive white clapboard building, not a house, but an old dancehall and storefront. We stayed the night in Erica's cozy apartment at the back of the building, and in the morning she gave us a tour of the dancehall and all the strange antiques housed there, including a huge old map of Wisconsin on which she pointed out our location.

Then we peeked into her tiny studio and admired the works in progress on her old workbench, well patinaed with use. She showed us some of the fabrics she uses to create the texture in her pieces, and a little pot of filings to be sent back to the supplier for scrap refund, showing that recycling pays! She also showed us some cool new jewelry ideas further incorporating fiber and metals that I won't divulge here, but that I'm excited to add to the shop if she decides to make them.

We took a look in the garden, but the mosquitoes drove us out, so we headed up the street to visit Artisan Gallery and Creamery Cafe, a big, airy space filled with work by American craftspeople. Jae and I had to keep ourselves from drooling over the ample square footage and sculpture garden out front -- if you haven't visited Greenjeans, we have only about 350 square feet, including storage! But then, just about everything is bigger in the Midwest...

We also stopped in to Zazen Art Gallery down the street, a neat little space at the front of a woodworker's studio. We somehow managed to not buy cheese and frozen custard at the quaint little creamery along the way, where the proprietor watered her flowers while exchanging morning pleasantries with Erica. Ah, small town living!

We had to leave for Spring Green before noontime, but it was a pleasure to see where all those precious earrings and necklaces are made, to get a better understanding of her work in fiber and in metal, and to spend time with Erica, one of the first artisans at Greenjeans and someone we look forward to working with for many many years to come!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dispatch from America: Midwestern Adventure

We're back! Since last I posted, Jae and I have traveled from Milwaukee to Madison to Spring Green to Chicago, through thousands of acres of cornfields, dozens of stunning buildings, several huge meals featuring butter and cheese, and one liquid-and-gel-free airport security check point. And we attended the joyful wedding of two very happy, dear friends. It was an epic trip through a beautiful corner of America, which is filled not only with natural wonders but also incredible architecture. Though I can't deny we're glad to be back home in Brooklyn again!

I've put some pictures together to share -- click on the purple text to go to the accompanying Flickr slideshows. (Place cursor on main image to hide obsuring thumbnails at bottom.) The yellow text links to websites.

The first group of pictures is from Milwaukee, including the lovely Van Hallgren wedding and the Wisconsin State Fair. (Check out those farm boys, who are totally cute even in a blurry photo!) Architecturally, Milwaukee is an interesting city with beautiful large homes, elegant churches, and pretty outsized theatres and civic buildings. The crown jewel of the city is the new Milwaukee Art Museum designed by the incomparable Santiago Calatrava. The museum building alone makes this city worth visiting, and their collection is excellent, too. My favorite part, besides witnessing the huge "wings" close over the building in the evening (silently, slowly), was the indoor Chair Park, a collection of different style chairs arranged on a huge area carpet for visitors to try out. We also visited America's Black Holocaust Museum to see an exhibition, called "Hateful Things," of common American cultural artifacts that degrade blacks and other minorities. Aunt Jemima and Little Black Sambo are the least of the story here. We also took in the Alterra Coffee Roasters cafe that came highly recommended by Sam and Carrie and was excellent. We wish our newlywed friends much success and happiness in Milwaukee, their new home!

From Milwaukee, we drove to Madison where we ate super fresh ice cream and checked out the enormous, gorgeous State Capitol building. (The caves mentioned below are also pictured here.) The building had only one guard on duty and you could just wander anywhere you pleased, even into the Senate meeting rooms! Now that's democracy. We visited Janice Ho in her warehouse studio in the afternoon, and that evening dined with Janice, fellow artisan Erica Schlueter, and Janice's husband, Adam, at a yummy Nepalese restaurant. My body was very relieved to eat actual vegetables and tofu after too many fried cheese curds and ribs... Next day, we visited two craft galleries in Verona with Erica, Artisan Gallery and Zazen, as well as her studio which is in part of an old dance hall. Click here to see the pictures. I'll post more in-depth Studio Visit blog entries later this week.

Then it was on to Spring Green, WI, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Taliesin, and his Hillside School of Architecture, which is still an accredited institution. We weren't allowed to take photographs indoors, but I did sneak some through the windows, including one shot of the seashell collection in his bedroom that is said to have inspired the Guggenheim. The pictures of the school (first) and the house are divided by the picture of Romeo & Juliet, the water towers he designed 100 years ago to supply the property. I've always wanted to see this place, and it didn't disappoint at all. In fact, it took my breath away, especially sitting in the living room with its marvelous “ceilingscape” and long vistas. An observer once quipped, credibly, that Taliesin is a Japanese-influenced Italian villa in Southwestern Wisconsin. It is incredible to imagine that the first visitors to Taliesin, such a modern opus, arrived by horse and carriage! We really went for the whole FLW thing and even stayed at the Usonian Inn, which was designed by one of his apprentices. Before leaving the area, we toured the Cave of the Mounds, a bit of a tourist trap, but it's always fun to see these underground troves.

Our final stop: Chicago. My friend Sam, of the wedding, lived in Chicago for years until very recently, and it is a huge shame that I never once visited him there, because I loved Chicago! Such vitality! So much street life! And fabulous buildings! We visited the Art Institute, and were dazzled by the wonderful paintings and their outstanding collection of Asian pottery. (Lots of the pix in this slideshow are of gorgeous Chinese and Korean pots, some of which look like they stepped off the pages of design*sponge.) We happened through the Cultural Center, which is a jewel box of a beaux arts building with its unusual marble staircase and green and blue Italian mosaic work. And we were honored to spend hours in Millennium Park taking in an open rehearsal in the Frank Gehry designed outdoor concert hall and watching kids play with the huge water sculptures. I love public places where everyone, even the adults, are all smiles and laughter! And we dined with Sho, a friend of Sam's we met at the wedding, who took us to a terrific restaurant, Lula, in Logan Square that is said to be the favorite of a certain creator of a certain well-loved, story-based Chicago Public Radio show.

After six days in dairy land, with our liquids and gels safely stowed in our check-in luggage, we departed the Midwest and returned home. We've taken the last couple days to holiday at home, catching up on cleaning and venturing out to see the Klimts at the Neue Galerie. (I thought they are some of the finest paintings I've ever seen, though Jae thought they look better in print.)

Tomorrow, it's back to Greenjeans, relaxed, refreshed, and ready for the fall. The Midwest may be an unconventional summer vacation destination, but it sure was an architectural and culinary adventure, and I hope you enjoyed this little vicarious bite. Many thanks to Sam, Carrie, Sho, Erica, and Janice for their time and hospitality. Hope we can return the favor when you come visit NYC!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Off to Look for America

It's August. It's hot. We're hankerin' for a trip out of the concrete jungle. Fortunately, somewhere out in that vague distance beyond the Hudson River (ok, Wisconsin) there are weddings to go to, artisans to visit. To paraphrase Simon & Garfunkel, we're gonna fly off to look for America. So...

Greenjeans will be closed Aug. 6 - 15.

We'll reopen on Wednesday the 16th. But we'll still be closed Mondays and Tuesdays thru the Labor Day. After that, we'll be back to our regular Tues-Sun 12-7 schedule.

I won't be blogging again until the week we get back. But to satisfy your blog-reading urges until then, you might enjoy this craft-conscious blog that I just recently learned about: Redefining Craft. There are great links to explore from there, too.

I've also been meaning to mention Overheard In New York, which is an invaluable source for laughs -- always irreverent and often unbelievable!

More good blogs are mentioned in recent posts, such as Hear, Hear, so scroll down and surf away!

See you on the other side of our Midwestern Adventure!