Friday, November 20, 2015

Henhurst in New England Home Magazine

A little excitement in what has otherwise been a quiet fall...the publication of a beautiful feature on Henhurst in the current issue of New England Home magazine. The photos, taken shortly before we sold the house, were shot by John Gruen (who was kind enough to autograph a design book in my library for which he'd done the photography) and produced by the multi-talented Stacy Kunstel, also known as one half of Dunes and Duchess. I'll share just a few of the photos here; If you would like to see more and read the accompanying story by Vermont-based writer Robert Kiener you can see the digital edition of the magazine on Issue by clicking here. The story begins on page 118.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Andrew Pearce Bowls

This fall in northern New England has been nothing less than idyllic – the foliage has been uncommonly rich and the hillsides are bathed in color. We’ve had a long stretch of warm, sunny afternoons and cool nights, and the foretelling scent in the air conjures the pleasures of the season to come. These are the days I love to explore the region I am so fortunate to call home and a recent foray took me to the beautiful new showroom of woodturner and bowl maker Andrew Pearce who was kind enough to talk with me about his craft.

Now in his third year of business, Andrew combines the soul of an artist with manufacturing savvy. Discussing his beginnings, he describes an early fascination with bowl cutting machinery that could produce multiple sizes from a single section of wood. "I was really inspired by the efficiency of that...and the technical side." His creative side envisioned the process of hand-turning those rough cuts to add stylistic details and, seeing how he could economically produce a desirable, hand-crafted product, Andrew Pearce Bowls was launched.

What becomes very clear when talking with Andrew is that he is truly passionate about the medium in which he works. The qualities of wood are not uniform; you don't know what you will find when you begin to work with a piece - irregular sap line patterns, color variations, growth anomalies - wood offers up a lot of surprises and Andrew's enthusiasm when pointing these out is evident.

While working primarily with walnut and cherry sourced in Vermont, New York and Pennsylvania, the workshop occasionally produces bowls in other wood species. From time to time local resources bring in butternut or maple. This pair of one-of-a-kind bowls are 'curly' maple - so called because of it's unique growth pattern.

A particularly interesting delivery might be a burl, essentially a deformed tree growth, that can offer extraordinary possibilities. As Andrew described it, however, you don't know what the burl will yield until you begin to work with it. This enormous specimen, found in Pittsfield, Vermont, was transformed into a work of art.

The company's new showroom is located in Hartland, Vermont along the scenic byway between Quechee and Woodstock. Inside the bright and airy retail shop, whitewashed shiplap walls are the perfect backdrop to the luminous wood bowls, boards and accessories. On the day of my visit, they positively glowed as the season’s low-hanging sun filled the space.

Andrew's original product line included these traditional bowls and boards,

A walnut Willoughby bowl 

 A cherry Hartland board

And has grown to include live edge pieces which have had a very positive reception.

 A walnut live edge bowl

A cherry live edge cutting board

A walnut live edge presentation board

Displayed in the showroom, large cutting boards are layered as chargers on a table setting.

The product line is growing to include housewares such as this live edge mirror made from the 'core shell' that remains when bowls have been cut from a section of wood - just one example of Andrew's ingenuity in using as much of the material as possible. Other designs are in the works that will incorporate additional remnants. The shop's offerings also include a complementary selection of table linens, Turkish cotton towels and mohair and lambswool throws.

Among the many one-of-a-kind pieces displayed in the shop during my visit was this monumental, handcarved black walnut bowl with live edges on the long sides.

The short sides show the growth rings of the tree it came from.

Over the summer the company began moving the manufacturing operation to the new location as well and you can now view the bowl turners at work on site and learn about the method of producing these beautiful pieces, from start to finish, first hand.

Steps one and two are the cutting and drying of the bowls. Andrew designed the drying units himself, re-purposing old shipping containers.

Rough bowls awaiting turning.

Following the turning, the bowls are oiled - this is the only treatment the wood receives and it is what brings out the natural color.

On the left, an oiled walnut bowl compared to pre-oiled walnut (top two,) and cherry (bottom two.)

The oil used to seal the bowls is a specially formulated walnut oil that is non-toxic, food safe and allergen-free. The company sells this same oil by the bottle so owners of their products can preserve the natural beauty of wood bowls, boards and utensils which will require periodic reconditioning depending on the frequency of their use.

 Oiled bowls (above) and boards (below) awaiting shipment.

It is always a pleasure to talk with a genuinely talented maker who is not only passionate about his craft but a sincere individual who is committed to support of his local community and sustainable practices. (In the interest of further reducing waste, Andrew is having a wood chip boiler installed that will use any remaining wood scraps to heat the workshop.) I have no doubt those qualities have contributed to Andrew's success. After only three years in business, Andrew Pearce Bowls can be found in 170 retail outlets throughout the 50 states.

Andrew in the workshop.

Andrew Pearce Bowls is located at 59 Woodstock Road in Hartland. If you can't make the trip to Vermont to visit the showroom in person, though I highly recommend it, have a look at their website for a visual treat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

England's Green and Pleasant Land

I feel like I've just emerged from the black hole that was our spring. Between moving and readying the house for the new owners, the end of school and Sophie's graduation, squeezing in two final college tours for Serena before getting them both off to their summer programs, and wrapping up some recent work, we have been buried in commitments and obligations. What a joy to finally surface in the glorious English countryside last week where I met up with the girls and was thoroughly spoiled by my sister. Lazy mornings, wine at lunch, long walks, naps in late afternoon sun, the cousins' laughter coming over the garden wall...ah, summertime.

Friday, March 20, 2015

So Long Church Street

Saving this house was nothing less than a labor of love and anyone who was here at the time will remember my vowing that I would only be leaving Church Street on a gurney. I think we all know such declarations are often revised and one day we are moving on entirely. And because that day has come I want to share some 'before and after' photos of a neglected ugly duckling that became a blessed and beloved home. 

When I make up my mind to do something I like it to progress quickly. So it would be an understatement to say I was pleased when, after some lengthy discussions, Mr. H and I picked a Monday to put the house on the market and had an offer on that Friday.

The buyers are a lovely young couple who have been renting nearby. They told us that for as long as they've been in the neighborhood they would walk down Church Street with their dog (also named Gus!) and say to themselves "if that house ever comes on the market..."

We signed a contract the next day and we closed this afternoon.

When we moved in the girls were 10 and 11-years-old and they have grown up in what feels like a few, short years. Sophie will hear in a matter of days where she will be going to college this coming fall and Serena is only one year behind her.

The time is right to prepare for an empty nest.

We didn't have a fully formed plan for our next step, not anticipating the house would sell so quickly (even though we hoped it would.)

What we did know was that we wanted to simplify and downsize here in Vermont in order to do some work to our place in Rhode Island (and be prepared when that first college tuition bill arrives.)

I am nothing if not decisive and it took about five minutes for me to decide on an apartment in a new building. Mr. H took some convincing (as we will be downsizing by a lot!) but he likes the modern style of the space and the fact that the building is LEED certified.

Our new place is a very short distance from here, across the river in Hanover, New Hampshire - the quintessential New England college town, home to Dartmouth and its three graduate schools.

There isn't much to share in the way of photos right now, it is truly a 'white box', but we have met at the site with my wonderful painter/wallpaper hanger (you met Jeff here) as well as our contractor to begin the process of making it our own. Lately I have been fixated on wallpaper so you will be seeing some of that.

While that work is being completed we will be renting back here through Sophie's graduation from High School. I am looking forward to enjoying one last spring at Church Street and recalling the countless happy memories of our life here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Family Photos

I was travelling last week when I got a message from a kind friend who spotted these 1930's press photos of my grandmother and her sister on eBay.

This is my grandmother with her fiancĂ© leaving the opera in New York, December 1933. She ended up breaking it off with him; if his expression is any indication of his general character I'd say she made a wise decision.

A few years later at the beach in Newport, August 1937. Granny is on the right, clearly not suffering from the scandal of her broken engagement, with her sister Phyllis (for whom I'm named) on the left.

From the same day, Aunt Phyllis getting into my great-grandfather's car (his initials are on the door.) I am loving the sunglasses on the back seat.

It was such a pleasant distraction to get these and a few others in the mail. The arctic weather we have had all month is beginning to wear on me. Hope you all are holding up better and that we will be blessed with an early and gentle spring!