Garlic Fest 2017!

It’s a beautiful day in southern Vermont to attend the 22nd annual Garlic Fest, going on all weekend at Camelot Village in Bennington, Vermont!

Roam around and enjoy tons of free samples, buy gifts, participate in cooking demonstrations, listen to live music, and grab something from one of the amazing food trucks or wine or beer tent. Bring the entire family! There is something for people of all ages.

Stop by the “Nature Calls: Reclaimed Wood Designs” booth, conveniently located close to the stage and food trucks, and say hi!

Today and tomorrow, rain or shine, from 10am-5pm!  www.lovegarlic.com

 

 

 

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Posted in Reclaimed wood

Barn beam end tables

So simple. Yet so much character.

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Hand hewn barn beams from a 200 year old barn in the Adirondacks…

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…repurposed into one of a kind matching end tables. Sanded and sealed with lacquer.

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Own a piece of history!

 

Barn beam end tables:  $119 per table or 2 for $210

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

German Beer Hall Table

 

I had an idea for this 6′ x 2′ metal frame even before I purchased it from my buddy’s pickup truck. (These encounters in parking lots must look super shady…)

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Metal frame + matte paint + barnwood = a German Beer Hall Table.

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Yep. More agony art.

Posted in Reclaimed wood

Country tables and benches

The carnies are in town! That means weekends full of free music fests, rides, bands, fireworks, games…you name it.

My busy show season also kicked off in Montauk around the same time the carnivals came to Vermont. Vendors from the northeast sold their hand-crafted items in a juried fair just steps from the beach and within walking distance of downtown. If you’ve been to Montauk, you know that there’s a huge wait list for camping at Hither Hills, and camping is at a premium. Shockingly, vendors were allowed to camp right on the show grounds for a crazy low price.  Tents, u-hauls, and campers dotted the perimeter of the historic grounds, tucked among the trees. Vendors congregated at the end of the show days like a bunch of carnies, displaced for the weekend but part of some dysfunctional family all living in close proximity to each other out of our respective vehicles while peddling our wares during the daylight hours.

If you think about it, traveling to do shows is a lot like living the life of a carnival worker. It can be full of adventure, road trips, great for business, and…exhausting. I’m doing something new this show season; I’ve mostly pursued being a part of large, juried shows instead of the small town ones. That means being on the road almost every weekend in September and October. And after selling out of pallet furniture in just one show at Montauk and not being able to get my act together to build a lot in the winter and spring, I need to start building up a huge stock of inventory in the upcoming month.

And it’ll mostly be large pieces like these.

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Tables. Benches. Chairs. That’s what sells at shows.  Unfortunately, that means the pieces are large and heavy. For years now, people buy an item from me and try to drag it to their cars with a strange look on their face: pure joy for purchasing the one of the kind reclaimed wood piece mixed with an equal amount of pain while trying to figure out how to get the heavy item not only IN their vehicles but then into their homes.

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My work recently gotten the nickname “agony art” by a fellow artist who had a booth space across from me who watched customers leave my booth with purchases all day long.

Every year during the show season, I vow to build smaller and lighter stuff for my sake while traveling and setting up and also for my customers.

It’s not happening. Build what you love and build what people want. Looks like agony art is going to be around for awhile.

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These tables are made from reclaimed barn wood and fence pieces. All different sizes and styles and finishes will be available at the upcoming shows. For more information as to where you can find these pieces at shows this summer and fall, please visit the show schedule link on the home page.

Thanks!

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

Back to the Adirondacks

You never know who you are going to meet through Craigslist.

Heading back to the farm in the Adirondacks yesterday to get more barn wood from the farmer and his wife I met a few months ago on Craigslist felt more like a trip to see an old friend than a work day.

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A few months ago, I had responded to an ad online to get barn wood from a farm on a windy ridge that had lost its 200+-year old barn in a recent storm. The whole thing collapsed on itself just days prior. I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I got there; sometimes these things end up being wild goose chases or you see where the listing takes you and it’s best to just keep driving by if you don’t have a wingman with you. (For those of you who think I’m too naive and trusting, have no fear – I always have a wingman when answering Craigslist ads. Because yes. I’m too naive and trusting.)  But the old farmer was kind and generous. And while it broke my heart to see that this hard-working man had lost his barn, I was glad that the wood wasn’t going to go to waste and rot on the ridge, and he was just as happy to get rid of it.

And he said he was doing ok, thanks to one of these being on his property.

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The barn was huge. This is what it looked like before the storm.

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And then after.

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Upon arrival on the farm yesterday, the farmer had done the hard work; a pile of beautiful barn wood siding was waiting next to the barn, and he said to take it all.

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“People have come to get some of the easier to reach stuff since you were last here,” he said. “A lot of young people.” He paused, and then smiled crookedly. “Well, everyone’s young compared to me.”

He then climbed over the gate and disappeared in the pasture to gather hay for the nine cows he said were wandering around somewhere.

It’s people like that who redeem my faith in humanity. The salt of the earth, friends. Found free on Craigslist, of all places.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

Family Benches

Two weeks before the 4th of July holiday, I received a request for a custom bench that was needed the beginning of July for a family gathering on the shores of Lake St. Catherine.

I usually steer clear of rush orders for my own sanity. But then the customer told me why he needed them so fast.  Earlier this year they lost their brother, and they always gather twice a year at their house in Vermont as a family.  He wanted the bench to be a surprise for his family and something symbolic for them as they gather around the fire pit at night.  I knew it wasn’t something I’d pass on.  We quickly agreed on a design for two matching benches out of a beautiful slab of cherry and I got to work.

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Not knowing this family or the property it would be going on, I went with my instinct. I had no idea the patriarch of the family was a woodworker when I decided on plugs. Going with my gut on how to attach the legs to the bench top paid off. IMG_8320.jpg

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I asked him if he’d like anything wood burned into the benches since they were symbolic for the family. At that point, he informed me that the second bench was in memory of his mother, who also had passed away. Both benches were a surprise for the family.

By now, there was a quiet reverence (and a lump in my throat) while I worked in the shop on these. I felt humbled and honored and grateful to be commissioned to create these.

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As many of my own family memories were of us gathering in Vermont twice a year around a campfire, not far from where this order was delivered, I know how cherished, chaotic, unpredictable, and precious that time together is.

The brother tells his story best:

“Our family is originally from Long Island. In 1996, my mom and dad moved off of Long Island and my dad had the log cabin built in Vermont. The outside of the house was built by a company, but my dad did many of the inside walls and floors. Everything is custom, from the walnut pegs in the floor to the the cabinets to the mantle piece over the fireplace. My dad also built both the horse barn and the huge garage on the property.
A few years after we had settled in Vermont, my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away in the winter of 2000. My mom and dad have 10 kids. They had 7 of their own and then adopted three (all related) and we have made a point to get together at the house in Vermont 2x a year as a whole family. We usually do 1x in the summer and 1x in December.
This past fall we lost our oldest brother John from complications after having a stroke. He has 3 boys. In total we have about 30 immediate family members stay the weekend with us each time we get together. The summer weekend is usually spent down at the state park, boating, swimming and canoeing. We typically will fill the winter weekend with tubing and sledding, too much food and great conversations. The 14 grandkids all get along and catch up playing games and hang out. It really is a great time. 
We usually will end the night at the fire pit that these benches will be around now. The view from the lake is amazing and we are able to laugh and share stories with each other. Hopefully the benches allow for us to at least feel like our mom and brother John are with us. I appreciate you taking the time and care to put these together.”
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(Their dad thought that the benches were too nice to keep out by the fire pit, so they are now in the family room where the family gathers together in winter.)

 

To this family…thank YOU.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

The Guitar

There’s a magical pine grove near the heart of Manchester, Vermont in the shadow of Mount Equinox. It hugs the main drag and is hard to miss because of its beauty and size: leggy trees so tall that branches start at least twenty feet off the ground and so old that there is a soft carpet of pine needles dense enough that no other vegetation creeps up through it. Not a weed. Not a flower. Nada. The only thing you can glimpse is an old white farmhouse down a dirt driveway to the side of the grove, so far back that you can barely see it past the tree trunks.

While it’s beautiful to drive past during daylight hours, my favorite since I was a kid has always been to glimpse it in the winter months at night.  Then, the grove would be dark but Christmas lights would illuminate this perfect little tree no more than 4 feet tall. Although it registered in my brain some time ago that nothing else grows on that forest floor, I never questioned the small pine tree in the middle of it. I also never questioned why it didn’t seemed to grow year after year, even as I did. I just looked forward to seeing it every winter.

Sometimes we just want to see the good in something. Doesn’t matter if our facts don’t quite add up; there’s comfort in keeping rose-colored glasses on with certain things for one reason or another that only the person wearing the glasses may ever know or understand why he or she doesn’t want to take them off.  It doesn’t hurt to ask “why” questions, but there’s a delicate balance with that for an idealist like me because once you have answers to the questions, you can’t go back to not knowing. And sometimes those answers make someone cynical. Which happened in my case.

Curiosity got the best of me while driving through town the other day. Why did this little tree not grow? Why was it the only other living thing growing in a forest of giants?

Well, turns out the perfect little tree is…dead.

Not like in the process of losing its needles or slightly brown or something that Charlie Brown would be proud of, but more like the owners in the old farmhouse took out their Christmas tree from the house in January of 1990 something or other, shoved it in the ground and staked it up to make sure it didn’t topple over. Slap some Christmas lights on there in the winter months and wallah! They made something magical for naive people like me who never glanced at the tree in the daylight.  FOR DECADES.

I managed not to crash my truck at the sight. I wanted to cry. I felt deceived.

It’s hard for me to shake things. So naturally, this sad little tree has been on my mind since said revelation.

It took building this piece to get it.

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My dad gave me his old Brazilian guitar almost 15 years ago. It’s been one of my most cherished possessions, even though I’m still (and probably always will be) an amateur musician. The sound was so rich, it gave me goosebumps even while I fumbled through chords as a self-taught guitar player. It’s over 30-years old. I remember the life lesson that came with the guitar. “It’s a classical guitar with steel strings, not nylon. We could switch it to nylon, but I recommend you try it with steel. Because if you learn the hard way first, everything else will be much easier.”

I grumbled as my fingers became hot and raw from strumming. I cracked a smile when callouses formed. I grinned when I picked up a friend’s nylon-stringed guitar later and it seemed like no work at all.  While my dad was referring to the difference between steel and nylon strings, its application to the rest of life wasn’t lost on me. This became something that ran through my head when I had choices to make, like learning to paddle on a ISUP and taking it out on rough water for over a year before switching to an easier board.

What an invaluable life lesson. (Thanks, Dad, whether it was intentional or not.)

The guitar recently cracked at the neck. I was beyond bummed. It would cost more to fix it than to buy a new guitar. I couldn’t part with it. It still was beautiful, but it just wouldn’t play beautiful music anymore. It would forever be out of tune.

So I did what any woodworker would do (or balk at) and drilled a hole through the back, inserted an electrical cord with an LED candle light, and mounted it to the wall.  In the daylight, it’s beautiful. Natural.

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And at night, it gives off a warm glow.

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Circle back around. That beautiful grove in Manchester? You can’t decorate any of the old pine trees; they are too tall. But at night, you can’t see the grove or the beauty of it. Similarly, only someone who knows that little dead tree is there can spot it in the daylight. But at night, when you can’t see the rest of the grove, this perfect, dead, lit tree provides some random happiness in the dark forest and is downright beautiful on an otherwise black canvas.

As Aesop said, “Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either.”

I was going to include a picture of the grove and the little tree, but while some “why’s” are no longer “why’s,” I can still put on my rose-colored glasses, as busted as they may be, and continue to pass this tree and look at its dead branches and cling to the magical beauty of this two-sided grove, knowing that, while people may know OF this tree, they don’t know the exact location. And while my interpretation of the grove may be nothing but a fable, I’m satisfied with the answer to my “why.” For another few decades at least…

This little tree and this old classical guitar remind me that sometimes the most important life lessons are learned the hard way. Never, EVER take the short cut, as tempting as it may be. And don’t be so quick to judge something, even if you think you’ve known what it’s all about. You may be surprised to discover something beautiful that you have been missing out on.

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The guitar: priceless. While it’s not for sale, it now graces the wall of the guest room at mi casa.

 

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood