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American Picture Frames: Choices by Artists and Collectors

Date added: 29-04-2009


According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s website, “Carrie Rebora Barratt is Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, and Manager of The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

Last night, however, she was the speaker at the latest edition of the museum’s Collectors’ Roundtable series: American Picture Frames: Choices by Artists and Collectors. She spent a good portion of her time discussing the renovations they have just completed or are starting at the Met, but she did go into some detail about choices that have been made regarding the frame of a very high profile Met painting: Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze.

The painting was acquired by the Met in 1897. A picture from 1910 shows the painting in a great old frame, but in pictures from 1917, that frame is already gone. That said, the curators weren’t satisfied with just their own archival photos and they decided to do some more research.

Further archival research was done to determine the sort of frame that the artist would have preferred to see on the work. The Met turned up pictures from the New York Historical Society that showed the painting the same year it was painted (just after the Civil War) and the wild Federal Revival frame the artist had commissioned for it in a fit of mid-19th century nostalgia. They have commissioned a reproduction of that frame to show in their new galleries starting in 2011. Keep your eyes peeled for this because it’s truly something else—gilded with a huge carved rampant eagle on the top. Here’s a brief story about it from the New York Times that doesn’t have nearly enough pictures.

Though Barratt touched briefly on the craftsmanship required to create such a frame and professed to appreciate frames as works of art in themselves, it seemed clear that at heart, she truly is a paintings person and not so much a craft person. After all, her focus was what the artist would have wanted to see on their picture and not what the framer would have considered most appropriate. And she was fairly dismissive of collectors who change frames to suit their interior design.

This was underscored in a conversation I had with an American Art Museum docent during the reception after the lecture. Apparently getting docents for the American Art portion of the museum is much easier than getting docents for the Renwick. I had been under the perhaps mistaken impression that craft had gained more respect in museum-world than it appears that it has, at least among scholars and docents.

The final lecture of the spring series takes place Tuesday, May 19th when Dr. Walter O. Evans, major collector of African American art will discuss Collecting Outside the Canon.

CraftWeek DC April 22-26

Date added: 22-04-2009


Local blog DCist has a great post about activities happening during CraftWeek DC, taking place between today, April 22nd and April 26th. Included are studio tours, lectures, a special tour by the curator of the Greene & Greene exhibition at the Renwick and any number of galas and benefits that mainly support the Smithsonian’s craft acquisition, research and education programs surrounding contemporary craft.

For fans of Etsy or Sugar Loaf, DC this weekend is going to be a veritable playground.

And don’t forget that Hardwood Artisans carries a range of American craft, from Ephraim Faience pottery to Motawi Tileworks decorative tiles to Robert Hargrave‘s unique sculptural wood clocks and mirrors.

The treasure in our backyard

Date added: 15-04-2009


Having the Smithsonian in our backyard is real gift that most of us take for granted. Not only do we get great exhibitions like the Greene & Greene show I wrote about a few weeks ago, we also have a ton of educational opportunities and experts right nearby.

Take today, for instance. I got an email from a customer wondering what to do about a Nakashima dining table she needs restored. She wanted to know if we could help her with it. Now, we’re pretty good, but we’re not conservators. Though I’ve had a lot of luck having my own flea market finds refinished by our expert finishers, I think even they would hesitate before taking on a Nakashima table.

The reason I knew this was that I went to a Smithsonian program last year about American craft where they gave some auction estimates for Nakashima, Maloof and other modern studio furniture makers’ pieces. Some were, to put it mildly, astronomical and sometimes value can be hurt by refinishing.

So rather than send her the name of our standard refinishing guy and call it a day, I decided to find the phone number for the Lunder Conservation Center at the Smithsonian and see if they could recommend someone. Thanks to the Smithsonian’s Twitter person, I got a name and a phone number and met a very nice woman named Julie who put our customer in touch with their conservators. All this took less than half an hour.

So lucky me. I get to make a local phone call the little museum in our backyard and put our customer in touch with some of the foremost furniture conservators in the world.

Wow.

Nakashima dining table (not the customer’s)

Redwood of the East

Date added: 06-04-2009

I was reading an interesting article in the local paper about the American chestnut restoration efforts. The article by Alice Felts, in the Fauquier Times Democrat, discussed efforts by the students, teachers, and arborists to re-introduce a new chestnut tree that is 15/16th’s American chestnut, and 1/16th Asian chestnut. The Asian chestnut was the source of the blight that killed all the American chestnuts. As of this writing, the article was not up on the web.

This introduction seems a bit like allergy treatments. They inject you with a bit of the thing that is the problem so that a natural immunity can occur. The efforts by The American Chestnut Foundation, http://www.acf.org/ is very interesting as to how to ever so slightly alter the genetics of the tree to allow it to grow once again. The American chestnut has been described as the “Redwood of the East”, a giant of a tree that created huge eco-systems almost single-handedly. Its nuts fed whole communities of wildlife, and its wood a prime source of naturally rot resistant building material.

I’m thinking I need some chestnuts in my forest………

Greene & Greene at the Renwick

Date added: 03-04-2009


Two weeks ago, I made it out to the Renwick Gallery to see the Greene & Greene show. After some slight confusion on my part as to where it’s actually located (hint—it’s right behind the Old Executive Office Building), I was quite pleased with the quality of the exhibition, but since I had gotten lost, I didn’t have enough time to read everything before the museum closed for the night.

Not only did they have a great collection of letters and photographs, they also showed some of the original architectural plans. The level of detail the Greenes went to on those plans was quite OCD—plans for all the lighting, furniture, stained glass—very much in the vein of Frank Lloyd Wright. These were architects with Vision.

As usual though, my favorite part was the furniture. Of course, pictures can’t do it justice. It’s so difficult to reproduce the glow of wood photographically, especially when you add 100 years of patina. So here are some of the highlights courtesy of the Gamble House website.

Charles Sumner Greene

Breakfast table, 1899

Douglas fir, cedar, oak, mahogany, and birch

Wedding present for his wife, Alice

Guardian Stewardship

Photograph courtesy of Sotheby’s, New York

Greene & Greene

Desk chair, ca. 1905

Ash

Adelaide A. Tichenor house, Long Beach, 1904–05

Guardian Stewardship

Photograph courtesy of Sotheby’s, New York



Greene & Greene

Hall chair, 1907

Mahogany and ebony

Made by Peter and John Hall

Dr. William T. Bolton house, Pasadena, 1906­–07

Guardian Stewardship

Photograph courtesy of Sotheby’s, New York

Greene & Greene

Bookcase, ca. 1912

Mahogany, ebony, and glass

Made by Peter and John Hall

Cordelia A. Culbertson house, Pasadena, 1911–13

Los Angeles County Museum of Art,

Gift of Linda and James Ries in memory of

Dorothy and Harold Shrier

(AC1997.105.1)

Photography © 2007 Museum Associates/LACMA

Most of these pieces are from their early to mid-career, but what surprised me most about this later piece was how modern it looks. Take away the leaded glass and it really starts to look more like part of the Modernist movement than the Arts & Crafts movement.

All in all, the best way to see these pieces is in person. So if you’re anywhere near DC, I highly recommend that you check out the exhibit before it closes on June 7th. Here’s the Smithsonian page on the exhibition, with a link to the online exhibition produced by the Gamble House.

Shop Local: Etsy DC

Date added: 25-03-2009

Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows that I love Etsy, the online marketplace for vintage goods and crafts of all sorts. In the spirit of The 3/50 Project, today I thought I’d share some of my favorite local Etsy sellers and introduce you to a neat feature Etsy implemented a while ago called Shop Local.

Here is Jason McClellan of Sidewinder Studio, who also works here at Hardwood Artisans.


And Annie of imogene., who made the tree-shaped earrings customers always ask me about when I wear them in the showrooms.


And finally, Rania of shoofly, who I have featured before, but is is currently showing some gorgeous Moleskine notebooks.


So not only can you now shop handmade, you can also shop local.

Happy Etsying!

The 3/50 Project

Date added: 24-03-2009


We’ve talked about supporting local businesses here on the blog before. In fact, the business that we originally featured (Black Wolf Coffee in Warrenton) has just announced that it is shutting down for good.

Mark is, to put it mildly, heart-broken.

It’s such a sad fact of this economy that the first to go will not be the local Starbucks or Barnes & Noble, but that wonderful independent bookstore you love (as beloved Washington chain Olsson’s Books and Records closed last year) or the coffee house where they always remember what you order and start making it for you when they see you pull into the parking lot.

Enter The 3/50 Project. Started by Cinda Baxter at the Always Upward blog, the 3/50 Project asks supporters to commit to spending $50 per month at three local stores of your choice. It’s such a simple concept, but look how powerful it could be:

I’ve signed up. So should you.

Time to Step Up

Date added: 11-03-2009

You and I may be doing fine, but with unemployment at over 8%, a lot of people could use a little extra help right now.

An article in our local paper (the News and Messenger, not the Post) down here in Woodbridge underscored the need for giving what you can right now, especially to food banks.

For several months now, Hardwood Artisans has had a partnership with ACTS (Action in the Community Through Service), a Dumfries, Virginia-based non-profit organization. It started with a furniture donation drive over the holidays to support their thrift stores.

Next month, Hardwood Artisans will be hosting the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours at our workshop in Woodbridge. We have requested that those attending bring a non-perishable food item for donation to ACTS. It’s a small thing, but every little bit counts.

So if you’re attending, don’t forget to bring that canned good! And if you’re not, consider dropping by a local food bank or church. They’ll be happy to take your donation.

Luxury

Date added: 03-03-2009

My lovely wife, Erika, has been laying her clothes on the bathroom floor for the last few weeks. No, she hasn’t gone insane, at least not in the traditional sense of the word.

When we built our home eight years ago, we added a few “luxury” things, like a heated floor system in the master bath. We had some problems with the system initially, so we didn’t use it much until this year.

So, I got up this morning to 12 degree weather, snow and ice everywhere, and winds of 30mph. After taking a ridiculously hot shower – the kind that takes skin off, I hop out to slide into warm socks…and jeans…and shirt. There is very little in this world that is better than the feeling of being engulfed by warmth, especially on a morning like this one.

I felt bad having splurged on a heated floor and the electricity it consumes, until I remember that my lovely wife, Erika, has yet to turn on the heater this year! The wood stove is working overtime for sure. Tabby, our cat, really appreciates the heated floor too.

While it seems like an unnecessary cost, the actual cost of running the heated floor is about the same as leaving on a table lamp. This versus the cost of running a heating system in a house makes the heated floor seem like a good, not so luxurious, item to splurge on.

While many people consider our furniture a luxury, I never have. I consider it a good value. To me this means something that lasts, is appreciated often, and has more value for the purchaser than the cost of the item itself.

The Power of the Internet

Date added: 27-02-2009

The web is a funny thing. Some days I can’t find what I want and I think all this online stuff is just a big waste of time. (I sound like Mark, don’t I? No, this is Alison.)

But other days, I think it’s great. (That’s better.)

For those of you who don’t know, Hardwood Artisans is also on Twitter. What’s Twitter? It’s like a blog, but everything has to be said in 140 characters or less. It’s an interesting mode of communication because it requires you to be concise. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in 11th grade English with Mrs. Avery telling me to eliminate all flowery language. No adverbs! No infinitives! If you use “however” or “anyway” you will be shot!

Anyway, this week, I sent one of Tom Heath’s Washington Post columns over to a guy named Ben McConnell, who wrote “Creating Customer Evangelists”. He then sent it out to all the people who read him as a great example of marketing coverage by mainstream media, giving me credit. If you’re a rock music fan, this is like being acknowledged by Mick Jagger or Eric Clapton. Wow.

Next, Mark was trying to design a piece of furniture for a customer that involves round legs. Since we don’t usually do round legs, we were going to have to buy them from someone who does, but we couldn’t find an appropriate supplier. Luckily, I happened to have met someone on Twitter a few weeks ago who does hand-turned wooden furniture legs: Within just a couple of hours, I had a drawing, I had a price and they told me they could mail them out today if I wanted them that fast. Wow again.

Just when my faith is lagging, something like this happens and all is right with the world again.

P.S. You can follow us on Twitter @furnituregirl.

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