Monday, April 23, 2012

Lumber from the Salt Lake Valley

Here's a new project that I've kept under my hat for a while, but it is "game on" now: I am now offering furniture made with wood from trees that grew right here in Salt Lake City.  It is a very unusual thing to be able to offer, and I am proud to be able to do it.  I currently have lumber in a few different species, including sycamore and elm, both of which are quite rare but very desirable.  I have boards that are up to 24" wide, so dining room table tops, for example, can be built with just two boards.  I also had most of the "natural edges" left on the boards.  These edges can be incorporated into a finished piece or cut off, depending on what you'd like.

I debated whether or not to post about this topic here on the blog, but I ultimately decided to, since the blog exists as a celebration of sustainable and handmade products.

Here is a photo of a dining room table that I built a few years ago using local lumber like this:

I've also built countertops using similar materials:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Local potter Sara LaRosa

Oh boy do I love local artists, and I have a particularly soft spot for potters, since I've been elbow deep in clay a few times myself over the years.  Sara LaRosa, a very talented ceramicist, has recently moved here from the northeast, and I had the privilege of interviewing her for this blog.  We're also doing a work exchange- pottery for woodworking!- but that's another story.  Here are the main points of her story:

Sara threw her first pot in high school, as part of a broadly-focused Crafts class.  She tried hand-building techniques in addition to wheel-work, and she credits her early teachers as major influences.  For a while, she was quite interested in photography too, but this waned somewhat and she has since turned her full attention to pottery.  Sara is captivated by the entire process- everything from preparing clay and making pots to constructing and firing large-scale kilns.  Her experiences at the Community College of Rhode Island were very exciting:  "It was just breath-taking to be part of a community of great potters.  I want to do that all the time!"

Once she starts talking, Sara's enthusiasm shines through:  "I like making functional work.  I really love the idea of building something that people will use every day.  There's something really special about using something that is handmade, and knowing that it came from someone an not something.  And I like providing people with that, and helping people feel that too.  I'm into anything functional, really: tea sets, dinner ware, whatever people need.  Nothing would make me happier than having my own studio.  Just going out there to make pots for hours and hours."

Sara's next steps involve going back to school to finish a degree and avail herself of the excellent resources that the University of Utah offers to ceramicists.  I think, after our conversation, that she will thrive in a setting filled with other creative people who are similarly motivated.  

If you have a minute- and I know you do, if you've read this far!- please check out Sara's new website:

If you'd like to contact Sara directly, you may email her at

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How (tall) does your garden grow?

If you didn't already know, I am a fan of growing vertically- it makes a dramatic design statement, and it uses space efficiently.  In many cases, it can even help to improve the health of your plants and create a large harvest. If you're curious about adding a trellis or two (or more!) to your garden, but are still in the idea gathering stage, look no further: I just put together a free image gallery of over 30 trellises that I really love.  I used Pinterest, so there is no login required.  Anyway, the designs vary quite a bit, with some on the fancier end of the spectrum, and some on the rough-yet-charming end, but they all made the cut.

Do any of them catch your eye?

here's the link:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Backyard Chickens are always an Eggcellent idea

My family has raised chickens for the past 6 or 7 years, and getting new birds is something I always look forward to.  We used to buy day-old baby chicks (purchased in-town at the farm store, or mail-order from a large hatchery), and this is definitely a pretty fun solution.  I especially recommend it if you have a kid or two or more around the house, since they usually appreciate the "watching things grow" aspect of the process.  Having done this a few times, however, I'll admit that I eventually got tired of waiting 6 months for those little peepers to start producing eggs.  My solution?  I started buying year old hens that were already laying.  In our area, it is pretty easy to find someone who is looking to downsize their flock.  $10-15 per bird is usually about the going rate, and so it is reasonably affordable to build up a flock of 4-6 chickens.  Baby chicks will usually cost $3 or so each, so you pay a bit more for older birds, but bear in mind that somebody else paid to feed your new adult birds until the moment they became yours.  All  things considered, buying "used" chickens is the way I'll probably always do it from now on.

Anybody else out there raise chickens?  Or, are there any chicken-related questions that I can answer?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Handmade kitchen knives

Most of us wear a few different hats in life- welcome to life in 2012, although if we're honest, it was probably always kind of this way- and one my favorite roles is that of an artist who makes objects that hopefully combine beauty and function in a pleasing way.  One of my newest ventures is the Artisan Knife Company, which makes, by hand, quality chef's knives one at a time in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I spent two years researching steel, refining techniques, and building prototypes, and now it is game on.

Why did I put the time into this?  Mostly because I am such a huge fan of handcrafted, small-scale businesses that allow skilled artisans to work with passion.  Oh wait, no wonder I am posting about it on this blog!  Seriously though, it just seemed like the right time for an undertaking such as this- the broader culture seems focused like never before on things like local food, heirloom veggies, and farmer's markets, and hopefully this means that folks will want to experience the joy of using a handmade knife that truly fits your hand and holds and edge better than factory-made knives.  We'll see!

For more information, check out

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Nice Article by the Salt Lake Tribune

I have a new book out about building projects for the garden, and our local paper did a super nice write-up on it.  So, here it is, for those interested in checking it out!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Made by hand

The goal of this blog is to spotlight things that are either homegrown or homemade, and I've been focusing largely on the former since springtime is here and gardening season is coming up.  For this post, though, I'd like to devote a little time & energy to the homemade objects that most of us have in our lives.  My hope is that this post might generate a little bit of a conversation of sorts: I can drone on all day long about the various kinds of handmade stuff that I'm attached to to, but I'd really rather hear about some of yours!

I'll go first.  One of my favorite items is a small pottery cow that a friend of my wife's made for her when they were back in high school.  It isn't even glazed, but there has always been something really charming about its roughness, if you know what I mean.  I don't know the story behind it, but it has been in my life for all of the 15 years that Michele and I have been together, and over time I've gotten kind of fond of it. It is just a knick-knack that doesn't even have a real function, per se, but knowing that it was made by one of Michele's oldest friends is special in and of itself.  I can't say it takes me back to a different time, because her and I hadn't even met at that point, but somehow this nifty little cow means something to me.

So, what handmade object in your life is special to you, and why?  Anything is fair game, I just want to take a minute to listen to whatever folks might want to share.  I don't have any real agenda, other than wanting to recognize that handmade stuff matters- so, if you're inclined, let's take a minute to celebrate it.  Photos are not required.