July 27, 2015

My New Logo, and How I Got There

Being a craftsperson means I do pretty much everything for my business. It is not only about making the work. There is lots to that goes in to selling, designing, packing and shipping, doing my taxes, maintaining my tools and machines, building my website, and making my work known to the world. That last piece is called "marketing," and it is a category of tasks that might not seem very romantic or interesting, but it absolutely is an important part of making a living doing what I do. And I actually enjoy the challenges of figuring it out.

My marketing involves my website, the craft fairs I show at (only one these days, "Sunapee"), and the postcards I send out to my mailing list twice a year. And an important part of all these things is having a consistent look and feel. That is my "brand" and it is most specifically embodied in my logo.  30 years ago I had a logo made for me that I have used for all these years, but it really didn't work anymore – it was designed before I even made lampshades! So my son Tom, who works in advertising, encouraged me to modernize my brand. That involved my wonderful new website woodsheds.com and also my new logo. Tom's good friend, Jeff Chandler, is an artist, and Jeff volunteered to work with us to come up with the design for the logo.

This took a few months, and many interactions of ideas. Jeff interviewed me, and it was very wide-ranging. We talked about motivation, intention, inspiration, technique, and materials. Then Jeff started sketching in a notebook.  I suspect that Jeff showed us over a hundred ideas. At first Tom and I got to see pages and pages of tiny sketches. As we responded to those and talked about things we liked and didn't like, Jeff started to produce increasingly refined illustrations, in series that depicted lots of minor tweaks and variations. Here are three examples of directions that we eventually abandoned:

The logo that you see at the top of this blog post is the one we eventually and happily settled on. Jeff provided me with the complex Photoshop file, so that I can continue to play with this, and come up with variations for particular purposes. For example, two version that are black and white:

I am impressed with Jeff and his tireless enthusiasm for this project. And the result works perfectly for me. It is distinctive, dramatic and professional. It speaks to the organic shapes that I use in my work, the colors of my lampshades, the origins of the wood in the Aspen leaf shape, and the romance of the light that is indicated by the candle flame shape.

July 19, 2015

Lulu Fichter Collaboration: SeaGlow Table Lamp

Collaboration with other artists has become a regular and inspiring part of my work for the past ten years. The projects I create with David Little of Winnipesauke Forge are a constant and growing design collection – we do several every year. And each year, I co-produce a lamp with an artist who's work I respect, and that seems complementary to my design aesthetic. Recently I have created table lamps with Lauren Pollaro (collage artist), Sharon Dugan (basketmaker), Paula Barry (potter) and Donna Banfield (woodturner and carver).

Improvised Combo of Lamp and Ceramic
I have just completed work on a piece incorporating the work of Lulu Fichter, a ceramic sculptor from Peterborough, NH. You can see her website by clicking HERE. Lulu has exhibited at the League of NH Craftsmen Annual Fair  (aka "Sunapee") for many years, and I have always enjoyed visiting her booth, and appreciating her organic, unique and dramatic sculptural forms. Last August, we began a conversation about how we might join her work with mine. We tried some very initial experiments, and started to see some wonderful possibilities.

We decided to move ahead with an application for the Living With Crafts exhibition at Sunapee 2015. Our proposal was accepted, and we began to figure out how to actually make this lamp.

This Spring, Lulu created a series of forms, and provided me with the three largest ones. Instantly I saw that the one big challenge would be to figure out how to secure the ceramic form to the wood base. Lulu's work is not round, which is what makes is so evocative. But without a round foot on her piece, I had to design an internal orientation/alignment piece that keeps the foot of the clay sculpture exactly where I want it to be.

The finished lamp is absolutely marvelous! The way the warm light shed down over Lulu's open form is fascinating – it really emphasizes the sensuous curves as well as the details around the perforations. The Mahogany column running up the center of the form peaks thru the holes. Soft shadows drape over the ivory-white ceramic material.

The lamp is 29" tall and the shade is 17" diameter.

Because Lulu's sculptures remind me of the corals and sponges in the ocean, we chose the title:
Table Lamp

The finished lamp will be on exhibition from August 1-9 at the League Craft Fair, in the Living With Craft exhibit. Hopefully you will have the chance to see this unique piece.

CLICK HERE for the link to the League's website for info about the big event

July 15, 2015

My Brand New Website

My son Tom works in advertising in NY City, and a few months ago, he let me know that he thought my website was old fashioned, hard to navigate, and it didn't do a good job of representing the quality of my work or my professionalism. It didn't take long for him to convince me that he was right, but I was intimidated by the size of the task required to build a new site. Tom then pointed me to SquareSpace, which I had heard of very often because they sponsor many of the public radio shows and podcasts that I listen to. SquareSpace allows people to build a very attractive and sophisticated website through a web browser, rather than with dedicated software packages that can be very hard to learn. SquareSpace provides some super templates to start with, and they are extremely customizable. And they have terrific customer service, 24/7. I am very impressed with this operation.

The thing that really got me going on this project is that Tom also offered to help me build the site, and he got the ball rolling by creating a first draft on SquareSpace. I immediately liked where he was heading with this, and got excited enough to start participating more actively. It became a very fun and creative collaboration, and SquareSpace makes it easy for both of us to keep making changes from our geographically different locations. Ideas bounced back and forth and improvements were constant.

A month ago, the site was ready enough for "prime time" and I took down my old site and replaced it with the new one. Since then, Tom and I have continued to tweak the functionality and aesthetics of the pages, and with SquareSpace, it really is easy to keep that work going. The improvements at this point will be more incremental. But it is very clear to me that the new site is working very well in all ways. With SquareSpace, I get a lot of information (aka "metrics") about how many people go to my site, and what pages they view. In the four weeks since the site launched, I have had 530 visitors and they have viewed an average of three pages each. That means this has been worth the effort. And I feel sure that many of the visitors are having a good experience on the site. I would very much love to hear back from any and all about their visits to my website. It will get better and better if you help me understand what you want to see there.

I also have a brand new logo, which was made with the help of one of Tom's good friends, Jeff Chandler. That creative process was a remarkable collaboration, and it deserves a blog post all to itself. I hope to write that soon. The new logo shows below at the top of all my web pages.

Here is a snapshot of the new homepage of my site, and after that, what my old site looked like.

The Old Website

July 4, 2015

NH Chronicle Video Piece About My Work

In March, the local ABC affiliate, WMUR, came to my workshop and home to film a piece that was shown on NH Chronicle this Spring. It came out great, and I suspect you will enjoy watching it. It is 8 minutes long, and does a terrific job of capturing how I make the lampshades, and my passion for this work.

Check it out by clicking on this link:

Arc Fixture with Vines and Leaves

One of the very first collaborations I created with David Little was based on a simple horizontal arc shape, with shades suspended below. I think we have made perhaps 6 or 8 pieces based on this single idea. This Spring, we have been working on three new projects that are based on the Arc concept, but take it to new places. We built one that is over a kitchen island near Conway, NH that is called "The Tilted Arc." As the name implies, the Arc is twisted out of the vertical plane, which allows the three small shades that hang from it to follow the shape of the counter. I hope to have pictures of this soon.

We are about to install another Arc-based project that goes over a dining table in Boston. This room has an 11" high ceiling, and to fill that high space, this project had a longer lower arc, and above that is a shorter arc. Again, we should have pictures of this completed piece when it gets installed in late July.

The third project was put up a few weeks ago, and again it is based on the Arc design. But this time it has a unique-to-me ornamentation elements in the form of vines and leaves that wind around the Arc form. This complements other wrought iron pieces in the home that have botanical design elements.

The closeup below shows the elegant and natural way the vine wraps around the Arc shape. And interestingly, the leaves are Aspen leaves, the same wood as the shades are made from. It all goes together and makes sense.

Dave works in this general style very regularly (check out his website to see a lot more of his own work: http://www.irontable.com. This new piece opens up a lot more possibilities for Dave and I, where we integrate both of our design styles in to single projects.

One more interesting part of this Arc With Vines and Leaves project is that the wood for the two outer shades came from the client's own land. Last Autumn, I cut down a tree on their property, and made a total of four shades for them. Two are incorporated in to the project for their kitchen, and two are part of Shepherds Crooks that hang over their bed. I love projects like this, where there is a sense of alpha-to-omega, there is a history of the wood that begins at the tree.