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I’ve built a lot of period stuff over the last three decades including furniture, cabinets, accessories, art,  musical instruments, buildings and even a few boats.

My latest projects have focused on Pennsylvania Dutch (or German) inspired small carved birds.  In looking for possible markets for these birds I’ve looked back at my earlier work designing and building early American furniture.  In doing so I (re?)discovered the market for primitive craft and decor.

Over the last weekend I’ve explored websites (I used to go through stacks of Early American Life) looking for trends that may connect to my work.

When I was building country federal style (era?) furniture in the late 1980s and early 1990s I was shocked with the crap that people would purchase and covet.  It seems this trend continues.

I believe that there are two reasons that this is true.  First, the good pieces are generally significantly more expensive than the junk.  Second,  many folks don’t know the difference.

Though the first is generally true — good pieces can cost more — it’s not always the case.

During this time I found a niche building cherry topped painted dining tables with tapered legs.  I hand picked beautiful local curly cherry for the tops.  I used a multi-staged finish technique that brought out the depth of the grain.  All finishes were durable, beautiful and authentic.  Most parts were hand planed and displayed authentic tool marks.  Joints were pegged.  Breadboard tale ends utilized joinery techniques that allowed for wood movement, yet looked like they should.

They sure were pretty.  I know that they look even better with 20+ years of age and often wonder where they are.

These tables cost half of a similar sized and styled table at an area high-end furniture store.

Time and again consumers went to the high-end store for the product.  They bought metal fastened tables with woods of unknown origins.  Finishes were modern, hard and sprayed.  There were no tool marks.  Worse, the pieces lacked the  smell and feel of linseed oil and wax.

They bought these tables because they like to brag about shopping at this furniture store and because there was a notion (within this market) that store bought was better than home made.

They didn’t know  the difference.

I’m a career educator.  I live to teach.  Let me share a few of my thoughts about what is important in choosing, building, designing or purchasing reproduction pieces.

My opinions are mine.  I am not judging your pieces or your taste.  I’ve made mistakes and learned from them all.  I hope this process continues.

Over the next few weeks I will be adding chapters to this introduction exploring themes of design, use and construction within the primitive reproduction market.  I invite you to share your own views and opnions.


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I’m back to posting reference photos.  A local nature center has granted me access to their fantastic collection of mounted birds. I’ve been drawing and photographing these birds for my own research.  Photos are posted here for your reference in your artistic and birding pursuits.

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Coming Soon…

I apologize for not keeping up this week.  Every day I have something cross my mind that I want to share here…but…I’m finishing up the last day before my spring break.  It’s been a busy week at the day job.

FYI-  If you don’t know…I teach 5th and 6th grade at a progressive inner-city school,  the Key Learning Community

For the next three weeks my time is my own and I will be living the life of the artist/folklorist that I aspire to be.

As things unfold over the next three weeks other topics will rise to the surface.  Topics that I would like to touch upon include:

  • nearly cutting off my finger (It wasn’t really that bad!).
  • a Folk School event at Barnes and Noble on April 17th.
  • two Folk Series Concerts.
  • woodcock mating rituals.
  • carving a really big little bird.
  • wood turning
  • preparing for the Bloomington Handmade Market
  • ponderings on market research.

These are the things that come to mind.  Don’t give up on visiting this blog.

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Click on photos and compare.  The “before” picture is really quite far into the project.  The room is clean and the new door is installed.

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Playing on Etsy

I’ve listed a couple of high-end birds on Etsy to see how they’ll do.  See them here.

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The Scoop on Schimmel

Schimmel is a Pennsylvania Dutch carving legend and huge influence on my work.

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Charles Hart Penguin

Charles Hart’s Penguins are the inspiration for mine.  I found this one listed for $4250.

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