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Tuesday
Jan082019

In My Garden: Fruit Trees

It's been unusually warm in my Southern California backyard and my fruit trees seem to thrive in the extra heat, especially my cherimoyas and tangerines. I usually hand pollinate my cherimoya trees to get a good crop of fruit because we don't have the right insects here that normally pollinate the cherimoyas in their native habitat. But this year I was too busy and only got out a couple of times and thought I would be lucky to get a dozen fruit. To date I have picked 40-50 fruit and there's probably that much still on the trees, waiting to get large enough to harvest. I have two of the best tasting cherimoya trees that I think there are, if you like really sweet fruit. Also this year my tangerine tree is producing a ridiculous amount of fruit, and all those tangerines are really sweet and juicy. Only in Southern California are we lucky to be getting incredible fruit November through February when fruit trees in other parts of the country are dormant.

Wednesday
Oct032018

Live Edge Coffee Table

I have done numerous projects for this client including built-in cabinets, mantles, coffee tables, light fixtures, children's furniture, desks, glass work, and art pieces, just to name a few. Her style is mostly a blend of traditional, contemporary, Asian, and Arts and Crafts, where the details of the wood, metal, glass and hardware blend with the fabrics, carpet, and other furniture in the home. Never too much or too little, so as to create a balance and harmony. So when she asked if I had ever done anything with live edge wood (the natural edge of the wood before it is milled into lumber) I was a little surprised, as it is not her usual design style, but I shouldn't have been. She appreciates beautiful natural materials, and live edge wood is a way of bringing a little bit of the natural world into one's home. 

I have made a number of furniture pieces using natural elements in the materials. So I was definitely up for the challenge of designing and creating a live edge coffee table that would compliment and fit with the mix of styles in her home and not stand out as an out-of-place piece of furniture. I did my usual research, looking at literally hundreds of pieces of wood to find the right size, shape, and color. I finally found a gorgeous live edge slab of Claro Walnut and my client approved it. After receiving the piece I proceeded to design and layout how I would use it. The one slab made the top and the base. When I put the finish on it, the real beauty of the wood came out. I delivered it and the table was enthusiastically received by my client. I even got several calls afterwards to let me know how well it fit into her home and how much she loved it. That's one of the best things about my work, pleasing my clients!


Monday
Sep242018

In My Garden: Jalapeño Peppers

Have I ever said Laura and I like it hot? Well, I'm speaking of food here! Over the years we have become accustomed to a little heat and spice in our food so I purchased jalapeño seeds from johnnyseeds.com and planted three seeds in 4" x 4" pots which I kept in my greenhouse. When the plants were about 6" tall I planted them in the raised beds in the greenhouse. All three plants grew very well there and when they were about 18" tall they started flowering and producing fruit (peppers are considered a fruit even when they aren't sweet). 

When the fruit was mature Laura started picking the peppers and using them in her cooking. To our surprise some of the peppers were very hot and others had almost no heat, so we started separating them and making note of the different fruit from each plant to see if the plants were different or if some fruit on each plant was hot while others weren't, or some other reason.

What we found was one plant produces very hot peppers and the other two very mild peppers. So I removed the two mild jalapeño plants and kept the hot one and after three years it is still going strong and producing wonderful, hot and spicy jalapeño peppers. Laura uses them in everything from rice and bean dishes to pesto, soup, red sauces, enchiladas, and tofu stir-fries. You name it, she cooks with it. She even dries them in our dehydrator, since our small plant has grown into a small tree and produces more than we can use when they are fresh. Once dried, they are ground in our coffee grinder and saved in spice jars. The morning after she makes the jalapeño powder our coffee is spicy hot from grinding the coffee beans in the same grinder. Delicious! 

Below are a few photo's of drying the jalapeños. Remember to wear gloves when handling them.


Wednesday
Aug292018

Southwest Native American Entertainment Centers

For most of my commissions, the people involved in hiring me agree on the style they want in their home. But once in a while I meet a couple who have very differing opinions on what they want in the way of design and style.

I met one such couple who had recently moved to Rancho Santa Fe, California, and were remodeling the home they had just purchased. He is French, recently moved here from the Czech Republic, and he imported computer technology for a living. She is from England, and was a fashion model. Here comes the design problem: He loved very contemporary styles and she was fascinated by Native American Indian and Southwestern styles. My solution was to design contemporary furniture and built-ins with carvings of Native Americans and Southwest motifs. I started with one piece and went on to make six pieces of furniture along with their entryway.

The first piece, pictured above, is a TV stereo cabinet in the master bedroom The border is solid macassar ebony, the doors are solid birdseye maple, and the Native American woman is in solid maple. I used concealed hinges and a touch latch so no hardware would disrupt the feeling of the woman walking away to some unknown place. The contrast in the ebony and birdseye is stunning. 

The second piece, pictured below, is the entertainment center in the living room, made of solid Australian lacewood and Honduras rosewood. The Native American woman, sitting deep in thought in the lower right corner, is carved in Honduras mahogany. Also note the inlayed arrowhead design in the doors just below the top. The tambour doors in the middle cabinet allow the TV to be viewed from any part of the room since the doors don't block the TV. And the very top section was designed for artwork, in which my clients placed a beautiful Native American pot.

It can be challenging to accomodate more than one design style in a single piece of furniture, but I am always up for a challenge, it's what makes my job and my life interesting!


Monday
Aug202018

A Mantle with Deer in the Forest in Utah

Recently I wrote several blogs about a family lodge in the remote mountains near Park City, Utah. One was about a hand-carved guest house entryway designed with a fox, and the other was the main house entryway designed with Sand Hill cranes. This blog is about the mantle I designed and built for the same home. 

It's made of solid walnut, with three deer (two doe and a fawn) standing on a hill at the edge of the forest looking out below them. The deer are mule deer, native to the surrounding mountains. In the design I created a strong contrast between the flat surface and the heavy relief on the right side. The contrast gives a dynamic that I like, and the surface that is free of carving gives a place to imagine the vast forest below and to wonder what it is that the deer are listening to. 

I shipped the mantle to Utah, and since I wasn't there to install it myself I only have photos of it taken from inside my shop.