Just scratch the surface and you'll find artists and craftsmen creating home furnishings all over our region. So why is it so hard to find their work in local furniture and craft stores? Buyers for these stores seem to prefer work made elsewhere. Is it snobbery? Smart marketing? Whatever you call it, it's a mistake. Some of the finest wood, metal, and textile work in the country is produced here or made by artists who were trained here.
Here's just a small sample of furnishings being made here. Take a look, call the artists, buy their stuff.
Wood: Michael Souers
One thing I've learned here in upstate New York, where so many wood and metal artists live, is that some of them don't like to be called artists. "I don't consider myself an artist," Michael Souers, who makes custom furniture, says. "I'm a craftsman. I just execute things. I enjoy working with designers, because they have better vision than I do."
Souers --- who moved here several years ago to study with Wendell Castle, and then opened his own shop --- enjoys working with quarter-sawn white oak the most. "I really like the way it looks and finishes," he says. "It has a great grain pattern." When he talks about his sensuous enjoyment of the medium --- the feel, the finishes, the grain --- he sounds like an artist to me, but what do I know?
Michael Souers, 889-5666, email@example.com
Lamps: The felt queen
Christina Selian's lamps wouldn't make good reading lamps, the artist admits. They're small --- about 22 inches high --- and don't give off much light. But turn one on and see how the light warmly penetrates the felt shade, eliciting a cozy, glowy feeling. These lamps ($75), each in jewel-like tones with whimsical hand stitching, appeal to the same human pleasure center that enjoys drinking hot cocoa and stroking a purring cat. All that and color, too.
The Felt Queen, as Selian refers to herself, also makes doorway puppet theaters for children ($50 to $75), baby clothes (available at Craft Company No. 6), and picture-frame kits. One lamp is gray with playful spirals. Her favorite is red with a yellow, scalloped edge. It could turn a bedroom into a boudoir.
The Felt Queen, 244-6146, firstname.lastname@example.org
Metal: Flour City Forge
Scott Oliver spends a lot of time looking at trees. Unlike those foliage fans packed onto tour buses, however, his leaf-peeping has a purpose.
"I look at branches to see how the forms of nature work," the blacksmith says. "I'm not trying to copy a tree, I'm trying to make something that looks like nature."
Twisting branches, vines, and delicate leaves turn up in many different forms in his work. One fireplace grate ($800) has hand-forged vines spreading out across it, and his fireplace tools ($325 to $500) sometimes sport leafy handles.
Oliver evokes nature in other ways, too. Some of his candlesticks have a bronze-brown finish that echoes tree bark, and his lamps ($400) have golden mica shades that filter light like sun shining through autumn leaves.
Flour City Forge, 755-8471, 200 Anderson Avenue