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Art furniture made here

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,

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,

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

In This Guide...

  • Breaking the mold

    Three houses you won't find in a tract
    Anyone who has shopped for a house knows the process can be fraught with anxiety. The commitment.

  • Home Sweet Dome

    Buckminster Fuller first envisioned geodesic domes as sturdy, easy-to-construct, low-cost housing for the masses in the late 1940s. His idea took hold in the decades following, and today the geodesic dome --- part engineering triumph, part philosophy-in-action --- is a symbol of an era when world peace was a goal, not just a logo.

  • The straw-bale house

    If you tell Sharon Kissack her house smells like a barn, she won't be insulted. She's in the final stages of installing straw-bale walls inside, and the scent of sweet, dry hay is just one of the advantages of her unusual choice of materials.

  • The Floating House

     "This is not a 'Hi honey, I'm home!' house," artist Annie Dunsky-Kälnitz says of her Pittsford residence. Pod-shaped and perched on 100-foot pylons on the side of a hill --- like a long-legged bug --- the house was dubbed the Floating House by its first owners.

  • DIY: children's bedrooms

    I was cruising right along, hitting all the mile markers of adulthood --- finished school, landed a real job, bought a used car, got hitched, knocked up, the works. But no one makes it out of childhood without facing something that makes them say, "Whoa!

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