To Laurel, with love.

It has been a really long time since we did a blog post. Things have been crazy and for that I am sorry. I knew before we left that our road trip to Laurel would be something different and would be great to document. But now, back in my own living room I struggle to really find the words I need to tell you about our experience. 

We went to Laurel with basically no expectations. We had no idea what to anticipate. But, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I could have never predicted what it was really like. 

I bet this is where you’re expecting me to start talking about Ben & Erin and HGTV. Well, about that I’ll say very little. Except this: 

Ben and Erin are truly just as wonderful in real life. They are kind, humble, and hard working. I give them and all the families from the series so much credit for throwing themselves into the crazy spotlight of national television to help bring attention and value to the small town that they love. We are more than honored to work with all the partners and team at Laurel Mercantile Co.

But here is the thing, that town… is FILLED with amazing stories and people. The excitement and dedication they have for Laurel is palpable. They pop up all over in the most unassuming and casual way. They’re throwing everything into their passions to make Laurel shine. Their enthusiasm is contagious. I am going to tell you about my experiences with some of them. 

Joseph & Jamie of Sweet Somethings - 

www.sweetsomethingsbakery.com

I am so glad that I found Sweet Somethings Bed & Breakfast before anyone else snatched up the reservation. The 16 ft ceilings, brick walls, and original hardwood flooring are just the type of character that I can’t resist. However, the best part about the B&B is definitely the owners. Joseph & Jamie are so fun to talk to! They have such love for their family, town, and businesses. Like many people we met, they’re incredibly hard working. Owning a bakery seems glamorous but I know the long hours and hard work it takes to get things to taste like Jamie can! Steve ate the entire box of cookies they gave us himself. It was so great to get a glimpse into how they work together to make all of their Laurel businesses and projects come together in such a beautiful way. 

Adam & Lily Trest of Adam Trest Home

www.adamtrest.com

Adam’s textiles had caught my eye on instagram long before I visited Laurel. I made sure to seek out the store when we got into town. Like many of the shops in Laurel, their beautiful storefront seemed to serve two purposes. To showcase their style and as a really great spot to hang out and talk with your friends. We were lucky enough to have a great long talk during our visit. I’m pretty picky ( like really picky ) about prints that I’d actually be willing to use in my own home. For me, Adam & Lily’s really shine. They bring the heritage and landmarks of Laurel into their design work in such a natural and timeless way. They even carry a bee print textile. You know from my own work how much I love bees!

Michael Foster ( honorary Laurel resident and kick butt tintype expert )

michaelnfoster.com

Michael lives outside of Laurel but I think its a safe bet to say if you asked anyone he’s got an honorary citizenship there. He is insanely talented in Tintype and Amber Plate Photography and is the most chill guy to talk with. His passion and knowledge of historic photography is remarkable and he always takes his time with the people he photographs. He says that the stories and characters behind each of his photos are his favorite thing about the process. It was clear that if he could spend all his days talking and taking photos of everyone he finds interesting it. would make him very happy. We think that’s pretty fantastic. 

 

Alyson - Manager of Laurel Mercantile

Alyson is awesome. She was immediately welcoming and makes you feel at home. She gave recommendations for places to eat ( gf in small towns can be a challenge ) and greeted us like an old friend every time we saw her.  If I didn’t live 1,000 miles away I would probably follow her around her until she agreed to be best friends or called the police, lol. Just kidding, I usually hide in my own house most days but if I did venture out to talk to someone Alyson would be at the top of the list. From all I could tell, she works insanely hard to make sure the whole Laurel team have their bases covered and things go smoothly. She's just one of those people who makes you feel like part of the team from the instant you show up. 

Their are so many other amazing people doing big things in Laurel, too. Like the fantastic new Guild & Gentry, Laurel Leaf, and Lee’s Coffee & Tea. It really is like stepping into a great novel. Except the “characters” are real and so much better than could ever be made up. They partner with each other and work together. It seems that they all have a quiet understanding that doing so is how they’ll all help to give Laurel the comeback that it deserves. The main thing I experienced with all of them is that they are inclusive. They want everyone to join in and work together. They get people excited to take on new projects and challenges. At the end, I think that's one of the more important things to remember. We're all just same. We dream, live our daily lives, and fight to have those dreams come true. Working together makes those dreams a lot closer to reality than trying to go it alone. So get out there and collaborate. We're not each other's competition or source of entertainment. We are each other's greatest allies if we put in the hard work and allow it to be so.

We absolutely love our own little home town in New York. But now, there is a special spot  dedicated to Laurel in our hearts as well. 

 

 

Weekend Adventure: Lamberton Conservatory

Let me start this post by saying that admission for this place is the best $3 I've ever spent. 

After winter storm Stella brought her wrath down on Rochester everyone has been pretty cooped up for the better part of a week. I needed some warm air, sun, and flowers to keep me going. Short of a plane ticket south, this is the best way I could think to spend my morning. Besides, I figured that a bunch of you North-Easterners were probably feeling the same way. I've snapped some photos to share with this post in hopes of brightening everyone up a bit! For my southern friends, we are envious. Also, I bet at least half of us are booking flights to come visit you right now. We apologize in advance for the tourist mayhem this causes. We're cold and crazy. Please forgive us.

 I found this image on the Lamberton Conservatory website. Look at all those fancy clothes!

I found this image on the Lamberton Conservatory website. Look at all those fancy clothes!

Lamberton Conservatory was built in 1911 in homage to Alexander B. Lamberton by his relatives. Lamberton was the President of the Parks Board from 1902 - 1915. The addition of the conservatory during his presidency further boosted Highland Park's already nationally renown horticulture status. It also gives me a warm and cozy place to be with nature in the dead of Rochester's winter. So thank you for that, too Mr. Lamberton. 

I had never been to the Conservatory before today. Living so much closer to downtown makes amazing places like this so much more accessible during day-to-day life. I'm quite happy to be close to it. I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived, but I wasn't disappointed. 

It might sound crazy, but being close to living plants and nature makes me calmer, happier and an overall better human. There is something intangible but incredibly good for the soul near nature. I've felt stressed out and disconnected since the weather got bad this week. Sitting in the conservatory gardens while listening to the waterfalls and watching the quail wobble around the cobblestone paths totally cured me of those feelings. Leaving, I felt like I could breath again for the first time in awhile. It didn't even phase me that I was walking past giant snow banks on my way back to the car. I was lighter and I was happy. 

Believe it or not, there is science to back up the feeling of "peace" and "wholeness" I felt after spending time in the garden. There are many studies that have shown that gardening and spending time in nature can significantly improve your physical and mental well-being. From Alzheimer's and depression, to heart disease and cancer, there are correlations between time spent near nature and risk reduction. So, for those of you who are close to Rochester and dreaming of spring, I highly suggest grabbing three dollars and heading over to the Lamberton Conservatory at Highland Park this weekend. It is beautiful, peaceful, and good for you! Not bad for only 12 quarters! Tell Lucky, the wonderful and rather pampered queen duck that I say hi. 

 This is Lucky the Duck. She is the self-proclaimed Queen of Lamberton Conservatory. She pushed my leg out of the way. It was impeding her preferred route to the pond. She's fabulous... and knows it. 

This is Lucky the Duck. She is the self-proclaimed Queen of Lamberton Conservatory. She pushed my leg out of the way. It was impeding her preferred route to the pond. She's fabulous... and knows it. 

For more information about hours and directions: http://www2.monroecounty.gov/parks-conservatory

Weekend Adventure: The Eastman Museum

There is no doubt that the history of George Eastman and the Kodak Company are deeply engrained in Rochester. Ghosts of its former glory are scattered throughout the city if you take a second to look for them. Nowhere is that more evident than the Eastman Kodak Museum. Built at the estate of George Eastman, it is a tribute and continued educational effort in honor of the ground-breaking life's work of Eastman himself. 

 Exterior of Main Home

Driving down East Ave in Rochester is always a treat for me. No matter how many times I slowly creep down the street the beautiful architecture and giant estate homes draw me in. There is so much history and you can just feel it in every hand-carved arch and hand-laid brick. I've been meaning to visit the Eastman Museum for years. Driving by on my way to other places, I would make a mental note to stop. Finally, when I saw the Dutch Connection event coming to a close this weekend it was the final push to get me there. 

Each year from fall to early spring, George Eastman would fill his estate with various varieties of dutch flowers rotating them as the winter progressed into spring. The Dutch Connection event recreates his annual indoor flower garden from his original 100 year old order. Unfortunately, almost all of the species from his original list are now extinct. They've been replaced with varieties of tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, and amaryllis bulbs; freesia corms; and clivia, begonia, primrose, and azalea. I can imagine it was his way of bringing life into the dark and sometimes long Rochester winters. I certainly felt cheerier after spending time amongst the tulips. There is so much beauty to this idea. I truly believe that having living plants around your home are good for the soul.

 The potent and intoxicating smell of the blooms hit our noses the second we started down the main corridor into the Eastman estate from the museum entrance. It smelled like spring and it was wonderful. It was almost as if two worlds were combining down the long stretch of hallway. The natural world of fragrant floral blooms and the ritzy upper-class world that a poor boy from Waterville, NY had built for himself.

What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are. - George Eastman

Although the flowers themselves were beautiful, the entire estate was just as noteworthy and inspiring. Each tiny little detail was deliberate and crafted. The rooms transported me back in time. The architecture, textiles, wallpaper, carvings, and antique furnishings set the stage for life 100 years ago. They're also an amazing inspiration to pull into my ceramic work. 

It is funny to say, but I have some SERIOUS bathroom envy after visiting this amazing home. I also have a lot more inspiration for my own personal master suite face-lift that will eventually happen. 

Apart from the actual home, There are multiple gallery spaces within the attached museum full of vintage photo equipment, sensational remnants of the past, and a greater explanation and understanding for the craft and dedication of Eastman.

In the end, George Eastman donated more than $100 million to educational and arts institutions, public parks, hospitals, dental clinics, and charitable organizations around the world. He was a strong advocate for arts education as well as healthcare. He knew that if public appreciation for the arts continued alongside medical advancement that his company would continue long after his death and the entire Rochester community would benefit. At it's peak Eastman - Kodak employed 145,300 people. The peak for Rochester employment was in 1982 with a payroll of 60,400. Knowing how history has played out since is a little bitter-sweet but I think that it is safe to say his impact has certainly far surpassed his death.

Unlocking our muses...

Hey everyone, 

I have been talking with Steve for awhile now about how to bring relevant and interesting content from our everyday lives into our Potter & Woodsmith blog page. We really want everyone who visits our site and follows us to have an authentic and dynamic look into what drives our vision and inspiration. 

That being said, we're changing the way we structure and develop this section of our website. Along with a lot more studio posts, we're going to start talking about other hobbies, and areas of our life that both enrich and inspire our work. 

Those who know us personally, know how important our home environment is to us. We strongly believe in enriching the world around us and we do things everyday to help make that a reality in our lives and in the lives of those around us. When we aren't in the studio, it is very common for us to be renovating, decorating, gardening, antiquing, or striving for a more simple and natural home. We also love to travel and explore, even if it's just a local day trip. All of these muses immensely impact our functional art so It seems only natural to share them with you. Our hope is that this will help give you a more faceted idea of who we are and maybe even give you some fun ideas to try for yourself along the way.

We truly believe in the value of handcrafting as much of your life as possible. Whether by making it yourself or sourcing from an actual maker or artisan. We believe that new isn't always better, and keeping things simple and natural should be done as much as possible. We hope you all follow along as we explain exactly what that means for us. 

Cheers! 

Sara & Steve. 

The Look Back

 

When we started P&W nearly 4 years ago, our lives were much different. Reflecting back, It was probably the most challenging period of time we've yet encountered. We were isolated from our support system and frankly, pretty broke. But amid the rural lake landscape, we began sorting through everything that life had thrown at us. Then, something unexpected happened. We found ourselves. 

 View from the picture window of our old home & studio. I shot most of the product photos here. 

View from the picture window of our old home & studio. I shot most of the product photos here. 

We couldn't have imagined what the next years would bring. We worked hard, both professionally and personally. We tirelessly renovated our old house and studio. Some may have considered it to be a giant money pit. It was originally meant to be a B&B next to the grape fields that the Finger Lakes are globally known for. The property was big, beautiful, took up all of our free time, not so expendable income, and energy to restore and maintain. Detached from any real sense of community, we both developed a strong sense of self both independently as well as within our young marriage. 

 Canandaigua Lake as seen from our road. It was a hazy, but beautiful day. 

Canandaigua Lake as seen from our road. It was a hazy, but beautiful day. 

At a time with few options, we encouraged each other to focus on the dreams that we had prior believed only to be hobbies. These hobbies are what have since manifest into The Potter & Woodsmith. For that, we couldn't be more grateful for our past experiences. 

2016 brought many exciting changes and success. We have shifted over to selling both on our website, as well as with wholesale partners. We've relocated our entire business closer to Rochester, NY. We both have the studio and office space we desperately needed and don't spend our lives remodeling and repairing an old home. We will miss the views, hard work, and character that comes with an old home, but now we have the time to actually focus on what matters. 

 Back to work in my new pottery studio. Unbelievably happy that we could expand.

Back to work in my new pottery studio. Unbelievably happy that we could expand.

Now that we are settled in to the new space, we are working hard to get our web store stocked back up with many new and refined pieces. I feel like we are finally started to develop a very distinct and hopefully timeless style that we can't wait to share with you. Our goal is to be back and live well before Valentine's Day. I hope that you will all plan to visit the web store when that time comes. 

Along with the web store relaunch, we are planning to really amp up the content of our website in 2017. We feel like we have learned a lot since we started P&W and want to share it. We plan to do many more blog posts covering what we have learned about running a cottage industry business, tips about pottery and woodworking, our experience with wholesale, and more. We hope that you subscribe and join in with us. 

Every time that we sell one of our hand crafted pieces, we feel like our enthusiasts get a little piece of us. In that same spirit, we plan to make this blog a place where we share our experiences and our lives. Thank you for spending the last 4 years supporting our adventure. We cannot wait to continue in an even bigger way this new year.

 Working hard on new concepts exclusively for our web store. 

Working hard on new concepts exclusively for our web store. 

 

We're Moving & Expanding!

blog_moving.png

Hi everyone, 

You may have noticed we have been a bit silent on social media the last few months. Big changes have been in the making. After exploring multiple different options, we have a solid direction forward. Now, we are reaching out to share our exciting news! After months of calculated decision making, we have made a leap to relocate and expand The Potter & Woodsmith. The overwhelming enthusiasm and support that we have received since P&W began in 2013 has left us begging for more production and packing space. That, paired with a very positive new (day) job for our Woodsmith, Steve has lead us closer to Rochester, NY. Our studios will still be located on our own property, but will be GIANT compared to our first space. You will still be able to access our goods through our website, Etsy, in-person markets, and our amazing retail partners. We have no current plans for a traditional "Brick and Mortar". However, if that changes in the future, you will certainly be the first to know! We know that this transition comes at a very busy time and many of you will be looking to purchase holiday gifts with us. Although Etsy and our web shop are currently closed to facilitate the move and wholesale orders, we encourage you to visit our in-person events and retail partner, Terrain as we work diligently to get our direct sales back up and running. Rest assured, that we will be fully operational and better than ever very shortly! We Thank you all so much for your support during this time of transition and can't wait to come back strong with new collections and features in 2017. For any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out. We would be happy to answer your questions. We are currently taking custom and wholesale order requests for an estimated January delivery. 

Thank you all so much, 

Sara & Steve

The Potter & Woodsmith

Bertha announces her retirement

We are about two weeks into our studio redo and are just about done! I am now writing to you while I am toasty and warm in what used to be a very icy garage space despite the fact that we woke to very cold weather this morning. Don't let the sun in the photo fool you, it's only 34 degrees F out there!

 My desk / shipping station is finally in my studio where it belongs. We used to use a spare bedroom upstairs for our office / packing station. Our house guests would have to deal with P&W boxes when they came to stay. Now it all fits perfectly in its little studio corner and makes my life much easier. 

My desk / shipping station is finally in my studio where it belongs. We used to use a spare bedroom upstairs for our office / packing station. Our house guests would have to deal with P&W boxes when they came to stay. Now it all fits perfectly in its little studio corner and makes my life much easier. 

Sadly, this renovation has turned pretty bitter-sweet for me. half way through the redo, I finally admitted to something that has been haunting me in the background for a long time now. Bertha, my very old kiln has given just about all she can give. We found evidence of irreparable damage on the exterior ( as well as a great deal of internal wear and tear that makes itself constantly known ) as we were insulating the walls last week. We have known it was time for a new kiln for a while now. But, I have become emotionally attached to this big hunk of brick and metal. Maybe it's because she's the first kiln I ever actually had to myself. She has definitely more than paid for herself over the last two years. I found her on craigslist for $75.00. Needless to say, it was a steal. Now, as she creeps up on her final firings in the next few weeks, I feel like I might need to buy her a cake and some party balloons for her well-deserved retirement. 

 Yes, I did waste time photoshopping balloons and a party hat onto my kiln. I told you I have an irrational attachment to this kiln.

Yes, I did waste time photoshopping balloons and a party hat onto my kiln. I told you I have an irrational attachment to this kiln.

Along with the sadness of Bertha's retirement, another feeling has definitely started to creep in. That feeling? Fear. I just put the down payment on a brand new kiln last Friday with the remaining balance due when the kiln ships from the manufacturer. For those of you who have ever purchased your own kiln, you know what a giant investment it is. Something that definitely started as a hobby for me has now turned into a real source of income. That being said, this is the first big ticket "business investment" we have made and now we have to justify how much we  spend on the new kiln.  So I guess were at the "make or break" part of this journey.

But truth be told, we know we have an awesome group of supporters that will make this all worth it. As always, our customers ( who we also like to think of as friends ) make this dream a reality. You guys help us do what we love, and despite any trepidation we may feel from time to time, knowing that there are people out there that love our stuff as much as we do makes it all worth it. The feeling we get when a Soldier receives a pocket heart before leaving to defend and support our country, or the moment someone reads the surprise at the bottom of their "Marry Me?" mug definitely make all the scary parts worth it! 

Once upon a Monday...

So much is happening very quickly around here. We're really excited about all of the changes. Along with our new website, today marks the first blog post ever for The Potter & Woodsmith! ( I hope we don't bore you too much! ) Also, last Monday marked the first day of an awesome ( and much needed ) studio renovation. I thought it would be fun to share with everyone the transformation as it unfolds. When we started P&W we really started from scratch. Our "studio" was our unheated garage. The winter months were almost unbearable in there. Not to mention the trouble I had with cracking and freezing orders. The good news? Last Monday, the garage door came down. 

 This was our "garage" door before we started. To say it was a garage wasn't really true. I doubt we could have fit anything larger than a Smart Car through this tiny thing.

This was our "garage" door before we started. To say it was a garage wasn't really true. I doubt we could have fit anything larger than a Smart Car through this tiny thing.

What will be put in it's place? We decided on a brand new private entrance and window with space for a pellet stove. It will keep us nice and toasty this winter! Needless to say, I'm pretty excited. Steve and I have been slowly renovating our 1900's home since we bought it 3 years ago. Luckily, along with his part-time gig as my Woodsmith in residence, Steve is also an Engineer who is also great at frame to finish construction. Actually, I'm starting to wonder if there is any project I can throw at him that he can't accomplish. So far, he's done an awesome job on everything! He has been working hard all week to get the new exterior of our studio done before the really cold NYS weather hits.

By last Wednesday, he had the new door, window and rough in done despite the difficultly of our crooked old farmhouse walls. At the end of Tuesday night, we realized that we would have to temporarily block the new entrance with some spare Tyvek and hope it didn't rain. The new, and perfectly square door was going to need a lot more finessing into our crooked old house before we could install it securely. 

 View from the inside of the studio space on Tuesday morning. I wasn't shocked to find that a squirrel had hidden some nuts in the studio overnight. They're definitely getting ready for winter too!

View from the inside of the studio space on Tuesday morning. I wasn't shocked to find that a squirrel had hidden some nuts in the studio overnight. They're definitely getting ready for winter too!

By Wednesday night, the door was installed and painted. I even hung a fall wreath on the door. Steve can barely get walls up before I start decorating them. I just can't help myself. That ugly piece of plywood is about to be hidden forever with stone. Wait until you see the stone system we found. It is going to save us so much time and doesn't require the mess of mortar. It is perfect for the little patch in that we needed for this project. 

 I have a fascination with black doors. I just love them. The enamel that I chose rolled on very smooth for a glossy mirror-like finish. ( Speaking of mirrors, please ignore my reflection in the new window. :-D ) 

I have a fascination with black doors. I just love them. The enamel that I chose rolled on very smooth for a glossy mirror-like finish. ( Speaking of mirrors, please ignore my reflection in the new window. :-D ) 

 These crazy things let you attach the stone using screws. No messing with mortar. It was really weird to screw in pieces of stone with the drill. 

These crazy things let you attach the stone using screws. No messing with mortar. It was really weird to screw in pieces of stone with the drill. 

 The new stone facade. The only thing left it trim! 

The new stone facade. The only thing left it trim! 

 I snuck in a photo of the view from the new studio door. It look so beautiful around here this time of year! If I ever like I'm forgetting to be grateful I look out at the amazing views we have in the beautiful area and immediately remember to be happy and appreciative for the everyday.  

I snuck in a photo of the view from the new studio door. It look so beautiful around here this time of year! If I ever like I'm forgetting to be grateful I look out at the amazing views we have in the beautiful area and immediately remember to be happy and appreciative for the everyday.  

That's what it looks like so far. I will be posting all the finished photos as we go! There will be a lot more to see about the inside of the studio too! I will finally be able to invite customers & friends over to pick up their orders in person. Or for a cup of coffee. :-)