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The American Craftsman Movement

The American Craftsman Movement and its Influence on our Work

A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brains is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist. – Louis Nizer.

Fresh out of college in the mid 80’s, fueled by two decent jobs, we set out to furnish our first apartment.  Our expectations weren’t high as we both came from middle-class backgrounds. Wood, we thought, sturdy and easy to clean (we already had 1 cat).  As we went from store to store, what we found instead was mass produced laminated junk held together with glue.  Once in a while, we’d come across something that felt like ‘real furniture’ but the price was way out of our comfort zone. Neal finally suggested we buy tools instead and then we poked around bookstores for inspiration.

stack of woodworking books
Woodworking and furniture building books we have collected over the years.

At first, we were attracted to Shaker styles.  The slender tables and chairs had simple lines and were easy to understand, not overdone. As Neal’s skills grew, however, we started to consider furniture that had a bit more of a presence in a room. We found ourselves slowly pouring through books featuring American Craftsman masters such as Gustav Stickley and the Greene brothers. These books featured jaw-dropping furniture but discussed an entire way of life: properly designed homes and fair employment for the builders. And, so, we dug deeper.

Craftsman Roots: The English Arts and Crafts Movement

The American Craftsman movement is rooted in the English Arts and Crafts movement which started in the mid-1800’s. The English Arts and Crafts movement has been described as a rebellion against the excesses of the Victorian Age and industrialization.  Thought leaders such as William Morris (1834-1896) and John Ruskin (1819-1900) were champions of the working class. They advocated the honesty and integrity of the craftsman and the sustainability of handmade versus factory production.  Eventually, the movement was a victim of its own success.  Embracing a strictly handmade policy resulted in furnishings that were priced way outside the range that a working person could afford.

cherry and walnut bookshelf
Craftsman style bookshelf of maple and cherry designed for our granddaughter.

Handcrafted and affordable

The American Craftsman movement started at the end of the 1800’s. The American Society of Arts and Crafts developed a credo that emphasized respect for workmen and orderly, restrained design. American masters applied harmonious design to the home, furnishings and landscaping.  A cornerstone of the movement was that it should be accessible to the middle-class. Craftsman bungalows were designed to embrace a housewife preparing meals and the family gathering for casual dining. These bungalow designs were available as affordable mail-order catalog kit homes in the early 1900’s.  My grandparents, working class survivors of the Great Depression, had one in New Jersey.  I still remember the smell of the oak trim in the dining room and the awesome staircase with little stained glass window.

mission style oak credenza
This mission style oak credenza was originally designed to be executive office furniture for Tammy. It has been repurposed to storage of our barware.  The clock and standing frame are also our designs.

Adapting the craftsman Style

We were immediately hooked by the photos of bungalow homes in harmony with their furnishings and gardens.  At first, we studied designs in reprints of old craftsman furniture catalogs.  We were primarily drawn to the bungalow style of Greene and Greene and the mission style of Roycroft and Stickley.   After a time spent trying to reproduce these designs, our own aesthetic started to emerge.  We went back to that idea of balance: balancing form and function, building furniture that fits in our home and that suits our lifestyle.  The size of our designs are scaled back so they are moveable and fit our narrow rooms.  We also balanced the sturdy, boxy shapes tapered legs and interesting angles.  We add interest to common building materials such as cherry and maple with accents of exotic hardwoods.  While we tend to use neutral textiles in larger areas such as drapes and seat cushions, we love to add pops of color with pillows and throws.  This allows flexibility for our modern tendency to redecorate seasonally.

Collection of our work.
Collected Hands Studios style: handcrafted home accessories. Classic wood styles, vibrant textiles.

Modern Relevancy of the Craftsman style

The American Craftsman movement fizzled by 1930 as middle-class America became interested, once again, in the more cost-efficient modern styles.  Since the end of World War II we’ve seen a steady progression of industrialization: housing developments, shopping malls,  IKEA stores and plastic everything.  Americans are becoming more aware that this endless pursuit of cheap goods has a dark side in the loss of middle class jobs and industrial toxins.  However, I see hope as the millennials bloom into adulthood. Online forums for DIY and handmade topics are very popular.  Conversations about individuality vs. mass-produced convenience are taking place. The connection to our natural world is also becoming increasingly important. People want to know about the sustainability and environmental impact of the things they buy.

Photo of our work showing our style.
A sample of our current designs: a conversation chair, small table, clock and textiles.

Collected Hands Studios

Collected Hands Studios home furnishings are modern interpretations of the American Craftsman movement.  We provide an eclectic blend of bungalow, mission, art deco and modern styles.   We design and build our collection in our home studios in Corrales, New Mexico.  Smaller items, such as textiles, clocks and keepsake boxes, are available in our Etsy store. Larger furnishings are available at local markets and pop-up shops and through our showroom by appointment.  In addition to ready-made items, we love working directly with people to design beautiful furnishings to meet particular needs.  Our items will certainly cost more than items from the big box store but we do strive to make them affordable.

Please contact us to discuss commissions or shipping details of larger items if you don’t live in the Albuquerque, NM area.

To Learn More

Refer to this previous post for a tour of Neal’s workshop.  This wikipedia article is a useful starting point if you’d like to learn more about the American Craftsman Movement.

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2017 Summer in the Village Textile Collection

Textile Collection Inspired by Corrales, New Mexico

The village of Corrales, New Mexico is nestled in the Rio Grande river valley between the cities of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. The village, as locals call it, is part farmland and part bedroom community. You will also find a handful of local shops and restaurants but no chains.  The bosque, a dense ribbon of trees that follows the Rio Grande, blocks our view of nearby Albuquerque.  Rio Rancho is hidden by a tall mesa to the west.   The iconic Sandia mountains shimmer on the horizon. Like most agricultural areas in central New Mexico, villagers receive irrigation water by acequias – man made canals that divert water from the Rio Grande through the farmland. It is along these acequia trails, in the bosque, that we gathered inspiration for our 2017 Summer in the Village textile collection.

Prickly pear and cholla cactus along an adobe wall.

Gardens

The properties along the acequias tend to be well irrigated and familiar cottage garden plants. Lilacs, honeysuckle and roses spill over fence lines and courtyard walls. But the real stars of Corrales gardens are the native high desert plants that thrive in the hot sun. Sages and pentstemon send up flowering spikes all summer long in shades of red, purple, pink and white. Bright orange trumpet vine and delicate silver lace vine provide thick fence line coverage and food for hummingbirds and bees. Chamisa spends most of the year looking like an ordinary, muted desert shrub then erupts into cascading golden branches in the late summer. Prickly pear cactus and cholla cactus gather in the un-irrigated areas.

Prickly pear, chamisa and cholla cactus along a wood fence.

Wildlife

Wildlife provides a constant source of wonder and amusement. Coyote can often be seen trotting casually along the trails but will quickly disappear into a field if a human gets close. Bunnies are everywhere. Comical roadrunners run along fence tops, stopping every few feet to fluff their feathers. And silly quail dart across the trail in groups, changing direction several times before they decide where they really wanted to go. Coopers hawks lurk in the trees and blue-tailed lizards scurry on garden walls.

Pillows based on Corrales prints.
Corrales print pillows available from our online store.

Architecture

Geometric motifs can be found in both local architecture and tracks on the sandy acequia trails. Adobe is a common building material in New Mexico. These naturally insulating earthen bricks are used to build houses, churches and fences. Another popular fencing method uses rows of latillas – long, narrow timbers with the bark left on – stacked tightly together and wired to a fence frame. Tracks along the trails are made by animals visiting the acequia for water – racoons, skunk, rabbits, ducks and porcupines. The mesmerizing trails of shoe and paw prints mixed with tractor and bicycle tracks show that these country lanes are well traveled.

An adobe barn in a filed of chamisa and sage.

Sky

Looking up, the New Mexico sky is another constant source of amazement. For most of the year, it is a dazzling azure blue with the occasional fluffy white cloud. Most of the annual rainfall comes from summer monsoons, heavy thunderstorms that build throughout the day and explode in the late afternoon. The thunder and lightening rattles windows and the heavy rains leave huge roadside puddles that become instant toad habitats. In the fall, the bosque skyline turns in to a bright gold as the cottonwood leaves change. The combination of green and gold against the bright blue New Mexico sky dotted with hot air balloons is just magical.

Summer sky in New Mexico

The 2017 Summer in the Village Textile Collection

The Collected Hands Summer in the Village textile collection draws inspiration from trekking the acequia trails. The designs blend vibrant hues from native flowering plants with the muted tones of the high desert.  The collection includes whimsical wildlife and repeating patterns of overflowing gardens and rhythmic fences. Together, the collection evokes that sense of wonder – of “Hey, did you see that!” You can purchase these textiles  by the yard via spoonflower.com and in completed products, such as pillows and notebook covers, in our Etsy store. You can also visit us  locally at the Sunday morning Corrales Makers Market and out of our studio by appointment. Please contact us to schedule a studio appointment or to discuss customization of any design to meet your particular needs.

Summer in the Village sample fabrics
Summer in the Village sample fabrics available from spoonflower.com
Sample products from textile collection.
Linen notebook cover and chiffon scarf from the Summer in the Village collection.

Click on any of the images below to go directly to our spoonflower listing:

 

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The Corrales Makers Market

A Weekly Handmade Market in Corrales, New Mexico

The Corrales Makers Market, a weekly handmade market, debuts June 25, 2017

When I travel to a new place, I try to seek out the true local vibe.  One of the first things I look for is a local farmers market or handmade market.  I love to see what people make (and grow) and watch how the locals interact.  Many vendors are influenced by local materials and experiences so I can dig deeper into a place by talking to them.  Beyond talking about their craft, the vendors are local ambassadors – happy to share their tips for restaurants and things to do that aren’t printed in the travel guides.

Our village (Corrales, NM) has a few outdoor markets:

  • The Corrales Growers’ Market has been held on  Sundays from 9am – noon.  They have great local produce, breakfast burritos and food, and music.  The Growers’ Market organizers are focused on supporting agriculture, not craft.
  • The Corrales Society of Artists (CSA) hosts monthly Art in the Park event in August, September and October
  • and an art market is part of the annual Corrales Harvest Fest the first weekend in October.

But, until this year there has been no regular, weekly handmade market.  That changed this year when the Corrales Makers Market was formed.

A community effort

We worked with village officials and the Corrales Growers’ Market to create a weekly handmade market that will operate alongside the Growers’ Market at 500 Jones Road in Corrales.  The Corrales Makers Market debuts on June 25 and will run for 12 weekends through September 24.  We skip the weekends of August 6 and September 3 to accommodate CSA’s Art in the Park event.  The idea is that Corrales Makers Market will build patronage with its weekly presence and the artists markets will provide the occasional variety and excitement.

We reached out to local artist organizations, businesses, craft guilds and community centers.  We currently have about a dozen vendors of clay and pottery, photography, jewelry, textiles, furniture, glass, metal sculptures, and birdhouses.   Follow this link to see a list of currently registered vendors and a sample of their work.  Getting the market started was a big step, we expect it to continue to grow throughout the summer.

See you at the Market!

Collected Hands Studios will be there!  Setting up a weekly market tent is a lot of work so we will mostly be showing our smaller, lighter weight items: pillows, clocks, keepsake boxes and linens.  To add variety, we will bring a full spread of Neal’s larger furnishings once a month.  We look forward to talking to anyone who stops by.  We can show off our ready-made items, answer questions about our work or discuss commissions.  Being part of the local maker community is important to us, we are stronger together.  If you’re not familiar with Corrales, I’m also looking forward to being a local ambassador.

Visit the market website, www.corralesmakersmarket.org, to learn more about the market including information on the current vendors.  Market rules and vendor application forms are available on the website.  The website also describes other things to do in Corrales on Sundays – come to the market in the morning then spend the day!

Corrales Makers Market Info

Date: Sundays, from June 25 – Sept 24

except for Sunday Aug 6 and Sun Sep 3

Time: 9am – noon

Location: The Corrales Recreation Center front soccer field, 500 Jones Rd, Corrales.

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Textile Studio and Showroom

A Tour of the Collected Hands Textile Studio and ShowRoom

Enjoy this tour of our textile studio and showroom located in sunny Corrales, New Mexico, USA.

The Main Room


Textile Studio Main View

Our textile studio and showroom has tons of natural light, built-in shelves for storage of supplies and an easy-to-clean floor. The fireplace keeps us warm in the winter and the seating area is a great place to meet clients or just sit and plan.  This view shows the studio in work mode with temporary, washable coverings on the chairs and a large paint-proof tablecloth on the work bench.  Product is visible but tucked safely out of the way.  In work-mode, the walls of this well-lit area are covered in sketches and sample fabrics.  This gives us a sense, as we work,  of where we are headed with our current line.

Painting and Cutting Table

In work mode, the large work bench in the center of the room is covered with a thin layer of upholstery foam and vinyl and a large self-healing mat.  This setup can quickly transition from supporting “dirty” tasks (such as fabric painting and screening) to “clean” tasks, such as cutting and pattern design.  The upholstery vinyl and foam provide enough cushion for stamping and screening and the vinyl is easy to wipe down.  However, the vinyl is heavy enough to stay in place for cutting tasks.  Paints and painting tools are kept nearby on the shelves behind the table. Cutting tools are close by as well.

Tool Storage

On the far side of the work bench are a couple of carts on wheels which hold our custom stamps and stencils.  Paints, thickened dyes, paint brushes, idea books and other tools are on the shelves just behind the workbench.   Simple curtains help to hide the view of when we are in showroom mode.   Large baskets help to organize similar items such as carving tools, glues and beads.

Hand made stamps, stencils and screens
Textile studio paint storage

 

 

 

 

 

The Sewing Room

Beyond the main room is the sewing room.    This room has more south-facing light and plenty of wall space for more ideas and inspiration. 

The Sewing Room

 

My primary tools in this room are a Singer steam press and 3 sewing machines:

  • an Elna serger,
  • a 1980’s vintage portable Bernina dress-makers machine
  • and a brand new Bother heavy duty straight stitch machine.

The steam press is invaluable for preparing and heat setting yardage.  Each of the sewing machines has their special purpose.

The steam press, serger and Bernina dressmaking machine.
The Brother straight stitch machine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to these tools, the sewing room has a significant amount of storage.  Prepared fabrics and projects in-process are stored in a armoire behind the pocket door as well as in a small closet.  There is a locker for photography equipment, a locking file cabinet for hazardous chemicals and drawers and hooks for patterns.  The shower stall in the 3/4 attached bathroom has been converted into a storage locker for photographic equipment.

The Showroom

When we host studio tours or showroom events, the main studio room is placed in “showroom mode”.  The room is large enough to be staged to showcase our products in various home/lifestyle settings.  The sunny corner window makes an excellent photography bay with natural light coming from two directions.

Another work room view.

 

 

 

 

 

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Botanical Garden Design Inspiration

Getting Design Inspiration for Shape, Texture and Color from Nature

Jen, Erica and I took a winter trip to the Botanical Garden to hang out and also to get shape, color and texture design inspiration.

Jen and Erica
Jen and Erica

Texture

Summer gardens are all about the color.  It is easier to see texture in the winter.

A fallen log
A fallen log
Fronds of grass
Fronds of grass
Interesting tree bark
Interesting tree bark

Shape

Shape and structure are also more apparent in winter.

A leaf floating in the water
A leaf floating in the water
Buds: The shape of spring to come!
Buds: The shape of spring to come!

In the greenhouse, cactus shapes are fascinating:

Star-shaped agave
Star-shaped agave
I love the round cacti in the center
I love the round cacti in the center

And many other greenhouse plants had exciting shapes:

Such a simple and elegant shape!
Such a simple and elegant shape!
Sweet
Sweet shape

Color

The greenhouse also provided some color inspiration:

Warm lilies, cooled by white and green background
Warm lilies, cooled by white and green background
Shades of pinks on green
Shades of pinks on green

Even outdoors, the winter color palette was amazing.

A full palette of natural colors
A full palette of natural colors
Oh, that NM sky!
Oh, that NM sky!

…And, a Dragon

I really, really wish this lived in my front yard!  Seriously.

The dragon that guards the Children's Garden
The dragon that guards the Children’s Garden
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Collected Hands Studios Wood Shop Tour

Wood Shop Tour

When we were very young, we went furniture shopping and were pretty quickly put off the by the high cost yet cheap quality of what we saw.  At some point, Neal muttered, “Maybe I should by some tools instead.”  Thus, a woodworker was born.

The Structure

He started out in a corner of the garage.   When we discussed buying our current home, part of the deal was that he would get to build his own workshop.  He designed a simple 24’ x 36’ building with an exterior designed to match our house and situated to make the best use of shade in the summer and heat collection the winter.  He contracted the concrete slab and stucco and used a certified electrician for the electrical box hookups.  Friends helped with the drywall and roof rafters but the rest of the work was all done by Neal.

Exterior view of the shop from the back door of the house. The shop has a standard door entry as well as a single-wide garage door. Windows provide natural lighting throughout. The shop has its own electrical box but no plumbing (unfortunately!).
The exterior view of the shop from the back door of the house. The shop has a standard door entry as well as a single-wide garage door. Windows provide natural lighting throughout. The shop has its own electrical box but no plumbing (unfortunately!).

Interior Details

Main interior view of the 24' x 36' space. In the foreground is a temporary work table made from sawhorses and an old door. Underneath are buckets of home-brew supplies. In the background is the woodshed area. The floor is a cement slab, the interior is drywalled with custom trim around the windows. The trim is extended in a line around the shop to accommodate Shaker-style pegs for storage.
The main interior view of the 24′ x 36′ space. In the foreground is a temporary work table made from sawhorses and an old door. Underneath are buckets of home-brew supplies. In the background is the woodshed area. The floor is a cement slab, the interior is drywalled with custom trim around the windows. The trim is extended in a line around the shop to accommodate Shaker-style pegs for storage.

The following photos provide a more detailed wood shop tour, going counter-clockwise from the door:

Just inside the entrance is a band saw, a very old stereo (for playing podcasts on brew days) and a chalkboard for sketching ideas.
Just inside the entrance is a band saw, a very old stereo (for playing podcasts on brew days) and a chalkboard for sketching ideas.
Painting supplies are collected under the chalkboard. A storage chest for small tools (built by Neal) is to the left of the chalkboard.
Painting supplies are collected under the chalkboard. A storage chest for small tools (built by Neal) is to the left of the chalkboard.
His main workbench is in the back east corner, surrounded by miscellaneous cabinets for tool storage. A chop saw is on the back wall. Natural light pours on the workbench during the day.
His main workbench is in the back east corner, surrounded by miscellaneous cabinets for tool storage. A chop saw is on the back wall. Natural light pours on the workbench during the day.
West side back corner includes some storage areas and a drill press.
The west side back corner includes some storage areas and a drill press.
West wall of the shop with drill press, radial arm saw, wood storage and sheet goods storage next to the garage door. The planer is in the foreground.
The west wall of the shop with drill press, radial arm saw, wood storage and sheet goods storage next to the garage door. The planer is in the foreground.
Wood and sheet goods storage on the west wall next to the garage door.
Wood and sheet goods storage are on the west wall next to the garage door.
The front section of the shop, near the garage door, has become a dedicated home brew area. The bookshelf in the corner holds old woodworking magazines and miscellaneous brew supplies.
The front section of the shop, near the garage door, has become a dedicated home brew area. The bookshelf in the corner holds old woodworking magazines and miscellaneous brew supplies.

And, a tour up the middle:

The table saw occupies a large part of the shop floor in the middle of the shop with plenty of room all the way around to manipulate large sheet goods. A collection of handmade jigs is stashed under the table saw.
The table saw occupies a large part of the shop floor in the middle of the shop with plenty of room all the way around to manipulate large sheet goods. A collection of handmade jigs is stashed under the table saw.
In the middle of the shop, between the workbench and table saw, is a dust collection system. When the trashcan is full, the sawdust is used to mulch the garden.
Between the workbench and table saw, is a dust collection system. When the trash can is full, the sawdust is used to mulch the garden.

Future Improvements?

Thanks to great site and window placement and insulated walls and attic, the shop remains comfortable on warm summer days with no cooling system or fans.  The shop also stays quite cozy in the winter, although portable radiators are used to take the bite out of winter nights – especially if a project needs overnight drying time for a finish.  Plumbing is the one regret – we may eventually add a composting toilet but a utility sink would also be nice.  Neal has created a hose rig with quick connects for brewing so we might be able to do something similar for a sink if we can provide a safe drainage area for the dirty water.  I also wouldn’t mind a simple house-to-shop alert system for “dinner’s ready” type of announcements; an intercom won’t do because of the tool noise so perhaps a remotely activated blue light?

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About Collected Hands Studios

       

Tammy in her textile studio 

Neal in his wood shop

Hi!  We are Neal and Tammy.  We live in Corrales, New Mexico and we love making things from fabric and wood that are unique, beautiful and useful.  We also blog about making a living as independent craftsmen.  When not creating and blogging, we enjoy gardening, home brewing, playing soccer, hiking and spending time with family and friends.