Are You Ready for the Vermont Lifestyle of Simon Pearce and Farmhouse Pottery?

Have you ever wanted to just leave the city?

You’re sick and tired of it all and can’t do another conference call.  So you drive, drive, drive.  All of a sudden, there are no more billboards.  No more big box stores.  No more fast food joints.

Vermont has no billboards or big box stores

Courtesy: OnlyInYourState.com, Flickr/Sean_Marshall

Just trees, trees, and more trees.   An occasional farm or cow dots the horizon.

Vermont's rolling hills and grass

Courtesy OnlyInYourState.com, Flickr/Paul Moody

You slow down for a covered bridge, then another one.

Courtesy OnlyInYourState.com, Flickr/James Walsh

Finally you pull into a town.  Instead of strip malls, though, you find a little town center with Colonial-era buildings greeting you as they once did George Washington.  A farmer’s market is in full swing.  Today’s specials: locally made cheese.

Vermont farmers' market

Movoto, Growingsynergy.com

Fantasy?

No, Vermont.

One of our smallest and most rural states, Vermont is almost a picture-perfect version of what America might have been like,   before the factories, strip malls, and Walmarts.  Here you can still find country roads lined with just maple trees, little towns gathered around a picturesque square, and family farms that bring their produce to market every Sunday.  And in our age of industrial manufacturing, Vermont has led a revival in traditional hand-crafting.

One of the earliest pioneers is Simon Pearce, who returned to Vermont after studying glassmaking in Europe.  In 1980, he set up a glassmaking factory right on the Queechee River, drawing on the river’s natural hydroelectric for power:

Courtesy Simon Pearce, Youtube

At the time the space was far too large for his needs, but Simon Pearce persevered.  He insisted on the antithesis of mass production, so each piece was individually hand made.  Where our culture modern wants identically perfect end products, he preached a new gospel: That our creations’ imperfections were beautiful.  That “the human creates perfect imperfections.”

How Simon Pearce glass is hand fashioned

Courtesy Simon Pearce, Youtube

Today, a younger generation of artisans is building on the same ideas that drove Simon Pearce.  Zoe and James Zilian, former product and interior designers, apprenticed with Simon Pearce before settling down in Woodstock, Vermont to found Farmhouse Pottery.  They and their team of 8 potters (anyone named Harry there?) now make stoneware pottery the old fashioned way — they hand shape them on a wheel and then bake them in an oven:

Farmhouse Potters at Work

Courtesy Farmhouse Pottery, Youtube

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Can I do this too?  (I certainly did.)

Well, here’s the deal: Simon Pearce and Farmhouse Pottery might make artisan craftsmanship look like fun, but the what they do is serious stuff.  This is not a hobby.  To make Simon Pearce’s glass bowls requires skill, physical strength, and total concentration.  Like Simon says, “You don’t want to take your eyes off molten glass for a moment”:

Glassmaking requires total concentration

Courtesy Simon Pearce, Youtube

Farmhouse Pottery starts with a proprietary blend of American clay from Ohio, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Georgia.  It’s blended in Western Massachusetts and then delivered — by the ton.  It’s then shaped on the potter’s wheel for up to 15 minutes with water from the local rivers and fired twice, at 1700 and 2300 degrees, and glazed with (you guessed it) a proprietary glaze.  Their unique combination of materials gives the pottery their distinctive color and makes them durable.

Farmhouse Pottery Glazing

Courtesy Farmhouse Pottery, Youtube

Even more important than the materials, though, are the skills involved: Simon Pearce himself trained for many years in Europe as a glass maker.  The Farmhouse potters started as apprentices to learn their craft and only became “Master Potters” after up to three years.

Farmhouse Pottery Master Potter

Courtesy Farmhouse Pottery, Youtube

Finally, both Simon Pearce and Farmhouse Pottery have a distinctly modern look.  While reviving the traditional techniques, they each have produced pieces that are streamlined and simple.  Take a look at Simon Pearce’s Pure Champlain Glass Bowl, named after Vermont’s beloved Lake Champlain:

Simon Pearce Pure Champlain Glass Bowls

Simon Pearce Pure Champlain Glass Bowls

Or the Tall Silo Mug by Farmhouse Pottery:

Farmhouse Pottery Tall Silo Mug

Farmhouse Pottery Tall Silo Mug

Their sleek, streamlined shapes make them a fit for our modern homes today.  In place of traditional decorations, they emphasize the beauty of the natural materials and the imperfections of hand made pieces.  Those imperfections, though, are precious because they show on an object made by a well-trained craftsman who has shaped them to an amazing level of precision.

So am are you ready to embrace this Vermont way of living — close to the farm, away from the big city, and working with my hands?

Maybe not.

Or maybe just not yet.

Meanwhile, I’m glad I can take a little bit of it with me, just to remember what it stands for, and hopefully help me find peace in the big city I live in.

See the latest dinnerware and gifts from Simon Pearce and Farmhouse Pottery.

Catherine the Great of Russia by Fedor Rokotov, Tretyakov Gallery

Flora Danica: The Amazing Story of the World’s Most Expensive Dinnerware

War.  Diplomacy.  Royal backstabbing.  A Russian Empress who loved art and beauty.  All that went into the making of the world’s most expensive dinnerware, Flora Danica by Royal Copenhagen.

Our story begins with Catherine the Great of Russia.  In 1788, she was at the height of her power and prestige, having come to power 26 years earlier by deposing her husband in a coup.  The formerly impoverished German princess was now the absolute ruler of the largest empire in the world, and she followed up one stunning achievement with another:  Expanded Russia into the Black Sea and Crimea.  Made Russia a major European power.  Annexed Alaska.  Reformed the government.  Ushered in the Enlightenment.  Check, check, check.

Catherine the Great of Russia by Fedor Rokotov, Tretyakov Gallery

Catherine the Great of Russia by Fedor Rokotov, Tretyakov Gallery

Read more

Guide to Area Rug Materials

For more detailed information, please see Understanding Area Rugs: Materials and Construction.

MaterialWhat Is It?Ideal For
CottonPopular natural fiberSoft and easy to clean and maintain
LeatherUsed in conjunction with other materials.Enhances rug with interesting texture.
Natural FibersOther natural fabrics including sisal, sea grass, jute, and coirAll natural material with interesting textures.
SilkUltra-luxurious natural fabric Very pleasing sheen and texture
SyntheticsIncludes acrylic, polypropylene, viscose, polyesterAffordable alternatives to natural fibers. Can be better for maintenance or outdoor use.
WoolUsually wool from sheepMost popular natural fiber. for rugs. Feels good and high quality.

Guide to Area Rug Construction

For more detailed information, please see Understanding Area Rugs: Materials and Construction.

ConstructionHow It's MadeIdeal For
BraidedFabric is tied together in braids and then glued to the backing.Interesting designs and textures from the braiding.
Flat WeaveThe fabric of the rug is woven directly on a loom to create a flat, thin pile. Very affordable and durable. Nearly unlimited variety of patterns and colors.
Hand KnottedA weaver hand ties individual knots to the vertical strings on the backside of a rug.High quality construction. Minimal shedding. Very durable.
Hand TuftedA design is drawn on the canvas. The canvas is then stretched on a frame, and strands of fiber are punched into it with a special "gun."Good durability at an affordable price, with nearly unlimited variety of patterns, colors, and textures.
Hand WovenThe rug is woven completely by hand.Most traditional technique.
HookedA design is printed on a base fabric. The fabric is stretched, and then loops of yarn are hooked through it by hand.Larger loops create plush rugs. Smaller loops create more pattern. Good quality and affordability. Unlimited variety of patterns, colors, and textures.
Indoor/OutdoorMade from special natural or synthetic fabrics, these rugs are specially designed for both indoor and outdoor use.Designed for high traffic areas, areas that get wet, or pets.
Solids/HandloomThe rug is woven on a jacquard loom.Good durability and range of designs.
WovenThe rug is woven on a jacquard loom.Good durability and variety of styles.

[VIDEO] How 3 Parisian Star Chefs Show Off Their Amazing Dishes

In France, life is lived as art, and every moment must be lived beautifully.  Nowhere is this more true than the Michelin starred restaurants, where culinary skill and presentation play equal parts to create unforgettable dining experiences.  But how do they do it?  In this video, you can see how three Michelin starred Parisians chefs, Guillaume Delage, Thierry Marx, and Toshitaka Omiya, show off their amazing creations with our Raynaud Essential dinnerware.  Check it out: