11.16.11 Arts & Crafts
I'm one of those people who prefers to think of coincidence as convergence. You know those moments when you're hoping for a job and the phone rings and it's someone offering you one? Or you read about a restaurant, make a reservation and when you walk in your good friends are already having dinner there? It's not happenstance, it's meant to be. Well, something along those lines happened with 603 Here & There. First, I read an interesting interview with founder Nell Dodge on a favorite blog. Then, my friend Peter asked me to test-drive some maple syrup he's selling on his website—sourced for him by Nell Dodge in New Hampshire. So 603 Here & There became here, there and everywhere. It was time to investigate further. Turned out that I fell in love with Nell's online holiday pop-up site and was able to chat with her about some of the wonderful items she sells. The best part? Nell, a New Hampshire native who has returned to her hometown for a spell, features lovely work from local artisans. Two of them, Ann and George Saunderson, a couple married for 40 years whom Nell has known for most of her life (pictured above), really captured my fancy.
A Rhode Island School of Design graduate, Ann has been an art teacher for almost 35 years. She and George live on a 120-acre farm at the end of a dirt road in the old farm house and they each pursue their creative work. Most recently, Ann had been working on a series of etchings and lithographs; in her collaboration with 603 Here & There she turned to printmaking. Working with a stamp concept, she wrapped string around a block of wood to create the interesting graphic patterns you see above. From this was produced a series of totes with different colorful variations of the string imprints.
Nell sourced the sturdy cotton canvas bags from a company in California that employs disabled adults, so buying this tote essentially guarantees good karma. In addition to looking great, they will be super-handy for marketing, on picnics, at the beach, as a gym bag, etc.
After 25 years as a farrier (blacksmith), Ann's husband George began turning wooden bowls, a craft that allows him to use both his problem-solving mind, his connection to nature and his creative talent. No two pieces he makes are ever identical as he allows the wood's unique character to drive the ultimate design. The French rolling pins he makes for 603 Here & There are hand-turned from red oak grown on his own property. The pins have a nice heft and are perfectly balanced and wonderfully smooth. They would make an ideal gift for a beginner or experienced baker. Nell has even created a little gift set, pairing a rolling pin with one of her beautiful French linen dishcloths.
Other covetable gifts on the site include stunning gold-lined bowls from Woodstock (Vermont) artist Cristina Salusti, handmade soaps and that wonderful local maple syrup (review to come).Nell Dodge named 603 Here & There after the New Hampshire area code and her peripatetic life, which has included time spent in France, New York City, Southeast Asia and Australia. Although she started the shop as a holiday pop-up, it looks like we may be lucky enough to see it live longer. A former executive at Chilewich, a company known for its innovative synthetic textiles, Nell had discovered many interesting resources here and abroad that helped motivate this new venture. When I asked her what she thought made a great gift, she referenced the classic Shaker song ('tis a gift to be simple), saying "Giving and receiving are always good, whether or not it's the season, and less is more." On her wish list? World peace, of course. But also a Dutch book about gnomes, and a hippo doormat, by the same company that makes the hare I recommended in my gift guide on Monday. Coincidence? I think not.