Artisans: Furniture, Pottery and Rugs in Northwest Connecticut
Northwestern Connecticut’s quiet beauty has long drawn some of the region’s most creative artisans. There we found a concentration of contemporary furniture makers and potters (and one rug visionary) crafting simple-yet-sophisticated pieces for the home.
1. Get Back, Inc.
When Tim Byrne, a native of Dublin, Ireland, and the designer and owner of Get Back (Oakville, 860-274-9991; getbackinc.com), spots a vintage industrial machine part or furniture remnant, he sees rebirth. In his hands, one man’s detritus becomes a functional object of beauty: a one-of-a-kind table, chair, or light fixture imbued with his old-school-meets-edgy style. His workshop, located in a former pin factory, is itself a revival. Get Back has been there since its founding in 2000, and Byrne chose it because “the history behind our building is a great backdrop for our line.”
2. dbO Home
Dana Brandwein Oates, founder of the handcrafted-ceramics company dbO Home (Sharon, 860-364-6008; dbohome.com), is decidedly not a Connecticut native. She relocated to Litchfield County from Manhattan in 2005 after 20 years in the music industry, and she admits that the move was a tough one. But she doesn’t regret it for a second.
“Sharon is spectacularly beautiful,” Oates explains. “The surroundings are always inspiring. And our home’s property butts up against 100 acres of wetlands–awesomely beautiful and ever-changing with the season.”
Hand-built in small batches, many of Oates’s rustic-modern plates, bowls, and cups, with names like “Birch” and “Honeycomb,” are an homage to that sense of place. For her “Queen Anne” and “Plantlife” patterns, actual botanicals are rolled into the porcelain.
“Since we use actual plant life that we find when we take a walk, or in our garden, the photos you see represent the size and glaze color, but yours will be totally unique,” Oates explains. “It all depends on what’s available.”
The “Queen Anne” pieces are some of Oates’s personal favorites. “Queen Anne’s lace is the one flower we just couldn’t get enough of when making ‘Plantlife’ plates,” she says, “so we decided to make a collection focused on the lovely patterns this flower creates.”
In addition to the natural beauty around her, there’s something less obvious that Oates loves about her (relatively) new home, as well: the artistic community. “It’s not easy to find,” she says, “but once you begin to meet people, you realize that there are individuals involved in all areas of the arts living and working here.”
3. Hendon Chubb
Painter and rug designer Hendon Chubb (West Cornwall, 860-672-6607; rugsandhangings.com) comes from a family with a long New England history. “My mother’s family, the Alsops of Avon and Middletown, first came to Connecticut around 1672,” he says. That doesn’t mean that Chubb’s work is staid, though. His wool rugs are bold, playful, and steeped in tradition of another kind: After Chubb designs them in West Cornwall, an artisan weaver in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, looms them by hand.
4. Guy Wolff Pottery
He apprenticed in England and Wales, but ever since 1971, Guy Wolff of Guy Wolff Pottery (Bantam, 860-567-5577; guywolff.com) has been making pots just a few miles from where he was born. “I’m lucky enough to know the grandchildren of people I went to first grade with,” he says. Wolff’s upbringing, however, was hardly provincial, and he’s long been plugged into the local art scene: His father was an Abstract Expressionist who moved the family to Connecticut on the advice of friends such as the playwright Arthur Miller, sculptor Alexander Calder, “and a wonderful group of artists who were here in Litchfield County.”
No wonder: It’s a stunning place to work, which Wolff knows well. “The trees, lakes, rocks, and landscape,” he says, “have informed my life.”
5. Ian Ingersoll Cabinetmakers
Furniture maker Ian Ingersoll, the craftsman behind Ian Ingersoll Cabinetmakers (West Cornwall, 800-237-4926; ianingersoll.com), has deep roots in Connecticut. His family has been here for 250 years, and although he’s had many opportunities to relocate, he’s “always felt the call to return to Litchfield County.” That’s in part because his Shaker-inspired designs enjoy such an appreciative audience here. But there are other reasons.
“Though initially it was a gut feeling, I chose northwestern Connecticut for the physical beauty of forests, hills, and rivers, and for the authenticity of the architecture,” he explains. “The hills give me a feeling of privacy that encourages creativity. And the sense of local history encourages me to live up to the accomplishments of my predecessors.”
Read photographer Julie Bidwell’s blog on Get Back, Inc.