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Home and Design: Fallen Friends

Spencer Peterman celebrates the life and death of trees.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014
photo courtesy of peterman's boards and bowls

If you or I were walking in the woods around Gill and came upon a fallen tree covered in moss, we’d likely step right over it and keep on moving.

In an early but visible state of decomposition, logs from the blowdown wouldn’t seem very desirable even as firewood. Surely we wouldn’t see the possibility that such a find might be turned into an object of great beauty and use—an object capable of catching the eyes and editorial interest of taste-setting mavens like Oprah and Martha Stewart.

Of course, we’re not Spencer Peterman.

Anyone who’s had the pleasure of traveling east on the French King Highway (Route 2) through Gill has passed and probably noticed Peterman’s gallery, with its accurately descriptive sign: “The Old Red House, 1736.” The location is the epitome of New England charm. There Peterman, partner Michelle Jurado and their team showcase the ruggedly handsome handcrafted boards, bowls and a variety of kitchenware that come from fallen trees found rotting in the woods.

Spencer Peterman has been turning bowls for more than 15 years, after starting out as a basket weaver making Nantucket baskets. While making the rounds on the craft show circuit, he got the urge to learn how to turn bowls. Over time, he developed his craft and his tools, designing a special lathe to achieve his artistic vision for natural-looking, rugged bowls.

In the last year, Peterman has attracted the attention of some of the nation’s biggest-circulating magazines and most popular websites. Signs of their notice have included a feature in Yankee magazine, product reviews in Martha Stewart Living and selection to Oprah Winfrey’s “O List.” Peterman’s basic concept—“we make wood boards and bowls from upcycled logs”—has caught the interest of trendy online retailers like Cambridge-based The Grommet, which raves about the “rugged artistry” of the handcrafted products. With growing popularity, Peterman’s is now a small, local company poised for significant growth.

“Business here in the Pioneer Valley has been very good, and our retail has increased thanks to our visibility in our new location on the Mohawk Trail in Gill,” Peterman told the Advocate. “I am happy to be making my living creating beautiful functional art from local fallen trees. Every scrap of wood is used. Whatever is left over from the bowls and boards heats our gallery, workshop and home.”

Most of Peterman’s wood comes from Western Massachusetts, including lots of maple, cherry and black walnut. The maple bowls are figured, or “spaulted,” by the aging of the wood—the result is also known as “ambrosia.” Treated with beeswax and mineral oil to keep the wood from drying out, all of Peterman’s bowls and kitchen items are food-safe.•

 

To learn more about Peterman’s Boards and Bowls, check out www. spencerpeterman.com.

 

Cherry Burl Bowls

By Peterman

 

Peterman’s Boards and Bowls in Gill handcrafted these bowls from a fallen cherry tree, using the burl to achieve a rugged beauty. While no two Peterman creations will ever be identical, you can browse the collection and order from the website (www.spencerpeterman.com), at the retail gallery at 61 French King Highway (The Mohawk Trail) in Gill, or at Pinch, 179 Main St., Northampton.

 

Old Glory and More

 

Flag Fables in West Springfield cuts a unique path in the home décor business.

With a bright and spacious retail store in West Springfield, an eye-catching four-color catalog and a smartly organized website, Flag Fables makes it easy to browse through its extensive collection of decorative flags, mailbox wraps, yard signs, handcrafted wreaths, tabletop pieces, furniture and other decorative products. And when you start browsing, you may have a hard time stopping.

Are there flags? Oh, yes. Lots and lots of flags. A mind-boggling number of flags, flags with themes and design variations of all kinds. Take dog flags, for example: Flag Fables has a flag for just about any breed you can name. Or flags from around the world. Or flags representing sports teams.

And, of course, Old Glory herself, with many choices in fabric and style.

But don’t let the name fool you. Flag Fables carries a wide range of decorative items for the home and garden.

Owner Wendy Diamond began her career at Flag Fables in 1985, stitching flags and attending craft shows, and bought the company in 1988. Over the years, she’s built Flag Fables from a small, cottage business to a major specialty retailer. As she continues to grow her business, Diamond is adding new products all the time, expanding into a full range of home décor products.

As we say, you can browse Flag Fables’ collection in many ways, but if you find yourself on Riverdale Road in West Springfield, a visit to Flag Fables’ showroom will undoubtedly inspire all kinds of ideas for your home. Surely there isn’t another store like it. Check out www.flagfables.com for directions, to order a catalog or to shop online.• —Tom Vannah

 

Art Poles

By Flag Fables

 

Flag Fables in West Springfield introduces its new collection of painted garden art poles, which feature artwork by some of the most popular graphic artists in the country. The artwork is laminated onto a strong PVC pole to produce a fade-resistant, durable piece of outdoor art. The poles are easy to install, with all the hardware included and no digging required. Poles are available in 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-foot sizes, depending on design. Flag Fables also carries great pole accessories like birdhouses and lanterns. To browse the selection, go to www.flagfables.com.

 

Garden Whimsy

By Hadley Garden Center

 

From colorful watering cans to statuary of all shapes and sizes, Hadley Garden Center has a wide selection of decorative and functional pieces to add some fun to your garden. And the face? That’s Archie, the cigar-chomping creation of artist Elizabeth Keith, whose faces collection adorns part of a large wall at the Hadley Garden Center. 285 Russell St., Hadley (413) 584-1423, www.hadleygardencenter.com.

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