Monthly Archives: December 2014

Back to the Beginning: A Look at 2014

Blog logo by Lisa J. Gumerman

Handmade on the Front Range finishes the year with its 22nd post. Blog logo by Lisa J. Gumerman

“I love your blog – I just haven’t had a chance to read the last post.”

I’ve heard that more than once from various people, especially during this holiday season. So if you’re one of those who might have said that – or if you’re one of those who started following the blog in the last couple of months – here’s your chance to catch up.

I’ve compiled a list of all the posts that have come out since “Handmade on the Front Range” began the first week of August, 2014. A few words give you the idea of what you might have missed. Just click on the date and enjoy!

December 24           Do You See What I See?
Scroll through photos you haven’t seen before that were taken when I wrote previous posts. They didn’t quite fit the content of the original post, but they’re great fun.

December 17           J.C. Milner Metalworks: Serious Work, Playful Art.
Jennie Milner designs and creates whimsical jewelry using sterling silver, often with resin or copper to add color. Jennie also puts her zany art on walls by commission and in mail by subscription.

December 10           A Holiday Surprise: Scones Handmade on the Front Range
Not the blog’s usual fare. I offered my secrets to making and enjoying light, tender scones at 5,000 feet.

December 3              Wool Warms the Heart at Fran Bowen’s Studio
Fran Bowen uses a dry felting process to create adorable animals and other figures from wool. Her custom work has included dogs smaller than your hand to commemorate beloved pets.

November 26           Words of Thanksgiving, Pictures of Christmas
Published the day before Thanksgiving, this post acknowledges you — my reader — and others who make this blog possible. It also kicked off the holidays with seasonal photos of artisan work.

November 19           From Sheep to Hat Rack, Mickey Ramirez Sees Spots
Mickey Ramirez makes felted wool hats with spots from the natural-colored wool of the spotted sheep she raises.

November 12           For Fun, Give Me a Show of Hands
Show of Hands is a gallery in Denver’s Cherry Creek North owned by Katie Friedland and Mandy Moscatelli. It carries the work of artisans in Colorado and beyond. This post ended a series of four on where to buy handmade items any day of the week.

November 5             The Evergreen Gallery – Making a Day of It
The Evergreen Gallery, owned by Lisa Gibson, offers not only beautiful work by Colorado artisans but also an opportunity for a day’s getaway in the mountains.

October 29               Rabbask Designs: Wher Art is Always in Fashion
Jacki Marsh stocks wearable art, wall art, and home décor at her Loveland shop, where almost everything is made by local artisans.

October 22               Trimble Court Artisans Offers Convenient Holiday Shopping . . .         
This was the first in the series about places where you can buy something made by an artisan anytime you want. Trimble Court, located in Fort Collins, is an artisans’ co-operative, where one of the artisans is always there to help you.

October 15               A Summer Afternon in Fort Collins Means Fun for Children . . .        Motivated by his desire to have affordable wooden toys for his own children, Aaron Nuland makes toys of natural-colored wood for infants and older. A Summer Afternoon is the name of his business.

October 8                 Kristin’s Clothes Line and The Pink Moose: Stories from Severance . . .
Kristin McMahan and Jennifer Kalous have at least two things in common: they both live in Severance, Colorado, and they both make handcrafted items by upcycling. Kristin turns pillowcases and dresser scarves into dresses for little girls. Jennifer creates furniture and home décor from every interesting previously used material she can find.

October 1                 Animals from HollysMeadow Help Imagination Run Free
Holly Myers creates animals, both real and mythical, using wool felt, embroidery floss, and her own patterns.

September 24          At Pat Abbitt’s Workshop It’s a Zoo
Pat Abbitt makes colorful stuffed animals with cotton quilting fabric. Numerous lines of stitching add dimension and depth to her work.

September 17         Glassblower Dottie Boscamp Gives a Modern Twist to an Ancient Art        Dottie Boscamp’s uses some of the tools that have been wielded by glassblowers for millennia to create her contemporary work.

September 10          The Bead Stringer: A Glass Act
Gayle Stringer creates necklaces, bracelets, and earrings from glass beads she painstakingly makes herself by the heat of a torch.

September 3            KDD Fused Glass: Where Science Works Magic
Kathi Dougherty shares her joy in making fused glass art by making her home studio available to the public. I tried the art myself and found the fusing process magical indeed.

August 27                 Transforming Clay from the Simple to the Sublime . . . 
Three ceramic artists in Fort Collins — Heather Bartmann and Cindy O’Neill of 2 Clay Chicks and Chris Wolff — shared some of the secrets of their work from clay to kiln.

August 20                 With Fiber, Wire, and Strips of Glass, Megan Tilley Weaves Her View . . . 
Megan Tilley decided to major in sculpture . . . but her first class in weaving hooked her on fiber art. As her artistry developed, she found ways to incorporate both fiber art and weaving with sculpture. She expanded her art even further by making jewelry.

August 13                 Handmade Furniture Takes a Woman’s Touch at Anne Bossert’s Studio
Anne Bossert was a fiber artist before she began making furniture to highlight the textiles she wove. Now she uses the same dyes to color both wood and fiber.

August 6                    Don’t Miss Fort Collins Studio Tour … Even If You Already Did
Fort Collins Studio Tour took place one weekend in June. This post explains how the tour worked and introduced the series about artisans I met on the tour. It also includes the first artisan I met: ceramic artist Susan Sternlieb.

Wow! That was fun to recall all the delightful, talented people I met and all the amazing work that I saw. I’m looking forward to a new year with many more. Have a happy one!

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Do You See What I See?

Great Pyrenees guard dog with Jacob sheep owned by Mickey Ramirez

Little Chief, a Great Pyrenees, watches over Jacob sheep owned by Mickey Ramirez and John Pierson.

It’s Christmas Eve 2014, and Little Chief, a Great Pyrenees, is watching over a flock of 15 Jacob sheep by day and night behind the home of Mickey Ramirez and her husband John Pierson. By the time the new year is well under way, the sheep will have eaten the needles off of at least one live Christmas tree. Mickey, who makes felted hats from the wool of her sheep, was featured in a post on November 19.

Here are a few more photos you haven’t seen that date back to previous posts.

Ceramic bowl by Chris Wolff

This ceramic bowl by Chris Wolff was broken purposely, spray painted, and glued back together.

Chris Wolff discovered that he could carefully break a fired piece of pottery, spray paint the pieces, and glue them back together to create a totally new look in pottery. He covers the interior with a waterproof coating. Chris was featured in a post in August, the first month that “Handmade on the Front Range” appeared on the web.

Functional ceramic bowl by T.S. Berger

A ceramic bowl by T.S. Berger can be used every day for food preparation and serving.

When I think about how a bowl like this spins on a wheel while the potter lets the clay pull up through his hands, I marvel at how even the sides are and how perfect the circle. T.S. Berger loaned me this bowl for photographing my scone-making earlier this month. Today you can see what the whole bowl looks like.

Cutting board of maple, cherry, and walnut by Mike Wilkinson

Mike Wilkinson of Fort Collins created this cutting board from cherry, walnut, and maple.

Mike Wilkinson loaned me this cutting board for the same post in which I used the bowl by T.S. Berger. A goal of mine for 2015: finding out how you make curved pieces of wood fit together perfectly with a smooth finished surface. When I find out, I’ll share the answer with you.

Neither Mike nor T.S. knew me before they loaned me their work. I’m always impressed by how artisans support each other in a business that could be fiercely competetive. In this case, I personally benefited from that spirit of cooperation. Thank you, Mike and T.S.

Glass bowls by Dottie Boscamp cool in a kiln.

Glass bowls newly blown by Dottie Boscamp cool gradually in a kiln.

Dottie Boscamp reduced the oxygen flow to her furnace (called a glory hole) while she was making the solid-colored glass bowls above. The increased concentration of carbon dioxide caused the silvery edges — although they look as if they have been touched with sterling silver. Dottie’s work appeared in a post in September.

Stuffed toy fish by Pat Abbitt

Pat Abbitt of Broomfield, Colorado, created this stuffed fish using quilting techniques.

Pat Abbitt’s use of color adds immeasurably to the quilted stuffed animals that she offers under the name Its A Zoo. I’ve enjoyed seeing some of her latest creations by following Its A Zoo on Facebook. Its A Zoo was featured in a post on September 24.

Art of Laura and Rick Bachman at Show of Hands, Denver

Show of Hands, Denver, offers the humorous work of Front Range artisans Laura and Rick Bachman.

Laura and Rick Bachman use animals and color to elicit smiles too, often using barnyard humor. Show of Hands in Denver (featured on November 12) had several of their clocks and pullies on display when I was there.

Sample colors of wood for projects by Anne Bossert

Anne Bossert keeps a supply of wood scraps for color samples her customers may choose from.

Anne Bossert, furniture maker and fiber artist, keeps a box of wood scraps to show customers some of the colors they could choose from. Anne and I collaborated on planning a project this year, and Anne carried out our planning with highly successful results. That project will be what you see here first in the new year. Anne was originally featured in the second post of “Handmade on the Front Range.”

If the holiday season has kept you too busy to read every post, you’ll have a chance to catch up next week. I’ll provide you with a summary of and links to all the blog’s posts in 2014.

Happy holidays!

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J.C. Milner Metalworks: Serious Work, Playful Art

Sterling silver jewelry by Jennie Milner

Sterling silver earrings, brooches, and necklaces by Jennie Milner are on display at Wadoo in Fort Collins.

J.C. Milner Metalworks. It’s a serious-sounding name for the business of the artisan who produces some of the most whimsical jewelry I’ve seen in my six months of visiting art festivals and galleries along the Front Range. Playfully executed birds and birdhouses, flowers and leaves are ever-recurring motifs in Jennie Milner’s jewelry and other art.

If you know the 1990 song “Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants, you know just how playful Jennie intends her work to be. She loved that song from the first time she heard it and picked the line “Build a little birdhouse in your soul” as the theme for her art. Continue reading

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A Holiday Surprise: Scones Handmade on the Front Range

As the Christmas holiday approaches, those of us who exchange gifts come closer and closer to putting this question behind us: What shall I get them this year that they don’t already have?

Now our thoughts turn to the next question if we’re expecting guests: What shall I serve them that they haven’t already eaten numerous times this season?

Scones handmade on the Front Range make a great holiday treat.

Scones handmade on the Front Range make a great holiday treat.

If you’re planning a tea or a brunch, how about handmade homemade scones?

Handmade beside the Range

Food is something I don’t normally write about, even though it can indeed be art. Consider this my holiday gift to you: how to make scones that are lighter and more tender than you probably thought scones could be. If I had a dollar for every person who tasted mine and told me “This is the best scone I ever ate,” I could fund one more Christmas dinner for a needy family.

Some ingredients for scones

Some ingredients for scones: nutmeg, sour cream, golden raisins, butter, and egg

I have an advantage over the best of bakeries. Everyone who eats my scones does so within four hours of when they come from the oven. After four hours, the quality slowly declines. Even freezing within the first four hours doesn’t save all of the initial lightness and tenderness, although the scones can still be enjoyable after a gentle warming.

The good news is that it takes less than 15 minutes to prepare them, and about 15 to bake them. A holiday breakfast that will have your guests sighing with pleasure is within reach.

The ingredients? They’re standard in my kitchen. You might want to check your own supplies to make sure you have all of those pictured at left above: nutmeg, sour cream, a full stick of salted butter (more on that later), an egg, and golden raisins. The full recipe with measurements follows shortly, but first let’s look at the process.

The “How-to” of It

Measuring and mixing the dry ingredients comes first. If I’m going to make scones for breakfast, I do that the night before. Every step done ahead helps. It helps, too, to get out all the equipment needed: a small bowl, a pastry blender, a whisk, a cutting board, and a sharp knife.

Ingredients for scones

Cold butter cut into dry ingredients makes scones tender. (Wheel-thrown bowl by T.S. Berger of Fort Collins)

Getting out the butter, on the other hand, is a last-minute step. It’s got to be cold to give the scones the right texture. Yes, butter is hard right from the refrigerator. But if you cut it into pieces no thicker than a half inch, you will be able to use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour without too much difficulty.

Never used a pastry blender? Press straight down through the butter and into the flour. When you pull up the pastry blender from the bowl the first few times, butter will cling to it. Holding the blender over the bowl, run a scraper or a table knife along the inside and outside of the metal curve to clear off the butter. Rotate the blender several degrees and press down again so the blender will cut through the butter in a slightly different direction.

Sample of butter and flour mixture

Scones in the making — Butter and flour mixture look like this. (Cutting board created by Mike Wilkinson of Fort Collins)

Keep rotating and cutting until the mixture in your bowl looks like the sample in the spoon at left. Notice that the mixture looks crumbly and uneven, not fine like the flour and sugar by themselves.

Use another bowl to whisk the egg and then the egg with the sour cream. Pour this new mixture all at once into the center of your bowl of butter and flour.

For scones with the best texture, gently mix everything together with a table fork. Instead of stirring as you would with a spoon, toss the ingredients gently — almost as you would a salad. Add golden raisins when the dough starts looking lumpy. If the dough becomes dry and you can’t get all the flour incorporated into it, use your hand to press the dough gently against the bowl until there’s no loose flour.

Now grab a cutting board and dust it lightly with flour. If you’re used to making biscuits, you’re expecting to knead the dough next. No, just divide the dough in half and make a circle 1” thick with each half. Sprinkle the two circles lightly with granulated sugar and cut them into sixths. Your scones are ready for the oven!

Scones ready for the oven

Scones are ready for the oven after being shaped into circles, cut into wedges, and sprinkled with sugar. (Cutting board by Mike Wilkinson of Fort Collins)

Hard as it will be to wait, let them cool for at least five minutes after baking. These super-tender wedges crumble if you try to handle them hot from the oven.

Before I move on to the recipe, I’d like to thank T.S. Berger and Mike Wilkinson for loaning me their handmade items for this post. T.S. threw the mixing bowl on a wheel, and Mike created the cutting board from cherry, walnut, and maple. Both of these artisans have similar items for sale at Trimble Court Artisans in Fort Collins.

And Now the Recipe . . .

Butter and orange fig jam are great toppings for fresh scones.

Butter and orange fig jam are great toppings for fresh scones.

My recipe assumes that your scones will be baked at 5,000 feet above sea level. If you’re not that high up, try adding an extra ¼ teaspoon of baking powder. If that doesn’t work let me know; there are other tricks to try, too.

Nutmeg is my unique twist to this classic. Some of your guests may not realize it’s there – it’s just enough to give the scones subtle but exceptional flavor. By the way, I add a pinch of nutmeg to pancake batter, too, for the same reason.

One more word about butter . . . Scone recipes usually call for unsalted butter. Purists would insist on it. However, salted butter affects taste, not texture, and unsalted butter doesn’t keep as long unless you freeze it. It’s more important to me to have the ingredients always on hand and ready to use. So I use salted butter in all my recipes and adjust the salt content of each recipe as needed.

Enjoy! And let me know the results! If you have questions, send me an email at Sally@FrontRangeHandmade.com.

Scones Handmade on the Front Range

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ cup chilled salted butter
½ cup sour cream
1 egg
1/3 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 400⁰.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, and nutmeg. Cut in butter with a pastry blender.

Whisk together egg and sour cream. Add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir gently with a table fork. When partially combined, add golden raisins. Continuing stirring until the dough forms a ball. If mixture seems too dry, press the dough gently against the side of the bowl by hand to incorporate all the flour.

Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured cutting board, shape the dough into two circles 1” high. Sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Cut each circle into six wedges. Place separated wedges on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake 14 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool at least five minutes to prevent crumbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Wool Warms the Heart at Fran Bowen’s Studio

Bears of felted wool by Fran Bowen of Fort Collins

Fran Bowen of Fort Collins creates bears for all occasions by felting wool. The polar bear, center, is a work in progress and will soon be dressed for the season.

Fran Bowen’s felted wool animals would bring a smile to my face any time of year. Right now, however, they’re especially fun as Fran decks them for the holiday season. Some of the bears and mice have been growing fluffy white beards, donning hats with white tassels, or trying on colorful scarves. Meanwhile, the deer are wearing Christmas ornaments around their necks, and the newest birds are looking slightly sparkly. Angels and Santa Clauses of felted wool have joined them for the season.

No matter what special occasion Fran’s bears might be celebrating throughout the year, one thing remains the same: They’re wool through and through, and so are their accessories. Continue reading

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