Posts Tagged ‘primitive’

I’ve been commissioned to draw and to design and create, but this is the first custom pull-toy. The client sent photos of a worn, primitive stuffed animal and wanted my interpretation. Without the photo I’d have never taken this direction. I’m glad that I did!


Pull-Toy No. 8 – The Elephant

12″l x 8″w x 10″t

White Pine, Leather, Glass, Pewter, Steel, Copper, Horsehair

(Custom pieces cost no more than existing pieces. The process begins with a short exchange of emails. I then produce drawings for the client’s approval. Changes are made. With a deposit of 50% I begin work. I send photos documenting progress. The piece is completed within three weeks and shipped with payment of the balance. Please email me at 50littlebirds@gmail.com if you are interested in a custom piece.)

Read Full Post »


The Pull-Toy Series No. 7 – The Holstein

15 1/4″l x 5 1/4″w x 11 1/2″t

White Pine, Found Wood, Steel, Glass, Leather, Pewter, Bone, Cotton

Read Full Post »

_mg_0127In high school I purchased a set of metal spoked wheels to put on Noah’s Ark that I had carved. Over the years the unfinished ark disappeared and the wheels ended up hanging from a piece of string over my bench.

I’ve often looked at these wheels and thought about building a pull toy. I was too busy. There were birds to carve and the house always needed work.

About a month ago I began to draw elephants. I scribbled elephants on the borders of meeting minutes and on restaurant placemats. I found some time to work in the shop and remembered those wheels (in the meantime another pair had appeared on the same string.).img_1850

Long story short…I’m carving pull toys. I’ve begun to sketch a series — a long series.
These are fun and take my work in a new direction. I love to carve birds, but I am getting great satisfaction drawing all of the animals that fascinated me as a child.


The Pull-Toy Series No. 1 – Elephant

Available Here

The Pull-Toy Series No. 2 – Giraffe

On Bench

The Pull-Toy Series No. 3 – Zebra

The Pull Toy Series No. 4 – Hippopotamus



Read Full Post »

Once upon a time I was a cabinetemaker (furniture maker) for a shop that catered to, what was then called, country style.  I had scruples (still do) and refused to cut corners.  I build historically accurate reproductions of 18th and 19th century vernacular furniture.  I specialty was dining tables.  They featured wide stripey cherry tops with distressed and painted skirts and legs.

Customers where few and far between — similar, though vastly inferior –pieces could be bought at the same price at Kittles.  In these customers minds, the prestige of buying at a local high end furniture store outweighed that of buying from an independent shop in a small town.  I was selling wholesale to this shop, so my profit margin was very thin.  This venture did not last long.

I’m still fascinated by this market and have kept current with the trends.  There are folks with taste and money to spend looking for unusual and well designed pieces.  The movement, now dubbed prim (for primitive), has eveolved and changed but still exists — on a much smaller scale.

This Friday willow furniture maker, Greg Adams, and I are venturing to Troy, Ohio to try my hand at this market.  I’m pretty excited. It’s something new.

The most complete information that I see is here.

Read Full Post »

I recently spent the weekend in Greenville, Ohio at the Gathering at Garst.  For this show I prepared three carving blanks and three finished bases so that I could demonstrate my process and be productive.  I completed all three bird — this indigo bunting, an American Goldfinch, and a yellow warbler.  the goldfinch sold at the show and was never photographed.  I’ve included shots of the bunting here.

Read Full Post »

When my daughters were much younger we spent a few spent a few springs following and participating in poultry shows.

It was on one of these trips that we discovered Greenville, Ohio. We found it charming and have revisited often.  It has the elements that these road trip/day trip junkies enjoy — good food, interesting architecture, a nice garden center (Hannah’s), quirky local heroes (Lowell Thomas and Annie Oakley) and a working mill.

Another attraction, alone worth the drive, is the KitchenAid Experience.  The Experience — part factory outlet, part museum, part visitors’ center — is housed in a large storefront in the heart of Greenville.  This is where Phoebe sneaked a quick touch of Julia Child’s KitchenAid Mixer. (Phoebe also once sneaked a quick touch of a famous painting in Chicago.  It’s now under glass.  We’re not sure about Julia’s  mixer.)

While participating in the Indiana Artisan Marketplace in April I was delighted by a visited from a group from Greenville.  They shared their thoughts about a new show, Gathering at Garst, they planned for this summer and encouraged me to become involved.  I jumped right on board and cannot wait to be part of what promises to become a strong tradition.

In the meantime I’ve had another opportunity to connect with Greenville.  Bruce Neckar and I will be mounting “The Bird Show” (A show we recently presented at Big Hat Books and Art in Broad Ripple) at Bear’s Mill sometime next season.

Please visit the Gathering’s website, or better visit Greenville next weekend (If you show up on Friday, I’ll let you help unload the van!)

Read Full Post »

I have a love/hate relationship with primitive antiques and collectibles.

I love primitive antiques!  I appreciate well designed vernacular furniture with layers of finish, paint, wax and wear.  I love the boxes, wood bowls and baskets that are often at primitive shows.  Seeing thses things evokes old and buried memories of the dark antique shops, smelling of wax and linseed oil, that I grew up exploring in Maine and Indiana.

This is the furniture and details that I love and have in my home.

I hate tea stained pillow ticking bunny rabbits, dirt candles and contrived, (badly) artificially distressed pieces and other holdovers from the “country look”!

I hate the scenes and vinettes that collectors put together and share.

I don’t do that.

There is a show, A Simpler Thyme Primative Show,  that makes its way through Noblesville a couple of times each year.  I make a point of attending and always find something that interests me.  One show I was able to examine and deconstruct  a variety of bent wood apple baskets.  The last visit I purchase a series of bird prints that led me to the discovery of a bird artist and naturalist, John Burroughs, that has been an inspiration to me.  I was also able to examine the patina of several authentic shaker boxes.

These opportunities are rare in these parts.

At the last show it occurred to me that my bird carving fit the primitive niche as well as they fit the DIY and fine art niches.  I poked around to find the organizer of the show and contacted her.  I was too late for the show this weekend, but I’ve been put on the waiting list.  I’ve been making flatties (Christmas Ornaments) and am well stocked for a show.

A Simpler Thyme Primative Show, Hamilton County Fairgrounds, Saturday, November 20, 10am – 4pm, $4.00

Read Full Post »

This is the first installment of a piece that I introduce here about my  thoughts, knowledge and experiences with primitive handmade reproduction furniture.

This cupboard is available from Etsy shop JosephSpinaleFurn.

When I met my wife, our love for period decoration and architecture was one of the things that brought us together. She had just purchased a nice step back cupboard (from a small specialty furniture shop that I would eventually design and build for). It was well designed, built and finished. We began exploring antique shops and shows together and she was surprised to find that she could have purchased an authentic original cupboard for the same price.

Educate yourself with the antiques market. Learn to identify authentic pieces. Most importantly, learn what to look for. We once bought a dining room table. A year or two after it came home the feet started to fall apart. We hadn’t noticed that two of the feet were dog-chewed and had been repaired with wood filler and expertly finished. Antiques generally gain value over time.  Most reproductions do not.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: