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buckwheat jammers with summer jam

April 20, 2014

buckwheat jammers // witchin' in the kitchen

It took us awhile to get here, but we finally made it. The moving boxes are completely unpacked and everything is in its place, mise en place, ready for creating. The energy is heavy with it, with the readiness. Projects are stirring, travels are calling, and hands are aching with the eagerness to be gripping, kneading, pulling, sculpting. Spring.

But there is so much to do and never enough time for the doing. Leading, inevitably, to impatience, stress, meltdowns. O tells me that everything doesn’t need to be done now (correct) and that maybe I should go for a walk outside (good idea). So I take a walk. Did you know that vitamin D actually can’t travel through windows? You have to go outside to soak in this essential nutrition from the sun. So I walk, or run, through the city, get a good cup of coffee or a sandwich, and I always, always feel better.

making buckwheat jammers // witchin' in the kitchen

With the new job and new commute from Baltimore to DC every day, there is never enough time to cook and bake as often as I’d like. But I am developing my tricks to get me through the week – freezer meals, family-style casseroles that with lunch leftovers baked in, and staples that can be combined into a quick dinner on a weeknight. And one of my new go-to’s is baking up a batch of muffins, scones, or biscuits on Sunday evening for breakfasts on the train during the week.

making buckwheat jammers // witchin' in the kitchen

Enter the jammer – a flaky scone filled with a dollop of jam. It’s the commuter’s dream breakfast, with the all-so-necessary smidgen of jam tucked neatly inside the biscuit without worry for drips or a mess. And it’s substantial. By the time mid-morning rolls around and lunchtime is still two hours away, I reach for a jammer with the morning’s second cup of coffee, and it fills me up until my next meal.

buckwheat jammers // witchin' in the kitchen

The recipe is adapted from Grand Central Bakery’s infamous jammers in Seattle. I’ve subbed half of the white flour for buckwheat, which lends a nutty and buttery flavor and texture to the jammers. Definitely search for buckwheat flour if you can, and if all else fails, give whole wheat flour a go. Use whatever jam you have on hand – my favorites are dark berry jams, like blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry jams, that I put up last summer after our weekend berry-picking excursions. O’s favorite is strawberry.

buckwheat jammers // witchin' in the kitchen

buckwheat jammers

adapted from Grand Central Bakery

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cold buttermilk (or whole milk with 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice mixed in)
about 1 cup of your favorite jam

Mix the flours, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together with a whisk in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry knife or your fingertips, like you would if you were making pie pastry. (See my recipe for pie pastry here for more detailed instructions.) The goal is to keep the butter as cold as possible, with visible flakes of butter (about the size of peas) distributed throughout the flour. If you’re prepping the pastry the night before and intend to bake in the morning, stop here – cover the dough with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. If you’re baking the jammers now, proceed with the recipe.

Slowly pour the buttermilk into the flour mixture and stir it in with a wooden spoon. Keep adding buttermilk, a little at a time, until the dough *just* comes together. You want it to be a little shaggy and dry in spots. If your pastry gets too wet, add in more flour.

Now, quickly knead the dough together on a lightly floured counter until it comes together. There might be some floury scraps – that’s okay. Just press them into the big mass of dough the best you can. Press your dough into a circle about 1 1/2 – 2 inches high. Using a biscuit cutter or the rim of a drinking glass, cut your jammers out of the dough and set aside. When you can’t cut any more jammers, smoosh together your leftover dough and cut it with your biscuit cutter again until you’ve used up all of your dough. You should have about 12 jammers.

Preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place your jammers on the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each one.

Using your thumb, gently press into the center of each jammer, making a quarter-sized hole in the middle. You don’t want to press through the bottom of the jammer, and you don’t want to push too forcefully and crush the delicate, flaky layers of the jammer. If you ever made pinch pots in elementary school, put this technique to good use here! Fill each hole with a tablespoon of jam.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. The finished jammers should be a deep golden brown.

how to make herbal salve

March 16, 2014

making herbal salve // witchin' in the kitchen

1. We moved to Baltimore. During a snowstorm. It all worked out and this city has *just* the right amount of grit, art markets, old churches, mohawks, communist bookstores and Old Bay paraphernalia to satisfy our running list of what defines the “perfect” city for us. In short, we’re in love.

2. For the record: living with your best friend is awesome.

3. I started a new job. I STARTED A NEW JOB! After four years at the same gig at NPR, I am now a digital strategist at a PR firm in DC. It feels fantastic.

4. In a surreal twist of internet fate, Instagram featured me a few weeks back. Crazy! You can follow along at @thekitchenwitch in between blog posts if you aren’t already.

5. This weekend’s full moon is a doozy. Can you feel it? The astrological report from Kaypacha, per usual, is spot on.

6. Spring is almost here, really. If your poor chapped hands and lips are begging for mercy, for goddess sake, make some herbal salve. I made a big batch of medicinal herbal oil during the last summer solstice, and made it into salve during the winter solstice. It’s a great way to honor the seasons, care for yourself, and share your care with others. It’s easy to make and it really works – one friend used my salve on her lady turtle (yes, turtle) who was battling an infection that turned septic, and she got better. Plant power!

herbal oil for making salve // witchin' in the kitchen

measuring beeswax for making salve // witchin' in the kitchen

hot salve poured into containers // witchin' in the kitchen

solar-infused herbal salve

carrier oil of choice -
Olive oil and almond oil make a great combo, and that’s what I used. A blend of coconut oil and coconut butter is delicious.

organic beeswax (I bought mine here)

10-20 drops essential oil of choice, such as lavender or tea tree (optional)

glass jars or tin containers for storing (find some here and here)

dried herbs of choice -
Choose your herbs depending on how you’d like to use your salve. You could make a basic, all-purpose salve for chapped skin and minor irritation, or a salve that’s specifically formulated to help heal cuts, rashes, and bug bites. You can also use fresh herbs, but you have to ensure that all moisture is removed from the herbs before using, because any moisture in the infused oil could spoil it.

Some wonderful, all-purpose healing herbs for the skin include St. Johns wort flower, comfrey leaf, and calendula. A salve with goldenseal, echinacea, and 10+ drops of lavender oil make a great disinfectant. Rosemary Gladstar has a divine recipe for pregnant belly oil that calls for 1 part roses, 1 part lavender, and 1 part chamomile.

In my summer solstice salve, I used equal parts chamomile, lavender, oatstraw, rose, St. Johns wort leaf, calendula, comfrey leaf, and marshmallow root.

For other recommendations on what herbs to choose, check out the list on the bottom of this page.

METHOD

First things first – infuse your carrier oil with your herbs. You can do this in a couple different ways. The most common (and easiest) is through solar infusion. The sun is increasing in power with the coming of spring, so this might be an option for you if you have a very sunny spot in your home. Otherwise, you can infuse your oil in a double boiler or on very low heat in your oven.

Solar method - Pack a sterilized glass jar with your herbs. Fill the jar with herbs to just 1-2 inches below the rim. Fill the jar with oil to the very top and seal with a clean lid. Note: Make sure the herbs are fully submerged in the oil, and the oil comes to the very top of the jar (no air spaces), to avoid spoilage. Stick the jar in the direct sun for two weeks to infuse completely.

Double boiler method - Put your herbs and oil in a double boiler or crockpot, leaving 1-2 inches of oil above the submerged herbs. Cook, low and slow, for 1-5 hours. Be careful not to fry your herbs!

Oven method - Fill a glass jar (or jars) with herbs and oil in the same manner as the solar method. Put the jars in a larger pan or oven-safe pot and fill that pot with enough water to cover the bottom half of the jar. Turn the oven on the lowest temperature possible (100 F is ideal) and allow the herbs to infuse for 1-5 hours. Check frequently to prevent the herbs and oil from overheating and burning.

When your oil is sufficiently infused with your herbs, strain it through a fine cheesecloth or jelly bag. Store the oil in a clean, airtight jar. You can use the oil directly, or combine it with beeswax to make your salve.

Make the salve - In a pot, combine your medicinal oil with beeswax on very low heat until the beeswax is fully melted. The basic formula is 1 oz. beeswax per 8 oz. oil. To test the mixture for proper firmness, place one tablespoon of the mixture on a small plate in the freezer for a minute, and check for firmness. If it’s too soft, add more beeswax; if it’s too firm, add more oil.

When your salve is at a consistency you like, quickly pour it into prepared tin containers or small glass jars and allow to cool completely before using. Salves will keep for 1-3 years.

music for winter 2014

January 7, 2014

It is the coldest day in recent memory. This is the first time I’ve worn two layers of socks in at least 10 years since I left Boston, and we made a double batch of spicy bean chili to be eaten with indulgent dollops of sour cream and sharp cheddar in advance of Father Winter’s arrival. Balls of steel and copper-colored wool are wound and waiting for my fingers and needles to sculpt something from them. Typically, it would be the season of nourishment and fattening up in the kitchen – baking citrus cakes and loaves of bread, brewing roasted bone stock, a steaming root vegetable pot pie, hot mulled cider in the evening. But here’s the big news – we’re moving to Baltimore in two weeks and all ambitious magic-making in the kitchen will have to wait.

As you too find nourishment and meditation in these blue, cold days, enjoy a new wintertime playlist for company. There is a good sampling of both folk and electronic here – really, my favorite combo – that honors the lore, storytelling, craft and comfort of old and the crisp, clean sounds of winter that electronic music captures.

Listen to the full Autumn 2013 playlist on Spotify or 8tracks.

Explore past playlists for Autumn 2013Summer 2013Spring 2013Winter 2012, and Autumn 2012.

And for another treat, listen to Emily Hilliard of Nothing In The House‘s incredible winter folk mix.

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins

01

First Watch
King Creosote + Jon Hopkins
Diamond Mine

Listen

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins

02

John Taylor’s Month Away
King Creosote + Jon Hopkins
Diamond Mine

Listen

Bridge Carols

03

Boreas Borealis
Laura Gibson + Ethan Rose
Bridge Carols

Listen

Jon Hopkins Immunity

04

Open Eye Signal
Jon Hopkins
Immunity

Listen

Darkside Psychic

05

Heart
Darkside
Psychic

Listen

For Now I Am Winter Olafur Arnalds

06

For Now I Am Winter
Ólafur Arnalds
For Now I Am Winter

Listen

Forest Swords Engravings

07

Thor’s Stone
Forest Swords
Engravings

Listen

Dawn of Midi Dysnomia

08

Moon
Dawn of Midi
Dysnomia

King Krule

09

Easy Easy
King Krule
6 Feet Beneath The Moon

Listen

Ryley Walker The West Wind

10

The West Wind
Ryley Walker
The West Wind

Listen

Young Brigham

11

If I Were A Carpenter
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
Young Brigham

Listen

Jack Rose Luck in the Valley

12

Moon In The Gutter
Jack Rose
Luck In The Valley

Listen

Sibylle Baier

13

Tonight
Sibylle Baier
Colour Green

Listen

bûche de Noël à la crème de marrons

December 20, 2013

OR. Christmas Yule log with chestnut cream.

Yule log with chestnut cream // Witchin' in the Kitchen

My friend and neighbor Nancy has baked many a delicious Yule log cake in her day, and generously offered to share her recipe and techniques on this here blog in honor of the Winter Solstice tomorrow. When I dropped by her home last weekend to help decorate the cake, she had already baked the chocolate genoise sheet cake, prepared the chestnut buttercream, layered the cream on the cake and rolled it up, and chilled it in the fridge to firm up before I’d arrived.

This is clearly not a dessert you just whip up at the last minute. Like all great holiday traditions, the time and little extravagance that goes into the preparation is as important as the final product itself. It’s about slowing down during the busy holiday season to create something magical.

So here is Nancy, in her own words, sharing her Christmas tradition with us. She’s a DC-based graphic designer, and you can learn more about her on her website. She’s also new to Instagram – give her a follow! Enjoy, and the happiest of holidays to you and your loved ones this year.

Yule log cake // Witchin' in the Kitchen

One of my favorite holiday traditions as kid was the mesmerizing bûche de noël. This cake would arrive from a French family friend via a Washington suburban French bakery in the shape of a log with layers of thick frosting and adorned with candy trimmings and little plastic woodland creatures. For an artsy kid with a sweet tooth and a penchant for pretending to be classy, this was pure delight.

As an adult I’ve started to celebrate the winter solstice and what better way to celebrate than with lit candles, hot cocoa, and a bûche de noël. Around the 12th century it was common in Europe for huge yule logs (sometimes whole trees) to be burned in the hearth of homes to celebrate the winter solstice, good promises, and the sun and warmth on its way. Around 1870, as Europe became more populated and the homes shrank in size and fireplaces were more rare, the French began to replace the real logs with thinly rolled sponge cakes filled with jam or cream, covered with buttercream icing, and decorated with meringue mushrooms — clever French!

This week I shared this tradition with my friend Jess and spared her the laborious tasks. She joined in the fun at the last and best stage — decorating the log! As it turns out she has a hidden talent for sculpting marzipan pine cones and we both got nostalgic, as playing with the marzipan was much like playing with play-doh as a kid (only it tastes better).

Yule log cake // Witchin' in the Kitchen

GAME PLAN (pace yourself):

3–30 days ahead: Make sure you have a jelly-roll pan, parchment paper, and all of  your ingredients. Chestnut cream can be hard to find and it’s a pain to make from scratch from raw chestnuts (trust me!), but you can order a can from Amazon. I’ve also given a recipe below for clementine zest frosting.

2–3 days ahead: Make the meringue mushrooms if you’re feeling Martha Stewart like. Alternatively, skip this step. Your cake will still be awesome with lots of flare. (This is what I told myself after I stayed up late one night trying to make these mushrooms, which came out resembling meringue splatted bird bombs.)

1–2 days ahead: Prepare the buttercream frosting and frost the inside and outside of cake, roll up, wrap in plastic and refrigerate.

Day of: Invite a friend over for the fun part – decorating!

Yule log cake // Witchin' in the Kitchen

CHOCOLATE GENOISE SHEET CAKE:

3 eggs (separated)
Pinch salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cake flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup dutch process cocoa
10 by 15-inch jelly-roll pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment

Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Bring a medium pot about half full of water to boil then reduce heat to simmer.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in a large metal bowl. Place bowl in the pot of simmering water and whisk gently until egg mixture is just lukewarm (test with your finger). Remove bowl from heat and whip on medium-high speed with electric mixer (preferably with whisk attachment) until it is cooled, light in color, and tripled in volume.

Stir together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa in small bowl.

Sift the flour mixture in 1/3 batches over the beaten eggs and fold in using a rubber spatula.

Pour batter into the prepared jelly-roll pan. Bake the genoise for about 8 to 11 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

Use a knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Flip cake over to a flat surface. Let cool a few minutes then slowly remove the paper. Place a piece of moist cheese cloth or cotton tea towel over the sheet to keep soft and let cool another few minutes. Replace cloth with a piece of plastic cling wrap and gently roll up. Don’t worry if the cake cracks a bit (it will be covered by frosting). Cake can be stored in fridge for a few days (single wrap entire cake in plastic wrap or in the freezer for up to a month (double wrap in plastic wrap).

Yield: 1 (10 by 15-inch) sheet cake or 2 smaller thin cakes for making mini logs (Great for gifts!)

Yule log cake // Witchin' in the Kitchen

CHESTNUT FILLING/FROSTING:

2 cups crème de marrons/sweet chestnut cream
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
cognac, hazelnut kahlua, or rum (or liquor can be left out)

Beat butter until smooth with electric mixer (preferably with whisk attachment on medium speed until soft and light (about 2 minutes). Mix in chestnut cream until smooth (about 4 minutes). Then add the liquor and mix for another minute.

CLEMENTINE FILLING/FROSTING (optional):

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon clementine zest (or orange)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed clementine juice (or orange)
2 tablespoons rum, brandy, or cognac (or liquor can be left out)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in a metal bowl. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot (test with finger). Remove bowl from heat and whip with electric mixer (preferably with whisk attachment) on medium speed until cooled. Switch to a paddle attachment and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Add one tablespoon of clementine or orange zest, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange juice and mix for one minute.

Yule log cake // Witchin' in the Kitchen

FINISHING:

Cocoa powder
Powdered sugar
Tube of marzipan (about 1/3)
red and green food coloring
optional additions: cinnamon stick, sugared cranberries, meringue mushrooms, chocolate shavings

Kneed a few drops of red food coloring into marzipan and roll into balls for the berries. Kneed a few drops of green into the marzipan, flatten and cut holly leaves. Combine the red and green marzipan to make brown for acorns, pine cones, or mushrooms. Mushroom caps can also be smudged with cocoa.

FINAL ASSEMBLY:

Place the génoise on a piece of plastic wrap and flat surface. Gently unroll. Evenly spread the chestnut cream filling all over the génoise. Gently roll up the génoise. Spread the frosting all over the bûche/log, run a fork through the frosting in a wave like pattern to resemble bark texture. Slice off an end of the roll. Stick the end on the top or side of the log to resemble a stump. Dust with cocoa. Wrap up in plastic and put in fridge overnight or start to decorate. Decorate with marzipan holly leaves and whatever else you like. Dust with powdered sugar to resemble snow.

Bon appétit!

HANDMADE HOLIDAY: Elizabeth Graeber

December 9, 2013

Welcome to the last installment of HANDMADE HOLIDAY, a blog series that gives a glimpse into the studios and working practices of three of my favorite artists. When searching for holiday gifts for your lovelies this year, please consider supporting makers who are creating one-of-a-kind, beautiful and functional artwork.

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

Elizabeth Graeber‘s work is all across Washington, D.C. Her paintings hang in coffee-shops, her murals grace the outside of independently-owned stores, and her illustrated cookbook collaborations pop up in local bookstores and even Anthropologie. Her fanciful portraits of people, animals, and more have drawn comparisons to prominent artists like Maira Kalman. Elizabeth doesn’t mind the association, but she’s doing something a little different and completely her own.

Although I knew of Elizabeth, she and I finally met through our mutual friend Emily of Nothing in the House pies and found we had a huge lot in common – our mutual affinity for plants and illustration was just the tip of the iceberg. And then I got to see her studio, a light-drenched space at DC Arts Studios in one of the only shared studio spaces in the city. Her space is complete eye candy with plants hanging from the ceiling and colors vibrating everywhere.

You can find more from Elizabeth in her shop, where she sells her prints, holiday cards, tote bags, cookbooks, pillows, ceramics and much, much more. She’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram too. Enjoy!

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

How were you first introduced to your craft, and how did you know this was something you wanted to pursue?

I have always like to draw so I decided to become an illustrator! I went to MICA in Baltimore. I think theres so much to do with drawing, I can illustrate books, magazines, newspapers, websites, murals, fabric, ceramics, almost anything.

Describe your creative process from inception to completion.

I start with an idea, either for a commission or my own project and then do a sketch in a sketchbook. Then I use black pen on smooth white bristol paper. I add shadows with ink wash, color with watercolor and details and more color with gauche paint. To finish I scan the drawing and resize for whatever it is for.

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

What are the strengths and challenges of your personal studio space?

I really like having a giant window! Nice to look out and perfect for all the plants. And being able to walk to my studio is nice.

How has living and working in Washington, D.C. had an impact on your work?

Meeting lots of nice people with all different interests. People also seemed to be motivated to work on creative projects. Having the museums so close by and all free is nice too. My favorite is the National Portrait Gallery and the Botanical Museum.

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

Which artists have inspired your work in some way?

Maira Kalman, Quintin Blake, Saul Steinburg, Lilli Carre, Esther Pearl Watson, Sara Fanelli.

What are you working on now, and what’s next?

Drawing lots of redheads for my Illustrated Redheads project, making things to sell in my Etsy shop, and hopefully some more illustrated books in the future!

All photographs by Jess Schreibstein

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY with Elizabeth Graeber // Witchin' in the Kitchen

HANDMADE HOLIDAY: The Things We Keep

November 29, 2013

Welcome to the second installment of HANDMADE HOLIDAY, a blog series that gives a glimpse into the studios and working practices of three of my favorite artists. When searching for holiday gifts for your lovelies this year, please consider supporting makers who are creating one-of-a-kind, beautiful and functional artwork.

Handmade Holiday: The Things We Keep // photo by Jess Schreibstein

Kay Wang of The Things We Keep never ceases to amaze me. She designs jewelry full time, builds her own furniture, knows all of the top thrift spots on the East Coast, carves wooden cheeseboards and spoons, bakes a mean apple tart, hand-dyes fabric, traveled to Iceland by herself (sound familiar?), and is mama to the greatest cacti and succulent collection I’ve ever seen. There seems to be nothing this woman can’t do.

After Kay and I met on Instagram and bonded over our mutual obsession with Iceland, we met for real when she came for a visit to Washington. Instant friends! Ashley and I then visited her in her Brooklyn home for a weekend a little while ago. Kay lives and works out of her studio apartment in Bed-Stuy, where real estate is at a premium and finding creative studio space is a challenge at best. But she’s made it work, and her gorgeous jewelry collections are testament to that.

You can find more from Kay in her shop and on Facebook and Instagram. She also still has a flash sale going on her shop, with 20% off flash sale pieces (shown under item options) with the code flashsale13. Enjoy!

working space of The Things We Keep // Witchin' In The Kitchen

working space of Kay Wang, The Things We Keep // Witchin' In The Kitchen

How were you first introduced to your craft, and how did you know this was something you wanted to pursue?

I’d been making jewelry as a hobby since my teenage years though mostly at an arts and crafts level with beads and cold connections and the like, but it wasn’t until I took a local silversmithing class in L.A. that I realized how much I loved working with my hands and how new-to-me methods such as casting and silversmithing really pushed my work to the next level. It also happened to coincide with roughly the same time that my then career of eight years started to really become cumbersome, so I think it was a pretty logical jump to start thinking about switching gears.

Describe your creative process from inception to completion.

So many of my ideas start as scattered musings from recent things I’ve seen, felt and experienced, and across both 2 and 3D spectrums. It will typically then start as a jot of a note or a sketch, then shaped into something three dimensional in wax, or sometimes metal. That then starts the first phase of production, which then undergoes varying rounds of shaping, casting, finishing and sometimes back to shaping to complete the final phases of production.

Elta ring in brass and sterling silver // The Things We Keep

Brevi earrings in brass // The Things We Keep

Sera necklace in bronze // The Things We Keep

Vik earrings // The Things We Keep

What are the strengths and challenges of your personal studio space?

Strength is definitely the overhead I’m saving! It’s also nice too, to be able to have access to all my tools especially when I have random ideas at random times and I can fulfill that idea on the fly. Challenges are almost entirely related to space – being in NYC, space anywhere is at such high premiums; my studio “area” takes up a good third of our entire apartment. That’s seriously challenging in a studio apartment shared with one other human, one dog and two cats!

Handmade Holiday: The Things We Keep // photo by Jess Schreibstein

Has living and working in Brooklyn had an impact on your work?

Definitely has quickened the creative gears and always keeps perspectives fresh. There’s such a vibrant creative community here that provides such a great backdrop to any creative idea or venture I might have, and expertise at every level of business, the creative process, production, etc. that it’s impossible to not find help when you need it most.

Which artists have inspired your work in some way?

Too many to count! Recently a lot of ancient architecture is finding its way into my work, specifically early Roman functional structures.

What are you working on now, and what’s next?

I’m hoping to finalize AW14 very soon, and prepping for the major Christmas rush and then tradeshow season in February. I’m also working on some other projects outside of jewelry, primarily in ceramics and wood, and hope I can find a way to incorporate that into my offerings some point soon.

Jewelry photos courtesy of Kay Wang of The Things We Keep. All other photos shot in film by Jess Schreibstein.

HANDMADE HOLIDAY: ABJ Glassworks

November 26, 2013

Welcome to HANDMADE HOLIDAY, the first installment of a three-part series on my blog that gives a glimpse into the studios and working practices of three of my favorite artists. This series is a response to our frenzied consumer culture that places value on quantity rather than quality, on scoring deals from big retailers rather than investing in local community and its artisans. When searching for holiday gifts for your lovelies this year, please consider supporting makers who are creating one-of-a-kind, beautiful and functional artwork.

ABJ Glassworks holiday feature at Witchin' in the Kitchen // photo by Jess Schreibstein

First up is Ashley Bram-Johnson of ABJ Glassworks, who creates stunning stained glass sculptures, terrariums, pyramids, planters and more out of her home in Philadelphia. I first found Ashley on Instagram through Amy of Stitch & Hammer, and fell in love with her work immediately. Living so nearby (Ashley in Philly and I in Washington), we decided to meet. Ashley and her husband came for a visit during the summer, and I made my own quick trip to Philly just over a month ago where I stepped foot inside her dreamy studio and this blog feature idea took shape.

You can find more from Ashley in her shop and on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Enjoy!

ABJ Glassworks // photo by Jess Schreibstein

How were you first introduced to your craft, and how did you know this was something you wanted to pursue?

During a high school I took an art class on mixed media, and stained glass was part of the course. I only made a very simple panel, but I immediately connected with the craft. My regular art teacher encouraged me to focus on stained glass during class, and with that freedom I started to create more three-dimensional pieces. That was twelve years ago now.

Describe your creative process from inception to completion.

I find most of my inspiration in the natural world – I grew up in the country and love being outside, going on walks and gardening. Often I have a backlog of ideas, the hardest part is deciding what designs to make first. I keep track of my ideas by sketching them in one of those old black and white school notebooks with notes on suggested dimensions. Once I decide to add a piece to my line I take some time to make up samples and finalize the size and shape. If it’s a design I’ll be replicating I make sure to note the final dimensions and make patterns to use while cutting. The most fun and most time consuming part of my job is photographing new product for website and promotional materials. I love the process but I am in no way trained in photography so I’m sure it takes me much longer than it needs to.

ABJ Glassworks // photo by Jess Schreibstein

What are the strengths and challenges of your personal studio space?

Working out of my home is one of the best and worst things about my studio. It’s great to have no commute and all the pleasures of home at my fingertips, but I more often than not get to Friday and realize that I have not left my house/yard all week! In my last job I would bike to work and I really miss that. Lately I’ve been making myself get out of the house a bit more. Sometimes you don’t realize how taking a tiny break and getting out of your studio can get the cobwebs out of your head. Even cobwebs you didn’t realize were there. Humans are not meant to live indoors 24/7!

studio of ABJ Glassworks // photo by Jess Schreibstein

ABJ Glassworks // photo by Jess Schreibstein

ABJ Glassworks

ABJ Glassworks

home of ABJ Glassworks // photo by Jess Schreibstein

ABJ Glassworks // photo by Jess Schreibstein

Has living and working in Philadelphia had an impact on your work?

I LOVE Philadelphia. Really the longer I live here the more I grow to love and appreciate this city. I have met so many wonderful creative people and there really is a camaraderie among the creative community. I feel inspired by my friends’ successes and vice versa.

Which artists have inspired your work in some way?

That’s really hard to pinpoint, but I can say who inspires me visually. I love Marc Chagall, Georges Seurat and Amedeo Modigliani. There is a huge ballet backdrop by Chagall in the PMA that is my favorite piece in their collection, and the Barnes has a wonderful collection of Seurat and Modigliani. I also love the Arts & Crafts movement and William Morris. When I was living in England I became an avid tile collector. You can find truckloads of beautiful salvaged tiles there, traditionally they were used for fireplace surrounds and wall decoration. When I moved back to the US in 2011 I shipped over 100 tiles.

What are you working on now, and what’s next?

At the moment I am working on orders with new wholesale clients, and holiday orders, as well as a few special collaboration projects for 2014.