Announcing The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection, a Celebration of American Craftsmanship
The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection is a first-of-its-kind exhibition featuring original works from some of America’s finest craftspeople. Curated by award-winning designer Todd Snyder, every piece in the exhibition stands as a passionate expression of craftsmanship in all its forms.
From bowler hats and bicycles to electric guitars and Ping-Pong tables, this groundbreaking collection represents rare crafts from every corner of America. Don’t miss it as it journeys to a city near you.
The 2013 Collection events have now finished. Check back soon for the launch of the 2014 dates.
Designer & Our Curator | New York, New York
For as long as I can remember I’ve been inspired by everything creative: from art to music to food. The opportunity to curate The Balvenie’s Rare Craft Collection allowed me to discover entirely new frontiers of creativity through the amazing artists featured within. Every piece in this collection tells a story; from where the materials were sourced to how its maker acquired their skills and vision. Together they paint the narrative of America’s rare craft renaissance.
I am honored to be included among this group of artisans and help shine a light on their dedication to their respective crafts . I hope you are as inspired by their amazing work as I am.
Red Metal | New Orleans, Louisiana
As a blacksmith, Rachel not only plies red-hot iron into beautiful works of art - she makes a physically punishing craft look effortless. From her forging hammer and anvil spring one-of-a-kind pieces that run the gamut from candlesticks and wine holders to chairs and bespoke spiral staircases. Not to mention, every tool in her New Orleans workshop was forged in her own fire.
Inspired by humanity’s complex relationship with nature and itself, the motifs in Rachel’s work range from crawling vines to love lost. Both spectrums of her aesthetic come to life in her Diamond Candlesticks. Crafted from hand- forged steel, each element—from the cup to the tapers—is forged separately before being chiseled, formed or welded into place.
Optimo Hats | Chicago, Illinois
Millinery fashions may come and go, but thanks to Graham Thompson, Chicago’s high-end hat culture is alive and well. To honor the traditions of his trade, he uses original tools, supplies and techniques at his workshop, Optimo Hats, where all his pieces are one-of-a-kind. Fans include Robert de Niro and John Lee Hooker.
In January 2013, he received The Balvenie Rare Craft Fellowship award.
Threepenny Bikes | Washington, D.C.
David Went worked for many years as a freelance steel fabricator before he began crafting his own custom-made bamboo bikes in his Washington, D.C. workshop. This advanced knowledge of metalworking techniques, combined with David’s self-taught understanding of bamboo, imbues each bike with the perfect balance of nature & industry.
David sources his bamboo from gardens in Virginia and California, and preserves it using a butane torch and tung oil. After months of drying, it’s ready to be used for a frame. He joins each pole together using carbon fiber before wrapping it with layers of fiber tapes, fabric and tow. For the bike’s mechanical workings, David’s clients can choose from steel, stainless steel, aluminum or titanium.
Furniture Designer | Dallas, Texas
A former graphic designer, Danny Kamerath approaches furniture making in simple terms: well-crafted pieces literally withstand the test of time. Inevitably glue will fail, so he works tirelessly to ensure that the joinery of each chair can support the piece and the generations who use it. Influenced by those around him, his finished pieces bear the names of his closest friends and family.
No blueprint or sketch dictated the construction of the Danny’s “Rob” chair. Instead, he drew inspiration from the individual pieces of wood—their grain, shape and rich color - allowing them to inform their own composition. Joined traditionally by fitting tenons into mortises, the resulting piece is the reflection of a craftsman’s skill and an artist’s instincts.
Golden Bear Sportswear | San Francisco, California
Golden Bear, independent San Francisco jacket maker, has been outfitting Americans for over a century. Originally a supplier to Bay Area dockworkers, they began producing their classic Varsity, Bomber and Motorcycle jackets in the 1950s. Since then they’ve dressed rock legends (The Grateful Dead), heads of state (President Bill Clinton) and Hollywood royalty (Denzel Washington).
The Hudson epitomizes Golden Bear’s vintage aesthetic. A variation on the classic baseball jacket, it’s made with authentic Harris Tweed straight from Scotland and natural cowhide tanned in the United States. Every piece, from sleeves to zipper, is personally inspected and selected by Golden Bear’s quality control department before being assembled by hand at their Mission workshop.
Offerman Woodshop | Los Angeles, California
Lee began working with wood at age seven, when she enrolled in the Kids Carpentry program in her hometown of Berkeley, California. Years later, while studying art and philosophy at Brown, she began set building for the college theater - merging her craft with her interest in art. Drawing on this knowledge, she eventually began building interactive science exhibits for the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco.
During her five years in their woodshop, Lee honed her skills in fine woodworking and started building furniture on the side. Since moving to LA in 2008, Lee has been managing Offerman Woodshop as well as designing and building custom furniture on commission.
SDB Coppersmith | Rio Grande, New Jersey
Coppersmith Stephen Bradway grew up in the sheet metal business. After a youth spent hammering copper into roof flashings, cupolas and skylights he turned his creative attention to products used inside the home. Under the vigilant eye of his mentor - Fred Haushouser - Stephen honed his skills, learning the rare and all-but-forgotten craft of traditional coppersmithing.
Today he employs techniques that predate the Industrial Revolution—a time when crafts were utilitarian and functional rather than decorative—to craft his pieces. Forging a single copper kettle, like the one featured here, takes Stephen three laborious days over anvil and furnace. Hammering, heating, cooling and re-hammering, he joins each piece using traditional rivets & dovetailed seams.
ColsenKeane Leather | Charlotte, North Carolina
Scott Hofert is proud to be in the heirloom-making business. With a design aesthetic rooted in practicality, the beauty of his leather satchels and accessories lies in their rugged utility. As he likes to say, they are pieces your grandchildren will fight over someday.
Scott’s process begins by hand-selecting the hide from which he’ll cut the leather to make each satchel. From there, the hide is scored and cut into hand-perforated pieces that can be stitched together. Once the bag is sewn up, he adds the belts, handle and shoulder strap. The result is a leather satchel made to endure a lifetime of living.
Kelly Guitars | New York, New York
Rick Kelly makes his guitars from white pine lumber reclaimed from Manhattan’s oldest buildings, including the legendary Chelsea Hotel. In his hands the wood, which he lovingly dubs the “Bones of Old New York,” is reimagined into Fender bodies—each a vessel for both music and history.
The piece donated to this collection, Rick’s Bowery Pine Telecaster guitar, epitomizes his vision and craft. Its body was constructed using 140-year-old reclaimed white pine from Chumley’s —a Prohibition-era speakeasy frequented by John Steinbeck and William Faulkner. The neck is crafted from turn-of-the-century Douglas fir salvaged from the landmark Chelsea Hotel. Rick milled the reclaimed lumber in his NYC shop on Carmine Street. Using hand tools from start to finish, he crafted the wood into the guitar’s classic T-style electric body shape.
Firebird Longboards | Key West, Florida
Firebird Longboards is the brainchild of Markham McGill, a former creative professional who decided to “un-brand” himself from the “me, too” mindset of the corporate world. Drawn to the beauty of old wood, including the kind that ages single malt Scotch, Firebird Longboards was his way of rising again. From a tiny workshop in Key West, he handcrafts his one-of-a-kind boards from 100% reclaimed and salvaged hardwoods.
Markham draws inspiration from the history of the wood itself. Salt, weather, rust, fire and oil season antique woods over time and hint at the characters who have stepped, lived & loved, surrounded by them. Markham and his team source hardwoods from old barns and other structures from all over the Midwest and East Coast of the USA, usually from buildings erected between the Civil War and World War I. Markham then takes these pieces from static wood elements to mobile works of art like this longboard on display.
Doyle + Mueser
Doyle + Mueser Bespoke | New York City, New York
Fashion industry veterans, Amber Doyle and Jake Mueser founded their namesake menswear company in 2010. Their goal was simple: create fully BEspokE suits, shirts and accessories for a discerning clientele. Located in the heart of NYC’s Greenwich Village, their shop is one-part boutique and one-part gentleman’s library—where clients are encouraged to drop in for a dram of Scotch and A spot of intelligent conversation. Since opening, Doyle + Mueser have created tailored clothing for Hollywood films, members-only items for exclusive clubs and collaborated with top designers on runway collections.
The Doyle + Mueser silhouette and house style is a combination of the best elements of several classic looks: the slim waist and fitted torso of an English jacket, the lightly padded shoulder of the Italian suit, all pulled together using traditional American tailoring methods and techniques. Like all Doyle + Mueser pieces, this suit was hand cut and finished. It is fully canvassed and made from imported English worsted wool.
Woodsport | St. Paul, Minnesota
Driven by a love of natural materials, Scott McGlasson works primarily with walnut because of its burls, deep color and, most importantly, the way it ages. Inspired by the rugged industrialism of old factories, his pieces are at once rustic & modern.
The TC15 side table folds many of Scott’s signature designs into one piece—simple, clean walnut drawer, live-edge pull and a turned base. The joinery is perfectly executed to show off the mitered box and the continuous grain of the walnut. The base is made from bugle-shaped, blackened ash. The grooves are achieved by turning the base on a traditional lathe.
Herb & Kathy Eckhouse
La Quercia | Norwalk, Iowa
Herb Eckhouse and his wife Kathy moved from Italy to Iowa with one goal in mind: create premium American prosciutto using the techniques they learned during their time in Parma. In Parma, known as Italy’s prosciutto country, careful treatment of fine materials result in suBlimE, yet entirely regional cuisine. The Eckhouses strove to replicate this process with the bounty that surrounds their own prosciuttificio in Iowa. They succeeded. Today, La Quercia is recognized internationally for their sustainable methods, superb craftsmanship and impeccable cured meats.
The production of La Quercia cured meat begins by sourcing the pork—which Herb and Kathy hand select—from local farmers who treat their animals and land responsibility. Within the prosciuttificio the meat is trimmed & cured using a home recipe of American made organic spices and sea salt. From there, the meat is shipped to every corner of the United States and across the border to Canada.
Heath Ceramics | Sausalito, California
Heath Ceramics was founded in 1948 by Edith Heath (1911–2005) a talented ceramicist with a strong point of view on the products that her company would make— simple, good things for good people. Her advances in clay and glaze development created a first-of-its-kind energy- saving process, securing her unique place in ceramics history. Today Heath Ceramics stands as an enduring example of mid-century design. The iconic tableware and tile that emerge from its Sausalito factory are made in small runs and blur the line between everyday objects and family heirlooms.
The Camellia pattern plate featured here is made from pure, California clay. After the plate is formed, glazed, trimmed and fired by hand, it passes to Heath’s in-house artisan for etching. The pattern of etching on this particular plate is an homage to the stitch patterns of another American craftsperson—Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin.
Faribault Woolen Mill
FaribaultWoolen Mill Co. | Faribault Minnesota
The techniques and machinery used today to make woven goods at the Faribault Mill remain virtually unchanged from the ones used when the mill first opened in 1865. For five generations, its craftspeople have produced woolen blankets and scarves that are both forward thinking and yet classically American. They’ve traveled across the country in covered wagons and journeyed with troops to foreign lands during war years.
Every blanket made in the Faribault Mill is built to perform. The process begins with a selection of the highest quality imported and domestic fleeces. The mill’s craftspeople then hand-dye the loose fiber before carding it into loosely twisted strands. Rolls of these strands are placed onto a frame that draws and twists the material into strong, steadfast yarn fit for the mill’s high standard of durability.
PowderJet Snowboards | York, Maine
Six years ago snowboarding photographer Jesse Loomis traded traveling with the sport’s icons for a more settled life in the back hills of Vermont with his wife and children. It didn’t take long, however, for him to return to both art and the sport in an entirely new vein: crafting modern takes on classic snowboards. Inspired by wooden snowboards from the 70s, he’s spent the last six years fine-tuning their builds into his signature PowderJet, a board that is considered by many as one of the best powder boards in the industry.
Jesse makes each PowderJet, like the one featured here, one at a time, by hand in his Maine workshop. The boards begin as FSC certified poplar or maple hardwood laminates which he binds with fiberglass for flex and extra strength. The laminates are then sandwiched together and inserted into a custom press, which heats the board for eight hours, curing the resin. Shaped and sanded by hand, Jesse finishes each PowderJet with byproducts made fromVermont milk production.
Bilenky CycleWorks | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Stephen has been handcrafting what he dubs “sculpture in motion” for 44 years. Inspired by the great British bicycles of the past, he began frame building in 1983 out of the basement of his repair shop. Today, his bicycles are cult objects and have received praise from a host of publications and international tradeshows for their exquisite form & function.
Lindsey Adelman Studio | New York, New York
Collaboration is key to lighting designer Lindsey Adelman’s craft. From business model to inspiration for her pieces, it’s embedded into every aspect of her creative process. Each fixture is made to order and influenced by the long line of craftspeople that contributes to its final form - from glassblowers and machine shops to platers and casters. Although her main focus is hand-blown glass and brass lighting, her more recent work also includes jewelry, vessels, tiles and wallpaper - all made from a mixed bag of adventurous materials.
The two pieces displayed here epitomize Lindsey’s whimsical aesthetic. the "Curiosity Vessel" is made from hand blown glass bottles with solid brass stoppers. Hybrid acorns, coral, porcupine quills and human vertebrae become curiosities displayed outside of the vessel rather than in it. Her other piece, “Gold Mussel Ashtray,” is crafted from mussel shells gathered in Maine and electroplated in 24k gold.
David C. Cook
Hoosier Bat Co. | Valparaiso, Indiana
David Cook has long advocated a return to wooden baseball bats for America’s greatest pastime. A former major league scout, David’s bats have been used by giants of the game from Sammy Sosa to Lance Johnson. Travel to Cooperstown and you’ll discover two of David’s bats in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Displayed here is David’s classic WoodForce 2000. Each bat is made to order and features a patented three wood design: ash for the handle, hickory in the sweet spot and maple at the base. Once constructed, each bat is hand sanded, dipped in varnish and hung to dry. Before it’s shipped, David adds one final touch: Hoosier Bat’s signature golden tri-stripe around the handle.