our blog

Be sure to check back regularly to see just what chips have been falling in our "slow studio".

Muscle Shoals - the movie

We missed the first screening of this new documentary a few months ago, and have been anxiously awaiting this afternoon's viewing.  It was worth the wait!  Greg 'Freddy' Camalier got it right.  This wonderful story about our community's rich music history told through many of our neighbor's eyes (Rick Hall, Swampers, etc) and every top recording artist of the 70's on.  -- Great fun hearing Aretha, Greg Allman, Mick Jagger, Steve Winwood, Keith Richards, Etta James, Percy Sledge, Alicia Keys and on and on and on - share their memories of recording in Muscle Shoals.

Although most of us know many of the "player's" in our super cool local history, this movie put together lots of the parts that I was missing.

My gosh, our community is on a roll.  "Muscle Shoals - the movie" is another wonderful gem.  Looks like it'll be released in September.  Can't wait to see it again.  

Muscle Shoals - this movie is amazing.

Muscle Shoals - this movie is amazing.

Welcoming two UNA International Students with tour of our best

Linda and I have been wanting to support UNA's International Student Program for years.  Finally signed up Monday for their "Friend's of International Student Program", met the two super sweet students we'll be hosting, Gina and Aimee (their English names), and yesterday began their tour with a McFarland Park river side picnic breakfast then straight to the Florence Farmer's Market.  It was fun introducing them to some of our fav local farmers.

Later we introduced them to the best Chinese restaurant in the South, the Rice Box, where  our friend Chiong Chen (UNA Art Department Chair) joined us for lunch and Maggie Chen (owner of the restaurant) along with her children Wilson and Kelly stopped by for the welcome as well.

Aimee and Gina seemed thrilled to have met our friends, and to have found such a wonderful restaurant just up the street from UNA. 


Tour of Florence Farmer's Market

Tour of Florence Farmer's Market


A few pieces in Santa Barbara

Just received these pics from Steve Ainsley, previous publisher of the TimesDaily and recently retired as publisher of the Boston Globe.  We made several pieces for he and Ann last year, but just now sent pics.  

His home is obviously quite stunning.  But I have to say, the cliff top view of the Pacific from their backyard is as well. 


Any locals remember this 70's event - The Great Cypress Creek Raft Race?

This weekend has been dedicated to finding tubs, dusting off pics, newspaper articles, letters, bumper stickers, awards and other historic memorabilia related to this notorious event.  This afternoon we'll be scanning the ones that'll fit, and hopefully soon placing here on a page dedicated to the event.   

The Great Cypress Creek Raft Race was a local event that Dad and I began instigated beginning in 1978.

The Great Cypress Creek Raft Race was a local event that Dad and I began instigated beginning in 1978.

Dr. Zhang finalizes Health Institute - this is huge

After year's of work with the city and UNA, Dr. Chunsheng Zhang's amazing health institute deal finalized yesterday.  So exciting to see this one come back together after all the hurdles we seemed to have set out in it's way.

I hope we all will welcome Dr Zhang's team and support this amazing new learning center that will be a huge addition to UNA's already diverse program.

Dr. Zhang's UNA health institute deal (finally) finalizes. 

Dr. Zhang's UNA health institute deal (finally) finalizes. 

Wednesday sunrise meeting

I take Frassie for a swim most afternoons after work.  Wednesday was my second "meeting" on the water.  Andy Mann, pres of the exciting new (to the area) Progress Bank (building presently under construction)  joined us for a swim before work Wednesday.  Andy's a much better swimmer than I am.  Frassie still thinks she can take him.  Either way, we had a wonderful start of the day, enjoying another of the areas many beautiful assets.

I also talked Andy into a couple of video "commercials" for the Bank.  I'm looking forward to review.  If he'll approve I'll share them as well. 

Here's a great shot of Andy with the morning's sunrise right behind. 

Andy Mann, President of Progress Bank "meeting" in the Tennessee River early Wednesday morning

Andy Mann, President of Progress Bank "meeting" in the Tennessee River early Wednesday morning

Delivery to UNA's school of art

I just dropped off a mix of kiln dried, but very very natural pieces of a mix of hardwoods.  Very little gets thrown away here, but most might call the bulk of it garbage.  Aaron Benson, UNA's new super talented, creative ceramics/sculpture professor will be sharing with his new students-I believe to build a piece of furniture toward the end of the semester.   I believe the class will also include ceramics, metal and more. 

Aaron just moved his family here from NY a couple of weeks ago, and as far as I can see all are thrilled to be making Florence Alabama their new home.

Wood delivery/donation to UNA's Sculpture/Certamics department.

Wood delivery/donation to UNA's Sculpture/Certamics department.

Architect Bob Whitten on Frank Lloyd Wright/Rosenbaum home on public radio

Our friend and local architect Bob Whitten brilliantly describes Alabama's only Frank Lloyd Wright home located two miles down the street from our studio.  Very nice presentation about the history and design of another or the area's beautiful "little gems". 

If you haven't toured this home/museum yet - it's a must.  

Heizenburg back tonight for final season

Generally I don't watch tv series, never watch commercials, and never place at the top of my priority list to watch tv.  But that all changed with Breaking Bad and - Heizenburg.   After begin blown away with the pilot five year's ago, I was hooked.  Have seen every episode at least once.   This is our fav series of all time.

This quirky, off balance, schitzo plot that shows the best and worst of our human condition, often in each character each episode - not surprisingly isn't for everyone.  I haven't found too many Alabamans who'll admit to ever hearing of it.  Although I have a sneaking suspicion that there are quite a few closet addicts here as well.  Somehow it's just about perfect for me.  

Last couple of weeks we caught up on the previous season (5), in prep for the last Season of Walter White, Jessie and gang.  Tonight Linda, Sassafras and I will be glued to the tv, watching it live - commercials and all.  Might even go all out and pop some corn.


Breaking Bad's last season begins tonight at 8: 

Breaking Bad's last season begins tonight at 8: 

TimesDaily Interview Tuesday

Tuesday TimesDaily writer Bobby Bozeman and photographer Matt McKean stopped by for a studio tour and interview.  Except for the very uncomfortable part of having my pic taken (for good reason) I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with and getting to know them a bit.

Nice article published in this mornings Life section of the local paper. 

timesdailyinterviewrw copy.jpg

Just completed. Crow walnut trunk coffee table

This one will be hanging out here in town - in a beautiful modern home on the Tennessee River.  Kinda new age FLW design.  The delivery was rained out this afternoon. 

Walnut root coffee table just out of finishing room.

Walnut root coffee table just out of finishing room.

Driftwood in the River

Frassie found a couple of nice pieces of driftwood in the river during our afternoon swim Wednesday. 

One of my all time fav sandwiches - Banh Mi

This was my first visit to the nice but small Chinatown in Las Vegas.  Although fairly small, comprising of only a couple of large shopping centers (for the most part).  I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my fav sandwich shops of all time - Lee's.  

Linda and I found Lee's in LA a decade or so ago.  There's one near the airport.  So we made it a regimen to stop by on the way to our return flight, pick up a couple of sandwiches (always on freshly made french baguette)  for the flight.  Not sure if there's much better really.

Looks like the franchise is growing, as of course it would.  This sandwich is at the top of my list, along with - Central Grocery's (and other New Orleans french quarter) muffaletta, 

Lee's Vietnamese Sandwich - One of my all time Favs

Lee's Vietnamese Sandwich - One of my all time Favs

Main Street Hotel & Casino - refreshing change from the strip

After staying at Bill's Gambling Hall for years (right between Bellagio and Paris) on the strip, I was forced to find an alternative, when I saw that Bill's had closed.  Looks to be standard practice of demolishing the old and replacing with new and shiny.  

Main Street - i love this hotel!  This is the first time I've stayed downtown in Vegas, and I really like - maybe love this place.  Really nice (although not exactly the Wynn or Trump) but what's wonderful is the pace and the other patrons.  For the most part, they are older Hawaiians.  

I knew that the number one vacation spot for Hawaiians was Las Vegas.  What I didn't know is that they seem to all stay at these two adjoining sister properties downtown, Main Street Hotel & the California. 

The interesting thing is these two properties really cater to the Hawaiians.  They have Hawaiian travel personnel on staff.  And across the cross walk to the California they have a couple of amazing and inexpensive hawaiian/asian restaurants, and a couple more that do an amazing job with fresh fish.

What I like about this hotel.

1)  the pace

2)  didn't see a single prostitute

3)  cool old hawaiians everywhere you look

4)  4 blocks from the World Market Center

5)  2 blocks from the "Freemont Experience" 

6)  Every employee I met had worked there for a decade+. 

7)  $32  Yup, this cool, clean very nice, hotel in great location was only $32 a night.  I'm pretty sure this will be my home away from home for the two market's each year for year's to come.  Really love this place.


Main Street Casino Stained Glass Ceiling

Main Street Casino Stained Glass Ceiling

Main street urinals paneled with pieces of the Berlin Wall. 

Main street urinals paneled with pieces of the Berlin Wall. 

There are interesting details throughout the property.  Even the Urinals are cool - paneled with pieces from the Berlin Wall. 

Obviously doesn't have the cool modern vibe of the new Aria or Cosmopolitan - but at $32 bucks this ones hard to beat.

Obviously doesn't have the cool modern vibe of the new Aria or Cosmopolitan - but at $32 bucks this ones hard to beat.

Las Vegas Market 2013

I just returned home last night after a week at this year's Las Vegas Market ( as well as two days at the AWFS Woodworking Show that's held every other year. 

Really a great show for us this year.  Made a couple of new business relationships that I hope to be sharing quite soon.

New Installation pics - Walnut & acrylic coffee table

Walnut & acrylic coffee table

Just received these pics of a brand new installation.  Collaborating with master designer Judy Fox on this one was really fun, and I think worked quite well.  

The top is solid walnut.  The two legs are natural edge walnut slabs sandwiched between two slices of .94 thick plexy.  304 stainless bolts.   

Great work Judy!

Her contact info:

Judith M. Fox, ASID, of Markham Interiors, Fayetteville, NY.

Modern acrylic walnut coffee table

Modern acrylic walnut coffee table

Modern walnut and  acrylic coffee table

Modern walnut and  acrylic coffee table

Local Jason Isbell on NPR's Fresh Air today - again

Our little town, and/or member's of the community seem to be on Terri Gross' A-list.

I continue to be pleasantly shocked driving down the road, and hearing about something or someone from our community.  Today, it was Rocker Jason Isbell, on NPR's Fresh Air.  He told a great story of how the name of his first band, "the 400 unit" was originally inspired.

For decades our little town - Florence, and the area "the Shoals" wasn't exactly something to be singing about.  Well, certainly it was back during the recording studio days at Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound, but in the mean time, I have to admit that there was probably more to be embarrassed about than proud of. 

So much fun, now that times have changed.  There's not a week that goes by that another little jewel is revealed here.  And even better, I think most of us have gained confidence, and have significantly increased their vision of just where we are/should be going. 

I look forward to sharing these tidbits and jewels about the town I'm again, proud to call home.  There's lots to brag about, and even more in the pipeline.

* I have to admit that I actually have never met Jason.  Something else to look forward to. 

Florence Alabama local Jason Isbell's new album "southeastern" on NPR's Fresh Air with Terri Gross today. 

Florence Alabama local Jason Isbell's new album "southeastern" on NPR's Fresh Air with Terri Gross today. 

Do you know your corn farmer? Maybe you should.

There's nothing sweeter than fresh Alabama corn.  Typically there's a 10 day window (each year) that some big decisions must be made.  Well, that is if you are best friends with your farmer.

The best corn farmer in North Alabama, Jordan Hammer, called and shared that it was time.  He had just harvested his corn field, and if we wanted in, we had to move quick.

We arranged for our annual allotment of 12 dozen ears, met him just off the road in Killen, and made our annual transaction.  My gosh, I think Jordan outdid himself this year.  Possibly the best, sweetest corn ever.  Linda spent several hours each night after work shucking and creaming.  -- Not surprising that each night for dinner, just what we end up choosing for dinner.  yup, corn is a big part of it, if not the complete meal.  Monday night i gorged on nothing but four ears of corn.  Last night friends joined in on the fun, in a celebration of "corn, corn, and corn", well, there was also a tamale in there that Estella made (which are also quite amazing).

Corn may not be the best of summer, but it's gotta be in the top five. 

Just like almost all food choices, the best corn begins with our relationship with the farmer.  Building a friendship and trust (as well as cook, chef, restaurant owner)  with the farmer might just be the most important key to amazing southern food.  Well, that's the way we (not always successfully) try to do it.  

One more little rule that's worked for us is when dining out, if the owner is usually in the kitchen, there's a dang good chance the food will be exceptional.  We see this in the best restaurants in the country, as well as our local Chinese or Thai restaurant, or mexican taco trailer.   

Ah, one more that works for many, particularly when out of town, hungry and didn't do my restaurant home work - If there's a line get in it.  Usually works.  Sometimes presents some  - unexpected surprises. 

I'm fortunate that some people feel the same way about their furniture maker.   


By the way, Jordan has a second crop of corn started, that should be available in October or so. 

alabama corn season.

alabama corn season.

Museum of Alabama project

Just beginning to set up for the huge (for us) Museum of Alabama bench project.  This is the template the Washington DC design team provided.  Might just be some mods before we proceed. 

This is going to be fun one. 

Preparing for the amazing Museum of Alabama solid walnut bench project. 

Preparing for the amazing Museum of Alabama solid walnut bench project.