Archive | September, 2013

Photo Blog: OPEN Arts Expo 2013 with Gris Galerie

23 Sep

Joseph and I had the pleasure of spending a Sunday at the College of Charleston Cistern with Elizabeth Bowers and Greg Colleton of Gris Galerie for the Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts’ OPEN Arts Expo. Greg and Elizabeth were so kind as to invite us to display our work with them, and we also were introduced to some other great local artists as well.

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The playful animal paintings by Zoovaldes were cheerful. The Cistern was a beautiful setting for a pop up art walk. I enjoyed their creativity using recycled pallets as gallery walls. You can turn a pallet into almost anything!

Greg Hart

Greg Hart

A personal favorite of mine, artist Greg Hart also had work on display. We also got to know another new artist, Austin Norvell, who does fantastic glass work.

Amazing glass peanuts by Austin Norvell.

Amazing glass peanuts by Austin Norvell.

These peanuts looked so real and delicious.

Scrumptious art.

Scrumptious art.

Norvell was also giving live demonstrations. The space was filled with folks filming and taking pictures all day.

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It was fun to see people enjoy the creation process that often goes unseen in our shops and studios.

I thought Elizabeth’s fantastic bright yellow table was a perfect modern backdrop for the wide variety of mediums that were on display.

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I enjoyed showing new Black Swamp designs as well.

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To celebrate Black Swamp’s first event, I debuted the new Stardust Necklace.

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We also brought out a few Joseph Thompson Woodworks furniture pieces, as well as our last few Pecky Cypress pieces.

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We had beautiful weather with plenty of shade under those grand oaks. We enjoyed music from the Heartfelt Hinges and said hello to friends from Redux!

Thanks again to Elizabeth and Greg of Gris Galerie for having us!



21 Sep

“Now Katie, you’re better than that” said Dr. A, in his office one morning after I had pulled another mindless 15 year old stunt in the classroom. In addition to my very outspoken classroom antics, I was also a student sports contributor to our local paper. “I’ve read your writing,” he said “You’re a very talented writer. You should seriously consider journalism, Katie. Look into USC. They have an excellent journalism program.”

Dr. A has motivated me to write several times throughout my life, and I find no better way to honor him than with a few words about the man who made such a powerful and positive impact on the small community of Clinton, SC.

Dr. A was the principal and leader of Thornwell High School during my attendance there. His enthusiasm and brilliant smile gave the campus energy day in and day out. He was excited to be teaching, which made us excited to learn. We were a small school, and I remember Dr. A taking on such tasks as picking up trash, even mowing the grass one hot afternoon. He loved Thornwell, and took pride in every aspect of our school.

In addition to his passion for science and psychology, Dr. A had a knack for turning a negative into a positive. He chose to emphasize the good in everyone and himself, even in times of failure. He tutored me a few weeks one summer after a tumultuous year in Pre-Calculus. His psychology class was one of the most powerful and memorable courses I took in high school. He was motivating, informative, and loved to throw in those “Coke and pack of cracker” questions to get us thinking. He would keep us on task by stating “We’re burning daylight here!” and I still repeat that to myself daily as motivation to push further and work harder.

He also loved a good joke, and was always looking for a chance to make people smile. My Dad has always played a delightfully quirky song on my birthday ever since my childhood. Since it was my 16th birthday and my Dad wanted to do it up big, he teamed up with Dr. A to provide me with the most hilariously mortifying moment in my life. I was sat in the chemistry lab waiting for the mid-morning announcements to come over the PA when all of a sudden I hear a dreadfully familiar song. I couldn’t help but laugh out of love and embarrassment with my class and instructor. I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live.

I remember another morning my senior year as I burst in the back doors from the parking lot, late as usual with a hot Whiteford’s chicken biscuit in my hand. Dr. A was there in the hallway, checking up on the classes that had just begun. I was literally caught red-handed with my delicious “excuse” for being late. He gave me a stern, but knowing look then said “Go in my office and eat that, then head right to class.” He patted me on the shoulder as I walked past. I will never forget the lesson in compassion he taught me that day. He lived to teach, in and out of the classroom.

Dr. A was also one of the reasons I got into college. I wrote about someone who had inspired me, changed my way of thinking and encouraged me to be a better person. That was Dr. A. I remember getting a handwritten note on my acceptance letter mentioning my essay, and how special Dr. A must have been. I gave Dr. A a copy of my essay after my acceptance. He simply smiled, said thank you, and carried on. He gave me another lesson in what it meant to be humble.

Dr. A was a kind man. He was patient, understanding, and truly listened to everyone that spoke to him. He loved unconditionally, I really believe he loved everyone he came in contact with. He was a living example of the Christian faith he so deeply believed in. My heart aches for his family and for everyone who was touched by him. While the world has truly suffered a great loss in his passing, Dr. A’s light and love will continue to touch the hearts and minds of so many that were fortunate enough to have known him.

God bless you, Dr. A. We will miss you.

National and Family Treasures

3 Sep

I’ve always been a bit obsessed with American History, even as a child. My ideal vacation was a trip to Gettysburg instead of a theme park, even at the age of 9.

I also grew up with a family who loved to thrift and go “antiquing.” I still love seeing my Uncle’s antique war memorabilia collection or the vintage goodies my sister finds at her job at an antique store.

Family heirlooms are definitely the most special antiques of all. Not only do they combine years of history and age with sentimental family memories, sometimes, every once in a while, they can also be incredible historical artifacts.

My husband Joseph is basically a descendant of early American “royalty.” He is a descendant of some very notable names that made history throughout the Colonial and Civil War eras. Since he is also an incredibly talented furniture maker, it was only fitting that he got to take on a very special task over Labor Day weekend.

One of Joseph’s famous ancestors is a Founding Father, Thomas Nelson Jr. He was one of the first Governors of Virginia, as well as a member of the House of Burgesses, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Being from Yorktown, VA, his estate was taken over by Cornwallis to be his headquarters during the infamous Battle of Yorktown. Being an ardent patriot, supposedly Nelson offered money to Continental soldiers to destroy his home during the battle.

So why the history lesson? And where do family heirlooms fit into this? Well, Thomas Nelson Jr.’s incredible four-poster mahogany bed has survived and stayed in Joseph’s family for generations.


Made using traditional woodworking methods that Joseph and I still use in all of our designs today, the bed is a magnificent piece of craftsmanship that has been loved and cared for over the ages by the family. At the request of the family member who now cares for it, Joseph had the honor to take the bed apart and examine it while renovations were being made to the room it is now kept in.

The rails are connected using double mortise and tenon joints.


Double Tenons on the ends of the rails.

Double Mortise on the posts.

Double Mortise on the posts.

The original maker's mark of "4" to identify matching posts and rails to help in putting the bed back together when taken apart.

The original maker’s mark of “4” to identify matching posts and rails to help in putting the bed back together when taken apart.

The bolts that are used to hold the rails to the posts are original, save for the head of one that was welded onto the original after it was broken. The iron mattress hangers and fasteners are all original. The visible part of the bed has been refinished, the back of the headboard is black with age and expired varnish.


The carving on the bed’s posts and headboard are absolutely magnificent. The wood is undoubtedly virgin growth mahogany which is pretty much obsolete these days.



The bed is now used as a four-poster style bed, however it is originally a teester-style bed, the brass adornments are kept in storage however the original fabric is long gone, lost to the ages.

Another notable characteristic about the bed is it’s size. Although it is a queen sized bed, it is much smaller than today’s queen beds, as people were much smaller in stature 250 years ago. Another testament to traditional woodworking techniques is that despite it’s age and several moves across the country to different family members over the years, it is in excellent condition with no structural damage. Beds made even 50 years ago with modern joinery and fasteners may fall apart before this bed will. It is also unknown whether or not this bed was brought over from England or made in the states.

Perhaps my favorite part of the bed, and a testament to the original maker’s eye for detail are these wonderful carved rosettes that cover the bolts on the posts.


While I was sad to not have been there personally for the deconstruction, I hope to be there when Joseph returns to put it the bed back together. I know it was a very special moment for him to examine such an important piece of American history, his family’s history, and also an incredible source of inspiration for our own furniture work today.

All photos provided by Joseph Thompson.

Side note: I posted a photo of the bed over the weekend to my Instagram page, and low and behold one of my followers and Charleston neighbors is also a descendant of Nelson. It’s a small world after all, folks!