Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Check out this link to see how one style of CMJSCreativ chandelier shade is being made. Craftsmen Alex Petrakis assisted by K.C. Carter are at work.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZkfObK7-sQ&feature=youtu.be

This was my first iMovie. I hope to do more....

Friday, November 29, 2013

Beans

I like to cook. One of the "dishes" that I enjoy, and that can become a satisfying component of a meal Winter or Summer are Mexican style beans. A pot of beans tastes great, is warm and filling and is a great source of protein and fiber. When I cook beans, I don't follow an exact recipe, but several people have asked me for one, so here is an attempt to be a guide, more than anything set in stone. I make my beans vegetarian. My Father in Law doesn't believe in vegetarian beans, they must have bacon fat in them he says. (And his ancestry is Mexican). But I have found preparing the beans the following way has won him and many others over to the fact that you don't have to use meat in the beans. Cooking beans is forgiving, and many of the ingredients can go into the pot early so that it is also an easy dish to prepare. The key is having access to a Mexican grocer for some essential ingredients.

So here it goes:

I like to use pinto beans, but have also mixed in Northern White. You start with a bag (about a pound- all measurements are approximate) of the dried beans. The first essential step is to very carefully clean and sort the beans. I do this on a big wooden breakfast table, sitting down so that I can look closely at the beans. The goal is to keep all the whole good looking beans and to throw aside broken beans, mis-shaped and mis-colored beans and also most importantly little stones that make their way through the machinery process at the factory. Once you have a pile of all the good beans, which should be about 95% of what you started with or more, put those in a large pot and cover with cool water, at least an inch or so over the top of the beans. Cover and let sit overnight.

The next morning, drain and rinse the beans in a colander. Set aside. Take a large stock pot and heat over medium heat and add a generous amount of olive oil. The oil is going to take the place of the bacon fat so don't worry about using too much. Sauté garlic in the olive oil. I use about a half dozen good size cloves, minced. Don't burn the garlic. You can also sauté an onion at this time. When the onion is clearish, add the beans and cover with cool clean water.

Now you need to add a few things. First of all about 3-4 sprigs of Epazoté. This is a Mexican herb that adds flavor and also is helpful in reducing the flatulent aspect of the beans. I add at this time about 6 bay leaves, either fresh or dried, and 1 or 2 dried chile peppers such as chipotle. Also going in, you can either buy a prepared pinto bean seasoning mix or add a tablespoon of several spices to your taste. To me essential ones are cumin and black pepper, and also Mexican or domestic oregeno. You can also add chili powder of your choice and if you wish one or two fresh poblano or jalapeño chilis which you have roasted and skinned, seeded and veined then chopped finely. This whole mixture is brought to a low boil and immediately stirred and put on a very low simmer, covered (essential) and left to cook for about 2 hours or so. Check every once in while to make sure there is enough liquid so the beans don't burn, stir from the bottom. Taste to make sure the beans are cooked to a tender consistency but not mushy, remove the bay leaves, and salt to taste. Voila!

The great thing is that the leftovers can become tomorrow's "refritos" or refried beans, which you can heat in a cast iron skillet and serve with eggs for breakfast or a side dish for dinner. Good corn tortillas are a wonderful way to enjoy the beans with rice and sour cream or cheese and a vegetable side dish. Of course they also go great with chicken and beef and so I have heard pork. Let me know how it turns out.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

                                   Lavender

This October at the High Point Furniture Market, I gave out little vials of lavender infused sesame oil. To back up to the Summer, this is how I made it. First start with blooms of fresh lavender;

Blooms of fresh lavender. I once saw fields of lavender in Southern France and fell in love with the plant. The smell makes me feel good.
 I rinsed the lavender flowers and stems so not to accidentally infuse any fauna, and let the flowers drain on paper towels.

 The next step was to pull all the blooms off the stems and collect that into a couple of piles. I then had two bottles of organic sesame oil at the ready. I first heated the oil but did not let it boil, as you don't want it to burn at all and smell toasty. If you heat the oil and let it cool, it seems to absorb better into the skin when its used as a massage oil. Let it cool a bit and pour back into the bottles, leaving room for the blooms.
 I then stuffed the blooms into the two bottles and let them sit in a dark pantry for two weeks. It was pretty intense and interesting looking stuff. The smell of lavender is soothing and calming and when added to a massage oil becomes an aromatherapeutic process. In small amounts it can be rubbed onto the temples to alleviate a head ache and I have used it to good effect for reducing skin irritations.
If you want a small sample, I have 5 ml bottles available in my store, Elemental Arts or you can order some by calling my business John Strauss Furniture Design, Ltd in Canton, OH or emailing me John at Straussfurniture dot com. They are 5 bucks plus shipping. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Since I wrote extensively about my friend Scott Morgan (see earlier posts here) I need to say that Scott passed away peacefully in Goa, India on September 11, 2013. His American doctors had given him 2-4 months to live and he lived 11 months. Credit good fortune, genes, fate or more likely a combination of his determination, sheer will power, and most importantly making every day count and finding something to be happy about. In Scott's case, his partner Katy and his art provided almost everything he needed. For Katy's incredible recounting of the last eleven months' "adventure" please visit her blog Going to Goa. Katy is a real life hero. Out of her devoted love of Scott she was the one who made his last year possible in so many ways. She did things that most people could never face doing, and she did it with style and without complaint. When you next see a butterfly, think of Scott and think of his love for Katy. Carry that message of love with you.

Monday, September 23, 2013

bending wood

One of the factories in Amish country that fascinates me every time I enter it is a steam bending plant. I love the smells, the moisture, the heat and of course seeing wood being treated like it was a wet noodle. I get several parts here for my designs. The bases for the Sheridan Rd. collection are steam bent. Some of the chair backs are as well as the new sculptural accessories for CMJSCreativ. The technology is 19th century steam tanks and hydraulic machinery. Take a look below:









Friday, September 20, 2013

Recently I had the opportunity to do a photo shoot in a wonderful Art Deco era hotel that was apparently built by one of the "Little Chicago" mobsters that called Canton, Ohio home in the 1920's and 30's. I am not sure how long the hotel has been vacant (at least the 18 years I have lived here) but it is undergoing a wonderful restoration by a local developer out of his own pocket as the banks are loathe to lend at the moment. Here are a few pieces that will debut in High Point next month at the Furniture Market.
 My "Gable" chair in a lime mohair as seen in the side stairwell with incredibly beautiful brass railings.
And the same chair as seen in the mezzanine where the other pieces were shot.

 My new Lake Shore Dining table

 The new Lake Shore 24" side table. Walnut, lacquer front and blackened steel base.

Colors and materials were selected with Seattle designer Carisa Marie's guidance and all photos are by Jim Celuch of Celuch Creative.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

CMJSCreativ

 These shots show the making of a mobile/sculpture accessory. One of the first ventures by John with Carisa Marie in their company CMJSCreativ. Carisa is a interior designer from Seattle, and this was her dream to combine these forms with what John has sourced and discovered was possible with steam bending wood. The wood is 1" diameter maple, that was steam bent in an Amish factory. John has done the rest. see the sequence for an idea of how this piece is going to come together. The final piece will be debuting in High Point, during the October Market. It combines the steam bent wood with blacksmithed iron work (from Forged Accents) and blown glass (from Alex Petrakis).