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.

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

Friday, November 29, 2013


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


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


 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).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Scott part 4

I have written 3 blog posts so far about my friend Scott Morgan. But there has to be more. This part 4 comes direct from an email I just received from him. It is so poignant and touching and honest that I feel compelled to share it verbatim, without correcting his eccentric typographical style. Here it is:

It was. five. months ago. today....
i was sitting in the hospital room after a biopsy,colonoscopy,etc 
that my. surgeon wthree other doctors. came into. my room
in my groggy state ,i sat up. and said hello
she. the surgeon,then asked. me ? do i kow. my name,where was I,did i know. what operations were done. few. hours earlier,was I aware of. what hospial I was in whats my oncologist name

i replied,got. an a on the test. and. she leaned. in
close. and said

your. cancer is back.............ok,I said
she then proceeded. to explain it was outside. my. stomach,spreading. fast
uncontainable ,unoperable,any more treatment. was fruitless,no. chemo or operation was going. to help. in future,that. I. had. two maybe. four. months. to. live
and. to. go. home
make. my. plans.  on whats. next,and it was way past stage. four.

to. say the least. i was speechless. and. sat ataring.  at. the four. of them in silence
I said. ok. thanks,and. asked. when i could leave. unc. chapel n.c.  and. head. back. home. to. tell
four. five. hours. later. i was. dressed and out. door,at. the exit, i knew i was. going to India
to remain. for. the. time. I was. told had. left. to live.
made appts. the next week w surgeon. and oncologist of last four years
and was picked up. soon driven home.........
two weeks later was onindian. soil in new delhi nov 2

its. now. five months. later.
my stomach. is flat,the expansion of fluids was drained two mo. ago
22-1/2 pounds lighter,
and. my pain. management changed. from methadone,to patches on my shoulder 
that send morphine like drugs,fifty x stronnger,
into my. body 24/7
changed every 72 hours 

i am walking.  getting out daily. by wheelchair. seeing. the ocean. smiling at every ,person i see
jovial,happy. and. seeing. doctors weekly in my hotel room,all are amazed at. my good spirit. health,blood pressure,happy go lucky. good vibes,was bedridden. not. to walk ever 
again and losing. pounds. fast ,until. now,
feeling. good.  have. eating. plumbing. problems,daily,but. out of. pain
see the sun come up n go down. 
glad. to be here in goa. india. and. not. a bed in a hospital with. tubes n chemo and nurses all
over surrounded by sick people ,
have. made. a choice to be in a place where. i. can control. my. destiny my future. and. 
will know when time.  is up.

you only live once
make. time. to. stop. your. busy. life and. remember. every. day. whats important
in the end. you are alone,but. 
spend time with. your family. and friends. and. do the. things you always wanted
go. to the places. you have dreamed about. to visit. stay focused on
whats. the most. important. things. in. your. life
i. am 62 yrs old,had wondeful life full of. love. travel seeing. the. art of the world. 
am with the most loving amazing woman caring woman on the planet
and  happy. .camper.
sending.  love. and thanks. to all I have known. thruout my life
its all about.       family n freinds in the end
enjoy. your. stay on this crowded planet. make time. to smell the roses

its. my. five month anniversary

wow. this has been some. journey

love. n hugz to all
scott david morgan

Sunday, March 3, 2013

For the Twitter Skeptics

I’ve been on Twitter since 2009, and from the start have been frequently questioned skeptically about its relevance to my business. I was skeptical too, for about three days when I started myself. I left the initial set up of my account and the first few tweets to my assistant. She found designers and followed about twenty of them. After a few days I think we had about double that number following me and that meant sudden exposure to forty or so designers I did not already know. With no marketing expense I had accomplished a great first step in spreading the word about my products and services to new contacts all over the Country.

I have always looked at tools as just that – a device that can help you. Granted, there are only so many ways to use a shovel, but there are many more ways to use Twitter, and I’m sure that I don’t know many of them. At High Point in 2010 I had a Twitter based contest called “Tweet for a Table.” The Market Authority Director came and helped kick off the contest. We had people tweeting from all over the Country their entries and introduced many new people to Twitter through the live stream of tweets we had in our showroom. 

In subsequent shows we did a few “tweet ups” including one with twitter cupcakes for the attendees. Artisan North Carolina home made cupcakes with the Twitter bird on a branch.

So far, having an all - Twitter crew of suppliers (@meredithheron and @ziapriven) a designer (@carisamarie11) and the central furniture maker (@johnstrauss) has built up a great deal of interest in our upcoming April High Point Market show. (Suites at Market Square, Salon G-7013)  I have been amazed and delighted by the conversation so far. I look forward to it continuing in North Carolina, meeting many new people I have encountered so far only online, and seeing familiar faces that I have had the pleasure of meeting face to face already.

Through Twitter, I have met @KathyIreland and one day may work with her, have established a relationship with @TLSByDesign as an upholstery house, have met new clients with real paying jobs, and have quoted for and have consulted with many others. This is one virtual community that has crossed over and become a real part of my world. Still skeptical? 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Amish Country

parallel parking
Part of the pleasure of being located in North East Ohio, is being adjacent to the Amish Community nearby. My business has developed a need to visit this area at least once a week and the landscape is always changing.

down a chairmaker's driveway
buggy for pleasure riding and commuting

workhorses do all the field work that a combine would

During the growing season, every week, different vegetables and fruits are available at roadside stands. During the Winter, occasional snows transform the landscape.
It has become a joy for me to discover something different every time I visit the region. I have also gotten to know several of the business people that I do business with and have shared my knowledge of Judaism with them while I have learned about their faith.

There are many different varieties of beliefs in the Amish, which is divided into different "orders". Each order is led by a lay person who has drawn a "lot" to become the local prayer leader. Most of the orders do not permit their faces to be photographed. So, I have focused on the lush landscape and also have documented many factories.

I plan on sharing some of the factory shots in my next post.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

April in High Point

I am excited about the many things that Twitter has brought into my life and business. One recent fortuitous turn of events has come about in relation to my next Market in High Point. I approached Carisa Bell, a Seattle designer who has not previously participated in High Point about the possibility of helping to design my showroom this market. She and I "met" on Twitter where she is @carisamarie11. I liked her design sense, her fresh take on urban decor and her interest in repurposing and recycled and "green" materials. It turns out that she also admired my furniture designs and thus a conversation was started. I was pleased to hear that she was not only willing to do the work but was enthusiastic about the project. In discussing needs we had for lighting and floor treatments, we first began to think about companies we knew, either in her business or that I had met in High Point. But, it occurred to us both that it made much more sense to approach people we knew on Twitter that have great products in those categories. That led us to very appreciative support from Zia Priven Lighting (@ziapriven) and also from Meredith Heron Design's (@meredithheron) new rug/hide line. High Point will be her debut. I am thrilled to be working with this group, and we will be featuring photos of the project as it comes together. Stay tuned and be sure to visit us in Salon, G-7013 in the Suites at Market Square building this Market.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Scott Morgan part 3

I'm sure I could keep going on about Scott for several long additional posts but I will try to keep this one concise and to the point, and the last in a series of 3 posts. Scott had battled an intestinal cancer for the first time soon after we met, seemed over it and then it returned right before the last October High Point Market. When the doctors told him the battle was over and it would be essentially a matter of months, he made two key decisions: 1) He wanted to have a big party in High Point while all of his friends in the industry were present in town and 2) afterwards, he wanted to travel to India to live out his days, weeks or months with Katy.

That is what we did with him in High Point and that is what he did after. He is now in Goa, India. Its a resort town in the South of the Country that attracts Germans, Russians, and assorted World travelers from all over. He met one of the sons of Bob Marley in a hotel there. Its warm (or hot) and he has medical care. Katy has been doing an amazing and heroic job of supporting him every step of the way.

myself, Louis Lara and Eric Bauer

At the party, Scott told jokes, gave out some of his favorite ties from his tie collection, ate some food, did pet tricks with the dogs and generally took in the glow of so many friends from over the years. Most have know Scott longer than I have. If you were there, and you know who you are, thanks for showing your support. If you have emailed, called or visited Scott while he is India, you have done a good thing. Keep him in your thoughts. He will always be in mine. If you read this, send him some love.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Scott Morgan Part 2

My previous post talked about how Scott and I met and got started on our business adventure in the furniture industry. I have only known Scott for about five or so years although it feels like we have been friends our whole lives. But I wanted to talk about a few other aspects of Scott's life and mind and character and interests here. One aspect of Scott's life has been a blossoming in the last few years of his watercolor paintings. I'm not sure when he started doing these, but they have really come on in numbers and artistic quality in the last two or three years. As mentioned previously, he is also a "jazz singer" of sorts.

One of the amazing aspects of visiting Scott in his home is that he has a most amazing collection of Chinese textiles and artifacts from his many visits over the years doing business in China. He became a connoisseur of Chinese crafts, history, and art. Scott took real pleasure in sharing his treasures with visitors, but only if he felt that he could trust the visitor and that the visitor would truly appreciate what was being shown. Trunks and drawers would be opened to pull out centuries old delicacies of sewing, embroidery and other skills. He also had like many collectors, tangential collections of items like carved  nuts and brass coins, and gold embroidery. He also had a couple of shaman necklaces. 

One evening after a day in the showroom at High Point, Doug Miller, Richard Hawk, Candra Squire and I and a few others gathered in Scott's living room and he started pulling items out of a trunk to show us. One of those items was the shaman's necklace. We stood in a circle and watched as first Rich was handling it. Scott said that this necklace has "some powerful mojo" and we all basically said "sure" cynically. A moment later, Rich started practically howling about what he was feeling. Now Rich is a great guy, but he does have a bit of the Southern California spirit in him so we all reacted rather skeptically to him as well. I asked for the necklace. I am not a believer in crystals, new age spirituality or ghosts. So I was ready for - nothing. Instead, this necklace which contained teeth, coins, crystals, hair, and other assorted trinkets pulsated with an electricity that traveled up and down my arm. I immediately gave it back. It was not necessarily a good feeling and seemed ominous, but there is no doubt that it did occur. This was just one of the items hiding, laying, waiting for the next opportunity for someone to discover it.

Another thing to know about Scott is that he loves ping pong. He bought an expensive German ping pong table and created a room down in his basement that is a bit of a ping pong shrine. Although an amateur ( I'm sure there are pros out there somewhere ) he is quite good. When it comes to competition, he turns it up a notch. I'm not bad, but in the dozens of games we played, I never beat him once. He has a paddle collection, so that anyone can come and play and select their favorite paddle and never use the lack of a comfortable paddle as an excuse if they were to lose. He also had a page of ping pong rules posted on the wall. He also owned a ping pong ball machine similar to a tennis feeding machine. This was not your High School party in the basement ping pong that I had grown up with. However, my tennis skills allowed me to keep the games close enough to be competitive. They were always great opportunities to talk about a range of topics. 

There is so much to talk about in relation to Scott. He loves his dogs Loulie and Hershey. Loulie 1 and her successor Loulie 2 were extremely well trained intelligent companions that transcended being pets. He supported Katy and her art making and business ventures. He did not suffer fools gladly. He loves art and collecting. He is not caught up in what other people think of him. He is a natural salesman. He knows the furniture industry inside and out, could look at a piece and understand how it was made (even though he is not a craftsman), would know how much it cost to make and would understand how it should be marketed. And he loves talking about it. He is critical of bad design, encouraging of his friends and good design and loves people that are smart and have something to offer. 

Last story in this post from an email that Scott sent out:
"of these beads, history.....
in  a park in new delhi. india.......
a man very old 80/90 years old, in orange comes up to me. scotto
no words, no reason.  takes off the beads, puts them around my neck, smiles walks on very slow into the park never to be seen by me again

these i have always had.

cherished kept safe and the day before our journey to Goa put on ...with original string.  by now very threadbare .when i put them on my neck string broke. i screamed.  oh no!
all the beads hit floor in High Point. NC. home
scattered. i picked them  up  put in a baggie and said maybe i will re string these in India in Goa  after we arrive.
then  I will give them to someone
same as was given to me." - SM

more to come in the next post....

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Scott Morgan

Scott Morgan

I first met Scott about five years ago when I was showing at my first Las Vegas Market show. His Sister Lindy stopped by my booth and after chatting for a little while, we started making connections. We were both from the same North Chicago suburb. Our Fathers were in the furniture business. We have a unique perspective on life that probably shows in our demeanor. She said, "You have to meet my Brother!" He came by and we talked for probably an hour and haven't stopped since. 

It turns out that our Fathers were not only in the business but did business with each other in Chicago. It also turns out that we had a immediate sense of bonding with each other. Scott had been a consultant in the industry as well as a salesman for his Family's Ello Furniture business before they sold it, and through his experiences, it seems that he practically knows everyone in the industry. We became friends and I got to know him through spending time with him and his partner Katy  Algeyer while in North Carolina at the High Point Markets. I stayed at his house. We played ping pong. Most importantly, he took me around the Market and introduced me to people in the Industry that he admired and had worked with. Together we came up with the concept of bringing back furniture manufacturing business to the US.
Many a dinner was spent discussing the plan, some of it at his favorite Thai restaurant in High Point, where he could get up from the table and sing some "scat" or spontaneous lyrics to the jazz music that was being played. Our conversations were timely, because even though at that point the Marketplace was not fully ready for the concept, manufacturers were open to considering it. They had been having issues of quality, shipping time, exchange rate uncertainty, etc and wanted a back up plan. Many of these companies were the same ones that Scott had taken to China on his many business visits there over the last 20 years. Now it was time to work on returning. 

Scott is always thinking of ideas. They seem to come to him in torrents. He had suggestion after suggestion for me. We talked constantly about this new venture. I had experience with working with the Amish community in Ohio through manufacture of my designs in their factories. I have learned a little about their culture and have met several great business people there, some very forward looking. We learned how this could benefit all of us. For the last two years, I have been devoting a great deal of time to developing this business plan. Scott has been there with me every step of the way. 

Scott is in India now. He is there to spend the remaining days of his too short life with Katy and several friends who have visited him there. Katy has created a blog about their adventure called going to goa . You can catch up with what is happening there. Goa, India is an international resort community in the South of India. 

 I will talk more about Scott in my next post.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Amish story of repairing the World

Ok - It has been two years, I see, since my last blog post. I am going to try to keep this a little more up to date with different kinds of thoughts. If I have a New Years resolution, which I generally never make, it will be to post regularly here.
I have spent a good part of the last two years meeting and getting to know Amish furniture makers nearby to my shop in Ohio. I have had many designs of mine and others produced in Amish factories. Today, to get the blog rolling again, I want to relay a story I heard yesterday that I hope will touch you as it did me.
 I met with an Amish business owner yesterday. He apologized for not getting back to me sooner on a business matter that I had discussed with him late last week. But he said he had been a little bit distracted by some of life's more important issues. He had just attended a funeral of a 33 year old mother of 6 children. She complained of a headache last Wednesday and died two days later. No one is sure what the cause was. It is a tragedy to leave behind a 4 month old, 2 and 4 year olds and three early or pre-teens.  Her whole family loves animals and her husband had mentioned a "dream barn" to this business owner. So the business owner made a decision. He pulled off a fundraiser of $50,000 in 48 hours and intends to have the "dream barn" built as an addition to his neighbor's existing barn within the next 30 days. In Judaism, the first 30 days after someone's passing are called sheloshim. They are recognized as a holy and private special time period of mourning. This is an amazing Amish turn of the same intense mourning period's treatment. However sad this woman's passing leaves you, there is an abundance of potential good in the World. Much of it is in Holmes County, Ohio.