Rising Feather | Journal
The online home of artist Mike Powell
mike powell, lacrosse, woodworking, rising feather, framework, frames
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Soy Good

Like I’ve said many times before my favorite part of this brand is the ability to explore new mediums and new ways to be creative. Candle making certainly isn’t a new art form or an unpopular one among small market crafters but it was new to me and something that I wanted to get into because I love good candles. So I decided a while ago to just go for it and I’m finally ready to release one. A close friend of mine has a saying “If you don’t do it, somebody else will.”
 
Last winter I built a grow house so I could jump start my early spring vegetables, wheatgrass trays, sunflower sprouts and herbs. I love juicing so having an endless supply of microgreens year round is awesome. One of the seeds I started was Silver Dollar Eucalyptus. I love eucalyptus, it makes me feel refreshed and invigorated. I had read somewhere that hanging eucalyptus in the shower will create a healthy steam effect. I didn’t have great luck with it. So I ended up with 50+ eucalyptus plants and not a clue what to do with them. So I gave a few away, potted a couple, dried some and turned the rest into oil. Well I had no idea what to do with the oil, until now. Introducing the very first scent added to our brand new scented soy candle line – Lavender + Eucalyptus.
 
It’s a very clean and refreshing scent. It’s not overbearing or musky – just healthy and fresh. I felt like a fragrance like this is a great fresh start to the candle line. It smells classic and also universal, it could work in any room in the house. I’m really pumped up on this new candle making adventure so I am warning you in advance that there’s going to be a barrage of new scents added to the Rising Feather scented soy candle line over the next few months.

 

The Seasons

“I could never live in California, I would miss the seasons.” This is a statement that I’ve heard all of my life and until I spent a year on an island in Florida I guess I didn’t really understand it. I choose to live in Northern New York for many different reasons, the weather definitely being one of them. Let me explain.
 
Don’t get me wrong here, I absolutely loved waking up on a beautiful white sand beach with a warm breeze pushing the sea scent off the Gulf of Mexico, but after 365 days of that same morning it started to lose it’s novelty a bit. Throughout that year, we would occasionally make the trip north to see family around the holidays and it was incredible to drive up the coast and watch the landscape change before our eyes. The greens get greener and the hills get higher. It was invigorating to experience and that simple change in surroundings is what prompted me to move back to NY. I officially missed the seasons!
 
With a personality like mine, I need change. I need that feeling like I’m going somewhere, like I have to bottle the moment because I may never see it again. It’s that feeling of constant evolution that oddly enough allows me to slow down and embrace the now. This struck me hard this morning because we woke up to our first significant snowfall (at least enough to stick anyways) and it felt so great to tread through fresh powder to get to the studio wood stove. It was new, it was fresh and it got me thinking as I sat there at 5:30 on a quiet and still morning with fluffy snowflakes falling silently outside the window.
 
I believe the reason why my mood changes so much as the seasons come and go is because of the memories that I have associated with them. When I think of snow the first image I have is my Father in a fur hat snow blowing our backyard in a circle, creating a huge mound of snow so that my sister, brothers and I could play king of the mountain. I think of hot cocoa, I think of ice fishing, I think of wood fires, I think of snowboarding, I think of wool, I think of hearty dinners and smooth red wine, I think of afghans, and good books.
 
The next thing I thought about was how much the weather impacts the activities I do. “The changin’ of the seasons, brings a reason for changin’.” This is a lyric from my song Best Days off my last solo record Tied To The Rail. There are so many things that I love to do in the winter time and when the snow flies those activities come back into my mind and I get really excited.
 
So as I write to you from a fairly warm studio (its getting there) I encourage all of us Northern New Yorkers to not look at winter like we’re going into the abyss and instead be grateful for the change and the fresh future ahead. Get excited and get outside.
 
Nicole and I love to winter hike.  We let our trusty farm dog Judo lead us through the winter wonderland with our Jet Boil camping stove, white chicken chilli and some hot cocoa. We look for a comfortable spot to just sit, relax, talk and enjoy each others company while the skies shimmer from the falling snow and the trees creak like they do only in the winter.

Keep The Connection

Most of my younger years were spent running from people who were trying to hit me with six foot metal sticks. Sounds a bit crazy, but I loved it and it was in those moments when I felt most relaxed and comfortable. I started playing lacrosse in our backyard when I was five years old because my older brothers were into it. I really liked the sport because of the fast action and the unique skill set required to handle a stick but once I learned the history of the game it turned into my obsession. 

 

As most people know lacrosse is a Native American sport and is the oldest game in North America.  Bottomline, there’s no sport with a backbone like lacrosse – not even close. To this day most players still string their own sticks. I can’t think of another team sport where the athlete makes his/her own equipment? That’s really cool to me – it’s an incredibly creative, expressive and artistic sport. 

 

My first ten years out of college I worked in the lacrosse industry designing, manufacturing and marketing sticks.  There’s a trade show every year where thousands of lacrosse fans, players, coaches, referees and enthusiasts take over a convention center. It’s a date on the calendar that all equipment manufacturers mark as an opportunity to roll out their latest and greatest. Many of the biggest innovations in the modern game have released on that weekend. However, every year that I’ve gone there is one booth that gets way more attention than all the others and it makes me extremely happy.  There’s no fancy signage surrounding this booth, no loud music, no half naked girls handing out flyers and no flat screen TV’s. It’s just one man, with a draw shave and his feet covered in hickory shavings. That man is Alfie Jacques.

 

I’ve been lucky to get to know Alfie over the years and have attended his workshops where he talks about stick making and the Onondaga game. I have many times called him the most important man in lacrosse. The modern style of lacrosse that most people know is closely related to the Iroquois game and the Iroquois stick in particular.  I am fascinated by the traditional Iroquois lacrosse stick and I’m certainly not alone. There are collectors from all over the world gobbling up every stick that becomes available. Younger stick makers like Jack Johnson are carrying on the tradition and producing some incredible sticks.

 

Two years ago I helped my Brother Ryan launch his brand, Powell Lacrosse, and we really focused on supporting the culture and the history because we knew that it was those two elements that made the sport special and needed to be preserved. (I wrote a story about stick making for them that you can check out here) While I was working for Powell Lacrosse I also released several rounds of wooden shafts that I made in my studio and I had a lot of fun doing it. So after a bunch of players have reached out to me about the wooden shafts I figured why not make more and include them here as part of my new venture with Rising Feather.

 

Wooden lacrosse shafts are a really great gift for lacrosse players of all ages. We always had them in our backyard when we were growing up and it made us feel more connected to the history of the sport. Whether you’re looking for a wall hanger or a backyard handle Rising Feather shafts are made of select hickory and are finished completely by hand.

Just like my art amps, it’s always fun when I get to combine a few of my passions into one project.

 

CLICK HERE TO SHOP NOW

 

*Be sure to check out my Brother’s brand www.powelllacrosse.com for all of your lacrosse equipment and apparel needs.

The Lightkeeper

There are people that walk around this planet, enter your life and change you forever. Tim Hughes was one of those people. I met Tim through my brother Ryan. I will never forget the first time I met him because when I extended my hand to introduce myself he pushed it out of the way and gave me a giant bear hug that picked me up off my feet.
 
When I moved back to Cazenovia New York after spending four years in Denver Timmy reached out to me immediately and said, “Pearlman” (which he always called me) “welcome to the neighborhood, if you need anything let me know and stop over if you want to go wakeboarding.” And so I did and over the next couple years Timmy and I hung out quite a bit. He helped me work on my house and we even started a wakeboarding team that was open to the public. We made tee shirts, invited everyone in central New York to join and even went on a morning news show to pitch the idea publicly…it was hilarious. We laughed so hard.
 
I got to witness him follow one of his many passions and start a company that has become a staple in our community and beyond. If you haven’t heard of Cazenovia Cutblock you need to check it out immediately. Cazenovia Cutblock is a company that makes beautiful stuff and does it the right way. Timmy built such a strong foundation that his brand continues to produce some of the greatest handmade products in the area with pure love and passion. You can feel Timmy’s love in their pieces. Their showroom is located on Albany Street in downtown Cazenovia.
 
Timmy was one of those people that could just do anything. If he couldn’t, he would tell you he could and then figure it out. I admired that mentality so much. Every time I talked to Tim he was super excited about something, so excited in fact that it would get me excited. It could be 7:30 in the morning and he would call me about something that I wasn’t that interested in like putting a stereo system in a car and the next thing I know by 8:30 we’re sitting in his truck pumping tunes through gigantic subwoofers, laughing and loving every minute of it. So when he told me he was starting a woodworking company I knew right then that it was going to become something special because when Tim Hughes put his heart into something, it was special.
 
Timmy’s way of living was infectious with a smile that would fill a room and laugh that would drop you to your knees. Although he is no longer with us in the physical form his lessons live on within so many people in this community. There isn’t a day that goes by when I go out into my studio that I don’t think about Timmy and how much I miss him. When I get stuck with a woodworking question and need to figure something out he is still the first person I think of reaching out to.
 
I wanted to say thank you to Tim for being an inspirational example for all of us and reminding us to follow our passion, lead with our heart and embrace all that life has to offer. Oh yeah…AND LAUGH! In many ways you were like a light keeper Tim, you could always find the great.
 
Thank you buddy,

Pearlman

Gettin’ Jiggy With it

I have to admit, it’s been a really nice change of pace for me from making dining room tables and bedroom sets to brew boxes, coasters, soap, candles, etc… Don’t get me wrong, I love building tables and chairs, its where I’m most comfortable and confident but these smaller items have been so fun to think about and produce.  They’re projects that come together faster (aside from the curing time of soap) so I can explore more ideas/mediums and feed the creative fire. However, making smaller and lower price point items also has its unique challenges – like shop flow & mass production.
 
Obviously with smaller items (like soap dishes) it doesn’t make sense to make them one at a time. I learned quickly that it’s much more economical and much better use of my time to focus on the process so that I can turn out more items and maximize hours spent in the studio. This way of thinking forces you to analyze how you’re doing things and in the end its actually quite therapeutic once you’re in the groove. Another fun part about it is I get to build jigs and templates for my projects.
 
Jig – A jig is a type of custom-made tool used to control the location and/or motion of parts or other tools.
 
Building furniture and home accents is certainly rewarding but when you make your own tools to make your furniture it’s an even higher level of satisfaction. From my experience in the custom furniture world I never made anything more than once. My furniture has always been one off and never to be made again. I just think it and build it. No plans, no drawings, just go. I’ve built mallets, planes, knives, draw shaving horses, paint booths, steam boxes, clamp forms, etc… But I’ve never really built a jig geared towards producing multiple units. As Rising Feather grows and shifts into an e-commerce and market brand I’ve learn to love building great jigs that help make the process more streamlined. Almost every night when my head hits the pillow an idea for an improvement to the process shows up and I’m back in the studio building jigs and templates.
 
Long story short, as you can tell I am having so much fun learning and making things. I really appreciate everyones support of this brand and your business. I thank you for the opportunity to do what I love.
 

Coffee & Coasters

Up there on my list of favorite things in the world would definitely be that beautiful bean of inspiration known as coffee. When I was living down in Siesta Key we had a Keurig in the house and I’ve gotta say that it was a nice machine. It was convenient, easy and made a decent cup of coffee. I felt like it was expensive though and storing the K-Cups was a little obnoxious, especially when you drink as much coffee as I do. So once we moved back to New York and our daughter was born I researched other methods of coffee making because I wanted a change.

 

I researched and tested french press, percolators and pour over methods. After a few weeks of field testing I ended up deciding on an eight cup Chemex Coffeemaker. First off, it made a great cup of joe.  The Chemex was first introduced in 1941 as a manual pour over style of coffee making so it has been around a long while and has withstood the test of time.  If you haven’t noticed by now, little things matter to me. I love to explore and celebrate the subtle details of making things and the Chemex really supported that and opened me up to tasting coffee differently. Its easy to be disconnected from something as common as coffee. You can get a cup at every gas station in the world and you hardly ever think about where it comes from or how it was made. (I have to admit that I actually like that dark, oily gas station coffee sometimes)

 

Sure the Chemex takes much longer than a Keurig, or even a traditional coffee maker for that matter, but sometimes it’s really nice to slow down and just focus on making a great cup of coffee instead of a fast one. Coffee making for me has taken on almost a ceremonial vibe in our house which is really nice, we really look forward to it. I use unbleached filters and my current favorite bean is Rainforest Crunch by Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters located in Victor, NY. It has a nutty granola taste that creates a super smooth and earthy experience (and it smells amazing when you grind the beans!)

 

Each morning I wake up with Nicole and Kennedy fill a cup of coffee and sit at our kitchen island. Usually within 5 minutes of my first sip the ideas and inspirations start triggering. I just installed new black walnut kitchen countertops so I am very cautious on what I set on them. Of course I used a durable finish but at the end of the day they are still wood countertops so they will show some wear over time. However, I would like to prolong that process so I am careful as to how I treat them and usually my hot coffee cup ends up resting beside me on a book, which definitely provides protection from the heat ring mark but it’s a bit over the top and not that sleek.

 

So a few weeks ago, the Rainforest Crunch hit me and I went straight out to the studio to build some coasters for our house. Most of the things that I sell are ideas that I make for us first, that way we can test them a bit and fill our home with cool handmade stuff. I looked around at what other brands are doing for coasters and there are just endless options and some incredibly cool ones out there. I wanted Rising Feather coasters to be functional, heavy duty and stylish. I made them a little beefier than the traditional coaster because I was thinking I could set my Chemex on one. I also cook with cast iron so I could use it as a serving hot plate.

 

I chamfered the top edge to give it a cleaner line and also makes stacking them cool. The hero though for me is definitely the dark cork board center. I like standard cork board but this dark stuff is just classic looking and looks great with black walnut. Design wise I love balancing on the line between rustic cottage and modern loft – I feel like the Chamfered Coaster does this very well.

 

Well, I’m off to fill up my cup and let the next idea take me away. 

 

Don’t Buy This

My Grandpa Powell was a tough man.  Although he passed many years ago while I was still young, stories about him continue to be told with great passion and have certainly become family folklore. A blue collar Polish man with the strength to move a train and a work ethic that would make you tired to watch.  Every time I take a ride in the truck or cut wood with my Dad something triggers his memory and he will share a story about interesting things his Father would do. I was too young when he died to build solid rapport so in many ways my relationship with him lives inside these stories and the few photographs we have around the house (like this one).
 
If you need something, make it. This is a very simple phrase that comes to mind when I think of him and one that I live by. Back in his time while raising 7 kids in a small northern New York mill town, DIY wasn’t a choice it was a necessity. I’m in love this way of thinking because it’s liberating to know that you don’t need to depend on anyone other than yourself to create the life you want. Sure he didn’t know everything, no one does, but he was fearless and not afraid to roll up his sleeves and figure it out.
 
A few weeks after he passed, I rode over to his house with my Dad to help clean out his workshop. One thing that struck me was the sight of all of the toolboxes he had built lined up on his workbench.  Each one designed a bit different according to the function and often times made out of scrap wood because he was also extremely resourceful.  This vision has stuck with me and finally resurfaced many years later after I started brewing my own beer.
 
I brewed my first batch of beer 7 years ago. I wanted a carrier that I could bring to my friends holiday party that looked tough and was heavy duty. I had seen beer caddy’s in big box stores like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx but they were too thin and – if I need something, I make it.  So I thought back to those tool boxes my Grandfather had built and came up with a design that both fit the function and was built tough. I wrote the name of my first brew batch “Highbridge” on the chalkboard end I painted. Long story short, my friends thought it was really cool so I made them each one and gifted it to them the following year. Fast forward 7 years and the Carpenter’s Brew Box is the most popular item sold on this website and still to this day every time my friends get together there is a line of Carpenter’s Brew Boxes on the kitchen island with clever stuff written on the ends.
 
Although I earn my living off of making things and selling them I encourage you not to buy this and instead make your own. Roll up your sleeves like my Grandpa Powell and I promise you will find great satisfaction and pride in your work. If you want something, make it.

I’m a Lyer

It’s a very exciting time here in the Rising Feather Studio. As we gear up for the 2018 market season our imaginations are just running wild with ideas. This is a really fun time to brainstorm, experiment, create and build inventory.  Our business is shifting with the addition of our custom printing and framing offerings as well as the introduction of some bigger furniture pieces to the line.
 
When the weather dips below freezing like it has here in upstate NY, there’s nothing more relaxing than filling a coffee cup and sitting in front of a woodstove. Easily my favorite part of this brand is that it allows me to explore different crafts and mediums which in turn help me learn more about life and become more connected. Like soap for example. I’ve used it all of my life and never knew anything about it.  I’m curious by nature and I’ve found that when you learn how things are made you gain a whole new appreciation for the product and the art of making it.  Well, I got curious the other day and I’ve seen so many soapmakers at markets in previous years so I wanted to give it a shot so I could give a few bars away to my friends and family over the holidays.
 
My friend Daniel Stessen in Los Angeles gave me a bar of soap a few years back that was cedarwood scented and came in a cool wood grain box with a small gold hatchet embossed on the front. The soap smelled so good that I didn’t use it for a few years, it just sat in the bathroom and filled the air better than most freshners. I wanted to try a soap recipe that was easy,  high lather and smelled great. There’s a spa in Skaneateles that Nicole and I go to whenever we get the chance and in every room there’s this blend of eucalyptus, lavender and rosemary that just makes me feel incredibly at ease, healthy and refreshed. I wanted my soap to make people feel like that.
 
So I knew what I wanted to accomplish, now all I had to do was learn how to make it. I picked up a few books on soapmaking and dove right in. Have you ever used lye? I never had and to be honest I had no idea what it was at all. However its in 98% of soap in the world.  Lye is chemical most commonly used as a drain opener!  What? You put drain opener in a skin care product?  I guess so. I made my recipe card and headed out to get my materials.
 
When I got back home and all settled in I laid down a blanket on my work bench and started to make my first batch of soap. In the book I used for reference there’s an entire chapter dedicated to the “Dangers of Lye”. They said that it’ll eat right through any organic material and when it’s combined with water it becomes caustic.  I didn’t know this either but after talking with my Italian friend John he claims that mobsters would use lye to get rid of bodies. I have no problem running any form of power tool, playing with electricity or welding but there was something about being around this chemical Lye that I did not like at all. I told another friend that I was making soap and he sent me a video of someone putting lye on a piece of raw chicken…it ate right through the whole piece of chicken!
 
Well, I faced my fear, went for it and made the soap. It smelled incredible, traced perfectly, soaponified and filled the mold I made just right (lots of math involved in soapmaking – which was interesting).  I had one small moment where a tiny bit of my mixture flung off my mixer so I was terrified that it had got me. Well, thats all I needed to ruin my night. I’m a bit of a hyprochondriac, I get it from my mother, so I couldn’t sleep at all that night because I had phantom lye burns all over my body.
 
I hope all of my friends and family like the soap I made them – I lost sleep over it.
 

*Important to note that you should be careful setting this soap next to a cheese plate at your next party. I used red palm oil which created this rich cheddar cheese tone.

 

High Lather Eucalyptus Soap 

Lye – 7.34 oz
Water – 16.50 oz
Castor Oil – 2 oz
Coconut Oil – 16 oz
Olive Oil – 16 oz
Palm Oil – 16 oz.
Fragrance (Eucalyptus + Northern Pine) – 3.35 oz