My mother used to make a lot of things by hand, including our clothes. She did this mainly because they couldn’t afford store-bought, or stores didn’t sell what she needed. These days, handmade may cost more. However, handmade is also worth more, because it comes from the heart instead of an assembly line.
Meb Boden crafting a wooden spoon. The motto of Meb’s Kitchenwares is “from our hands to yours.” Photo by Tom Vaiciulis.
"In 1765 everything a man owned was made more valuable by the fact that he had made it himself or knew exactly from where it had come. This is not so remarkable as it sounds; it is less strange that the eighteenth-century man should have a richer and keener enjoyment of life through knowledge than that the twentieth-century man should lead an arid and empty existence in the midst of wealth and extraordinary material benefits."
- from A Reverence for Wood, by Eric Sloane. (Sloane lived from 1905-1985. He is buried at the Sloane Stanley Museum in Kent, CT.)
Woodworker Meb Boden shared this Sloane quote with me. She and her husband Tom Vaiciulis are the hands behind Meb’s Kitchenwares. Several years ago, I had read a newspaper article about Meb donating a kidney to a friend in need. (I can barely bring myself to share an ice cream cone with my own husband!) I had also bought one of their spoons at the Roseland Cottage Arts & Crafts Festival. Through a mutual friend, I later connected with Meb to provide some technical support on their website.
Meb and Tom work together to handcraft unique hardwood utensils, vessels, cutting boards and serving trays in their workshop in Woodstock, CT. They enjoy the rural lifestyle and tight-knit community of craftspeople in the Quiet Corner. They love making freeform, yet functional pieces. Each tries to discover the magic inside the wood, and bring it to life.
“In the workshop as at home, we exploit our ‘in sync’ brains and fingers,” says Meb. “We handpick each board, and then debate how best to use its grain and figure. We leave bits for each other to play with. We finish each other’s work. The result is a collaborative dance, with surprises along the way.”
“Our goal is to make cooking and entertaining a visual and tactile pleasure. We imagine unknown hands enjoying the sensuous shapes, smooth textures, and luscious wood grains.” The top grade material they use to make their wares comes from Connecticut Wood Group, a local supplier who buys only from foresters employing sustainable harvesting methods.
Meb and Tom are committed to a low-impact, solar-powered lifestyle. Their small cottage on 21 wooded acres is decorated with furniture and stained glass windows that are all of their own making. They are organic gardeners, harvesting their own food as well as building materials from the land as much as possible. They provide a real-life example that “green living” can be good living.
“Though we live simply, when we’re at craft shows we enjoy luxuries that most take for granted—hotels with hot running water, central heating and wearing un-dusty clothes. But when we come home, we are grateful for chainsaws and sunsets, the bounty of our gardens, the creativity of the workshop, and the snug beauty of our tiny nest.“
You can visit Meb and Tom’s workshop at 135 Bradford Corner Road (behind the brick house) in Woodstock Valley. Call first, as they have no schedule. See more photos of their handiwork at www.mebskitchenwares.com. Their homemade salad tongs are featured in the Orvis catalog this year.