Friday, June 28, 2013

Michael Bonne 2013

As you know, my collection of copper cookie cutters, specifically those hand-crafted by Michael Bonne for Martha Stewart and sold through her now defunct Martha by Mail catalog business, has been featured quite a bit here and on my Facebook Page.

The fact that I cherish my collection and enjoy using them to create little individual works of cookie-art to share with you, comes as no surprise, I’m sure. However, what may surprise you is that over the past few months I have had the pleasure of getting to know and work with Michael Bonne and his wife and partner in business, Teresa. 

American artist, Michael Bonne, has earned the title "world-renowned coppersmith" because his work is exceptionally unique and authentically American.  During their early years as antique collectors and dealers in Indiana, the Bonne’s developed an appreciation for cookie cutters from a bygone era.  Rustic and primitive cutters especially, captured Teresa’s attention because of their simplicity and charm. Disenchanted by contemporary designs and the rising prices of 19th century examples, Teresa asked Michael to make a few copper cutters for her kitchen. That was the “Aha!” moment for Michael as he recognized the value in creating cutters fashioned from  copper, combining both the time-honored tradition of American craftsmanship and the Bonne’s own unique design concepts.

So, Michael Bonne Coppersmith was launched in 1982, eventually and forever transforming the world of cookie cutters and garnering a strong following of loyal fans. As his passion and customer base grew, so did Michael’s creativity and expertise. A landmark event for Michael and Teresa was the 1988 acquisition of Cape Cod Copper Works, which ironically was the source of the copper trays and serving pieces used by Martha Stewart during her early years as a caterer in Westport, Connecticut. This development gave Michael Bonne Coppersmith another more contemporary copper line to complement what until then, had been mainly a vintage nineteenth century look. Little could anyone guess at the time, but it would eventually introduce this humble coppersmith from Indiana to America’s best-loved lifestyle expert. 

In the summer of 1996, Martha Stewart’s business empire expanded to include a mail-order business in her magazine that would later develop into Martha by Mail.  After a strong response to some Cape Cod cutters from her home that had been featured in an article of Martha Stewart Living, Martha took note. Very much wanting to feature copper cookie cutters in her mail-order line-up, she directed her creative team with locating a coppersmith in the tradition of Cape Cod Copper Works. To Martha's delight, she found that Michael and Teresa had acquired Cape Cod Copper Works and were producing copper cookie cutters too! It was a match made in heaven and later that fall the very first edition of Martha by Mail copper cookie cutters was born! 

First Generation Cutters

Several thousand sets of Star & Moon were delivered to customers just in time for Christmas. When demand exceeded supply, Michael Bonne and his team of elves literally worked around the clock with Martha footing the bill for overnight shipping to fulfill every order so that no one would be disappointed on Christmas morning. 

Following this initial success, collaboration between the Michael Bonne Coppersmith Shop and Martha by Mail continued, ultimately producing numerous innovative copper cookie cutter designs that enchanted the masses, which continue to remain highly collectible nearly two decades later.

Before the sad demise of Martha by Mail, the Michael Bonne Coppersmith Shop also made exclusive cookie cutters for other American companies such as Williams-Sonoma, Eddie Bauer, The Walt Disney Company and institutions like The Smithsonian and The Museum of American Folk Art.  Michael has even produced pieces for The White House!

In 2003, the Bonne’s sold their business and left Indiana to pursue other interests. They relocated their family to sunny Florida with no further plans to continue the Coppersmith Shop chapter of their lives. 

Although I had already amassed a large collection of Michael’s copper cookie cutters from the Martha by Mail line, I wondered about those who hadn’t.  This is precisely what my friend Janet and many other readers kept asking me as my blog began to incorporate Michael’s oeuvre.  We both felt Michael’s exit had created a void for those that missed out on collecting his work while it was still available and who still longed for new Michael Bonne cookie cutters. 

So Janet and I set out to find Michael Bonne and begin a dialogue with him. If you follow her blog, you may have noticed this post after Janet located the Bonne’s and Teresa parted with her personal Martha by Mail cat cutters in memory of Janet’s cat, Bing. 

When we caught up with Michael and Teresa they had begun to take note of increasing interest in vintage Coppersmith work. Teresa had been dealing in original Michael and Martha items for a few months and Michael was making a new cutter here and there. 

Janet and I were eager to encourage the husband & wife duo to begin creating new copper cookie cutters for a whole new generation of Michael Bonne fans.  As evidence of the current demand for his craft, we pointed to auction sites such as e-Bay where Michael’s vintage cutters continue to command astronomical prices and captivate collectors all over the world. Sadly, the most coveted of Michael's Martha by Mail cutters remain financially out of reach for most longing to create cookies with them and that’s why we needed Michael Bonne back! 

Janet and I have followed with extreme interest the Michael Bonne cookie cutter market and are constantly astounded by some of the prices his cutters end up selling for. However, what isn’t surprising is why collectors want to gather and cherish these copper cookie cutters from Michael and Teresa’s “Coppersmith” days. They are truly iconic American treasures meant to be used and passed down for the next generation to enjoy.

This brings me to something I'm very excited to share with you today.

Introducing Michael Bonne 2013!

Yes, the world of collectors and bakers are in for an exciting treat and, it begins now! 

Janet and I are delighted that Michael has agreed to return to creating copper works of art that are both functional and beautiful for use in our homes! We couldn’t be happier to bring this piece of news to all of you, because as you are well aware, we have been fans and collectors of Michael's work for more than two decades.

It also delights us to announce that every one of you will once again have the opportunity to create new traditions in your own home using a brand new era of Michael Bonne cookie cutter collectibles! 

Working from their Florida studio, the Bonne’s are introducing new and exciting designs as well as cutters that pay homage to vintage designs. This new generation of copper cutters will become instant heirlooms and have everyone baking artful and delectable cookies to share with family and friends.

With an Etsy Store and a Facebook Fan Page now in place, Michael is showcasing his new work that is available for purchase today. You'll want to keep checking back because Michael and Teresa launch new designs every few days! Furthermore, Michael also accepts requests from his fans to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Perhaps you have your child’s artwork that you wish to preserve forever in the form of a cookie cutter or sculpture.  Michael can do it for you!

You may contact Michael directly through Teresa, who not only does a lot of creative design work, but also manages the business side and keeps up their new Facebook page and Etsy store. The Bonne’s love to hear from collectors and their fans. Feel free to send them a message to welcome Michael back and to, of course, let him know which copper cookie cutters you want!

I also invite you to stay tuned to my blog and to Janet's blog for some exciting news about copper cookie cutters that Michael Bonne has created from our own personal designs which will soon be available exclusively through our blogs.
We hope you'll join us in welcoming Michael Bonne back and making his unique works of copper a part of our homes.  

Happy Baking & Collecting!
~ David  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Walking the Trails

It’s not often that I take my afternoon walks around the trails of our home with a camera, but I thought that today would be a good opportunity to photograph my walk for all of you.  We seem to be experiencing the full effects of summer right about now, with temperatures in the low 90s and the humidity inching toward the end of the scale here in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.  

For the first few minutes of my walk I kept having to wipe off the lens & screen of my camera because of condensation.  It’s not unheard of to have to deal with that when one goes from a dry, air-conditioned environment to one that is hot & humid.  You should have seen my sunglasses!  What’s one to do?

Depending on my mood or what part of the property I want to see first, I either walk in an easterly direction or towards the west & onto the meadow.  This time I chose east because it was the closest to the bottom of the driveway.  Keep in mind that we have access to 4 entrances to the miles of trails that surround our home.  Two are located along the driveway, one is located just behind the annex of the stone barn and one is situated directly behind the house.  The one behind the house is among my favorite walks, because it leads onto this tiny wooden bridge that I love to stand on.  It spans a stream that cuts through the back of the house, and is directly across from the 19th century [spring house].

Take a little stroll with me and have a glimpse of the landscape the way it is now here in Pennsylvania.  

Here I've already gone into one of the trails.  You can see how thick with vegetation several stretches of it can be.

Going down a steep hill, there is a small bridge which one must cross in order to get over the stream that goes through the woods.

I've already crossed the bridge and am looking back.  You can't really tell from this picture, but it's quite a trek to go up that trail.

 This particular area leads to the [spring house].  

Another bridge.  This one is small and the trail that connects from here goes up toward the back of our home.
The small spring house.  After all of these years, there is still a steady trickle of water from the spring inside the house.

Onward!  The last time I photographed the trails, everything was covered in a thick blanket of snow and the wind was howling.  What a difference two seasons make.

I think there should be another bridge here, but for now there are a few slippery rocks which must be used to cross the small stream.

A fallen tree was cut up into sections and removed from blocking the trail.  Every single year there are several trees that come down because of inclement weather.

Once I get through the clearing, I get to the two acre parcel which is being replanted with native trees. 

This is one of the casualties from Hurricane Sandy.  A majestic maple tree was cut in half during that storm, yet it continues to thrive.  

Just two years ago, these saplings were tiny things, but with a lot of patience and care, they too are thriving.  I can only imagine what this area is going to look like in five or ten years.

 Here I come onto the meadow.  I think perhaps this is my favorite area.

Looking toward the west, the tall specimen trees are green and lush.  Our friend Sean does a magnificent job of keeping the meadow in tip top shape.

This is looking toward the east.  The mown path that winds around the perimeter of the meadow is always a pleasant walk.  I usually take these walks when I need to gather my thoughts and figure out a problem or when I need a solution to a dilemma.  Everyone needs to have that go-to place.

I came across this young deer as I was heading back to the house.  He or she was having none of it.  The poor thing was clearly unhappy being photographed.

I hope all of you are having a good summer and are enjoying everything that comes with it.  Yes, even the sun & heat can be a good departure from the rumbling, lightning & thunder of those summertime storms that crop up here on the east coast. 

Expect a lot sweet things in the coming weeks here on Good Things by David.  I promise you, it’s going to be fun! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

An Unexpected Gift

Just the other day, for a few minutes, it felt as if I had gone back in time.  The mailman was coming down the driveway to deliver a package from a reader who said that there were some “good things” she wanted to send me.  After signing the slip and getting the box, my eyes immediately zeroed in on the Martha Stewart ~ Catalog for Living logo emblazoned on the side.   

The Box

Time warp circa 2001.  

I couldn’t get into the house fast enough to reach for a box cutter!  Well, when I opened the package I quickly realized that this was no ordinary shipment.  After getting through the bubble wrap and packing peanuts, I found 4 boxes that were carefully wrapped in light-green tissue paper, which, incidentally, was the exact tissue paper that every Martha by Mail order was shipped with.  

What were those boxes you ask?  Each contained a set of highly collectible Martha by Mail copper cookie cutters, all in their original boxes!  What you must understand is that the sender of the box, Aurelia, is starting a collection of these desirable copper cutters and is on her way to having just about all of them; she’s a determined collector.  These were ‘extras’ for her.  

You may recall that she shared with us the images of that wonderful little [Booklet] I wrote about last week.  To graciously be willing to send these 4 sets of cutters is  simply unimaginable!  I don’t think I can ever thank Aurelia enough for these gorgeous gifts.

I would like to share them with you.  Not only are they gorgeous sets of cookie cutters, they’re  also wonderful to have in the archives of Good Things by David.  In the future I will give each of these cutters their own separate entries, so do look for them.  If you're a collector then you will understand that they’re an important part of the Martha by Mail line. 

In the meantime, why don’t we take a look at what arrived at my doorstep this past Friday.

Even the boxes were carefully wrapped in that coveted tissue paper.

 The Martha by Mail Baby Shower Cutters and the Easter Marshmallow Cutters!  

These sets only come up for auction once in a great while.  I've already made up my mind as to how they will be used in the coming months.  

Egg Cookies!!  Although I've already written about these cutters, I did not actually possess them until this past Friday.  They've eluded me for years, but thanks to Aurelia, I now have a perfect set!

I'm obsessed with eggs and these beautiful cookie cutters are going to be treasured for years to come.

The Leaf Cutters are very special too.  I can't wait to use these this fall to create gorgeous cookies for my family.

These are the cutters nestled in the original box with shredded paper.  Gorgeous!

Again, THANK YOU Aurelia!!  

You have made a collector of Martha by Mail a very happy person!!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Ultimate Chipwich

I'm making these over the weekend, so I thought I'd repost my ultimate chipwich.  Make some!

Chipwiches are just the thing to serve for dessert when you're having a barbecue on any given summertime weekend.  Such a simple thing to make for the busy host, all one needs to assemble these treats is a batch of the best chocolate chip cookies and some of your favorite vanilla ice cream.   You can certainly try different ice creams like chocolate, mint-chocolate chip, cherry, soy, yogurt or any of the varieties your family & friends like.  What I would suggest is baking some chocolate chip cookies the day before your barbecue (they have to be homemade!) and then simply putting the sandwiches together the morning of your feast.  Leave a tray of them in the freezer and watch as they disappear the moment you serve them.  Take a peek at how quickly these can be put together.

The Ultimate Chipwich

This is all you need to make the most delectable chipwiches.  Of the utmost importance is using high quality ice cream and having a batch of my Best Chocolate Chip Cookies at the ready.  Flip one of the cookies upside down and place a generous scoop of ice cream in the center of it (I love vanilla!).  Top with another cookie and press down until the ice cream reaches the edges.  Immediately place it on a rimmed cookie sheet and pop it in the freezer.  Make as many chipwiches as you wish, but make sure you freeze them until completely set before serving them.  This should take about one hour.

Note: these can be assembled several hours ahead of time or the day before.  Cover the cookie sheet well with a double layer of plastic wrap to prevent any freezer burn. 

You can serve them plain (first picture) or you can enhance them with sprinkles, non-pareils or even mini chocolate chips.  Remove the chipwiches from the freezer and quickly roll the edges in your preferred 'sprinkle'.  Serve immediately! 

Deliciously enhanced!

Well, there you have it.  Chipwiches that are loved by kids of all ages are quick to make, delicious to eat and the perfect thing to serve to a crowd of hungry guests at your next get together.  To my mind, these are best served the day they're assembled, but they can be made a day ahead of time as long as they're well wrapped in the freezer.  My chocolate chip cookies are the easiest thing in the world to make, so do make lots.  Aren't you tempted to enjoy a chipwich this weekend?  Have fun making them!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Martha Stewart Living ~ Decorating Cookies: The Best Techniques

A very kind reader recently contacted me after seeing the post I did on the little Martha by Mail Cookie Collection Catalog, because she wanted to share with me another little gem that was published by Martha Stewart many years ago.  You can imagine how intrigued I was to get a glimpse of this booklet, so I asked her to send me images in order to share them here.  

Thanks to Aurelia, we know have another wonderful set of images to put into the archives of Good Things by David.  The text & images below were published by Martha Stewart Living magazine in its very early years and were used in this informative how-to booklet on Decorating Cookies.  Techniques, tips, recipes and suggestions gave readers in the early 90s new ways to make unique cookies any time of the year.

The layout, font & pictures are very much like the early years of Martha’s magazine.  It’s so wonderful that collectors such as Aurelia, have kept these treasured publications intact, because they are indeed collectors items.  I consider them just as important as any item from the catalog.  Whenever original text material is included with a Martha by Mail item, the value of it goes up.  

I hope you find this booklet as inspirational and imaginative as I do.  Being someone who bakes just about every single day, I’m always looking for new & fresh ideas, but I do like to go back to the classics to glean as much as I can.  This booklet is classic Martha Stewart.  Learn from it.  

To past, present & future collectors!

The Best of Martha Stewart Living

"Decorating cookies, according to an eight year old friend of ours, "is almost as much fun as eating them."  We couldn't agree more, especially during the holiday season, when we can create cookies as fanciful as ornaments.  In this little book, we share the cookie decorating techniques that have served us well.  It's a holiday gift from us to you." ~ Martha Stewart

Table of Contents

Icing cookies with royal icing the easy way.

Martha was known for using the "sponging" technique on her iced cookies.  The idea was first seen in her book, Entertaining.  It's basically taking a natural sea sponge and dipping it in royal icing.  You then apply it on top of an iced cookie in a random pattern.  It is left to dry.

Piping royal icing onto cookies gives more precision and control.  These were the techniques we all came to learn.

Another simple technique is outlining cookies in melted chocolate.  These fall leaves are scrumptious as is.

This giant star came way before the iconic Martha by Mail Moon & Star cookie cutters.  Marbleizing the royal icing is another fun way to create unique cookies.  

This is one technique I've not seen in a long time.  Drizzling baked cookies with caramel creates a glossy surface.  Nothing is easier than this.

OK, this is just as easy.  Applying a stencil to a baked cookie and then flocking it in powdered sugar creates a fleeting image that only lasts for about one day.

Stenciling Technique

A royal icing recipe.

A sugar cookie recipe from Entertaining.

Chocolate Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

The Back Cover.

A big Thank You to Aurelia for being kind enough to share these images with us.