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Black Canyon Restorations

September 19, 2011

Have you given up on a Monday post? I’m a little bleary eyed having flown back from Salt Lake City on the red eye last night. (More on my surprise trip later in the week!)

But I didn’t want the day to end without introducing you to Scott and Ann Lundquist of Black Canyon Restorations. Scott and Ann were recommended to me by my roving West Coast correspondent who spotted them at a local arts festival. They build beautiful pieces using salvaged materials, like vintage ceiling tins or old doors. Their work is absolutely charming… as are the couple behind the business. I especially enjoyed their perspective on working with a significant other.

Welcome Scott and Ann!

About 11 years ago, Scott left the corporate world and Black Canyon Restorations was born. How the business get started?

Scott: Originally, when I left the corporate world to start my restoration business eleven years ago, I specialized in vintage player pianos and pump organs. I would also restore a variety of antique furniture for private collections, museums and antique dealers. It was one of these dealers that asked me one day to make a couple of shelves out of old corbels salvaged from a local historic home. The project was really freeing, because it was taking something that was originally designed for a specific purpose, and turning it into a piece of functional art that could be used in a different way. The shelves were a hit, and sold in her shop almost as soon as they were displayed.  The hunt was on for other vintage architectural items that could be incorporated into something “new” and unique.

It was shortly after building the corbel shelves, that I discovered vintage ceiling tin panels. These pressed metal panels come in a variety of patterns and various sizes, from old banks, bars, hotels, doctor’s offices etc. of the late 1800 to early 1900’s. My first use of the vintage tin was on a coat/ hat rack, using a combination of parts from a vintage door, old lumber, door knobs and a section of ceiling tin as the accent. The hat rack was purchased by my neighbor, and was the beginning of what would develop into Black Canyon Restorations.

Wall rack made with vintage tins

How did your hobbies (craft, design, photography and antiques, among others) help to shape your vision and are now applied to the business?

Scott: Doing restoration work taught me how to use wood working tools, and the process of how to correctly restore, assemble and finish the projects. Working in the corporate world, taught me a variety of business skills and the importance of managing time. Our vision is to take a variety of different materials i.e. vintage ceiling tin, old lumber, tin, glass, tile, vintage hardware and other metals and combine these in such a way to make a new piece of art that is not only unique, but functional and contemporary. The artwork that we make now, pulls from our experiences in the past, and is a constantly changing process of creativity and design.

Ann: As a kid I loved playing with Lego’s, Tinker Toys, blocks…anything that I could build and create things with. Growing up on a farm gave me the love of the outdoors and travel.  While in college, I took a variety of art courses.  Photography taught me how to “see” everyday items, landscapes, buildings etc. in a different way. In art history I learned about the various styles of art & architecture that have developed throughout time, and how these styles have become the basis for the look of our present day world.  Combining everything that I have seen, learned, experienced and felt is what I bring to the studio and BCR.

What is your creative process?

Scott: The creative process begins when either one of us comes up with an idea based on some item we have found in the past. It could be an old window frame or door, an old piano accent piece, or parts from a car or stove. All these items go into our stock pile, even though we may not know exactly how they will be ultimately used on a piece of artwork. We also do research by reading home décor magazines while looking for new concepts and colors styles. We find inspiration from other artist’s works and get ideas from our clients to develop new adaptations to our existing product lines.

Ann: Creatively, we both share in the process. Scott is the visionary. Scott may have an initial idea for a table, cabinet, bench etc. We brain storm with that idea, while striving to make the piece functional and unique. With Scott’s know-how and skills in woodworking, he understands the production and building process and all that it entails. I see the piece as a finished product. If the piece is a cabinet, what can we add to it to make it special, funky, whimsical? What will the color scheme be, after all the special accents are finally added? Often, the initial idea we start out with turns into a completely different final product.

Bench covered with Linoleum

What are the best and worst parts of working with your significant other? How do you balance work and life?

Scott: The best part of owing a business is that I get to work with the woman I love, my best friend, and my opposite. Each of us brings something different to the business and our relationship. The worst part is that it is all consuming. Our business is our life. We eat, sleep and work Black Canyon Restorations. Balancing work and our personal lives is difficult. But the rewards of owning your own business with your spouse far outnumber the difficulties.

Ann: The best part of working together is sharing the design process. We make a good team because of our strengths and weaknesses complement each other. Scott is the designer and builder; I am the detail and color person. Together we work off of each other’s ideas to come up with what we feel is a great product that is unique, functional and contemporary. Plus, being your own boss, means you can set your own work and time schedule. If we need to purchase wood, supplies, or paint etc., we can go into town at any time. We don’t have to wait for the weekend or go after 5pm.

There are a couple of down sides to owning your own business and working together. First, we are the company.  Where big business can hire staff for all the various jobs that need to be completed, there is only the two of us to get everything done.  Together we become the secretary, bookkeeper, marketing team, production, distribution and sales staff.  Second, being together 24/7 can be very trying.  It’s really important to make time for yourself away from the business and your partner to regroup and recharge.  For me it is reading a book, going for a bike ride, taking photographs, or just spending time with our four cats (the quality control inspectors).

Custom chalkboards with vintage fruit label

Can you tell me more about the art festivals you attend?

Scott: The art festival circuit is just like having an extended family. Most artists are very creative, fun, and fascinating individuals. Just like us, they are working hard to make a living, doing what they love to do. Friendships develop, and a system of networking soon follows.

Ann: We love being part of the artist community. We jokingly refer to ourselves as carnies with teeth! Each time we do an art show, we always met new artists. It’s a great way to learn about someone else’s creative passion, and idea process. We also network and talk with other artists about different shows they participate in within the NW and SW regions of the country. It’s a great way to learn about art shows we have not tried and where we may be able to sell our artwork.

In preparing for the show season, we have to apply to various juried art shows months in advance, sometimes up to six months before the actual show date. This process includes the application, artist statements, and sample photos of our work to be judge by a committee of artists and local craftspeople in that community. We may send out applications to over 25 shows in a year, but only be accepted into 10 to 15 of those juried art shows. When we are accepted, the next step is to plan the trip, and develop our inventory for that particular region of the north or southwest. For us, the show season starts in March, and may end in October or November. To prepare for each show, we have developed over 17 different product lines that we design, build and produce based around vintage ceiling tin, and the architectural salvage we have found and reclaimed. We put in long hours during the spring, summer and fall months to keep the product lines full and have a wide variety of stock available for all the art shows we do.  In the winter, we take time to develop new ideas and rework old product lines and do custom orders for clients.

Shows are a tough, draining experience.  For us, it’s usually a 7-10 hour drive one-way to the show.  We then unload and set-up the booth which can take another 3-5 hours.  Set-up times are dependent on show & booth location, i.e. indoors or outdoors, how close we can park the truck and trailer to the booth, how big is the show layout (i.e.…how many artists are participating?) The more artists, the bigger the layout, the harder it is to get in and set-up for the show.

Once set-up, a typical art show is either a two or three day event, usually open from 10am to 6pm. These are long days because we arrive before the show hours to prep the booth. Then we talk with potential art buyers about the process of where and how we find the ceiling tins, the history of the tin, what we have to do make our artwork, and then how we put everything together to make the final piece. If we have done our job well, the piece sells itself. Sometimes, we need to tell an art shopper more about the history of the tin or of the construction process that was done to a particular piece of artwork. In the end, we hope to sell our artwork to someone who can appreciate the history of the tin, the skill and time that went into making each piece, while at the same time use a functional and unique piece of art from Black Canyon Restorations every day.

Each show we do has its own unique perks and peculiarities. Over time, and the course of doing hundreds of shows, you definitely have favorites Our top two picks would be the Moscow Renaissance Fair, Moscow Idaho, which is usually held the first weekend in May.  This is one of the smaller shows we do, but we love the vibe, the music, and the artists that participate in this show. It’s a “feel-good” show!  Our other favorite is Park City Kimball Arts Festival, Park City, UT, usually held the first weekend in August. This show is one of the largest art shows we participate in, and by far is the most well run. The show is located on Main Street, going up a major hill, with minimal parking available. BUT, the show is very well attended, is extremely well organized, attracts savvy art shoppers, and is set in a beautiful mountain location. Always a show we hope to be juried into every year.


Wall cupboard made with vintage window

Of all the pieces you’ve made, which are your favorites?

Scott: My favorite items to design and build would be the shelf/coat racks. I build these incorporating vintage tin crown molding, design custom side panels for each specific piece of tin, and then add either iron hooks or vintage door knobs as coat hooks. The crown molding comes in a variety of sizes, from 2 to 18 inches deep and we can make shelves up to 4½ feet long. These are impressive pieces, that are relatively light weight but strong, easy to hang and can be used not only in entry halls, but bedrooms and bathrooms as well.

Ann: My favorite pieces to work on are the floor and wall cupboards. We are able to be more creative building these cupboards because we are not constrained by a specific piece of ceiling tin. Over 90% of the pieces we produce use vintage ceiling tin in some way. Ceiling tin comes in specific shapes and sizes, which restricts how and what we can build.  When Scott builds various cupboards, we use the tin as an accent, and add other architectural salvaged items to enhance the cupboard and make it unique.  We sometimes design a cupboard based solely on one item that we have found. For example, while back east in Ithaca, N.Y., we went to a salvage yard and found two old glass, diamond paned windows.  One of the windows became a “door”, which then determined the size for a custom floor cabinet that Scott has built.  This one-of-a-kind cabinet has two shelves inside, one fixed and one that is adjustable, with a vintage door knob and hinge hardware, vintage tin added on the outside of the cabinet and is finished on the bottom three sides with a “diamond” shape that mimics the door.  The piece is custom painted and a protective sealant added to the finish. It is now ready to be sold at an art show.

Cupboard made with vintage ceiling tins

What is your daily routine in the studio?

Our daily routine…there isn’t one!  Depending upon the time of year, we may be out in the studio by 7am, or by Noon.  We get up, feed the house cats, then the studio cats, and have coffee. We try to prioritize what work he or she needs to be done first. We’ve been known to work in the studio until midnight, and then turn around and be back again at 7am. It really depends on how many projects we are working on, what stage the projects are in and how much time we have to complete it.

What are your favorite local spots near your home in Idaho?

We honestly don’t eat out very much, except when we are on the road, and then it is usually low key.  Here, locally in Emmett, for breakfast we head to Tom’s Cabin for great homemade pancakes with pecan syrup, and Roe Ann’s Drive-In for the best milkshakes and burgers in town.  On the road, we look for locally crafted brews and pubs with great homemade burgers.  One brew pub that stands out for its spectacular beers is Odell Brewing located in Ft. Collins, CO.

What is your home design style?

Our home is a relatively new construction, but almost everything the house is vintage or antique, that includes some of the cats!  Scott has built several of the wood furniture pieces in the house and most of the vintage & antique pieces have been found at estate or garage sales, antique stores, or are family heirlooms.  Once in a while we purchase a funky piece of art from another artist that we just have to have.  Our style is vintage contemporary and eclectic.  We use a variety of colors, art pieces old and new, with a smattering “ooh, what’s that?” thrown in.

Scott and Ann’s Idaho living room

Do you own any family heirlooms?

Scott: Several years ago, my mother started putting together books for each of her four children.  Each book is written in my mother’s handwriting and has a collection of various family and friend’s recipes that were their particular favorite or specialty. Intermixed with these recipes are stories that may or may not apply to the recipe, but are about the person to whom the recipe is credited. There is the story of the first dinner my grandmother made for her new in-laws and how the biscuits failed to rise. Included is the updated recipe that guarantees these biscuits now will rise!   There is also a story of how my parents met and for their honeymoon dinner, Mom made tomato soup and hamburgers. At the time, that was all Mom knew how to cook. In the 65 years of marriage, Mom’s cooking skills have greatly advanced, but every year, they carry on the tradition of having tomato soup and hamburgers for their anniversary.

Don’t you feel like you could have Scott and Ann over for dinner and just chat with them for hours? What a lovely, talented, wonderfully down to earth couple. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Ann and Scott!

Images via Black Canyon Restorations


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