I was enamored with Kaufmann Mercantile before I went to the company’s about us page to see who could have brought together a collection of home-goods with such quintessentially timeless qualities. When I read the caveat, “We believe a product should last a lifetime rather than clutter a landfill,” I knew I wanted to feature them here on Productrazzi.
The offerings the Brooklyn-based purveyor carries are produced by approximately 300 makers from over 20 countries, all chosen for a dedication to the highest standards in their disciplines. Materials matter, and the brand is committed to making a positive impact on the environment, points of view that merely add to the charm of the variety of home décor items featured on the site.
Here are a few of my favorite finds:
However lovely their vintage equivalents are, these newly minted crocks outdistance their leak-proof counterparts used for ages to stash utensils, store food and pickle vegetables. That’s because these planting crocks have drainage holes in the bottom so they can be used to grow herbs, flowers, vegetables, or potted plants. Salt-glazed stoneware dates back to the 1700s in America but it wasn’t until early 1800s that most American towns had a manufacturing plant producing the kiln-fired clay containers. The Stoneware Planting Crocks product page on the Kaufmann Mercantile site has quite a bit more detail about the history of these stalwarts of time-honored style if you want to read more.
French Enamel House Plates
The manufacturer who makes these fine symbols of tradition, produced since the 1830s, is a family-owned company that got its start in 1905. The great grandson of the founder, whose factory is on the north coast of France, is carrying on the family heritage by producing enamelware using the same methods that were being implemented over a century ago.
I was fascinated to read that vitreous enamel is actually glass rather than paint. It is melted onto steel plates at temperatures ranging from 1436° to 1508° Fahrenheit. Visit the French Enamel House Plates product profile page to read more about the process and the sixth-generation of this company now producing its own electricity. The fact that the factory runs on natural energy and that no chemicals are used while making this product means it’s a shoe-in for the Kaufmann Mercantile environmentally friendly creed.
Potter Judy Jackson creates these cobalt blue ceramic planters in her New York studio. This particular color has always been one of my favorites for pottery, and her cobalt blue glaze is hand-mixed, which Kaufmann Mercantile notes is a rare practice for potters nowadays. The vessels have drainage holes and a separate saucer to protect surfaces from the water every plant requires to thrive. Each of these pots is oxidation-fired before Jackson’s hand-mixed glazes are applied. You can read more about her philosophy and her history on the Hand-thrown Ceramic Planters product profile page.
Japanese Pressed-Wood Magazine Stand
I’m working on a detailed post for the Improvateur blog about the history of Asian influences in design and it is fascinating how the pared-down aesthetics we associate with Asian influences now are not our grandmothers’ ideas of the Orient! Case in point is this beautifully elegant, clean-lined magazine stand made from West Africa’s Ayous wood, which is also referred to as obeche, wawa or samba wood. Isamu Saito began working with molded plywood during the metal shortages during World War II, and his two grandsons continue to produce fine home décor products from his methods today. Read more about his rise to design prominence and the process they used on the Japanese Pressed-Wood Magazine Stand product page on the site.
I could certainly go on but I’ll let you peruse the Kaufmann Mercantile site yourself to find your own favorites, quite a few of which are Made in America. If you need unique gifts, you won’t find a better place to snap them up. I am putting the red leather flyswatter, Andrew Hughes’ mouth-blown water carafe, David Reiss’s Italian pewter candlesnuffer, Ashira Israel’s solid copper hanging planters, and a cotton herringbone blanket (in olive) on my list for holiday gifts this year. The only challenge will be giving them away! If you pop over to look around, let me know what your favorites finds are, would you?
Text of At Kaufmann Mercantile Materials Matter © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon Henry is an author, poet and journalist based in New York City. Books include Anywhere But Here and Stranded on the Road to Promise. She also produces The Diary of an Improvateur and is a columnist on Architizer.