Artisans Adventure Album Blog – Eric’s B-24 Liberator Flight

Eric M. Saperstein of Artisans of the Valley at the Waist gun of the last flying B-24 Liberator

Eric M. Saperstein of Artisans of the Valley at the Waist gun of the last flying B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft”

The best guess we can take here is while Eric was off having an out of body experience the temporary occupant of his physical form decided to catch a ride on a B-24 Liberator. This initial take is given the fact that Eric hates flying – and is most often compensating for such events by consulting a flask containing a reasonable quantity of an adult beverage.

Eric M. Saperstein of Artisans of the Valley standing in front of the last flying B-24 Liberator

Eric M. Saperstein of Artisans of the Valley standing in front of the last flying B-24 Liberator

All of that aside – it was a nice day and why not? The Collings Foundation was at the Trenton Mercer Airport today and offering rides in various WWII planes. Definitely a unique experience, even when completed entirely sober – which was good as there are many places inside these flying contraptions where one can misplace a footstep and end up falling through the bottom of the plane!

If you get the opportunity – this was definitely a worth while experience! Nothing like a commercial flight that’s for sure. Loud, lots of strange noises, all sorts of cables moving about in the plane (no fly by wire in WWII!) … Watch your step, watch what you grab, and hang on – there’s a lot of open spaces poke out of in this flying machine.

A gallery of photos from the flight are featured below.

The following Text is from:

“The Collings Foundation’s B-24J is the only restored flying B-24J in the world. Initially, when we restored it in 1989, we honored the 15th A.F. in Italy with the selection of the ALL AMERICAN-a very distinguished A/C with a record of having shot down 14 enemy fighters on a single mission (only two B-24’s came back out of a squadron of 19). Then we selected the DRAGON & HIS TAIL, probably WWII’s most extensive nose art, to honor and represent the WWII veterans who served in the Pacific.

Now, it’s time to honor the 8th Air Force and all who served in England and in the ETO. We have selected “WITCHCRAFT”, a B-24 assigned to the 467BG, 790BS that compiled an amazing record of 130 combat missions. WITCHCRAFT is an olive drab aircraft, with red and white nose bowls, red and white rudders, 130 bomb markings and a cartoonish witch flying a machine gun as nose art. All the names of our Dedicated Crew, Lead Crew, Plane Sponsors and DFC Members will be proudly displayed on the co-pilot’s side of the aircraft. Honor Crew and aircraft names will continue to be on the bomb bay doors.

We’re very pleased that we have been able to keep this B-24J flying and look forward to continuing to honor our American Veterans.

America’s only flying B-24J continues soaring through its native skies as part of the annual Wings of Freedom Tour with its sister ship, the B-17 Flying Fortress. A product of a multi-million dollar restoration, the B-24 stands testiment to the strength of the 1940’s engineering that built it and helped it survive through many years of hardship.

A living history museum seen at over 120 cities per year, the B-24 brings memories for the many who flew others like it during WWII. For a younger generation, it brings enlightenment–a glimpse of the conditions in which it served, and an appreciation for the freedom we all share because of its role in the Second World War.

Its guns are long silent as the new mission it flies finds it over no enemy lands. Instead the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines roar over welcoming cities and enthusiastic towns. Each stop the B-24 and B-17 make brings more stories and more experiences that promote the mission that they fly for: honoring our veterans who served and in many cases, gave their life for our freedom.

You can find the B-24 with the B-17 all over the nation and there is a good chance that a stop may be happening near you! Check our schedule for a chance to visit and maybe even fly on the B-24 Liberator!”

Amateur Photography by Eric M. Saperstein – Please don’t be alarmed our woodworking is much better than our photography skills!


The Making of Artisans’ EBRU-TV Artist Profile

EBRU-TV LogoThe Artisans of the Valley EBRU-TV artist feature is now in editing!

We’re expecting news soon as to the final decisions on the show’s title and the scheduled air times. this September RCN just announced the availability of EBRU-TV on channel 53 for their Mid-Atlantic region! Visit EBRU’s site to petition your cable provider to add this channel to their lineup.

Artisans of the Valley EBRU-TV - Artist Profile Shoot May 29, 2009 photo by Henry Schweber

Artisans welcomed EBRU TV’s Host Yakenda “Kenda” McGahee and her crew to our shop and homes back in May. Kenda’s day included a carving lesson, a series of interviews, and an assortment of discussions. Of course this was a filming day so the whole experience was captured and is now in editing.

Artisans of the Valley EBRU-TV - Artist Profile Shoot May 29, 2009 photo by Henry SchwebermArtisans of the Valley EBRU-TV - Artist Profile Shoot May 29, 2009 photo by Henry Schweber

Interview segments included a variety topics including Eric & Stanley’s apprenticeships and how each artist managed their training. We discussed our inspirations and visions for the future of Artisans of the Valley. Shown above left Eric and Kenda discuss his Master’s Papers. Above right they discuss “Shiloh Prairie,” Eric’s custom hand carved wildlife scene which incorporates his 1984 Shiloh Sharps rifle.

Stanley provided Kenda a grand tour of his master’s pieces, and we even had a few minutes to discuss our restoration work.

Artisans of the Valley EBRU-TV - Artist Profile Shoot May 29, 2009 photo by Henry SchweberArtisans of the Valley EBRU-TV - Artist Profile Shoot May 29, 2009 photo by Henry Schweber

Artisans of the Valley EBRU-TV - Artist Profile Shoot May 29, 2009 photo by Henry SchweberArtisans of the Valley EBRU-TV - Artist Profile Shoot May 29, 2009 photo by Henry Schweber

Eric & Stanley setup a timelapes wildlife scene using a Lora S. Irish pattern entitled “High Point Ridge” to provide a step-by-step demonstration of pattern development, outlining, background removal, layering, and the development of carved detail. The segment then moved on into woodburning and discussed the use of color to further enhance a carved scene.

Theresa Tonte joined the cast to discuss her transition into the business of woodworking and restoration while Cindy Saperstein was given the opportunity to provide her perspectives on the family of artists.

We’re excited to be a part of Ebru Television’s growing coverage and features from around the United States. Ebru is based in Turkey, and has an established worldwide audience.

“The mission of Ebru Television is to continually educate, inspire and entertain viewers of all ages through original first-rate programming in the sciences, sporting events, fine arts and every aspect of culture.

We strive to foster understanding among all people through intercultural dialogue and mutual respect, thus promoting peace and diversity with our neighbors here and throughout the world.” – EBRU-TV

Artisans of the Valley EBRU-TV - Artist Profile Shoot May 29, 2009 photo by Henry Schweber

Of course we’re not quite sure what will make the cut – so we’re looking forward to seeing the finished episode this fall. Keep checking our blog site, and we’ll also send a special announcement to our newsletter mailing list when we have more details!

Photography on this Page by Henry Schweber

Producer: Archana Mahalingam
Host: Yakenda McGahee
Cameraman: Tim McNanny
Production assistant: Akmal Hamid

Satellite: Galaxy 25 (97 W)
Frequency: 12.084 MHz.
Polarization: Vertical
Symbol Rate: 22.000

300 Franklin Square Drive
Somerset, NJ 08873 USA
Phone: 1 (732) 560 0800 – Fax: 1 (732) 560 0801

The mission of Ebru Television is to continually educate, inspire and entertain viewers of all ages through original first-rate programming in the sciences, sporting events, fine arts and every aspect of culture.

We strive to foster understanding among all people through intercultural dialogue and mutual respect, thus promoting peace and diversity with our neighbors here and throughout the world.

300 Franklin Square Drive
Somerset, NJ 08873 USA
Phone: 1 (732) 560 0800 – Fax: 1 (732) 560 0801


Sharpshooters – Stanley D. Saperstein’s chronicles of the USSS

Stanley D. Saperstein as USSS Wyman White - Photo by Henry Schweber

Stanley D. Saperstein as USSS Wyman White - Photo by Henry Schweber

Artisans’ craftsman not restricted to woodworking – you may have noticed a tenancy for artistry in words, if not and you have just stumbled on our blog then start following the links to find thousands of pages of information. We’ve published a huge array of website content, articles, blog entries, Newsletters, and taken advantage of other mediums to convey information about our crafts, our art, and our affiliates. Artisans’ founder Stanley D. Saperstein is also a renowned historian and has authored a historic novel entitled “Sharpshooters.”

Sharpshooters; The fascinating and thrilling story of the elite green clad Union troops known as the “widow makers,” the United States Sharpshooters.

Follow their story from their conception by the controversial Hiriam Berdan, through their training, and their battles between 1861 and 1865 in a fast paced fact filled historical novel, accurate in every detail. See in the minds eye the development of Sam and Lev Price from raw recruits to battle hardened veterans, as they interact with real historical characters such as Wyman White, Charlie Wilson, California Joe, & Swearing Bob Casey.

The story depicts camp life, marches, battles, and thoughts of the common soldier’s point of view. Meticulously researched from diaries and the USSS Regimental History, the book includes an appendix, separating fact from fiction, and historically accurate illustrations and maps.

About the Author

Stanley D. Saperstein's Sharpshooters - Book CoverStan Saperstein was born in 1946, and graduated from Rider University in 1968. He holds a BA in History and Political Science, and he obtained his MA in History/Education from the College of New Jersey in 1971. He was married to Cynthia Popkin in 1972 and has two grown children, Eric and Jonathan.

Stanley’s specialty is military history, which he has kept up with for over thirty years, reading, research, and doing living history. He is a colonial furniture maker, having served a seven-year apprentice as a wood carver/furniture make. This background sets the stage for his impression of a Revolutionary War cannon artificer.  Stan continues his involvement in history reenacting famed rifleman Tim Murphy, as well as Civil War characters such as a USSS Wyman White.

Stanley D. Saperstein - Author of Sharpshooters at local book signingStanley finished a thirty-year career as a Personnel Manager in New Jersey State government at the end of 2001, and is now pursuing his hobbies. Stanley’s retirement  gave him the time to oversee the completion of his son Eric’s apprenticeship in 18th Century Woodworking, formally acknowledging this event in January of 2008. Having passed on his skills as a craftsman he now concentrates his time on volunteer teaching, indulging in historical research, and serving various museums and historic organizations focusing on the Civil and Revolutionary Wars.

Stan can be seen at local living histories as a US Sharpshooter showing his antique 1851 Wessen Target Rifle, double barrel flintlock, and on occasion a 1790 pack howitzer. He is available for lectures and demonstrations including book tours, educational programs, interactive lectures in full costume, Revolutionary War artillery demonstrations, and woodworking demonstrations. For more information please review Artisans of the Valley’s Educational Programs

Contact Stanley Directly for information about his educational services at: – please include your phone number in your email to ensure we are able to respond to your inquiry. Artisans of the Valley can be reached at 609-637-0450.

Sharpshooters is now in hardback!

$35 (US) plus $4 USA shipping and handling Order now through PayPal. NJ residents please add 6% sales tax!

Please call for International Shipping Rates

Click here for Chapter 1 Stanley Saperstein’s “Sharpshooter

Artisans of the Valley

103 Corrine Drive Pennington, NJ 08534

Publisher – Longstreet House

Dr. David Martin
Publishers of Civil War Books – Original and Reprints
P.O. Box 730
Hightstown, NJ 08520

Resellers or presentation Coordinators Click here for a printable PDF format Sharpshooters Flyer

Sharpshooter Announcement

Sharpshooters is 403 Pages – 26 Images – 20 Maps


Hardwood Time – Check out a clock made entirely of wood!

Hardwood Walnut Clock by Charles Maxwell and Dan CooneyHere’s a new way to start off this blog entry, I’ll ask a question.

Question: What happens when you team up a sailor with an MBA and a marine with a BS in civil engineering?

Answer: You get two guys that make handmade wooden clocks.

What? That’s not obvious? The roots of an artist are often just that, far from obvious. Most of us have had or have lives outside of our artwork. Many accomplished masters of today are able to hone their skills having already earned themselves a pension after completing their first job, I’d call it a career, but most would reflect back that their real career is their artwork and the rest of their life was simply preparation!

Hardwood Walnut Clock by Charles Maxwell and Dan CooneyDan Cooney (US Marines, Ret.) and Charles Maxwell (US Navy, Ret.) joined forces and now own and operate Hardwood Clocks. Their vision is to fulfill their creative pursuits by crafting handmade fully functional hardwood clocks.

Their flagship clock is deemed the “M4-Timber-Frame,” designed to stand out when placed within a timber frame home. Dan has a sharp eye for fine design as well as an uncanny ability to guide an individual’s personal tastes in the creation of a customized clock for any setting, starting out with the M4 designed specifically for his timber frame home.

Hardwood Walnut Clock by Charles Maxwell and Dan CooneyCharles, now retired from the US Navy, (MS-University of Wisconsin-Madison and MBA University of Rochester) pursued his quest for creativity through creating wooden clocks. He has no formal training as a clock maker, just the self discipline and passion for wooden clocks that began when he visited a museum store at Cape Cod in 1982. This gave him the next 25 years to ponder his retirement and the time to design his first all-wood fully functional clock.

Dan Cooney, the Marine with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Penn State transitioned to the civilian marketplace after his service with distinction to spend the next 22 years in the telecommunications industry where he found considerable success in various leadership positions. In search of post-retirement challenges, he built his present timber frame home and then became an authorized distributor/dealer for Hearthstones Homes Inc. after establishing TimberDream Homes Inc. Dan now serves in design and marketing, matching the perfect clock to each potential client.

Making a clock entirely from hardwood parts is an amazing display of engineering, precision woodworking. Interlocking gears are complex to start, let alone when the considerations for expansion, grain patterns, and overall structure are considered. Creating a wooden gear requires carefully planned indexed cutting, in the case of these hardwood clocks the teeth are actually each inserted to ensure the grain direction optimizes the durability of each tooth.

These signed mechanical works of art are an investment in form, function, and natural beauty … not to mention the fact that they are likely to increase in value over time as Charles & Dan further their mark on the woodworking world. Someday I’d actually like to make one of these – some day when I have the time and a computerized milling machine at my disposal.  Most of us woodworkers admire, then slowly back away from  pieces like this, they are truly challenging to discipline and precision. I figure I’ll ponder over these for a while, contemplate making one, think about the time investment, maybe consider the costs of the CNC Mill, and then maybe buy one by Charles & Dan for Teri and I when the time is right!

Visit for more examples of their work including detailed images and specifications.

Dan Cooney

Email: Phone: (610) 458-4062

Charles Maxwell

Email: Phone: (585) 248-5498

Hardwood Walnut Clock by Charles Maxwell and Dan CooneyHardwood Walnut Clock by Charles Maxwell and Dan CooneyHardwood Walnut Clock by Charles Maxwell and Dan Cooney

Hardwood Walnut Clock by Charles Maxwell and Dan CooneyHardwood Walnut Clock by Charles Maxwell and Dan Cooney

Hardwood Walnut Clock by Charles Maxwell and Dan CooneyHardwood Walnut Clock by Charles Maxwell and Dan Cooney

The images presented on this page are owned by Hardwood Clocks (

Also check out Charles’s work at LumberJocks

All Rights are reserved – their use here is with permission for mutual marketing and educational purposes.


Investment Grade Blades (Part I) – Tactical diversity in your art portfolio.

Artist Jay Fisher with Knife Blades Shown in ProgressOur topic today is the concept of an “investment grade blade.” Knives are by no means a neglected form of artwork, nor is their potential as an investment lost among collectors. The topic is, however, foreign to the majority of people outside the world of knife makers and collectors. You’re all aware that a painting can potentially go up in value, most of you know that a sculpture can become an investment. I’d bet that there is a good percentage of people who’s investment portfolios include items from the common art medias. My question is, have you ever seriously considered purchasing a knife as a tangible asset for your investment portfolio?

I’ll point out now, there’s no guarantee, if such a known fact came to be we’d all run out and jump on it to become wealthy overnight. Selecting a knife, and selecting the knife maker are just as important as when you pick a painting from a painter. The quality of the piece, the established name of the artist, potential growth of the style, everything comes into play.

This article will take shape in two parts. Part I will be a discussion about investing in an established artist. Part II will introduce the topic of investing in an up and coming artist, our case artist in this case will be Stacy J. Nabinger; Stacy is a college student who has been developing his skills in knife making for the past few years. He is now coming into the phase of his development where his handmade knives are ready for sale. Anyway – more on Stacy in Part II.

Kineau by Jay FisherJay Fisher is an established, world renowned, knife maker. Jay is an artist with a four year backlog of commissions, which presents an interesting opportunity. A knife you commission today is quoted today, before it ever exists. The set commission is locked in, and Jay’s queue is extended +1 (or more if you buy a set!). Time passes, your project progresses, and in time is delivered. What happens if you want a knife sooner? You just have to have one, you need a gift, you just see one you absolutely love and want it now? In such a case, there are knives for sale from estates, collectors, or even those that Jay produced for a client that was unable to fulfill their obligation. These knives are priced to sell now, which actually is the opposite of what you would find at the end of the car makers model year. Knives available “now” are worth more than the commission quote for those we have to wait four years to have in hand. (Anyone familiar Harley Davidson understands this concept!)

Desert Wind by Jay FisherAlso taking into consideration that a commission now, will result in a piece delivered at a higher value than the locked commission price. Now consider the fact that Jay’s commissions are accepted by contract, not by upfront payment. So, for examples sake, say you commission a knife today for $2,000. The knife will be set for delivery in approximately four years, during which Jay’s reputation will grow, his portfolio will expand. Finally, his style will evolve and his skills will improve. I would project that commission, upon delivery, would likely draw at least $3,000. This is an instant ROI of $1,000  (50%) for your art portfolio.

(Interlude: Did you have seriously think about that statement “his skills will improve,” or did you at least read it twice? Jay is a master of his craft, yet there is no insult when I say his skills will improve over time. Mastery is not a permanent state of knowledge and skill frozen in time. Mastery merely means an artist has achieved a level of understanding at a particular point in time. To an true artist, mastery is a journey, not a destination. If any of us ever truly mastered our craft, feeling we just knew all there was to know about it what do you think would happen? I’ll tell you; we will lose interest and move on to something entirely different.

Mastery is an evolution, time will bring new designs, new materials, new tools, new challenges, new – well we just don’t know that’s yet to come. There are times a master makes a mistake, often at the point were we become arrogant, and are sent backwards (I think the proper term is bitch-slapped) into a humble pondery of exactly what possessed us to start this career in the first place let alone do something so stupid. Then we dust ourselves off, maybe get a few stitches, and return to our craft reminded that we will be spending the rest of our lives trying to truly master our art.)

Ariel by Jay FisherSome may question a commission solely for investment, I’ve never looked at this as disrespectful to an artist. The fact is a commission is our stream of income, and if you’d like to commission say a $20,000 New Wave Gothic Table from me; knowing you have a buyer upon receipt that will take it for $25,000 … well … I’d figure that’s your commission on the sale! What has actually been accomplished is the value of the table with this transaction increased by 25%. Agents and brokers, galleries, designers, all place a markup on the commission, receive a percentage of the sale, or work on an hourly rate for their services; it’s all part of the marketing and packaging of an artist. For those artists that still object, these are most often (there are a few exceptions) starving artists. Anyone can be a purest, sticking to the principle of sales directly to the end client. I’ve never seen the point, as any given client somewhere down the line will either sell or bequeath their possessions. There is no less appreciation from someone that see’s a financial value in your work, than from someone that appreciates the craftsmanship, they are one in the same in two different forms.

PJ by Jay FisherThe value of a blade (or any artwork) is greatly impacted by the level of involvement of the artist. In short, is the artist a designer and project manager, or someone that starts and finishes every aspect of their pieces? Jay handles every aspect of each knife personally from design through the sheath, even the photography. His personal touch is not only etched in his mark on each blade, it is archived through the entire carefully documented process. I received updates throughout the process, saw the patterns, the blade blanks, the hardness testing, cutting the leather patterns for the sheath; I became a part of the story. In my experience marketing our pieces, this is an extremely important factor for many clients. It is intriguing, and it inspires individuals to become collectors of your work. Earning collectors is what establishes an artist with a consistent queue of commissions, as we stated in Jay’s case he’s up to four years now.

Another consideration when purchasing knives, or other tangible assets, when compared to stocks or bonds is that you actually take possession of the piece. When you have the physical asset there are positive and negative factors involved in facilitating a sale. When the time comes to make a sale, you must facilitate the sale of the physical item instead of engaging a broker to handle the transaction. Given the internet, it is now reasonably easy to publicize your desire to sell an item through various forums and websites that feature knives or other collectibles. I personally like the actual physical possession aspect of knives and other collectibles, and have come to the conclusion that no arrogant CEO or fraudulent bookkeeping can ever devalue something like a knife. Owning a piece signed by an artist like Jay Fisher puts an object in your hands that has very little chance of ever losing value.

Many of you have already visited out site to check on the progress of “Artemis” – the custom made chef’s (butcher’s) knife I commissioned with Jay Fisher a couple years back. The knife arrived in May of 2009 and is now among my prized possessions. Of course I’ve been following Jay’s progress on various projects along with Artemis, and it’s now fun to see some of the knives that were forged along side this amazing creation Jay’s Feature Knives can be viewed at:

Part II of “Investment Grade Blades” has been released – click here to read!


Artisans – TODL Green Products Feature



The Trade Only Design Library (TODL) Featured Artisans’ Restoration Services in a broadcast email yesterday morning. TODL’s commitment to green design is illustrated by their ongoing programs designed to encourage manufacturers, artists, and designers to actively produce and implement environmentally sound products and services.

TODL’s Green Director Kim Gordon LEED AP heads the efforts and ensures that all products featured meet her requirements. Kim maintains open relationships will TODL’s product base (us – the artists and manufactures!) and provides assistance, ideas, and guidance over our procedures and policies.

To date, debuting November 4th, 2008,  Artisans has received 2235 requests for information through TODL. We present our “Green Notes” to each inquiry. Within this feature portfolio, Artisans discusses our role in providing restoration services to bring new life and function into furniture. Restoration vs. replacement is a method for anyone to reduce the waste sent to landfills and reduce consumption of new materials. Artisans also offers commissions using sustainable lumber.

We are constantly working with our suppliers, especially those offering finishes, to test and implement less or even non-toxic chemicals. Artisans offers water based stains from Mohawk & Van Technologies, as well as VOC complaint Waterlox tung oil varnish finishes. Not to mention our love of shellac, which is an entirely natural and environmentally safe product.

Artisans’ Master Craftsman Eric M. Saperstein is active in a variety of wildlife preservation programs as well as forestry, grasslands programs, and supports local fish & game management. We’re all in this environment together, the more of us that learn to take care of it the longer we may have to enjoy it!

For more information about TODL visit

Contact Bernadette Bumpers @



Memorial Tune-up – Our Credence table returns for a makeover.

New Wave Gothic Credence (Communion) Table by Artisans of the ValleyAll things require upkeep in order to maintain working order and appearance, furniture is certainly no exception. Everyone knows this fact,  yet furniture is likely one of the most neglected of all your possessions. New furniture, collectibles, and antiques all require upkeep. Antiques are the most controversial of the categories for maintenance, as there are some remaining in the mindset that doing anything to an antique ruins its value. To those people I have one question to ask: “Do you know of ANYONE driving around in a Ford Model-T bragging about having the original oil?!”

Maintenance is critical to a vehicle, critical to a plane, critical to a firearm, critical to equipment, critical to a house … WHY … then is it not considered critical to furniture? If you believe that it is in your best interest to sit at an antique table that is falling apart in front of you, the finish is gone, and the wood is slowly turning to dust then perhaps you would like to live in a home with a leaking roof, holes in the floorboards into the basement, and missing windows? It amazes me that people simply refuse to, or out of fear from old episodes of “Antiques Roadshow,” believe they will lose their first born if they simply repair a broken antique desk.

We’re due for an update on this article, entitled “The Philosophy of Restoration,” but it basically covers the concepts of restoration. This is a must read for all antique furniture collectors, as well as those in possession of hand made heirloom furniture made today. Artisans is on a mission to refute the myth that furniture restoration destroys antiques. Without proper care, the antiques of today – well – simply won’t exist tomorrow!

Artisans delivered a credence table to a local church in 2002, give or take now about seven years ago. The table was a memorial project for American Airlines Pilot Captain Edward States, completed in solid oak this hand carved New Wave Gothic communion table features dogwood in gillochet carvings on the apron, an Episcopal shield, acanthus leaves on the feet, scroll work, rope carving, and small crosses and bibles. All joint work is mortis and tenon, the top is planks with a band of oak and mitered corners. The piece is designed to blend with with Gothic decor existing in the church architecture and furnishing.

A couple weeks ago we retrieved it to perform a full regiment of touch-ups and repairs and apply a fresh coat of finish. The last seven years of constant use, movement to accommodate events, exposure to cleaning fluids, and general use all play a factor in the life of a piece.

New Wave Gothic Credence (Communion) Table by Artisans of the ValleyOur plan for this table was to create a priceless heirloom, but let’s cover this very clearly: Even an heirloom needs care! The structure of the piece is entirely intact, a few ornamental appliques are now loose, and the finish has taken some scares. The fact that the appliques are loose quite honestly is upsetting to us, it means our decision to switch adhesives (shortly after this project unfortunately) was a good choice. Since this time we’ve had no trouble with anything coming lose; constant changes in formulas of adhesives and finishes is a major industry issue these days, but something we all have to adapt to in order to ensure our chemicals adhere to current environmental standards.

Our job was to address the issues with the appliques, which ultimately ties back to a failing in the adhesive we used at the time, and we’re now correcting the problem to avoid this issue in the future. The finish will be cleaned and lightly sanded to allow the application of two fresh coats of tung oil. This is a perfect example of how tung oil is a renewable finish; there is absolutely no need to strip this piece to maintain the finish. A renewal is all it takes to completely revitalize the beauty of this unique heirloom.

For more information about our memorial credence table please download our documentary of the project entitled “Creating a Priceless Heirloom.” Artisans of the Valley can design and build a variety of custom furniture including church and synagogue pieces. Visit our religious furniture section for more details and examples. All our custom furniture is by commission, hand made, signed, and heirloom quality.

Be Sure to Visit or call us at 609-637-0450!


Fly a Flag or an Eagle – Folk-Art Creatively Displays Patriotism.

Happy 4th of July!

Folk Art Flag by Artisans of the ValleyThe 4th of July seems to be a great time to feature our hand made and hand painted folk art flags. These unique creations are generally painted on a rough or rustic weathered plank and can be configured to display the flag of your choice. United States flags ranging from revolutionary to modern, state flags, fraternities, international, corporate, etc. Flags, eagles, banners with quotes, and other patriotic symbolism can be established as stand-alone artwork or incorporated into furniture carving, walking sticks, or sculpture.

Artisans of the Valley Live Free or Die Eagle CarvingArtisans’ folk art pieces are each signed originals, we may create the same style of flag twice but every one will still be entirely unique. Eagles always create an ambiance of patriotism, especially when they are holding a “Live Free or Die” banner! Walking sticks can feature details of your life, achievements, family, military service, fraternal membership, and of course flags. Walking sticks also have the option to feature busts, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, or other historic figures.

Interested in shooting, perhaps cowboy action shooting? Eagles and flags make great features for your shooting cart or to adorn gun stocks. We can design and build a custom cowboy cart or firearm display case. Gun stocks can be carved with eagles, scrolls, wildlife scenes, or other custom carvings.

Artisans of the Valley - Cowboy Action Shooting Cart with Hand Carved Live Free or Die Eagle

Artisans of the Valley - Hand carved eagle on gunstock

Artisans of the Valley - Walking Stick Flag ExampleArtisans of the Valley - Walking Stick Eagle and Flag ExamplewArtisans of the Valley - Eagle Example

Artisans of the Valley - Walking Stick Flag ExampleArtisans of the Valley - Walking Stick Flag ExampleArtisans of the Valley - Flag Example

Artisans of the Valley - Flag ExampleArtisans of the Valley - Flag ExampleArtisans of the Valley Walking Stick with Abraham Lincoln bust

Artisans of the Valley - Flag ExampleArtisans of the Valley - Eagle Example

Artisans of the Valley - Hand Carved Eagle

Artisans of the Valley - Walking Stick Eagle and Flag Example

For more information call us at 609-637-0450 or visit:


Stearnsy Bears – Handmade Custom Teddy Bears

Cindy Saperstein with Stearnsey Bear "Granny Grace"We’ve featured Stearnsy Bears in Artisans Quarterly Review Vol 1 Issue 3 and in Vol 1 Issue 4, but they’ve yet to bear it all on our blog. Stearnsy bears makes no effort to hide, this bear making clan has been at it since 1981 and once their bears are acquired by a collector they are immediately deemed as prized heirlooms. The thing is though, like most of us that are building our business  within the art markets they have barely reached a fraction of their potential clients, in the US and abroad.

Our blog, we’ve stated, is being designed around featuring a continuous variety of artists that offer truly unique hand made pieces. Each artist feature expands our footprint just a bit more, now entering in into the world of custom hand made teddy bears. We’re calling on bear collectors around the world who find this blog! Link back to this Stearnsy Bears feature, and pass the word around to your friends, family, and fellow bear enthusiasts!

Shown above right is bear collector Cynthia Saperstein (my mother) with Granny Grace. Granny hitched a ride back from Stotts City, MO with Teri and I in the summer of 2008 when we ventured cross country to Austin, TX to deliver a New Wave Gothic dining set. (Click Here For 2008 Road Trip Newsletter Feature) Granny is an example of Stearnsy’s finest bear stock, she is lovingly hand made and dressed in the finest antique clothing, even a stole, and vintage jewelry. Granny’s personal spectacles, came along with one cracked lens, but Granny is no high spender, she knows how to survive in a recession, and how to keep her family together; she’ll continue to use the lens without muttering a single complaint.

The Stearnsy family imparts this level of creativity into all of their bears, there is always a history to each bear, before you even take them home they have developed a unique personality. Charles and Vicky are experts in recycling materials including stuffing, furs, clothing, jewelry, furniture, and incorporating them into each custom made bear. Sizes range from small, only 4″ or so, through to that of a standing child, around 3ft or so high. Granny Grace arrived at our household and within just a few minutes laid claim to a child’s size rocker that Teri and I restored for use in my mother’s bear room. All said and done, Granny is entirely green! From stuffing to fur, clothing, accouterments, and even her chair are all reclaimed materials.

The video link includes a few details about Charles and Vicky Stearnsy, shown in action and in their home town shop in Stotts City, MO, the couple’s true appreciation for their work, their clients, and their family show through. My mother is not easy to shop for, it’s not that she’s difficult, its just that she is not materialistic. We always get her a few thimbles, and random bears from our travels. The problem we were trying for years to solve was what to get her when it was really time for something special. I spotted a bit of a rough looking billboard along our migration south from St. Louis in route to Austin, it mentioned something about hand made bears and I was doing about ummm, the speed limit, but it went by fast. We decided one of our interstate offshoots was due, so we took the exit and began our search for Stotts City.

“Welcome to the shop. We are located in what used to be the Old Stotts City Hardware Building. It was built in 1916 and is just as old as it looks. If you are looking for a fancy new place, you probably should just drive on by. But if you don’t judge our book by our cover, we will show you our teddy bear magic on the inside.” – Charles & Vicky Stearnsy

Stearnsey Bears shop in Stotts City, MOInside the Stearnsey Bears shop in Stotts City, MONow, Stotts City is about what you may figure, as we drove into town someone updated the population sign by +2, and as we left they waved us off and once again returned it to the native population of what seemed to be a dozen or so people. We spotted the shop, admittedly on our third pass down main street, and pulled truck and trailer up in front of the building. We wandered in, and were met by a friendly couple at work on their bear creations.

Charles was a very refreshing humble compared to a lot of us “east coast artists.” Admittedly, we are quite a bit more aggressive about our work, given the climate and the competition levels to succeed you just kinda have to develop an artistic tenacity. Introducing ourselves and glancing around the room (I’d already decided I was leaving with a bear.) Charles began explaining how his bears were priced, and what justified their tags. True to my character, I paused him and asked him to wait just a second. I guess I just wanted to pay a compliment in my own way; these are truly hand made works of art, bears with a persona, no justification required!

Stearnsy Bears LillygraceI went to the truck and grabbed our portfolio and showed him a few of our pieces, commenting that given this is what we do, you’re dealing with another artist, I’ve been here a few minutes and there is no doubt in my mind, we are walking out of here with at least one bear. Smack in the middle of nowhere (don’t worry they ship!) Teri and I stumbled upon the  permanent solution to our shopping problem for my mother.  The level of quality, attention to detail in the obvious, subtle, and even hidden places is just amazing. I only had one qualification remaining for our first bear; we had to find a bear that fit the rocking chair we restored for my mother. Granny Grace must have overheard about the rocking chair; she walked right up and introduced herself and the deal was done. We left Stotts City, a good couple hours after we arrived, with the perfect bear, and having made some new friends!

Granny has already been joined by granddaughter Lilly Grace, above shown right, and rumors are about that other members of the Grace family may be migrating towards New Jersey to make their dens in Cindy’s bear room!

Here are just three examples of the Stearnsy Bear collection – they have literally hundreds in their personal collection, as well as usually a few dozen ready for adoption.

ON SALE NOW! (As of June 30th, 2009)

Stearnsy Bears custom hand made bear Jeruhsa Beck
Jerusha Beck. “Precious Memories, how they linger”.

Jershua is one of our continuing series of Beck Family bears. The Stotts City branch of the Beck family are all dead and gone now. But golden memories of them live on through Stearnsy Bears. The Becks were at the top of the social ladder in Stotts City. You can still visit the old home place a mile north of town. It has fallen into disrepair but with a bit of imagination you can still see the generations that grew up there. Jershua or Rush (pronounced Roosh) as she was know to friends and family and her spinster sister May were Stotts City Socialites in the early days of the 20th Century. If only the old walls could talk could talk. What stories they would tell and what songs they would sing.

Jershua Beck is from the Stearnsy Old Family, Old friends Collection. These bears are ones that remind us of the colorful past history and local legend of Stotts City, MO (the home of the Stearnsy Bears), Lawrence County and other parts of the Ozarks. We like to draw off things that are familiar to us for inspiration and the Stearns Family has been part of the Ozarks for 6 generations. Jerusha is a round 9″ tall and made from an old brown coat. her outfit is a Vicky Stearns original made from antique material and is accented with a wonderful piece of white on black tool that is even older. Wonderful stuff for an unforgettable bear.
Jerusha Beck is $135.00

Stearnsy Bears custom hand made bear Froggy

Froggy. “Gone a courtin, to ask for the hand of Miss Mouse.” Froggy is around 10″ tall and handcrafted from classic gold color mohair His outfit is a Vicky Original made from vintage fabrics and accents. The inspiration for Froggy comes from the very old poem “Frog Went A-Courtin” which first dates to 1548 in Scotland. The song was first widely heard in a 1953 Tom and Jerry cartoon. Froggy is priced at $97.50

Stearnsy Bears custom hand made bear Francis Schnake

Mary Francis Schnake. “Old Fashioned School Marm.” Mary Frances is from our old family, old friends collection. A dedicated teacher who started her career in one room schools and who was till teaching when I had her for third grade in 1963. I have a vivid memory of her telling our class the day President Kennedy was assassinated. It is our pleasure and privilege to dedicate this bear to her memory. She is dressed in an exquisite 1890s beaded top accented with a feathered hat and a vintage pin. This bear is around 22″ tall and made from honey color German mohair. At Stearnsy Bears we make and keep memories. Mary Francis is priced at $395.00

For more great Stearnsy Bears Visit:


Give them a Call at: 417-285-3201


Artemis and The Pig Roast – Artist Jay Fisher’s latest blade prepares its first feast!

Eric Saperstein Artisans of the Valley the first use custom chef's (butcher) knife "Artemis" by Jay Fisher at Pig RoastThose of you who have followed Artisans of the Valley for a while, or who know me, know that there is also an offshoot catering company known as “Artisans On- site Catering.” The dawn of this endeavor came from the periodic requests I received to cater for friends and family. One of the more popular venues has proven to the the classic “Pig roast.” The event of cooking obviously surrounds the almost ceremonial preparation, cooking, and serving of a full bodied pig. Since our blog covers arts of all forms, it makes complete sense to incorporate the culinary arts!

Custom Chef Kinfe "Artemis" by Jay Fisher, photo by Jay Fisher all rights reservedThis event is the initial use of Jay Fisher’s blade entitled “Artemis.” A custom made chef (butcher) knife – more details of this aspect of the project can be found in our blog entry: “The Birth of Artemis” Links are also included on this page to our newsletter which contains a two part detailed feature article on this amazing one-of-a-kind blade.

I received a request from Bill Corbo about two months or so ago to prepare a pig roast for his college graduation party. The target audience being about 60 people, and the general rule of thumb to go by to size a pig for such an event is 1.5lbs of dressed weight per person I ordered a 90lb pig. A pig roast really isn’t a difficult concept, the basic premise is no different than anyone goes through when they prepare a turkey for a Thanksgiving dinner. It’s just “bone-in” meat that is wrapped within its original container, which is simply the skin.

Since we are using a flat cooking method, using a manual flip method, and the pig will be left natural, we can use a stuffing. The marinate I like to use is generally all the year old spices around the house, garlic, onion, sales, peppers, etc along with sugar for the dry ingredients. Then mix with wines, vinegars, olive oil, whatever you want.Stuffing include apples, onions, garlic cloves, and pineapple.

Eric Saperstein Artisans of the Valley preparing to light a custom oil tank pig cooker (roaster)Methods of cooking vary from burring the pig in the ground under heated rocks, to using a sealed roaster, open spits, through to an automatic rotisserie. I’ve actually been party to preparing a pig roast in probably a dozen different ways, but the bottom line is almost the same net result. The goal is pulled pork – the meat should actually separate from the bones with an effortless pull – which is were the term “pulled pork” is found. The technique of the cooking process is to balance heat, moisture, smoke, and other flavors to slowly and evenly raise the temperature to an even 160 degrees over the period of at least twelve hours up to a maximum of sixteen hours for a 90lb pig.

Artisans of the Valley's custom made dual fuel pig cooker (roaster) shown setting up the propane pipe burner.Too much heat, you cook the meat too fast and it becomes dry before it separates from the bones. Too little heat and the process just becomes painstaking and can drag on for 24-36 hours – to much heat and you burn off your precious fats too quickly and risk burning off the skin which releases the moisture. All of these mistakes can result in a dry meat, which is every pig roasting pro’s nightmare! Take your time, enjoy the process, this is not a race to finish quickly, or a week long affair. Balance and observe, if you’re a first timer enlist a friend with some experience to walk you through cooking your first pig.

Now there’s the heat source, and the method the heat reaches the pig.

Eric Saperstein Artisans of the Valley's custom made oil tank pig cooker (roaster)Direct Heat: The heat source (most often a flame or coals) is where heat source is directed towards the pig. Consider this like a giant grill. This can be the most difficult to control, the risk of flash fires from the pork fat can cause a sudden flurry of activity to protect the pig from being scorched. You ever want to break the skin during the cooking process or the precious fats run out too soon and fail to baste the meat. The advantage, if the roaster is designed properly – is that the drippings that do run off are immediately incinerated releasing a constant flow of natural flavors back towards the meat.

Indirect Heat: The heat source is located in a remote compartment, often a smoker box, that allows the heat and smoke to enter the main compartment of the cooker without the risk of flare up. In the more elaborate cookers – you do not loose your ability to collect the flavors from the fat runoff, instead that is directed through a series of channels into the coals and the resulting smoke back through the main compartment.

Now there is the actual fuel to consider:

Gas: Propane or Natural Gas are far from invalid heat sources – and I will catch flack for this I know – but the fact is that as far as the heat itself is concerned fire is fire. (As long as it’s not a toxic source!) Gas burners allow good control of the heat source in direct and indirect cookers.

Electric: Well, personally, I think you’re just nuts if you use electric except perhaps for a suckling pig prepared in a small box style smoker. To each their own, but I’ve never done a pig over electric heat, and honestly I have no intention of ever doing so.

Eric Saperstein lighting the burner in Artisans of the Valley's custom made oil tank pig cooker (roaster)Charcoal: If you want to make your “coal” fire easily, you use charcoal. The best charcoal is that which does not contain  its own lighter fluids, the unprocessed kind.

Wood Fire: If you are a purest, you will never suffer a pig roast using anything other than your own hand prepared mixture of hardwoods that you, yourself, will turn from wood to charcoal usually in a barrel of sorts sitting aside the actual cooker unit. If you have a remote firebox, you can actually burn wood directly, turning it to coals during the actual real time cooking process.

Artisans of the Valley's custom made oil tank pig cooker (roaster) shown with pig cooking over coals & propane burner (dual fuel)I actually built myself a dual fuel direct cooker unit, in classic hick style my cooker is made from an oil tank (270 gallon, got it almost brand new!) welded to an old snow mobile trailer which has been modified with four corner jacks for self leveling and stability. I set the unit up as a flat cooker, and welded up two frames that hold a wire mesh, the pig is actually wired to one side and the two frames are then hinged together using steel wire. The pig is lifted and flipped (keeping the back facing down) every half hour or so. The frames can also be used for roasts, chicken, ribs, etc. Just keeping in mind that there is a pocket designed to hold a pig, a thick heavy item, so burners or hot dogs just really won’t work inside the pig frames, but nothing stops you from making up another set for another purpose! I’ve also completed a number of pig roasts using pit style cookers and  powered spits. (Stories for another blog entry!)  All and all – the net result is about the same, the goal is to get the meat to fall off the bone, tender, moist, and tasty!

The cooker can be configured using a custom made propane pipe burner, which will also with a swap of regulator run on natural gas – this pipe is placed under an angled stainless steel shroud with becomes super heated and instantly evaporates the drippings without letting them come into contact with the open flames. I’ve also configured the cooker with two wire mesh baskets which are placed in front of and behind the pig. These baskets will hold coals for a wood charcoal fire.

The fact is – having tried start to finish on propane, and start to finish on coals, the best method for flavor and efficiency (keeping in mind that I sometimes transport this unit with the cooked pig inside) using the pipe burner for the early stages through around half way, then firing up the coals to add a touch of wood smoke flavor around the last half of the cooking process. I’m actually considering modifying the cooker to have a remote fire box to provide continuous smoke throughout the process and thus enjoy a cooking process free of those annoying flare ups that take place when the fat hits the coals.

Artisans of the Valley's slightly below average sized 420 quart expedition grade cooler by Cabelas with pig inside.Regarding transport, given the logistics it was best to remove the pig from the cooker for transport. This can be a tricky process given if you do your job right the pig will be literally falling apart when it’s done. The trick is to make yourself a pig hammock, wrap it up before the cooking begins in a wire net, preferably stainless steel or just plain old steel wire. If you must use galvanized, cook just the wire at high temperature for a few hours before you wrap the pig to flash off contaminates, make sure it is zinc and not coated in highly poisonous metals.

Once you’ve reached the core temperature of around 160 degrees, taking temperature samples within the center of the hind quarter, front shoulders (in the neck area probing forward and backwards) and into the back-strap to be sure the pig is cooked evenly, shut down your heat sources. The pig must now rest within the sealed cooker (or a cooler as shown right if you’re transporting) for at least an hour. If you take samples you’ll see the temperature will actually go up a few more degrees before it levels out and starts to drop, but try to avoid opening the cooker or cooler at this point. A good cooler like the one shown here will easily allow a 3-5 hours transport window maintaining safe food storage temperatures, in fact you’re still cooking the pig during that window!

Eric Saperstein Artisans of the Valley & Bill Corbo at the first use of custom chef's (butcher) knife "Artemis" by Jay Fisher at Pig RoastEric Saperstein and Bill Corbo - Carving a Roasted PigEric Saperstein and Bill Corbo - Carving a Roasted Pig

Eric Saperstein and Bill Corbo - Carving a Roasted Pig

All said and done, a whole roasted pig results in a moist, tender, flavorful meat. Most people will agree it’s the best way way to cook pork!

Check the Comments for source info on the burner and more info on cook times!