March 24, 2017

Atomic Ranch's Modern Makers: The Handmade Layers of Ciseal's Nicole Hodsdon

Atomic Ranch

Thank you to Jolene of Atomic Ranch Magazine for including me in their Modern Makers blog series!  Jolene crafted a very cool story, and I'm honored to be among the women they're profiling for Women's History Month.  If you're curious about what inspires me or what goes into the products I make be sure to check it out.

Inspiration Friday: Herbert Ryman's Disney Concept Art

I first learned about Herbert D. Ryman (1910-1989) while on vacation in Walt Disney World, and his art has been inspiring me ever since.  He was both a commercial and a fine artist who had an insatiable need to sketch the world around him and bring fantastic ideas to life through pen, ink, watercolor, and oil.  His work as a Disney concept artist set the tone for every Disney theme park until he died in 1989.  

Herbert Ryman
Herbert Ryman at Work (Photo:

“My own dream of happiness would be to live in every spot on our globe. To see and study and record and most of all, to understand. And to pass on in some tangible form a fragment of that enthusiasm and love.” –Herbert D. Ryman

His concept paintings were the first blueprint for Disney Imagineers to create their trademark fun-filled parks which transport guests into different worlds in time and space.  The story goes that he simply sat d own at his drawing table and drew as Walt Disney described to him his dream for a fresh and clean version of the creepy, run-down amusement parks of the day.  The ease in his style, the whimsy of the lines, the tones of the bold colors, and the composition all combine to give the viewer a sense of “what’s next, what’s around the corner?” - just like you feel in the parks themselves.

EPCOT CenterEPCOT Center Concept (Photo:
“Be inordinately infatuated with the world—its people, its history, and geography. Let your eyes speak to your heart and your heart to your hand.” –Herbert D. Ryman

Ryman’s extraordinary talent was in his ability to take ideas that resided in the excited mess of the mind and extract their essence into inspiring concept art.  His original concept drawing for Disneyland is what earned Disney the financial backing to continue the project and bring it into fruition.  Without Ryman's ability to put beautiful ideas on paper, we may never have seen Walt Disney’s true vision for his parks come into reality.

Disneyland Schematic
Disneyland Schematic (Photo:

Ryman’s concept art continues to be referenced by Disney imagineers, and they use it to inspire updates to the parks even today.  Take a look at some more of his artwork below and let it inspire you to create a more beautiful tomorrow.

American Adventure Concept
American Adventure, concept painting, Epcot, 1979 (Photo:
Horizons Concept
Horizons Building Concept (Photo:
The Land Pavilion Concept
The Land Pavilion Concept (Photo:
Tokyo Disneyland Concept
Central Plaza Concept Art, Tokyo Disneyland (Photo:

Clear Your Coffee Table Clutter

Coffee Table Style

Photo: Laura Trevey

Coffee tables are like the catch-all of your living room.  If it’s anything like mine, there are any number of things that have landed there this week and haven’t managed to leave.  Things like old magazines, a small stack of books, empty glasses, about 8 different remote controls, unopened mail, some burned incense and a candle or two with the matchbook probably somewhere nearby, maybe even a dog toy that even the dog won’t admit to leaving there.  I have to admit, I’m a bit envious of the OCD among us who manage to perpetually keep their daily living spaces as orderly and pretty as a magazine photo shoot.  In my experience, life happens literally around my coffee table and before I know it, there’s a cluttered mess awaiting me when all I want to do is curl up with a puppy snuggle and movie night.

Fortunately, It’s easier than you might think to de-clutter life’s messes when you have the right tools.  I’ve found that grouping smaller things together get you on your way to clean, anxiety- and clutter-free design instantaneously.  

Coffee Table Trays

Photo: Brit+Co

To start, grab a couple of small bowls, trays, or baskets and corral your similar odds and ends in one dedicated spot.  Incense, candles, and that matchbook go in one, and all those remotes go in another.  

Magazine Holder

Next, get yourself a magazine holder (like Ciseal’s Aspen Magazine Rack), and stylishly display your to-do list of periodicals.  

Coffee Table Flowers

Photo: Homedit

Finally, add some life to the mix with a succulent or a small vase with some fresh cut flowers.  

Need some inspiration?  Take a look at these intentionally appointed coffee tables that make decluttering a breeze:

Coffee Table Tray

Photo: Laura Trevey
Photo: Laura Trevey
Photo: Brit+Co
Photo: Elle Decor
Photo: Homedit
Photo: Homedit
Photo: Homedit 

5 American Made Lamps We're Loving Right Now

We’re always on the lookout for American made goods to fill our homes.  The right lamp sets the perfect mood of the room it’s in, and all of the options available today make us feel like kids in the candy store.  There are so many makers out there creating quality, unique goods that we just had to share our favorites.  Here are five lamps we’re drooling over right now:


The Colony Chandelier by Worleys Lighting

Colony Chandelier Worleys Lighting

The atomic-inspired glass globes bring an understated refinement to this chandelier which would look perfect in a mid century modern entryway.  We love the combination of wood, brass, and glass in this piece.  Made by hand in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Check it out in the Worleys Lighting shop.


Swing Lamp 16” by One Forty Three

Swing Lamp OFT

We’ve been big fans of One Forty Three for years - be sure to check out their bent ply wares as well!  This wall-mounted swing lamp is one of their original designs, and the variety of finishes from metal to bright primary colors to wood mean you can get one that perfectly complements your decor.  Made by hand in Henderson, Nevada.  Check it out in the One Forty Three shop.


Alberta Table Lamp by Caravan Pacific

Alberta Lamp Caravan Pacific

Each Caravan Pacific lamp is inspired by the sleek craftsmanship of the midcentury era, and the Alberta Lamp is no exception.  The Alberta melds the raw beauty of clay and wood with a modern shape and style that makes a statement.  Made by hand in Portland, Oregon.  Check it out in the Caravan Pacific shop.


Excavation DUNE Pendant by IN.SEK


IN.SEK uses their signature excavation technique in the DUNE pendant to create torn windows of sand and quartz crystal in their cast concrete shades.  The pendants cast beautiful spiral tears of glowing light around the room.  Made by hand in Brooklyn, New York.  Check it out in the IN.SEK Design shop.


Traverse Table Lamp by Ciseal

Traverse Table Lamp Ciseal

The Traverse bent plywood table lamp takes its inspiration from the gorgeous tart cherry trees found in around Traverse City, Michigan.  It features a gorgeous walnut outer layer that adds a bit of sophisticated warmth to any room.  Made by hand in Troy, Michigan.  Check it out in the Ciseal shop.

Aren't they lovely?  Each one of these lamps inspires us to spruce up our space and dream of what's possible.  Be sure to peruse each shop's other offerings as well.  There are so many American made treasures to be discovered!

February 24, 2017

Design ›   News ›  

Ciseal Featured in HM100: The Handmade 100


I got a pleasant surprise this week when Brett over at I AM THE LAB: Home of the Modern Maker included Ciseal in HM100: The Handmade 100.  Here's a little bit about the list:

"The modern handmade movement continues to impress and inspire us with  its diverse talent and incredible ingenuity. The artists on this 1st Handmade 100 represent their particular genres of craft with skill and imagination." - IAMTHELAB

I've regularly drooled over the work of the various artists included in the HM100, so to be included amongst them is the highest honor.  Check out the full list here: HM100.  


Why Beautiful Design May Be Good For You

One of the common misconceptions about the spaces we live in is that as long as you can do what you need to do in a building or room, it doesn’t really matter how it looks.  There is perhaps an ideal in our minds that being surrounded by good aesthetics is simply a surface concern and how something looks doesn't really affect us on a deeper level.  In my earlier days in engineering I certainly felt the push to eschew aesthetics in favor of a product that works and meets the budget.  

Concerning architecture and interior design, there is sometimes a philosophy that we can make use of buildings and rooms for their intended purpose while paying no mind to their appearance and suffer no ill effects.  As long as we can set up 100 desks in a building then our employees will be able to get their work done.  If the room has a bed and some curtains on the windows then that should satisfy our need for sleep.  

The bland, lifeless feeling I get from simply writing those two previous sentences tells me there’s something missing when we settle for function over beauty.  R. Buckminster Fuller perhaps said it best, “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty........ but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”  There is more to our environment than simply functionality.


In 1944, while addressing a debate in Parliament about the reconstruction of London after the Second World War, Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings, then our buildings shape us.”  His keen observation brought into focus the idea that the environment we construct around us greatly influences how we feel, think, and act.  The effect is mostly subconscious, but we have all experienced it.  You may notice your mood turning anxious when you enter a cluttered basement or discouraged after spending 9 hours in a bland, beige cubicle farm or relaxed and happy in your friend's warm, cozy living room.  


What evidence do we have that aesthetics affect our moods and outlook?  Can an intentionally-designed, aesthetically-pleasing building, room or object help us to feel happier, more optimistic, or more connected to others?

Fortunately, some very insightful studies have been conducted which seek to answer our questions about how our surroundings influence us.  One of the earliest and perhaps most influential came in 1956 when the positive psychologist Abraham Maslow studied whether a person’s surroundings affected their mental outlook.  

In the study, he decorated three rooms in his university's lab in three distinctive styles.  The first room was the Beautiful Room because it was carefully arranged and decorated to be as comfortable and aesthetically pleasing as possible.  The second was designated the Average Room since it looked like an average university professor’s office.  The third was coined the Ugly Room, and it was a poorly lit janitor’s supply room filled with cleaning supplies, trash, and broken furniture.

Each participant in the study was assigned to one of the three rooms.  While in their assigned room, they were asked to rate a series of portrait photographs on a scale from positive to negative.  A clear pattern emerged.  Participants assigned to the Beautiful Room consistently gave more positive ratings to the portraits than those in the Ugly Room.  That’s some amazing evidence!

We might ideally believe that our mood or judgement is immune to our environment, but we are in fact quite influenced by our surroundings.  When we walk into a well-designed space that’s intentionally arranged and carefully appointed, we see others in a more positive light.  In a well-designed space, our mood improves, we can think more clearly, be more productive, have more fun, and be happier.  It pays to make your space look good.

In the News: Atomic Ranch Magazine

A huge thank you to Sarah Jane Stone, the editor at Atomic Ranch magazine, for reaching out to me about including two Ciseal products in their recent issues.

First, the Michigan Left Lamp was featured in the 2016 Design Issue as one of their lighting picks:

Atomic Ranch Design Issue 2016

Ciseal Michigan Left in Atomic Ranch

Then, the Aspen Magazine Rack was included in the Winter 2016/2017 issue's Cool Stuff section highlighting Retro Done Right:

Atomic Ranch Winter 2016

Ciseal Aspen Magazine Rack in Atomic Ranch

I could not be more excited!  Thank you, Atomic Ranch!

Ciseal's Guide to Palm Springs Modernism Week

Palm Springs Modernism Week Alexander House

Photo: Casa Runner

Every February, Palm Springs Modernism Week attracts thousands of Modernist fans from across the globe.  For mid century modern buffs, it’s quite possibly the most wonderful 10 days of the year.  There is so much to see and do during Modernism Week that it can be difficult to narrow it down to what you have time for - even if you’re in town for the whole 10 days.  To make the most of what there is to do, it helps to do some research before you go.  Hopefully this guide will help you narrow it down a bit to help you make the most of what there is to do during your trip.

Many official Modernism Week events sell out months in advance, so it would be prudent to check out as soon as possible to reserve your spot.  Some events can be reserved closer to the day of the event for the more casual planners among us, but it doesn’t hurt to reserve a spot as soon as possible.  There’s a great mix of things to do as well as price points associated with the various events (from free to several hundred dollars).  Here are some of the most popular things to do and events to attend during Modernism Week:  


Palm Springs CAMP

Photo: Atomic Ranch

The first place you will want to go once you arrive in Palm Springs is CAMP (the Community and Meeting Place).  CAMP is located in downtown Palm Springs just next door to Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture & Design Center.  It’s essentially the festival center where you can get yourself oriented to everything that’s going on in town, purchase event tickets, attend a lecture, take advantage of a free event or exhibit, or pick up some souvenirs.  CAMP is also where most tours start from, so it’s good to have it on your radar.

House Tours

Modernism Week Show House

Photo: Modernism Week

Historic home tours offer the rare opportunity to walk through historic mid century modern masterpieces like the Desert Palisades Al Beadle Home and many others.  I highly recommend doing at least one of these on your trip.  A slightly different house tour is the Show House which brings together various tastemakers to create unique rooms in one house.  It’s pure interior design eye candy where you’ll find so many ideas that you won’t know what to do with them all.

Double Decker Bus Tours

Modernism Week Double Decker Bus Tour

Photo: Modernism Week

These tours are awesome because the height of the bus allows you to see over walls and landscaping at street level and take in the glorious architecture.  You also get a very informative narrator who will share all of the interesting bits about what you’re seeing.

Walking Tours

Palm Springs Walking Tour

Photo: Modernism Week

You can actually do a walking tour on your own year-round if you download the Palm Springs Modern: Mid-Century Architecture Tours app for iPhone or Android for just $5.  It offers three different guided tours and will give you directions from one stop to the next.  It even provides photos and information about the architect and the building itself.  If you’d prefer a human-led tour, Modernism Week has several exclusive guided walking tours in multiple neighborhoods.

Preview and Cocktail Parties

Modernism Week Cocktail Party

Photo: Modernism Week

Preview parties are the perfect way to get a sneak peak of all of the fabulous exhibitors or step inside an historic home and experience what it would be like to attend a cocktail party in the Mad Men era.  Many of these events are previews, so they’re going to happen before Modernism Week starts, but some of the cocktail parties happen throughout the week, and they’re a great chance to have a bit more of an intimate experience inside an architectural gem.

Exhibits, Lectures & Films

Modernism Week Lecture

Photo: Modernism Week

CAMP (The Community and Meeting Place), The Palm Springs Public Library, and The Palm Springs Art Museum all host architectural exhibits, lectures and films specifically for Modernism Week, so be sure to check their schedules for the days you will be in town.

Palm Springs Modernism Show and Sale

Palm Springs Modernism Show

Photo: Modernism Week

This is the show that started Modernism Week, and it’s easily the most well attended event of the week.  It is a can’t-miss treasure chest of vintage and new mid century modern furniture, lighting, prints, sculpture, and decorative arts.  So, if you’ve had your eye on a George Nelson lamp, an elusive Herman Miller chair, or a Charles and Ray Eames bent ply splint this is where you’re most likely to find it.  You’ll find it at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

Palm Springs Fine Art Fair

Palm Springs Fine Art Fair

Photo: incollect

While at the Convention Center, make your way over to the The Palm Springs Fine Art Fair which features post-war and contemporary photography, sculpture and paintings.  It is a huge fair with over 50 exhibitors, so there’s plenty of interesting pieces to see for everyone.

This was just a small taste of all that there is to do during Modernism Week.  Be sure to peruse before you leave on your trip.  There is simply too much to see and do, so please do your homework before you go!  Modernism Week is absolutely a wonderful time to immerse yourself in the best that Palm Springs has to offer.  

3 Tips for Styling Your Nightstand

Collected Interiors Nightstand


A nightstand’s look can make the difference between a calm, quiet reprieve and an anxious, restless sleep.  The things you put on it, under it, or next to it are all up to you and the mood you’re hoping to achieve.  But how do you create an oasis of a bedside table?  There are countless ways to style this small space, but with three simple rules you can easily create a special respite for winding down after a long day.

1. Keep it Simple

Restraint is key - too many things will look cluttered and hardly create a restful atmosphere.  But what are the essentials?  A lamp is priority in this space (our Michigan Left Lamp is a great choice).  Nobody wants to get up from a warm bed after reading a bit to turn off the light.  Books can also be important here, and giving yourself a few options depending on your mood will help you wind down after a busy day.  Having trouble narrowing it down?  A nightstand with a drawer could be your saving grace.  Depending on how much space you have left, choose one or two more things to round it out.  It could be some art - either on the wall behind your nightstand or a small piece on the table itself, a plant or cut flowers to freshen the air, a candle to set the mood, a special keepsake to bring a smile to your face, or an elegant glass of water will create a cohesive look.

Better Home and Garden Nightstand


2. Respect the Scale

That ginormous antique lamp from your grandmother is probably not the best choice here and neither is that overflowing Christmas cactus you just can’t seem to tame.  Smaller spaces might benefit from wall-mounted lamps - leaving the table itself clear for the other essentials.  Smaller photos or artwork are good choices on nightstands and draw the eye to something more detailed and special.

Yesterdays Sweetheart Nightstand


3. Mix it Up  

You don’t have keep the same 3 things on your nightstand forever and ever.  Play with the things until you love it and then mix it up again.  Switching things out every so often keeps the look fresh and interesting and allows you to be a bit more non-committal about what makes the cut in this valuable space.  Fresh cut flowers in the spring or a smattering of succulents in the winter are great change-ups.  Have a multitude of knick-knacks?  Rotate them out every so often.  This rule is where the fun is at because you can switch and tweak at will.

Domaine Home Nightstand


It really is that easy!  Keep it simple, respect the scale, and mix it up.  Try it out and see how much more restful (or exciting) your nights can be!

Are you looking for a fabulous lamp to set the mood?  Check out our Michigan Left Table Lamp.  It’s my current bedside lamp, and its soft, warm glow is just the restful touch for a calming bedtime routine.

Ciseal Michigan Left Table Lamp

January 20, 2017

Art ›   Design ›   Engineering ›   Inspiration ›   Science ›   STEAM ›   STEM ›  

My Journey from STEM to STEAM: Why The Arts are Even More Relevant in a Technology-Driven Economy

If you’ve read past articles in this blog, you’ll know that I sometimes reveal hints of a past life in engineering.  It’s true - I spent almost 10 years studying and practicing mechanical engineering.  Today, I like to think of myself as a reformed engineer - one who has gone from a complete lack of knowledge about the creative arts to fully embracing the important role art and design have in a technology-driven economy.


My path in engineering started, like most careers nowadays, back in high school. Influenced by the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education movement, the college prep program I attended focused on the liberal arts and sciences while only offering one introductory semester in the creative arts.  Being a girl who had a talent for and an interest in math and science, engineering was a natural choice. 


Once in college, courses like thermodynamics and machine design left me wondering, “Where's the beauty?”  I was learning a lot about how to make things work well and last a long time, but I constantly came back to the desire to learn what it would take to tackle product development in more elegant and sustainable ways.  Even after graduating and joining the workforce, I kept asking myself where the human element and the innovation were.


Remembering that I once really enjoyed art classes when they fit into the curriculum, I decided to start taking drawing classes at night to spark that creative side once again.  Through these classes, I came across the field of Industrial Design, which would begin to open my eyes to a more wholistic approach to product development.  Industrial Design is the first stage of developing a product - from defining the problem to designing how the product will look and feel.  Traditionally, products start in Industrial Design to get designed and then get handed off to Engineering to be manufactured.

What I’ve learned from studying and practicing both Engineering and Industrial Design is this: When you ask the right questions and keep in mind the human element to your solution, you can create a product that exponentially improves life by creating a bit of joy with every use.  Think about the products you love - not only do they do their job, but they’re beautiful and they have an intention behind every detail that makes using them a joy.

Product Joy

Now, not every engineer needs to become an industrial designer.  There are certainly outstanding benefits to an in-depth technical education, and we can all see the amazing advances made as a result of a focus on STEM subjects.  What would be beneficial is if our STEM curriculums fostered a mindset of appreciation and collaboration between all of the fields important to a thriving technology-driven economy: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM).  


In the end, creating opportunities for Art and Design to be included in STEM programs - for STEM to become STEAM - results in more beautiful, useful products that make our lives easier and more joyful.  Wouldn’t it be cool if more of the products we used everyday sparked a bit of joy and put a smile on our face every time we used them?

Creating handmade products that are beautiful and useful are my mission with Ciseal.  I like to think that each of my products make life more enjoyable and spark little joy-filled smiles throughout the day.  If you're feeling the need for more smiles, feel free to check out Ciseal's current collection.

1 2 3 Next »