Monthly Archives: April 2011

Chris Jacobs’ mirrors reflect an eye for natural things

by Bethany M. Dunbar, April 17, 2011

Chris Jacobs of Albany shows off one of his mirrors. The knot holes on the top each have a small mirror under them. Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

Every so often I get a chance to interview an artist or craftsman with something really spectacular to offer.  They’re tucked away in so many corners of the Northeast Kingdom.  A fun part of my job is finding them to get a story for the paper.

In this case, I’ve known Chris Jacobs for quite some time as a school board member and selectman in Albany.  I was vaguely aware that he was a builder.  I didn’t know until recently (discovered through facebook) that he makes incredible, beautiful, one-of-a-kind framed mirrors out of wood with natural edges.  They aren’t exactly rough edges because they are polished and finished.  Maybe we can say the element of roughness around the edges is completely intact.

Posted here is my interview with Chris.  Let me know if you have a lead for me on a similar artist or craft person making something unusual out there.

The weather is acting like April.  My neighbor is boiling maple sap — I can see the steam from the window.  There is still snow but a LOT less than there was last week.  I heard the mating sound of the snipes, described in one bird book as huhuhuhuhuhu.  It’s when they go high into the air and spin downward, making this noise with their tails.  I’ve seen robins and snowdrop crocuses.

We’re getting there!  Spring in Vermont takes its time, but BOY do we appreciate it when it finally arrives.

Chris Jacobs creates eye-catching mirror frames, the Chronicle, March 16, 2011

by Bethany M. Dunbar

ALBANY — Chris Jacobs is a builder, and he likes to build structures that have an interesting look.  His house and shop are examples, and he has a photo album with more examples — homes built into a side hill, homes with angles, brackets, turrets, round windows and windows that look like collages of glass.

More recently he has turned his creative eye towards building mirror frames.  The result is striking —mirrors surrounded by wood in rich colors and shapes with rough edges created by the tree itself.  The types of wood include cherry, apple, spalted maple, and hop hornbeam — all hardwood.

He calls the rough edge a live edge.

It starts with a live tree.

“I’ll see a tree and say, wow, that looks interesting,” he said.  “I want a tree that isn’t straight.”

He said once he has found that crooked tree, he cuts it down and gets it sawn out into boards.  Then the boards must sit for two years to dry out.  Sometimes they warp slightly.  The warp and the shape determines how large a piece he can cut that will be flat.

“The wood starts off to a certain extent determining the size of it.”

Mr. Jacobs calls his mirror business Reflections in Wood.  He sells mirrors at a few craft shows including Antiques and Uniques in Craftsbury.  A couple of mirrors are up at the Art House in Craftsbury Common.  They are also for sale at the Grand Isle Craft Store.  There will also be some at the Miller’s Thumb in Greensboro.  He has a web site and a facebook page.

One of the first mirrors he built was for his son as a wedding present.  It was about 20 inches by five feet.  His son told him he ought to build more and sell them.

Mr. Jacobs was born near Boston, Massachusetts, and lived in Maryland for a time before going into the Army and serving in Korea.  He came home and lived in Boston again, then Connecticut, where he worked for Pratt and Whitney aircraft as a test technician.

He has always enjoying building and creating things and started a business in Connecticut called Antique Forgery.  It started with an old iron toaster he repaired in such a way it looked very much like the original antique piece.  He did a lot of making second andirons for people with old houses.  He got to know some of the dealers pretty well.  Once he was showing a dealer his work, and the dealer told Mr. Jacobs he scared him because he couldn’t tell the difference between the original real piece and the copy.

Mr. Jacobs told the dealer he always put a mark on his own work.

The area where he lived in Connecticut began to get developed much more, and he decided to move to Maine where he lived for eight years.

His wife’s, Sharon’s, parents lived in New Zealand.  With children it became difficult and cost-prohibitive to travel there for a short time, so the Jacobs family decided to pack up and move instead of making a short visit.

And even though they enjoyed their time in New Zealand very much, eventually they found their way back here.  Even Sharon Jacob’s parents moved back to the United States at the same time.

The Jacobs family has been in Albany for many years now.  Mr. Jacobs served his town for four years on the school board and seven or eight years as a selectman.

He enjoys serving the town despite the occasional controversy.

“My naive perspective on the thing is that you’re supposed to be working for the people,” he said.

He said he was glad to be helping on the town clerk’s office and fire station plans in order to make sure they were done right.

These are some more example of Mr. Jacobs mirrors.

Mr. Jacobs has an album showing some of the homes and projects he has built.

Snow and a raffle

by Bethany M. Dunbar, April 10, 2011

Hi folks.  The snow is still here, but it’s predicted to be 80 degrees tomorrow.  So guess what?  It can’t last. We are seeing robins and redwing blackbirds, snowdrop crocuses are out, and geese are heard honking their way back north to us.

First of all, sorry for not posting for so long.  I’ve been working on a book which is expected out here in Vermont in June.  It will be called Kingdom’s Bounty and those of you who have been reading Vermont Feature all along will recognize some of the people and places in this book.  It’s a guidebook about farmers and food in the Northeast Kingdom and I can’t wait.  It’s my first book and incredibly exciting.

I will keep you posted.  We plan a summer signing tour and photo show.  My publisher is Nan Richardson of Umbrage Editions, who lives in Brooklyn — and Barton part of the year.

Meanwhile I wanted to post something this week about a story I did for the Chronicle that should have an even wider audience if it possibly can.  So please, repost this, share it, tell your friends, whatever you have to do to get the word out about David Wieselmann.

His friend Julie Poulin and he are holding a raffle to raise money to get him to a therapy program and get him a piece of equipment that could help him walk again.  He was injured in a mountain bike accident last year.  If he was a wealthy man, he’d already have the equipment and therapy he needs.  Seems to me a story about yet another failure of our health care system thank you very much.

He doesn’t have time to wait for the politics to get straightened out so everyone gets the coverage they need.  He needs this right away because the first year of this particular type of injury is critical.

Julie sent me an e-mail after the story came out in the paper to say the story was really helpful, but they still have about 85 tickets to sell.  So if anyone out there is interested in taking a chance on a guy who could really use a little help here, please check it out: www.giveforward.com/helpdavidwalkagain

The drawing was supposed to happen this week, but it’s postponed for three weeks to try to sell the rest of the tickets.

Here’s the story, with updated information about the drawing:

Raffle benefit could help injured man walk again

David Wieselmann, hurt in a mountain bike accident in June, is determined to walk again. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar, the Chronicle, March 30, 2011

ST. JOHNSBURY — David Wieselmann is determined.  But time is short.

Mr. Wieselmann hurt himself in a mountain bike accident nine months ago, and his legs are paralyzed.  There’s a chance he could walk again if he can gain access to an $18,000 piece of equipment and physical therapy that has proven effective in helping people with spinal cord injuries walk again.

“The first year of this injury is pretty critical, and exercise is the key,” Mr. Wieselmann said.

The first year is up in June.  In order to try to raise enough money to buy the equipment, his friend Julie Poulin — an equally determined human being if not even more so — started a raffle with some major prizes.  Top prize is a $5,000 Visa card.  Other prizes include a season pass at Burke Mountain, a two-night ski and stay package at the Tram House Lodge at Jay Peak, individual and family passes from Kingdom Trails, and a long list of other smaller prizes.

The drawing for this raffle will be held at Trout River Brewing Co. in Lyndonville on April 29 at 7 p.m.  Tickets are $100 apiece or a split ticket is available for $50.  Only 300 will be sold.

The goal is to raise $30,000.  Of that, $18,000 will be for the functional electrical stimulation (FES) bicycle, and the remainder will be for therapy at a center called Journey Forward near Boston, Massachusetts.  The founder of the program was hurt in a swimming accident in the year 2000 and could not even breathe on his own, to say nothing of walking.  But after years of therapy he got to a point where he could not only breathe, he could also use his hands again and he can walk.

“He walked a mile to raise money for Journey Forward,” Mr. Wieselmann said.

A key to the therapy is making the muscles that are not getting any activity in a wheelchair active again so they don’t atrophy.  Weight-bearing exercises are used, and the legs of the paralyzed person are forced to move and stimulated with electricity.

Mr. Wieselmann got a chance to try out the equipment, called an FES bike, for one day at the facility in Boston and he knew immediately that it was extremely helpful.

“It was the first really good aerobic workout since my accident,” he said.  His heart rate got up, he worked up a sweat, and the blood got flowing even in his legs.  They felt warm; he felt good.

Even in cases where this therapy doesn’t get someone walking again, it is helpful for the person’s health in lots of ways.  There are lots of side effects of paralysis that can be minimized with this therapy.  Among them:  osteoporosis, muscle calcification, skin problems, and blood pressure problems.  Mr. Wieselmann has already had trouble with low blood pressure as his heart tries to pump blood into his inactive lower body.

Before he was hurt, Mr. Wieselmann lived to ski, mountain bike, and kayak.  Every Tuesday he used to ride his bike from St. Johnsbury to Morgan, kayak around Seymour Lake, and then back to St. Johnsbury.

“I just love exercise,” he said.  Now he gets physical therapy three days a week but the therapist is not set up with the FES bike.

“There’s none of these in Vermont,” he said.

He got a chance to get on his feet and bear some weight with help from a trainer at Total Fitness in Lyndonville, who rigged up a painter’s harness.

His family has a camp in Morgan, and Julie Poulin and her family were their neighbors.  They met at the Tamarack Grill at Burke Mountain where Mr. Wieselmann used to work as a waiter and have been friends ever since.

“It’s my favorite place on the planet,” said Mr. Wieselmann about Seymour Lake.

Mr. Wieselmann’s mother was born in Vermont and her family has been here since the late 1800s.  She went to the University of Vermont.

Mr. Wieselmann was born in Colorado and started skiing when he was three years old.  He went to college in San Francisco and lived there until six years ago and studied film and broadcasting.

All the time he was living other places he was thinking about skiing.  When he came to Vermont he realized if he lived here he could ski every day if he worked at Burke.

Once he broke his collarbone during the ski season, but even that didn’t stop him.

“I stopped for a week and snowshoed every day,” he said, but after the first week he skied with a sling.

The accident happened when he was mountain biking with friends and hit some soft ground.  His front wheel sunk into it, and he went over the top of the bike.  He was wearing a helmet.  His head hit the ground.  He remembers everything.  He got up and then collapsed.  The break was just below his shoulder blades.

Since then he has been researching possible therapies.  Christopher Reeve, who played Superman in a movie and hurt himself in a horseback riding incident, started a foundation that has made huge strides in spinal cord injury research, Mr. Wieselmann said.

“As cheesy ball as it sounds, he really was Superman for this cause,” Mr. Wieselmann said.

If he raises enough money to buy the FES bike, Mr. Wieselmann said he would be willing to let others in the area use it when he is not using it.  It’s useful for stroke victims as well as victims of spinal cord injuries, he said.

Ms. Poulin said there are still a lot of tickets left to sell to raise the money needed.  She has been running spots on the radio and planned to sell tickets at a beach party at Jay Peak.

“This is it.  It has to work,” said.  She said her pitch to the beach party will be:  “You could leave here today and know that you’ve changed someone’s life forever.”

Raffle tickets are available at Poulin Lumber in Derby, Rowe Designs and Custom Framing in Newport, Ben’s Bootcamp in Derby and Lyndonville, Trout River Brewing Company in Lyndonville, the Boxcar and Caboose Bookshop and Café in St. Johnsbury, and Eastern Main Market and Deli in St. Johnsbury.

The tickets are also available online with a credit card at http://www.giveforward.com under “Help David Walk Again.”

For more information about the therapy program, look at http://www.journey-forward.org.

Beside the top three prizes mentioned above, prizes are being donated by East Burke Sports, Village Sports Shop in Lyndonville, the River Garden Café in East Burke, Green Mountain Books and Prints in Lyndonville, Ben’s Bootcamp and Edgewater Creations jewelry in Newport.