by Bethany M. Dunbar, April 17, 2011
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.