Etched Crafted Lighting, Driftwood Pens, Straw Hats

Friday, January 5th at 8:30p ET

Host Jill Wagner travels the country on a quest to find talented craftsmen who still make incredible items by hand. First, Jill is shocked by how Detroit woodworker, Paul
Bonenberger uses electric current to “paint” his one-of-kind Lichtenberg etched light fixtures. In the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland, commercial airline pilot Tom Gaunnt
scours the local beaches for driftwood that he infuses with sea glass colored resin to make his distinctive beach inspired ink pens. Down in Charleston, South Carolina, awardwinning
milliner Natalie Simmons is off to the races making her Kentucky Derby style sinamy hats with handmade floral accents.


Paul Bonenberger – M1 Craft Co.

Royal Oak, MI | Etched Crafted Lighting | Website

Unlike many artisans, Paul can’t say that he was drawn to this and never envisioned anything like this taking place. M1 is more of a culmination of multiple things. Born in Rochester, Michigan, to parents both involved in the automotive industry, he grew up always helping (or “dragged into,” helping, as he says) his parents with projects. Both were hands on, extremely creative, and constantly building and renovating.

Consequently, Paul always thought in a creative fashion, visualizing products, and full of ideas. He just never acted on it. That changed in 2011, when he bought his first house, and realized that he could bring certain ideas to fruition—and he was actually good at working with his hands.

One night, while browsing online, he found a video of students experimenting with creating Lichtenberg figures, using electrical voltage to create patterns similar to a lightning flash. That discovery was Paul’s “flash,” the missing link he had been searching for.

“I always refer to Supply Chain Management as organized chaos. I guess that is the same in regards to the design of the fixtures and other products in the pipeline.  Perfect angles and square corners – deliberate designs – combined with the inlaid Lichtenberg figures and panels, results in a design that incorporates geometry and the randomness of nature – no set of figures are ever the same. I think the products offer something that is not only practical and simple, but a conversation piece and art form that can be appreciated as well as used in everyday life,” Paul says.

Tom Gauntt – Chesapeake Pen Company

Kent Island, MD | Driftwood Pens

Pen maker and artist Tom Gauntt grew up in Birmingham, Alabama with his younger sister in a home full of artists and makers. His mother had the “artist’s eye” that led Tom to see things from an artist’s perspective and his father and grandfather showed him how to build or make most anything. Tom had a natural ability at painting watercolor and even studied art for a while in college. During breaks from college, he worked as an apprentice electrician and even seriously considered pursuing that noble trade full-time. Given his artistic bent and his keen desire to build and make things, it’s no surprise Tom has combined two of his passions to create handmade items that are also artistic expressions.

Working with wood has always deeply interested Tom and an illness years ago forced him to throttle back a bit on the more physically demanding woodworking activities that he enjoyed. During a conversation with his daughter (an artist, as well, studying fine art in college) about pens, they decided to buy a small lathe and see what kind of pens could be turned. Tom was instantly hooked and spent untold hours honing his skills. During a walk on a nearby beach on the Chesapeake Bay, Tom picked up a piece of driftwood, noticing the black veins running through the creamy colored wood. Inspiration struck and he dragged the waterlogged piece back to dry, and as he says, “just see if something beautiful was inside.” Something beautiful was most definitely inside as the dark spalting of the decay process contrasted with the creamy color of the wood. The result was a visually striking and completely unique hand-turned pen.

Natalie Simmons – Carolina Millinery Company

Charleston, SC | Straw Hats | Website

Natalie Simmons’ fashion design career took an unexpected turn when she enrolled in a hat making class. Studying hat design brought back poignant memories of her childhood, particularly, of her grandmother wearing beautiful, fashionable hats.

Today, Natalie specializes in handmade hats for women and men, with signature styles inspired by 1920s through 1940s styles.

In her studio, she hand blocks, sews and trims each hat individually using the millinery techniques she studied and continues to learn. Her designs fit every personality and occasion—from elegant to everyday to wildly whimsical! She’s even had one of her hat designs on display in the Kentucky Derby Hat Museum.



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