In 1971, Michael Sowers taught himself how to throw clay in a high-school art class. The classroom had a functioning pottery wheel, but the instructor didn't know how to use it, so Michael began checking out instructional books from the library to support his fledgling interest.
Ever since, he's been molding masses of clay into plates and vessels, preserving their shapes with the heat of a 2,350-degree kiln. His work is as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing—subtly hued french butter dishes hold a quarter pound of butter in water, keeping it fresh for up to a month, and grater plates come equipped with a built-in shredder for garlic, ginger, parmesan cheese, or CIA documents. Sowers seals each piece with a lead-free glaze used by potters since the time of the Ming dynasty, ensuring that customers can safely send his pottery through a dishwasher or heat them in a microwave or oven.
Prague-born Filip Vogelpohl kindled his passion for glass blowing within his Boise home garage. As his knack for flame-working increased, Vogelpohl left the garage and traveled the world, honing his craft under the tutelage of internationally renowned glass blowers. Now, Vogelpohl welcomes fledgling glass blowers into his studio for small group classes. He also invites spectators to watch the studio's artists as they shape molten glass and borosilicate into jewelry or vases, which then go up for sale in the gallery. On the first Thursday of every month, the furnaces keep firing until 9 p.m. during free glass-blowing demonstrations as a part of the First Thursday Art Walk.
Like fancy suits, sofa sets are sewn from the same cut of fabric. These matching sets provide a well-rounded look in living rooms, but near misses tend to clash due to their small differences. At 20 show rooms throughout the western US, Mor Furniture for Less arranges complete-room sets so customers can envision the collections in their own homes. Furniture for living rooms, dining rooms, and children's rooms can be found in each store along with individual lamps, tables, and entertainment centers. The stores also carry complete sets of beds, dressers, and nightstands so that homeowners don’t receive criticism from design bloggers in their dreams.
The sleep experts at Boise Mattress understand that customers in need of quality rest must select a mattress that encourages natural spine alignment and eliminates the need to toss and turn for a comfortable position. After asking specific questions about your sleeping patterns and highest sheep count, they present a showroom stocked with memory foam and coil-based mattresses from trusted brands such as Tempur-Pedic, Serta, Simmons, and Englander. They welcome shoppers to test out potential purchases by lying atop spring wire mattresses or Primo’s memory foam, which isolates each sleeper’s overnight movements to prevent awakening partners or napping sandmen.
The brand-new Import Outlet furnishes homes with luxe leather furniture, eclectic works by local artists, large bronzed mirrors, and consignment memorabilia from rural Idaho. Import Outlet groups together corresponding accessories throughout the store and highlights them with professionally arranged floral displays ($5–$150) and mini ticker-tape parades. Chocolate walls set off local artist Keith Couch's photography and the store's popular large wooden signs by Americana Comfort, such as the cheeky "Girls Just Want to Have Wine" sign ($35.99). Myriad decorative knickknacks—including 3"x6" scented candles ($7.40), 20-inch wrought-iron candlesticks ($12), and hen-in-a-basket sculptures ($18.78)—sprawl out across the store's various tabletops and bookshelves. Ongoing in-store specials and an extensively stocked half-off display make browsing never boring, unlike reading editor’s letters in National Geographic back issues.
In 1975, photographers Kristen Cole and David Marr founded their eponymous workshops in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, with only a darkroom, some developing equipment, and a classroom that could barely hold five students and a small grizzly bear. After 20 years of educating New Englanders, the talented duo relocated its expanding school to Boise to impart the duo's commercial and artistic expertise to students in the Treasure Valley. Cole/Marr Photography Workshops now illuminates the art of image capture in Boise's renovated Cultural Center, which houses the school's three darkrooms, studio and framing areas, digital workstations, and a photo library. Open to new framers and advanced snappers alike, the workshops' curriculums span fundamentals of both traditional and digital photography, with seminars on topics such as the darkroom process, Photoshop editing, and portraiture. Pupil and instructor galleries inspire with beautiful shots, many taken during photo safaris led by Cole and Marr to destinations as diverse as the contents of a communal diary.