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Chicago Father’s Day Part I : Local Gift Roundup

It's that time of year. Chicagoans crawl out of hibernation and fathers are celebrated, near and far. Here's our Chicago-centric gift guide (including a shameless plug of our insanely handsome Father's Ring). Shop local! 

Gifts​

+ For the Crafty Dad

Scrimshaw Set

This Mollyjogger scrimshaw knife kit has the potential to capitalize on any of dad's downtime--give him something to apply his long, contemplative silences to. 

Here's what Mollyjogger has to say about the art of scrimshaw: 

"Scrimshaw is an early American art form originating from the whaling industry in the late 1700’s. During the many idle hours at sea, a whaler etched drawings of nautical themes on items that were readily available to him such as sperm whale teeth and bones. His primary etching instrument was a sail needle, nail or pocket knife. After he scratched his art work into the surface of the bone, he would rub lamp black or tobacco juice into the scratch to reveal the drawing. As America traveled west, the frontiersmen carried the art form with them, applying it to their powderhorns, knives and other accoutrements."

+ For the Crafty Dad (with More Time on His Hands)

Woodworking Chisels
Fibonacci Curl

One of our employees gave her husband this set and he almost cried. For the aspiring heritage woodworker, these chisels are literally perfection. If you can't tell, we're a fan of using reclaimed materials. You could double the impact of this gift with some credit to the Rebuilding Exchange

The great benefit our employee got out of this gift is that her husband now builds unique, handmade shelves, tables, containers, and plant stands for their apartment at a fraction of the cost. 

<-- Watch this satisfying GIF of wood curling into perfect fibonacci spirals. 

+ For the Stylish, Nearsighted Papa 

Drift Eyewear Chicago

Atticus / Tortoise Matte / Wenge on Walnut

We've got a theme rolling here, so let's keep on with it for a second. What's cooler than reclaimed/sustainable wooden eyewear? Not much. The dad in your life deserves these Chicago-made eyeglasses. Check out Drift Eyewear for some seriously handsome spectacles. 

+ For the Eco-Friendly Papi

Fathers Ring on Cholla

Father's Ring : Rosewood | Pine | Cedar

This design is one of our favorites yet. It's so simple and warm. The Father's Ring represents rustic, nature-lovers well; and, each ring is personalized and custom-made by hand, here in our Chicago studio. For a complete list of birthwoods and their meaning/mythology check out the main Birthwood page.

N. B. Our workload is heavy, especially around this year so, if you'd like your ring in time for Father's Day (June 18th) you'll need to order your ring today! Also, be sure to check "Expedite" so that your order gets created and shipped out in three weeks. 

+ For the Voyager (or Electrician) Da 

Field Notes are outstanding notebooks made in Chicago, created by Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co. This pack of three "Expedition" ready notebooks have been tested by Field Notes (albeit in a quirky pseudo-scientific manner) to resist tears, flame, water, acid, and extreme temperatures. So, we think this is a great gift for the experimenting, expedition-taking, rough-handling father in your life. A pack of three costs $12.95. Also, consider a Space Pen to go with it. 

+ For the Bearded Baba

Damascus Steel Comb by Chicago Comb


C
onsider this glorious Damascus Steel comb available on the Horween Leather Company's web-store. It's a pricey item at $350.00 but the combs are made in Chicago and come with a high quality non-toxic Horween leather sheath. So, yeah. 

+ For the Distinguished Pater

Few Spirits Gin

Last, but not least, help him unwind with a glass of distinguished whiskey and spirits made here in Chicago. Here's some copy from Few's "Genesis" section on their website: 

Founded as a dry community, Evanston was home to many influential advocates for Prohibition who effectively kept the city free of alcohol for more than one hundred years.

Though the city legalized drinking in the late Nineties, it took the perseverance of our Master Distiller, Paul Hletko, to reverse the antiquated liquor laws. With roots going back to some of Europe's fabled brewing families, Paul and FEW Spirits have marked the end of Evanston's Prohibition and given the city its very own craft distillery.


Or, if single barrel whiskey is more his thing Koval is the best we know, in town. Plus we're teaming up with them for something special later in the year. So, stay tuned! 

Koval Whiskey


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Understated Wooden Father’s Ring

Fathers Ring with Birthwood

Warmth, Character, and Versatility

​These are all great words to describe a good father. We think they're great words to describe our Father's Rings too.

If you're looking for something understated and meaningful for that dad in your life, we got you. Our Father's Ring is handcrafted using our bentwood process. The base is comprised of the Birthwood of the bearer and the ring contains inlays of Birthwood representing his children. Every element of our rings is customizable to a high degree. Our standard men's ring width is 8mm and we create the inlay from 1mm strips in order to keep the aesthetic clean but you can request any number of alterations. For example, you could choose wider or off-center inlays with spaces in between. The standard Father's Ring offers up to four inlays at 1mm (to keep the width of the ring on the narrower scale) but you are always welcome to adjust this as needed. 

fathers ring and mothers ring

Father's Ring with Mother's "Sitting in a Tree" Ring

We've add these handsome rings to our Birthwood product line, don't hesitate to contact us with questions or concerns. You can find information about wooden ring care and durability on our website. Also, don't forget that, in honor of Earth Day, a portion of all of our proceeds until April 22nd, 2017 will be donated to environmental charities that support our Earth. We're donating to four charities and you have the option, at checkout, of choosing which charity you would like to donate to. 

Navigate here to view Birthwood inlay options and place a custom order. 

Let us know on Facebook or Instagram what you're planning to do on Father's Day this year!

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What’s Your Birth Flower? Our Newest Mother’s Ring is Here

Birth Flower Ring

Our newest Mother's Ring with birth flower inlay. You can order a birth flower ring using this form. Note that all of our custom ring orders take approximately 5-6 weeks to handcraft. The last day to order this ring in time for Mother's Day is April 4th. With expediting, you can order by April 25th.

Even though it just snowed here in Chicago (insert ugly-cry here), we've got all the spring feels because the studio is blanketed with drying flowers. We just designed a new Mother's Ring, in time for Mother's Day, that incorporates birth flowers as inlays. What's a birth flower, you ask? Well, we've compiled a list of flowers from the Old Farmer's Almanac and provided you with some insight into flower meanings and the history of birth flower attributes. 

A Short History of Flower Meanings

According to Gertrude Jones, who wrote a book entitled Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore, and Symbols in 1962, the ancient Romans were one of the first to celebrate birthdays and they did so by gifting dedicated flowers.

In the 18th century, Lady Mary Wortely Montagu (pictured below), introduced the "language of flowers" to British high-society and, thus, flower meanings took on permanent significance in the west (Loy, 2015).

Lady Wortley Montagu

Birthflowers

Carnation


Carnations symbolize women and love. Different colored carnations indicate different feelings. For example: red means "My heart aches" or intense admiration; white references innocence, pure love, and good luck; pink means "I'll never forget you"; yellow apparently indicates rejection or disappointment.

In Victorian times, carnations were used to send secret messages. A solid color carnation meant "Yes," a striped carnation means "I'm sorry but I can't be with you", and yellow means "No".

The ancient Aztec Indians used carnations in a tea as a diuretic and to treat chest congestion. 

Carnation : January's Birthflower

Violet : February Birthflower

Violet


It's no surprise that violets are a symbol of delicate love. These velvety flowers are whisper-thin and very fragile. Violets also indicate affection, modesty, faithfulness, dignity, and nobility (purple is a color often associated with royalty). 

Violets, in the Christian tradition, represent the Virgin Mary. They are also indicative of symbolic death and resurrection because these flowers were used by the Romans in funeral rites

Daffodil ~ Narcissus


The etymology of the taxonomic name, narcissus, derives from the greek mythological character who was so in love with his own reflection he drowned in it. It is believed that these beautiful flowers were given this name because they grow naturally on river and stream banks, with their heads bowing to their own reflection. However, in modern times, daffodils are commonly associated with spring and renewal.

The cheery daffodil appears when spring is fast approaching. Daffodils brighten everything around them with their golden, yellow hue. These flowers represent prosperity, bounty, rebirth, renewal, good luck, happiness, clarity, and inspiration.

March Birthflower : Daffodil

April Birthflower : Daisy

Daisy


Following soon after the daffodil, daisies flower when spring has fully arrived. Daisies symbolize innocence and hope, but it is also a flower that indicates discretion between lovers--as in "Can you keep a secret?" In the Victorian era, daisies represented loyalty. 

Daisies appear like miniature suns in the grass and, in the evening, tiny stars. These flowers grow all year round and are naturally resistant to pests. The name daisy comes from an Old English word meaning "day's eye" because the flowers open in the day after closing at night. Daisies are apparently around 4,000 years old! These flowers have been painted and used as decoration in Medieval paintings, Egyptian vessels, and Minoan hair accessories. 

Lily of the Valley


​This fragrant flower symbolizes sweetness, humility, and a return to happiness. It is also said to bring luck in love. Part of the taxonomic name of this flower, majalis, means "of or belonging to mary." In the Christian tradition, this flower is said to have originated from the Virgin Mary's tears. Also, according to old astrological records, this plant has been placed under the ascendancy of Mercury--which passes across the sun in either May or November. 

May Birthflower : Lily of the Valley
June Birthflower : Rose

Rose


Roses have perhaps the most infamous cultural significance. Like carnations, different colored roses have a different meaning: pink means love, gratitude, appreciation, grace, gentleness, and sympathy; yellow indicates "Get Well", friendship, and joy; lavender symbolizes enchantment, mystery, and love at first sight; white means purity and spirituality--interestingly white roses used to be an indication of true love which is now symbolized by the color red, which has been used throughout history to indicate passion (in politics and religion). 

This sweet, edible flower has been used in folk medicine for centuries. Rosehips are often crushed with sugar to create a preserve, rich in vitamin C. The fragrance of this flower is justifiably popular and the flower has a long history of cultivation in gardens. 

Larkspur


Larkspur is associated with openheartedness and romance. Like carnations and roses, the colors of larkspur flowers hold different meanings: pink represents fickleness, white signifies a happy-go-lucky nature, and purple represents a sweet disposition.

According to Native American lore, larkspur got its name from a celestial being who sent down a spike of the sky with which to climb down to the earth. The rays of the sun dried the spike and scattered it in the wind--wherever these pieces touched the ground the larkspur flower grows. 

The poisonous larkspur flower is used in botanical applications for fragrance in candles and aromatherapy. It is also used by some to dispel ghosts and spirits. 

July Birthflower : Larkspur
August Birthflower : Gladiolus

Gladiolus


Gladiolus flowers indicate strength of character, infatuation, and "never give up." These flowers are sometimes referred to as sword flowers because of their impressive height and shape. Gladioli, in Roman times, were commonly associated with gladiators. In this way, gladioli signify moral integrity. These flowers can grow up to six feet tall in optimal conditions. 

Aster


According to FTD.com, it’s said that the aster was created by the tears of the Greek goddess, Astraea. One day, she was so upset by how few stars there were in the dark sky, that she began to cry. As she wept, her tears fell to the ground and turned into star-shaped aster flowers. Thus, the flower was named after her, with aster meaning star. 

Another interpretation is that asters were created when Virgo scattered stardust over the Earth. Where the stardust settled, aster flowers bloomed. The aster is also an emblem of Venus, the goddess of love.

Aster flowers are known to be drought resistant, so they are excellent for desert landscaping. The aster is actually made up of many smaller flowers surrounded by another set of larger petals. 

In Chinese culture, asters are thought to cure many different ailments and can aid respiratory diseases and problems with circulation. 

Column 1

September Birthflower : Aster
October Birthflower : Marigold

Marigold


Again, FTD.com states that the first recorded cultivation of marigolds began with the Aztecs, who believed that the sunny flower possessed magical properties. Spanish conquistadors took these marigolds back with them to Spain where they were grown in monasteries.

From here, marigolds spread throughout Europe, and ultimately the rest of the world. Throughout history, marigolds have been used as dyes and as culinary ingredients, as well as a cure for many health ailments. In Mexico and Latin America, marigolds are used as a primary decoration for All Saints Day, where altars are embellished with these bright orange flowers. Today, the marigold is one of the most popular flowers in the United States.

With a bloom time that spans nearly the entire year, this October flower blooms from spring to fall and are one of the hardiest fall flowers. Avid gardeners plant marigolds due to their ability to repel insects and pests. Additionally, their odor can repel bacterial growth within the soil, keeping it healthy and nutritious for other plants.

Marigolds, or gendu, are widely used in Indian wedding celebrations. Lord Vishnu and his wife Goddess Lakshmi, the ideal couple, are worshipped with marigolds. Hence, using the same at weddings is symbolic of the divine blessings to the newlywed couple for a prosperous life ahead. Marigolds are also considered to be representative of the sun. Thus, they symbolize brightness and positive energy to be bestowed on the couple.

Chrysanthemum


​According to Teleflora, chysanthemums are symbol of the sun. The Japanese consider the orderly unfolding of the chrysanthemum's petals to represent perfection, and Confucius once suggested they be used as an object of meditation. It's said that a single petal of this celebrated flower placed at the bottom of a wine glass will encourage a long and healthy life. 

Flowermeaning.com suggests that the Chrysanthemum is far more versatile than many other decorative flowers. While they don’t provide a very strong smell when growing, there’s a delicate and sweet aroma released when certain types are used for food. Chinese cooks add the blooms to soups and stir fries that need a hint of floral to balance out more strongly flavored or musky ingredients. The greens are also used for brightening up salads and fried dishes. You can try your hand at making your own sweetly scented Chrysanthemum tea if you have access to flowers that were never treated with pesticides. Speaking of pesticides, organic pyrethins are extracted from this plant to keep bugs away from people, pets, and plants. NASA studies even found potted Chrysanthemums improve air quality. 

The Old Farmer's Almanac associates this flower with abundance, cheerfulness, and friendship. 

November Birthflower : Chrysanthemum
Paperwhite : December Birthflower

Paperwhites ~ Narcissus


December's birth flower is a variation of March's daffodil. Paperwhites are part of the family of narcissus flowers and thus have the same etymology as daffodils. However, given that paperwhites are often grown indoors from bulbs, these flowers represent resilience, confidence, and sweetness in the darkest points of the year. Paperwhites grow and bloom easily in nothing more than water and proper drainage. White Flower Farm offers tips on how to grow these flowers indoors: place a layer of stones or beach glass at the bottom of a vase, next arrange the paperwhite bulbs in a layer with their roots facing down, leave the tops of the bulbs exposed and fill the vessel with water right up to the base of the bulb (be sure not to let the actual bulb sit in water or they will rot). 

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What Makes Willow Wood so Wonderful?

willow, sapphire, september, bark, birthwood, wood,  chicago, wood rings, wedding, wedding rings

Willow is the Birthwood that represents the month os September and is one of our favorite woods! The willow tree has always been one of my favorite trees, but it can be used for many different things and has many different meanings! 

Willow Tree

Willow is a decidedly aromatic tree found most often near waterways throughout temperate regions. It has a history of a long- standing relationship of usefulness- medicinal, magical, and otherwise. The willow tree is most associated with the moon, water, Goddesses, and all that is feminine. It is the tree of dreaming and deep emotions. It is a tree of enchantment and was associated in Celtic folklore with poets and spells of fascination. The energy of the willow wood puts us in touch with our deepest emotions and inspires us to come to an understanding of ourselves. It stimulates our intuituve side and helps us find the right path in life. 

Willow Wood

The North American indigenous tribe called the Seneca, has a long bond with the willow tree. They consider it to be a source of gentile humility, charm, and grace. 

On an herbal level, willow bark has been used for it's pain-relieving qualities for at least 2,000 years. All varieties of the tree can be used as an eyewash, to clear skin, and get rid of dandruff. Willow has also been known to be useful in cases of nervousness and hysteria. It can be used to loosen the chest when someone is sick with a cough or pneumonia as well. 

Now that you know some more about the willow tree, check out our Birthwood ring section to see our Willow Wood ring and the rest of our Birthwood line! 

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What Makes Simply Wood Rings Eco-Friendly?

Simply Wood Rings is an eco-conscious company. You may be asking yourself “what does that even mean?” since we use wood for our rings. First of all, we do not cut down trees just for rings! This is a misconception that is frequently believed. We get our wood from a number of places, which I will explain below!

One place we get wood from is a company called Horigan Urban Forest Products. They recycle the urban forest here in Chicago to it’s highest possible uses. They use the same trees that go to firewood or mulch and turn them into usable hardwood lumber. They are committed to the environment by reducing the number of trees removed from the forest, the amount of fuel consumed for transportation, and the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere by sequestering it as hardwood lumber. Their beautiful wood is produced without a single tree being removed for lumber. All wood is originated from Chicago, Il.

We also get wood from artists and cabinet makers that have businesses in our building, the Midland building. The Midland Art and Design building is a collective of local artisans, craftsmen, and their respective companies. All M.A.D. members work under one roof and they design, create, showcase, and sell all forms of work + products within the Midland Building. Midland Art and Design is made up of furniture designers, print makers, installation artists, fashion designers, woodworkers, sculptors, and much more. So much lumber is left over from their projects, so we reuse that wood for our rings. It’s basically like dumpster diving and repurposing right in our own building.

One of the coolest ways we get our wood is from an old xylophone factory in Chicago. All of our rosewood comes from xylophone keys that were bought from that factory. The building is in Ravenswood and is called the Deagan building after the family that owned the xylophone factory. Now the building houses small companies, one of which is a glass factory.

Another cool way we get wood is that sometimes customers provide the wood they want us to use and then if they are really nice they will let us keep the leftover wood! We have been given baseball bats, part of a swing, a grandfather’s cane, and part of a barn door. These are all such awesome pieces and we get really excited when we are offered the chance to work with new wooden items.

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The 1st Chicago Not Wedding Engagement Ring!

We’re so excited to be a part of the 1st Chicago NotWedding, “a bridal show in the form of a big fake wedding” for couples planning to say “I Do!” The fab to-do is next Thursday, but the amazing Megan Saul did a Save The Date shoot with Ashley and Brian, the NotWedding already-married couple. (All the photos below are Megan’s, save the ring and studio shots.)The Bread and Butterfly made Ashley’s beautiful floral headpiece, and Chykalophia the sweet printed cards below.

And us? We made Ashley’s engagement ring!

Chicago Not Wedding Engagement Ring photography session

Chicago Not Wedding Engagement Ring photo megan saul photography

Here it is up close! The concept for the wedding is “black tie,” and so we wanted to design a ring that united a crisp, modern, glamorous look with our warm natural aesthetic.

Not Wedding Engagement Ring

For the NotWedding engagement ring, we used salvaged juniper, crushed lava rock, white holly and gold leaf.

american holly in the studio

crushed lava in the studio

gold leaf in the studio

Chicago Not Wedding Engagement Ring

Chicago Not Wedding Engagement Ring

We can’t wait for the event, and to show you the wedding bands to match. For more information, check out the NotWedding site.

Like this ring? Want something like it? Head over to the Custom Rings page!

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360 Degrees of Awesome

Often we only show you one view of a ring (so many rings, so little time!) but we thought we’d splash into the Photoshop pool to show you the many pretty and different views of the “x” inlay. Such movement!

Oak Lapis Cross Inlay 4 Way View
oak lapis

Want to know more about how our rings are durable and different? Check out our “About Rings” page.

top: oak ring trio l: lapis lazuli “x” inlay,
center: mother of pearl,
right:lapis lazuli
bottom: a 360-degree view of the “x” inlay

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A Sweet Hero of a Ring

A Sweet Hero of a Ring

There’s something about this ring that reminds us of the magical, the mythical, the fairy tale, the legendary. It’s a ring that unlocks, that graces a hero, that signifies unseen strength and depth.

It reminds us of the feeling you get in your chest, the embrace and tension, right before doing good: committing acts of kindness, making other peoples’ lives better in some small or large way. It’s the enjoyment of humanity and the collective.

Yowza!

Yes, we admit it. We are total and utter Romantic ring nerds. And we’re proud.

Want to be a ring nerd? Discover your magic in the shop!

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Bob & Monica: Ring Update!

Hey, do you all remember the lovely Monica and Bob, the artist-musician couple we wrote about on the blog a couple months back?

We finished their rings! And they’re gorgeous.

Bob & Monica: Rings

Bob’s ring (bottom) is made of purpleheart, lined wenge. Monica’s (standing) is the reverse. As you can see, both the purpleheart and the wenge have a crazy amount of tonal depth. The variance of wood never ceases to amaze us. We guess that’s why we dedicate a lot of our lives to it.

Want to make us a ring of a special wood or material in your life?

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Shop Visit Photoblog: Matt & Tatiana

Matt and Tatiana thought they’d get the rings all wrapped up and head out but when they tried them on, they didn’t want to take them off! We asked them to pose for a few candids, then sent them off in the direction of a favorite neighborhood restaurant. When clients are around, the joy just does not stop!

Shop Visit Photoblog: Matt & Tatiana

rings Matt & Tatiana
Their rings are rosewood and mother of pearl. Like the looks of them? Check out the shop.

This is what happened when we asked them to kiss for the camera:
Matt & Tatiana

Matt & Tatiana rings

Matt & Tatiana rings

Ready to make your own wood wedding rings? Head to the Custom Order page!

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The Sea in a Ring: So Beautiful it’s embarrassing

The Sea in a Ring
Bogwood, Turquoise, Malachite, Mother of Pearl

This ring puts us in the mind of the summer sea at night, maybe some moonlight passed along the water, and the song “Sea of Love,” by Phil Phillips. Particularly the cover by Cat Power.

Come with me, my love
To the sea, the sea of love
I want to tell you how much I love you

The ocean can feel endless, a circle is endless, life is finite but can be so lovely.

We’re getting a little too philosophical, maybe. It can be a problem around here. We’re aware. We’re working on it. But! Those aren’t tears. That’s just the shore wind kicking up sand.

Okay, we’re fine now. Promise. Just go watch this ridiculous video (for a very different sea/love song) while we put ourselves together.

Then head to the Ring Shop for your own embarrassingly beautiful adornment.

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Suzie & Niche & Their Rings

Our client Suzie sent us the SWEETEST email, one in a series of VERY SWEET emails:

“I just don’t think we would have ever felt like this about any other rings. It’s like they’re alive and a piece of us, a piece of one another. This morning I received a text from Niche stating how sad he was because he forgot to put his ring back on when he got out of the shower before work. And then a little later on he sent me one stating that it’s bad enough being without me all day, but since he’s been wearing his ring it’s like he can look down and there I am with him all the time and it makes his day better, but today he hasn’t even had that. It’s just crazy how something so simple like a wooden ring can carry so much weight.

I don’t usually like to place much value in material things, but these really are different. They really are a part of something. A part of us, and you, and the craftsperson, and Chicago, and the tree, and the stones, and the Earth. They really are FULL circles.

It’s just really nice and comforting to feel the ‘warmth of wood’  (pretty sure I stole that from y’all somewhere along the way) and know that there are people out there who have respect for and honor their work and nature.”

natural diamond ring

Sales-wonder Allison collaborated with Suzie to design this beautiful natural diamond, patina’d silver and rich walnut ring. Niche’s is a simple and beautiful walnut band, to match.

All of these beautiful photos below are by Martina Rachau!

Suzie & Niche & Their Rings
Suzie & Niche & Their Rings
Suzie & Niche & Their Rings

We congratulate Suzie and Niche on their matrimony, and on being awesome people!

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An Australian Wedding with Our Rosewood Rings, courtesy Photog James Day

“I Photograph People In Love”

Day messaged us to show us the beautiful images he’d taken of Kris and Brooke, two of our clients who recently wedded with a pair of our rosewood rings.

Rosewood Rings, courtesy Photog James Day
credit: James Day

You can see more of Kris and Brooke’s wedding, and James Day’s outrageously excellent work, here.

We love seeing where our rings end up! If you have one of our rings, we’d love to see a professional ceremony shot, amateur snap, or recent selfie. Show us your be’ringed adventures! Show us the work in beautiful motion! Email amanda (at) gustavreytes (dot) com with your shots and we’ll post them here!

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Balance & Growth: Ebony/Birdseye Maple Wedding Set

Balance & Growth: Ebony/Birdseye Maple Wedding Set

These rings came out of the shop today and made us moon-eyed.

Partnerships are all about balance, or a constant engagement to work toward balance.

These rings — ebony and birdseye maple — present and enactment of those sweet efforts. The throughline, what binds them, is a shimmering inlay of ruby, yellow topaz, and mother of pearl.

In the pictured rough-hewn box, the rings will have a beautiful place to rest together, while their owners going swimming or rock climbing or whatever heavy activities they like to do.

A scrap of a poem, from Alice Notley’s “Clinical Thermometer with Moonstone,” via The Poetry Foundation: “I love you as a fan loves air. oops it’s vice-versa I told you about that character She is a bezel awaiting the plop of a ruby she must grow chronically”

We wish for the wearers of these rings to grow chronically, together, in balance, and to have a beautiful life together!

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Urbs in Horto: City of Chicago Flag Ring

“Urbs In Hoto” is the Chicago city motto. It means “City in a Garden,” and anyone who’s spent any time in our hometown knows why. The land is full of parks and trees and nature in every available corner.

This afternoon, at the direction of a client, we took the motto literally, and made the city flag out of fauna. It’s freshly made by our expert artisans (with a special shout-out to Joe, for the #flawless inlay), out of oak with red and blue fluorite.

City of Chicago Flag Ring by Simply Wood Rings: oak with red and blue fluorite.

City of Chicago Flag Ring by Simply Wood Rings: oak with red and blue fluorite.

We’re all crushing on it, and Gustav already has a plan to make a version of it with lighter, locally foraged maple.

In case you (like some of us transplants) didn’t know, the four stars of the Chicago flag represent Fort Dearborn (first built on the banks of the river in what’s now the Loop); the Great Chicago Fire (certainly a transformative moment); and the World’s Columbian Express, and the Century of Progress Exposition rounding up the count.

Interested in your own Chicago or [TO WHATEVER YOU PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE] ring? Sidle on up to our pretty new site, and contact us with ideas, dreams, challenges, and questions!

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Dreamin’ On: Monica & Bob Visit the Studio


Our new friends Bob and Monica

The other day, we had the most wonderful couple come in from Wisconsin. Monica’s a biologist-turned-found object artist, and Bob’s a musician. They drove to Chicago to bring us some wood, set up a custom order, and pick up her daughter from the airport. The weather was sweet and warm, and they planned to spend some time on the lake, but first, the business at hand.

Bob said they had been “dreamin’ on” our rings for a few years, and now it was finally time. From Monica’s family’s farm in Michigan, they had brought a piece of purpleheart, and hope to also use a lighter piece of wood accidentally left at home, and on its way to us now. They settled on the darker wood band for him, and the lighter wood band for her, with inverse linings. “A yin and yang sort of thing!” Allison said, and they nodded happily.

Dreamin' On: Monica & Bob Visit the Studio
Wood from Monica’s family farm

We are lucky, on an almost-daily basis, to witness such love and resolution and balance and partnership. It makes our chests thrum with buzzy delight! It’s all the more special that we get to hear stories of lives all over the world, of the people we work with and the wood which we are honored to set our hands upon.

After the ring decisions were made, Gustav showed Monica and Bob around the studio.

It emerged that Monica runs an arts center called Nisse House of Art, which hosts a gallery, shop, studios, and workshops for low-income rural women and girls, teaching arts, craftwork and life skills. So cool! Let us reiterate: we meet the best people.

After a long and winding talk about Gustav’s possibly-favorite tree, (the Ailanthus), about Chicago, and Monica’s childhood as a “country girl” living in Detroit and New York, and the shifting/growing/changing of our cities, Monica and Bob had to say goodbye.

We waved after them, feeling lighter and more joyous for having met them.

gus bob and monica<
Gustav, Monica and Bob talk wood.

After they left, Gustav reminisced more about the Ailanthus tree, which is famous in literary circles for playing the part of the “tree” of Betty Smith’s classic 1943 novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and famous in the inner-city, where it’s called “tree of heaven” and “ghetto palm,” and can grow through chainlink and concrete. “To take this tree that had such history in Asia, and bring it here as a decorative tree in front of Craftsman houses, and then it gets forgotten, but now it’s invasive, it still grows in vacant lots, through foundations, anywhere…” Gustav trailed off, and made a big sigh of awe.

From the novel:

“The one tree in Francie’s yard was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It had pointed leaves which grew along green switches which radiated from the bough and made a tree which looked like a lot of opened green umbrellas. Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts.”

Ailanthus Tree
via Chicago Botanic Gardens

We’ve been thinking a lot about feelings of belonging lately: immigration, community, gentrification. Human beings are more mobile than ever. We’re less likely to live in the place where we’re born. We are children and children’s children of people who crossed borders and traversed oceans. We stand in the shade of trees which will be growing long after we are gone. We plant trees that will bear seeds that spread for miles.

At Simply Wood Rings, our work carries all of this with it. When a human wears a wooden ring, the two entities are suddenly on the same timeline. We are allowed to travel together, to move throughout the world: things rooted and mobile at once.

We wish Monica and Bob happiness and adventure, peace and joy. And we can’t wait to show them (and you) their rings!

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On Glitter, and Value

No one ever wants glitter.

We wish someone would!

Or perhaps ground pyrite (fool’s gold), shimmering under the finish as it would in the fast currents of the creek.

Pyrite elbe

Fool’s gold itself (image by Didier Descouens, via Wikipedia

At the studio, one of us remembers discovering a chunk of pyrite during a creek walk at Pilgrim Hills. She was five at the time, and only beginning to understand the idea of currency. Fishing it up from the sandy bottom, she hollered: “We’re rich!” Like Scrooge McDuck or Donald Trump. Her mother giggled a bit, had to explain as they walked home that though the rock was beautiful, it wasn’t gold. Their bank balance would remain the same. They would have to skip a lazy backstroke through a room-sized vault of doubloons. They watched a whitetail deer mince along the treeline. “But it’s still really beautiful,” her mother said. “You should keep it on your windowsill where it’ll reflect the light.”

At Simply Wood Rings, we work with this kind of beauty: the natural, the authentic. Sure: money helps us all live in our contemporary lives, but natural beauty feeds a different part. This is why we love doing what we do. We’re not only spellbound but inspired by our materials, their past lives, their journeys. They reflect our own evolutions as people on a planet full of uncountable types and forms of beauties.

Seashore's Muse: Rosewood and Mother of Pearl

Seashore’s Muse: Rosewood and Mother of Pearl

Consider: that we want our rings to call attention to this kind of natural wealth.
Consider: that for us, they do.

Be it glitter or pyrite or fossil or ancient woods.
Wishing you some beauty today, wherever you may find it.

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When Style Aids Authenticity

Style and adornment are a way to embolden and announce your interiority to the outside world. So, let’s all be authentic. Let’s all greet the world with kindness. Embrace who you are and who you strive to be.

Most of the people we work with come to us at a time of engagement, marriage or anniversary: they’re affirming and reaffirming their commitment to each other, the value of good Earth citizenship, and the lifecycle of matter.

But there isn’t any reason to save that celebration for just a romantic occasion

  • Consider, adorning your hand with a reminder of the things you believe.
  • Consider, giving your best friend a birthday present that means something special.
  • Consider, passing on a talisman of earth to a family member, a tree to the family tree.

We believe that we make objects that mean something, out of materials that are sustainable. By wearing one of our rings, you can make your own meaning. Why wait to have or give that?
Here are two new rings that we love, that work perfectly no matter the purpose.

When Style Aids Authenticity

Dyed birdseye maple with a rosewood interior.

In real life, this beauty shimmers like we imagine a mermaid might. Or, it is the silver of a spring, or the sweet ethereal mist of twilight. Wearing a ring like this inserts some magic dreaminess into the everyday.

 

When Style Aids Authenticity
Rosewood, using the natural color abnormality of the lumber

This one by design uses contrast and as a result feels uber-contemporary. Like dominoes or like black-and-white cookies, the colors work together strikingly. In it is confidence, a 3″-high newspaper headline, strength and force and elegance all at once.

Let our work be one small step toward matching your insides to your outsides. May you find pleasure therein.

Happy Wednesday!

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On Willows, on a Hot Spring Day

“… I do not know the dreams from which I have come,/sent into the world without the blessing of a kiss, behind the/willow trees, beside the darkened pansies on the deck beside/the ships, rocking, I have written this, across the back of the/sky, wearing a small and yellow shirt, near the reptile house,/mammalian, no bigger than the herd…”

The Bridge by Lisa Jarnot

Simply Wood Rings Willow Engagement Ring
A willow engagement ring from Simply Wood Rings

It’s warm and humid in the studio today and so we’ve been thinking a lot about thirst. A willow tree thrives best at the edge of the water, working hard, stretching its roots outward for sustenance. Perhaps it’s all the heat, but we totally “get” where the willow is coming from today.

Across global cultures, the thirsty willow has been a symbol for keeping in touch with our kindred history and those that came before. Its leaves were used by the ancient Egyptians to control pain, a precursor to modern aspirin. A willow soothes and connects. Because of this, a willow ring is a wonderful way to honor special moments, relationships, and lives, and we think our engagement-profile willow ring says a big, joyous thing in an elegant, quiet, design-forward way.

Our willow is sourced from our friends at Horigan Urban Forest, who found a fallen willow tree at a Skokie elementary school that had been loved a bit too much by the local kids. With its all-wood abstracted engagement profile, and warm honeyed tone, it’s a great fit for minimalists and romantics alike. And to fit this beauty of a ring to your life, we offer wood burning personalization. What could be better.

For now we’ll drink a big glass of water, remember last winter’s snow and ice, and be grateful for being right where we are.

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A Romantic Post About Bogwood

When we think of our bogwood rings, they bring to mind mizzle (mist + drizzle, a real and wonderful word) and mystery: a tree fallen into a peat bog and grown-over centuries ago, not petrified nor decayed, a sort of immortal thing, just beginning to be a fossil.

Young At Heart

Our “Young at Heart – Yang” ring.

As one of us said today: it’s easy to write a romantic blog post about bogwood, because bogwood is so romantic!

Indeed, what more do we want of our love than to hold it close, and feel it everlasting? Often in Ireland, bogwood logs — once of oak or pine, yew or cypress — are dredged from their wet climes and placed into piled cairns, meant to mark a trail. Or else a canny harvester looks for the last-left frost across the peat: wherever there is still frost, bogwood can be found below. Being such “new” people in the presence of such an old material makes us feel quite pleasantly agog. To wear such a ring unites us with the earth and everything. The bogwood rings, too, make us misty eyed, and remember the specialness of life, where we are coming from and where we are going, as Italo Calvino writes in Invisible Cities: “The city…does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.”

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The “Breaking Traditions” Wood Ring

The Breaking Traditions ring

The Breaking Traditions ring! One of our most popular designs. It is designed to represent the four elements. But this ring is so versatile, it’s easy to make it your own.

The Breaking Traditions Ring

You can change the inlay, to whatever stones or materials you want.  You can even add some wood if you like! You can give us your own materials to use as well.

Breaking Traditions ring

Or maybe you would like to get really creative! And use all sorts of different materials.
get really creative

What will you put in your Breaking Traditions ring?
Breaking Traditions ring