All posts by Pat

Make Mine Magnetic or How I Learned to Love the Kitsch!

Visitors to our gallery receive a free collector's magnet.

I never thought in all my remaining days on earth that I would be giving advice on how to make your kitchen into the Taj Mahal of magnetic magic. But now that embellishing your refrigerator with memorabilia has become a cultural mandate that transcends all notions of class, taste, and the fear of a surprise visit from Architectural Digest; how can I ignore this social imperative! Those of you without a magnetic surface must be frantic, or maybe just flummoxed. If you couldn’t care less that there’s no place to feature your children’s artwork or the latest photo of your grandkid or a free souvenir from that great funky gallery in Vermont, move on down the line. The rest of you: listen up!

Gecko Magnet

The sides of my SS cabinets are magnetic.

The urge to upgrade a kitchen seems to lean to stainless steel appliances these days. Why? I have no idea since it’s so hard to keep them looking immaculate, but I didn’t figure that out until I upgraded not only my appliances but half my cabinets to SS. While slick and stunning, not all stainless is created equal. The magnetism, or lack of it, is dependent on the amount of chromium and nickel in the alloy. Some so-called stainless is actually still magnetic. And, even if the front of your frig is not magnetic, check out the sides if they’re exposed. Hey, some manufacturers have felt your pain and now install a steel (read “magnetic”) panel behind the stainless, wood or laminate.

Raku Leaf Magnet

Raku maple leaf magnet on whiteboard.

One solution is to hang a whiteboard, making sure it’s magnetic, of course. Or you could do as my niece did, and hang a baking sheet spray-painted with chalkboard paint which then doubles as a message board. The trick is in the hanging and since the solutions are dependent on the available appendages in your kitchen and the possible ownership of a drill press, I’ll leave that step up to you. What I don’t recommend is hanging either one on the refrigerator door where it will abuse the SS surface that is already a pain in the butt to keep attractive.

Magnetic Wall

Flat, Lightweight Bottle cap magnets are perfect for magnetic walls.

There actually is magnetic paint so should you have an expanse of wall, or a suitable flush door (although I wouldn’t consider your refrigerator door suitable,) AND a steady roller hand, you might go down this road. It acts as a base coat leaving you many finishing options. A word of caution: read the directions thoroughly, especially the mixing and coverage recommendations. Oh, and the type of magnets you use – flat, light-weight, strong – is important.

Namaste Word Magnets

Heavy magnets like these porcelain tiles require a magnetic steel surface.

OK, you say, there are ways to get a magnetic surface in the kitchen but what about on the frig? Enter Choopaboard! It’s magnetic; it looks like stainless steel; it attaches to stainless steel with powerful suction cups; it’s quickly removable fully loaded for that magazine photo op; and, oops, it doesn’t work on SS appliances made by Thermador, Samsung and GE. GE! As in General Electric? Well, perhaps you have an Amana, so knock yourself out. Otherwise, keep reading.

Bike Chain Magnets

Recycled Bike Chain Magnets for the Cycling Enthusiast

Magnetic tape with pressure-sensitive adhesive backing does exist, not to be confused with the recording medium or tape intended for use on magnetic wall charts. Just a thought, though, as I don’t plan to test it on my Monogram appliances, attach a small piece in an obscure spot for, say, a week. Then remove it and flush any residue with Goo Gone, ammonia, or De-Solv-It (probably only one will work) to see if the SS surface was marred.  If not, tape away! It probably won’t be ideal for your kids’ magnetic alphabet or the Snarky Bitch Magnetic Poetry kit hubby put in your Christmas stocking, but as long as you don’t mind your photos, cards, artwork, and souvenirs all lined up in lock-step fashion, your magnetic masterpiece is good to go!

Recycled Spark Plug Plugbug Magnet by Fred Conlon of Sugar Post

Recycled Spark Plug "Plugbug" Magnet

Say what? You’re more spontaneous and expressive than ducks-in-a-row magnetic tape allows? Here are some options for random placement, some more pricey than others:

Hot gluing your entire magnet collection to your refrigerator door is a bit radical, I’d say, but I did find that solution offered online. EMPHASIS: I have not tried this!!

• Self-adhesive magnetic sheeting: The decision to  semi-permanently cover that expensive stainless steel with what amounts to magnetic shelf liner is yours alone.

Gnome-Be-Gone Kendra Magnet

Gnome-Be-Gone Kendra Magnet

Tacky Wax is a benign substance that becomes tackier as you rub a small ball of it in between your fingers. It’s quick, removable and reusable.

Quake Hold Museum Putty is a similar product to Tacky Wax but suitable for more permanently placed memorabilia, like your birth certificate everyone keeps asking to see.

3M Reusable Adhesive Tabs are another alternative for semi-permanent mountings.

Yardbirds Recycled Hardware Snail Magnet

Recycled Hardware Snail Magnet

Friggie Tape is a repositionable double stick tape that the manufacture claims can be removed from photos, cards, etc. with no damage to your treasures. Try it first on something disposable.

Stainless Cling are patches that stick to photos, artwork, recipe cards, even magnets, but adhere to the frig without adhesive. Magic, I guess!

Self-Adhesive plastic sleeves are probably the cheapest solution if you’re primarily looking to display your wunderkinds’ wonder-work. Available up to 12″ x 18″ for under $2 each. When your progeny finally goes off to college you can probably (that’s probably) remove the adhesive with one of the solvents mentioned in paragraph six.

Retro Vermont Bottle Cap Magnets

Retro Vermont Bottle Cap Magnets

So fellow magneteers, we have entered the realm of denim jeans here! Magnets on refrigerators are forEVER; for every man, woman and child on the planet; and for every socio-economic demographic. Bet ya’ never expected to have a thing in common with those 1%-ers who, I have on good authority, at every opportunity festoon the frig – all six of them!

Jendala Magnetic Frames on Frig

Jendala Magnetic Frames on Frig

A parting personal note: Here’s our magnetic-less GE Monogram converted into a kitchen kommunication korner using fabulous recycled steel frames by Jendala hung from suction cups. I’ve used felt pads on the back to protect the stainless surface.

Ire Over the Erie

Max at the wheel on the Erie

When Max was in middle school I sometimes would take his textbooks to my office and photocopy the pages blocking out distracting charts, images, sidebars, etc. One night I was too tired to trek across the yard to open my office, so I volunteered to read out loud a chapter on US westward expansion in the early 19th century. The mere paragraph this text devoted to the conception, construction and historical importance of the Erie Canal, left me slack-jawed.

Gabe and I are both native New Yorkers and a substantial segment of our American history education was devoted to this pivotal accomplishment. If you know us, you can just picture what happened next. We spent the winter researching the entire 373-mile route from the Waterford Flight to the Tonawanda terminus. By summer we had purchased a second-hand 25′ power boat and trailer, recruited a traveling companion for our son, loaded up our truck with photo gear and supplies, hooked our dinghy to the other car, and headed north up the Hudson Valley.

I won’t go into detail about the boat taking on water within moments of being launched, but picture a boat still tied to the trailer winch floating downstream in the pitch dark while the water-logged engine refused to start. Thankfully, that was the low-point of the entire summer. The rest of the season was spent advancing two vehicles and two boats lock-by-lock, sharing sleeping quarters among four people, eating alfresco, and bathing in the canal. Ah, what an experience!

Currently, we have 30 titles in Erie Canal Edition I. Future publishing plans include featuring some of the often-overlooked communities that grew up along the canal’s route; like Holy Trinity, a Russian Orthodox Monastery; Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the Women’s Suffrage Movement; and the middle Mohawk Valley with its prospering Amish dairy farms. The region has served as an able caretaker of the history that emerged as society pushed westward, made more comfortable and affordable by the Erie Canal. Read about this astonishing accomplishment at

John Hayden

If you can picture an Andean family sitting in their yard in the mountains of Bolivia making goat hoof shakers, you’ve got to marvel at the logistics that finds these indigenous instruments being offloaded from a container ship in the Port of Seattle. And with great regularity, too!  When asked about this, John Hayden, founder and owner of Jamtown, admits to often being equally amazed.

Sixteen years ago John decided to get off the corporate ladder and onto a path that he believed would reveal a purpose as he went down it. A lifelong passion for music had left him with a collection of musical instruments from various far-flung locales that he would periodically drag out for an impromptu jam session with friends. Now he looked to these instruments to suggest destinations for his travels.

John in Accra Ghana with the producer of the drum bags.

John states that in the beginning he was entirely adventure-driven rather than profit- or goal -driven, literally doing some minor research and then following his nose into a region in a take-me-to-your-music-maker fashion. Besides English he only spoke barely passable Spanish, so these early direct dealings with artisans were limited, as well as rare.

As his global pursuits grew into a vision and then an actual product line, John was invited to join the Fair Trade Federation. This provided access to cooperatives and NGOs (non government organizations) that could assist with sourcing product, native language communications, exportation requirements, currency exchange, and all manner of coordinating activities. As he suspected, his path had a definite destination, and he had arrived.

John with artisans and village kids in Rebana, Java, Indonesia

Jamtown is all about what we have in common on this planet – a love for music! It’s dedicated to partnering with low-income families and cooperatives to improve their lives through the fairly traded fruits of their labor; and to providing an unplugged experience for American families and groups through access to these remarkable instruments; and the workshops, classes, and educational materials John has developed.

Do you suppose that Andean family sits around after supper wondering where their goat hoof shakers end up, trying to picture them in an US urban setting? I’ll bet they’re saying, “¿No tienen sus propias cabras en los Estados Unidos?” Well, perhaps because of John and your support of the principles of Fair Trade, that family even had a meal to “sit around after.” Please take a moment to watch this video: ‪Bolivia in 14 Days

PS. The goat hoof shakers are our best selling Jamtown instrument!

Collection by John Hayden of Jamtown

Instruments, mainly percussion, are from seven countries on three continents.  Fair Trade principles assure the artisans are paid a fair, living wage for their labors.

Pictured: Water Drum, Djembe and Caxixi from Ghana; Gourd Shaker,Gourd Scraper and Panderetas from Peru; Nipple Gong from Vietnam; Frame Drum from Indonesia; and Goat Hoof Shaker from Bolivia.

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