Hazel Tree Wonderland: The making of a textile forest in downtown Akron

by Sophie Franchi

Photo by Karen Starr

Photo by Karen Starr

When Karen told me that I’d get to work with her and Chelsea on our very own Curated Storefront exhibit, I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it was going to be awesome.

The Curated Storefront is a 2016 Knight Arts Challenge winning project conceived by Rick Rogers. It’s an ongoing series of art exhibitions created in unused storefronts in downtown Akron. The intention is to activate those spaces in an effort to bring business back into downtown.  

Located at 68 East Mill Street, our storefront is in a fantastic location: right in the middle of downtown, in Greystone Hall, across from the John S. Knight Center and the Akron Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau. We had two windows to work with: a large window, viewable from the front and side, and a smaller window off to the left.

In the large window, we created a fabric wonderland. Chelsea hand-dyed all of the rayon and silk textiles on the far right of the exhibit with dyes that she created from avocado, blackberry and indigo. She dyed the draping fabrics in an ombre fashion, with avocado or blackberry dye on one end fading into indigo dye on the other, and all of the sheer silk fabrics were dyed with indigo. All the indigo fabric was dyed in a low-submersion dye bath, so the natural twist of the fabric setting in the solution created its own unique print. Once they were dry, Chelsea stitched the panels to create some cinching, which created a resemblance to Austrian stage curtains.

Chelsea also heat treated and hand-dyed the wool roving (the long, rope-like wool textiles in the middle of the exhibit) with dyes from onion skin, privet bush berries and indigo. She left some roving untreated for a different effect.

Photo by Sophie Franchi

Photo by Sophie Franchi

Together, the three of us hung the individual pieces of roving and yarn and and played with them to create different textural effects. We then incorporated spanish moss for another organic element. We hung two Akron architectural relics: salvaged light fixtures from the ends of the deli counter at the old Bisson’s Grocery Store that used to be in Wallhaven. Then we hung the fabric panels on the far right, twisting, turning, draping, and re-draping until we got the effects we wanted.

Photo by Chelsea Uhl

Photo by Chelsea Uhl

For the smaller window to the left, Karen found an owl that that she made even more majestic by painting him and adorning him with feathers that she cut individually out of jewel-toned crushed velvet and glued on one by one. We nestled him behind a witchy black lace curtain to balance the lighter mood of the other window. During the day, the owl is more hidden, and the viewer has to look a little harder to see it. But at night, the owl comes to life, as nocturnal creatures do.

Photo by Sophie Franchi

Photo by Sophie Franchi

Photo by Courtney Cable

Photo by Courtney Cable

The Hazel Tree Wonderland exhibit is best viewed in the early evening, at night, or before dawn, as that’s when there is the least amount of light reflecting off the windows to obstruct the view. The exhibit will be on display until January, when the next artist will take over the storefront. Next time you’re grabbing a cookie from Sweet Mary’s Bakery or some tacos at Nuevo, stop by and check it out!

New and Improved

Notice something different? Our website has a new look!

We are so grateful to the "Amp sisters" at Amp Strategy for all the hard work they put into refreshing our website. Morgan Lasher and Kat Pestian have been incredibly helpful, answering all our questions and showing us how to make the most of our new and improved internet presence.

Photo of Morgan Lasher (left) and sister/partner Kat Pestian (right), courtesy of Amp Stretegy.

Photo of Morgan Lasher (left) and sister/partner Kat Pestian (right), courtesy of Amp Stretegy.

Take a moment to explore our new site. Learn about our team and our work, and check out our portfolio!

Soon, we’ll add a page where you can meet the makers with whom we collaborate on design projects. We’re also almost ready to share what’s up next in the design studio, so stay tuned... 

Smart Sustainable Home Summit coming to Akron on April 9

If you are in the industry or interested in learning more about smart and sustainable homes, this is an event you won't want to miss. It will be filled with inspiration, information, education, and networking with one of the nation's leading experts on high performance construction, Peter Yost. During the day, there will be programming and continuing education credits for building industry professionals. 


For more information, you can find the event listing by clicking here.

For homeowners interested in sustainable home solutions, at 6:30pm, Peter Yost will give a free presentation on "How Buildings Work". The talk and discussion will be geared toward sharing info and inspiration about making an existing home more comfortable and energy efficient, as well as cover sustainable new home construction.

A Designer's Touch for Akron's Christmas Tree

Hazel Tree Design Studio is known for their authentic, Akron-centric designs, strong community involvement and now, for curating and decorating Akron’s largest Christmas Tree, which was lit at the Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony on Fri. Nov. 27, 2017.

Located at the Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron, the Hazel Tree Interior team, Karen Starr and her husband, Jon Haidet, along with their employee Chelsea Uhl utilized more than 120 strings of white lights, of all sizes, as well as hundreds of repurposed and new ornaments to bring the Christmas tree to life for the city.

“At Hazel Tree, we create unique designs for our clients, balancing doses of new energy- efficient items, used and repurposed pieces,” shares Karen Starr. “We took the same approach with this one-of-a-kind tree and went through boxes of past tree decorations in the basement of the City building searching for ones that matched our vision.”

“We’ve created a blend of historical touches and fresh, new displays to create a tree that’s unique, beautiful, and fit for our city.”             

Hazel Tree at Lock 3!

Lock 3 is home to a wonderful array of wintertime activities for kids of all ages. You can ice skate, slide down Reindeer Run, play Polar putt-putt golf (inside!), see the vintage window displays from the old O'Neils department store, as well as take a selfie in front of the Christmas tree! Click here for a link to Lock 3's website with more information about all the Winterfest activites.

Photo by Michael Derr

Photo by Michael Derr

Here are some fun facts about the tree:

-There are 15,930 lights on the tree.
-We used six different kinds of lights to create the silver and gold effect. We used three different bulb sizes/shapes, in both cool white and warm white light temperatures, to create texture.
-All the lights are LED and therefore require very little electricity to power the tree. Back when the bulbs were incandescent, it took 13 different electrical channels - now it takes one.
-The tree is 25 feet tall.
-The top 2/3 of the lights and ornaments were hung by City of Akron Parks Department staff in one of their tree trimming trucks with a lift on it. The bottom 1/3 was decorated by Karen and Chelsea with ladders on the ground.
-This is the first year that the tree has ornaments on it - it was always just lights before, so it was really only viewable after dark when it was lit up. We wanted to design it for both daytime and nighttime enjoyment, so we added over 500 ornaments this year.
-The new tree design got some fun press this year! 

Click here for coverage by Akron is for Entrepreneurs.

Have you been to see it yet? We hope you enjoy it when you visit Lock 3! These photos are courtesy of two Akronites that have taken photos of the tree when they visited. Thank you, Michael Derr and Bronlynn Thurman! 

The Latest Showroom Finds

We did a major showroom shuffle last week, in anticipation of our 7th anniversary open house on Saturday. We had a lovely time and saw friends old and new at the open house!

Here are some images of the newest pieces available in the showroom:

Meet our new Interior Designer, Chelsea Uhl!

Last month, we had the pleasure of bringing another interior designer onto the Hazel Tree team. I'd like to introduce you to Chelsea Uhl.

Chelsea joins us from working recently as a freelance interior designer. She received her bachelor of Fine Arts, Interior Design, at the Savannah College of Art and Design and studied abroad in Lacoste, France.

Chelsea is not only a talented interior designer, she is also an amazing textile designer that specializes in hand dyed textiles and custom pattern design (in fact, they are so striking, that her very first week I decided to incorporate some custom-dyed fabric into one of my current projects.) In addition to that, she's amazing with graphic design and designing with plants!

Until she gets acclimated to our studio, she'll work with me on my current and upcoming group of projects, to show her our process and introduce her to our amazing clients. 
She and I also have some big thoughts about the showroom and what is possible there, and we look forward to working on that together in The Spring.

We are so happy to have her on the design team at Hazel Tree. Please help me in welcoming her!

Fun Kitchen - before and after!

Sometimes a before and after transformation makes such a difference you can't believe it's the same house. This is one of those times! 

We loved working on this fun and colorful West Akron kitchen!

Happy Holidays! We're open through 12/23

Christmas Tree.png

Happy Holidays! There is still time to stop in and shop locally-made artwork, home decor accessories, and gifts for the holiday season. 
We are open regular hours this week (Tues-Fri 11-5:30 and Sat 11-3, and next week as well, through December 23. 
After that, we'll close for our long winter's nap like we do every year, and will reopen in 2017 on Tuesday, January 3.

Stop in before then to check out the new art and functional home decor items. We have coasters, illuminated robots, tree ornaments, psychedelic light switch plates, unique napkin sets, photography prints, and framed art that's ready to take off our wall and put on yours. 
We might even be able to squeeze in a custom frame if you hurry. We hope to see you this week or next!

It's been great to share the year with you, and we look forward to the next. 
Happy holidays to you and yours! Peace on Earth, good will to all beings!