News & Views
Photo of Sandwich Village by Joe Janis
Please enjoy this edition of Meet Our Members in which we learn about Derek and Linda Marshall, wonderful artists and craftspeople, who have lived and worked in Sandwich for decades. We are extremely fortunate to have so many fascinating and talented people in our midst.
What is your name and the name of your business?
Derek Marshall. Currently we operate as Derek Marshall Lighting, but before that, we operated as "The Sandwich Kiln " starting in 1971. Basically, it is the same business except we work more with glass than clay...but all comes under the rubric of ceramics.
What got you started in this profession?
After graduating from college in 1965 Linda and I were married. We were then whisked off to Japan where I was to join my ship, the Destroyer Henry W. Tucker, DD875 to serve as her first lieutenant. This was the real start of the American involvement in Vietnam and the Tucker was utilized almost continually for shore bombardment with our 5" guns.
Tucker also worked in carrier operations, running interference against possible enemy submarines and also as a decoy in the Gulf of Tonkin to lure the North Vietnamese to attack us to justify President Johnson’s Tonkin Resolution, the sole justification for our increasing presence in this war. That attack never happened.
Linda, free to pursue more interesting things in Japan while I waged war, became fluent in Japanese. We both developed an intense interest in Japanese art, particularly the ceramic traditions of Japan, a world apart from the overbearing war.
We found, after some searching, a Japanese potter of national repute who said he would take us on in exchange for English lessons. It was a wonderful opportunity with a great artist. We were able to carry on this relationship for several years, between deployments to Vietnam. We lived in a small Japanese house in the fishing village of Hayama, across the peninsula from the Yokosuka Naval base on Tokyo Bay. There the mountains ran into the sea and red Camellias bloomed in the hills in the winter.
Life was good. I learned traditional Japanese ceramics, fired in a wood burning kiln about 40 feet long along with the incomparable Japanese aesthetics.
Eventually we were shipped back to the states to finish off my four-year commitment to the armed forces for paying my ROTC scholarship to Columbia University.
In Norfolk, Virginia, we found a great teacher of ceramic art at the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Science where by good chance we were able to continue our studies of Japanese ceramics by a wonderfully knowledgeable teacher.
After discharge from the Navy in 1969 and a summer sojourn touring around Europe, we returned to Japan to continue our study of Japanese art. I attended the Kyoto City University of Fine Arts (Kyoto Geijitsu Daigaku) for a year of graduate study in Japanese ceramics.
Linda took up brush painting in the style of black ink on handmade paper (sumi-e) and studied under the internationally renowned artist Tomikichiro Tokuriki.
After a year of total immersions in the life and arts of Japan, the three of us, (Amy was born during the rainy season in Japan in 1970) returned to America looking to start our professional careers in the creative arts.
Two years later, our son Crofton entered the world and now lives next door to us with his two sons, Alex, 16 and Gus, 13. Crofton is a builder and his wife, Andrea, is a registered nurse.
Daughter Amy lives in New York City with her husband, Chad. They are both dancers (Amy Marshall Dance Company) and have three children, Pasha, 13, Devlin 13 and Gillian, 10. Amy & Chad are both trainers as well, catering to a private clientele.
How did you get to Sandwich, NH?
As it often happens, winding up in Sandwich was a random process. While we were in Japan, Linda's parents had left Connecticut for NH to open a gift shop,The Towle Hill House, in Meredith.
When we returned from Japan in late winter of 1971, it was our intention to find a likely spot for setting up a pottery studio in Maine. A friend suggested that we look at Sandwich. A little investigation revealed that Sandwich was a delightful rural community with a long tradition of crafts and in fact was the birthplace of The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. The Sandwich Home Industries was one of several League shops selling New Hampshire art and crafts in the state.
As it turned out, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen is a unique organization, the envy of other crafts people around the country. For several years I served as VP of the organization, headquartered in Concord.
How did your business get started?
We started out as potters which meant building a studio, a couple of kilns and all the associated gear necessary to what amounted to a small factory. We made tableware, bowls of all sizes, plates, cups, and such like. It was a lot of work, going through about 8 tons of clay a year which I mixed in a repurposed mortar mixer.
One day we were approached by Norman Perry, a premier maker of table lamps for the architectural and interior design trade. He asked if we would be interested in making some ceramic bases for his company to turn into table lamps.
This we did for several years and became his bestselling line. We won the Roscoe award from the New York City Resources Council for one of our lamp’s designs. In 2019 we won Best of New Hampshire lighting from New Hampshire Magazine.
From this we found a lighting market which not only included table lamps, but also wall sconces. Eventually we incorporated elements of art glass into the sconces and then it was but a short jump to making wall sconces out of glass alone.
What is the most fun/satisfying aspect of your work?
We always enjoy selling our art to interesting people and places. We have sold our lighting in many places, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, China, etc.
In 1976 we were commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts to design and produce a dinner service for a special luncheon for the senate wives hosted by the President’s wife. A single serving of this is now in Sandwich Historical Society.
We do not necessarily know about the interesting people as so much of that kind of thing is handled by third party professional designers...but we have made and sold various of our lights to Richard Branson for his private islands in the Caribbean. I am also delighted when I see our lights in movies and television shows, most of which I have forgotten, but include Friends, Seinfeld, Fraser.
In 1978 we returned to Japan for three shows of our ceramic art with our two children in Kyoto, Kurashiki and Takamatsu.
What is the hardest?
Minor problems occur dealing with customers who have a hard time making decisions. Our job is to help them see clearly what they want.A challenging part of our work is conceiving a new design, reducing it to a two-dimensional draft, then taking that to a three-dimensional pattern from which a series of negative and positive molds must be produced to finish the design.
Usually there is a period of trial and error where all the previous steps may need to be tweaked, or worst case, abandoned to start all over again. Going from an idea to a finished product can take up to a year or longer.
What has happened to your business in this last Covid year?
Cautious people are slower to spend money and the people who produce the glass we love sometimes run out of product. These are typical problems that were exacerbated by the pandemic.
What are your goals and hopes for the future?
We are always coming up with new designs, finding interesting new glass and other related parts for our designs, usually metal, metal castings and even nuts and bolts with appealing finish and texture made from brass, bronze or stainless steel.
Reaching our market is always a challenge when you live on a dirt road in the middle of New Hampshire. We advertise in design journals such as New Hampshire Home and Interior Design and send out press releases to inform the world that we exist for their pleasure.
What else can you tell us about yourself and your business?
We stock about 4-5 dozen styles, textures and colors of the best art glass made in the world. The glasses have all the intrinsic charm of gem stones all being made from the same elements. We have access to thousands of different colors, mixes and textures and can fulfill customers’ requirements for custom work.
All this information and more is on our website. Please come and browse: derekmarshall.com
News & Views
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Meet Our Members
Please enjoy the Sandwich Business Group's 2021 project called Meet Our Members. Read interviews with fascinating people who live here and run businesses, organizations, and engage in other creative pursuits.
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