While adorable dogs, the magical smell of beeswax candles, and oodles of gorgeous glassware are pretty darn nice, the thing that REALLY makes The Foundry feel like home is our family. While well-made objects of beauty and use make the daily rhythms of life more pleasant + effortless, like in any home, it's the people inside that really make it glow. Since not all of you live within striking distance of our real-life shop, we wanted to bring a little Foundry Family magic your way (if we close our eyes and *wish* it will almost be like we all live together on the same block).
Next up in our getting-to-know-you series, SUSANNAH, the most far-flung member of our Foundry Family. Our wordsmith extraordinaire, she helps tell the Foundry story from her farmhouse in Crozet, VA, where she lives with her egg-cracking 2-year old daughter Lois (aka “the babe”), banjo-picking husband Andrew, slinky sable cat Nipsey Russell, and 120,000 honeybees. For this interview we enlisted the help of another member of the extended Foundry Family, Anna’s brother (in-law) from another mother, Jay (also author of the beautiful poetry volume, BLOOM, available right here at The Foundry).
Jay, left, after officiating Susannah's wedding.
J: For the record, state your name and your location.
S: I am Susannah Bruce Hornsby. I live in the Yancey Mills section of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and I'm currently in my 1890 farm house, which is called Fennario. The babe is that way [points left], and the bees are that way [points right].
J: What do you do as part of The Foundry?
S: Well, I have been given the incredible opportunity to help translate the Foundry magic that exists in the real-life wilds of Tangletown (Foundry note: to those not in the know, that is our neighborhood here in Minneapolis) to the even wilder wilds of the internet. There's so much big magic that happens in that place. The life and world that The Foundry has built is so tactile and beautiful, and you want to touch it, and you want to live in it. That's hard to feel on the computer, so I try to hold the wooden spoons in my hand and then explain why it's the best-feeling wooden spoon I've ever felt and to get Ruby and Turnip and the whole crazy cast of characters there accurately represented here on thefoundryhomegoods.com.
I write the product descriptions and I work with Anna, of course, and Lillian, the deeply magical shop manager. Whenever there's a new parcel of beauty that comes in, Lillian and I are feverishly typing comments back and forth into a Google document that's like, "Does this enamel spoon have a hole in the handle," and she's like, "You know it does, girl." I'm like, "You could hang it next to your sink!" and she's like, "Yes, or next to the the pot bubbling on the campfire!" It's this collaborative magic making.
J: It sounds like the objects are inspiring and the people are inspiring to you as a writer.
S: Absolutely. Yeah, and the relationship of the objects to the people in this way. I do a lot of copywriting work and marketing work for other retail and eCommerce entities. People always want to create some narrative arc of the objects being informed by the people that use them and love them, and, for The Foundry, that's just true.
J: Can you expand a little bit more on that #true? I mean, why is that important for a brand to be authentic?
S: It feels trite to say or maybe obvious, but authenticity is a thing that brands want the most. When you're speaking to someone about the objects that they're going to be living with and that they're going to be bringing into their home, telling the story of why the production methods matters, or why the construction matters, or why the tradition of this object matters, it's important. Especially for a place like The Foundry where it's these very intimate things that you're going to be using and touching every day.
For The Foundry, the stories are beautiful and they're fascinated by the different things that they stock, but the stories are also just true. The reason that they chose this maker versus that maker is because there's a resonant communication between a value set, almost. That these are the things that we value in our business, but these are also the things that we value in our lives and in our home. Because the things that they are selling are things that you carry in your lives and in your home, it's this really beautiful, intimate feedback loop.
Something that's not related to this but is something that I really love is this gift that I get to do these deep dives into these different artisan traditions and cultural traditions for the work on some of the product descriptions that I love. It is such a gift, and I will just go down these rabbit holes. If it's enamelware or something, I'll go back and research how enamel was first made and discovered, the kinds of conditions that made enamel successful, and why it became so popular during certain times.
Susannah, camping in Cobscook Bay, Maine, melting butter for fresh-dug clams in her old traveling enamel set.
I think enamel, specifically in America at least, came to prominence during The Great Depression even though it had commercially been a technique that had been used in France since the early 1800s. But it was cheap, durable, and beautiful. So it was a thing that everyone's grandmother had some kind of enamel thing, and they got it during The Great Depression because it was something that they could afford that then they could strap on to their poor Tom Joad Dust Bowl car and take to California with them, and it lasted there.
J: Is that one of the cutting room floor Foundry Home Goods taglines? “Dust Bowl Tested Home Goods?”
S: “Dust Bowl Tested,” yeah, “Ma Joad approved.” It's like, "This enamel saucepan can whip up your side meat at any roadside tragedy."
A very un-tragic roadside scene, tin cups and tie-dyed-Turkish-towel-as-tablecloth, mapping the next road trip sauvage stop in the Dordogne, France.
J: Speaking of history, you are a fantastic writer. I am personally a fan of your writing, and I always have been in its various forms that I've gotten to experience it. How did you get to be so good? What has been your path to becoming a writer?
S: That is a hard question. I guess, I have always loved words, books, and poems ever since I was just the very littlest person, and I would just be a voracious reader and a writer. I wrote all the time, songs and poems, and I was always moved by books and the magic of the world building that is therein. I guess, in a romantic way, I definitely always felt like I might be a writer of a great novel or short stories, but that ended up never being the avenue that my creativity lent itself to. I always had a dream, like: "I'm going to write a BIG story," but I felt like I had too many little stories to tell.
I'm not sure if you want the brass tacks of that personal professional trajectory, but I was an English major in college and loved reading Whitman, Blake, and all of those mystical dudes. When I was in college, what I do now wasn't a job that existed. It's like, "I could create infinite beautiful tiny worlds for people to read about and then perhaps aspire to?" That wasn't a thing that existed, so I found my way to content and copywriting pretty organically through working with some retail startups in New York City when I was living there. I'm in the mountains now, but I was in New York for 10 years, which is where I met you and then became looped into The Foundry family.
I fell into retail startup, and that was almost at the beginning of eCommerce and all of these new opportunities for telling stories. Since then, I've been able to pick and choose and discover different clients that I work with that have worlds that either need to be built, stories to be told, or they just need to have their outward-facing romance bushes fluffed up a little bit.
J: Maybe you could tell a little bit about your relationship to music, and history, or songwriting.
S: I have, again, a deep and long history with music. I come from a family of musicians. My parents were both touring musicians before my brother and I were born, and we grew up playing and singing always. We didn't write so much, although we do have a family tradition of writing a song, or taking a song that exists and writing new words for it, for big life events. When my husband, Andrew, and I got married, my parents sang a song that they had written that's based on an Emmylou Harris song. That's probably one of the earliest songwriting things. Writing and performing songs together for these big life events. I don't know. That's sort of an easy allegory to the power of music, the tie-in of the performative creative aspect that follows the thread along your life narrative.
Susannah at her wedding, flanked by Jay, husband, Andrew (banjo), and her father, Bobby, (guitar), singing together.
Anyway, I always sang and played in bands. I took piano lessons when I was little and I play the acoustic guitar. When I moved to New York in 2006...Is that right? Yeah, 2006. I had recently had a breakup, and I was moping around, well as much as one can mope when one has just arrived in New York. I guess alternatively moping around and then raging around being like, "New York City!!!" Playing my acoustic guitar, working on songs, and trying to capture that young angst and big feelings of heartbreak and feeling that music and songs would be the best possible way to do that. In retrospect, maybe thinking too, "If I don't get some good songs out of this breakup, what the hell!" So I was going around the apartment with my big yellow legal pad writing stuff down, and my roommate at the time, he said, "You should get in touch with my ex-girlfriend's brother's band," and I said, "Great. I will definitely do that." That band turned out to be Red Rooster (Foundry note: Jay's long-time band).
You all just told me to show up to a practice room in midtown at 6pm and then we'd have a show that night 9. Like, who does that!? If felt like a super high stakes try-out. I made it. The whole thing was history making for me. I basically began a life-long series of multiplying joys and beauty in that random practice room because my future husband was also in that room, unbeknownst to me at the time, and I met you. Then we went and played a Rolling Stones cover show in Williamsburg. I was so nervous. Then the headliners asked me to get back up on stage to sing "Sweet Virginia" with them, and I was like, "New York City. I got this. Sweet Virginia. Here I am."
J: Are you playing music now?
S: Yes, I am. I am playing music now. In Red Rooster, I didn't play any instrument to start because I played the acoustic guitar, and that band already had multiple guitar players and 11 other people that were in it playing an instrument, so I was just singing. But I desperately wanted to be playing an instrument, so the banjo player, who is now my husband...we had known each other for a couple of years within the band before getting together, you thought it was going to break up the band when you found out! We had been dating for two or three months maybe when my birthday came around, and he gave me an accordion. Sort out of the blue, after only having been dating for a few months! Which I think is a bold adventure and a bold choice.
J: A big move.
S: A big move. Strong. Because it could really go one of two ways. It went the good way. The accordion was in a monogrammed case with my initials on it and I thought "Man, this guy really gets me in a way I didn't even know I could be got".
So, I started playing the accordion in 2008. That's 11 years ago. Holy moly. Many things have ensued between now and then, but now Andrew, who is an incredible banjo player, musician, songwriter, partner, and everything else in his own right...and a redhead, we have a band in our town called Susie & The Pistols. Susie, me, and then the other Pistols. Andrew is a banjo player, but in this band he plays the guitar, in a banjo tuning, and it's just fantastic. It's so amazing. He's such an incredible listener and player. We also have bass, drums, and sometimes keys.
J: Speaking of further products of your union with Andrew, tell us about Lois.
S: Lois? Ahhh, Lois. Lois Rose Hornsby Green is our daughter. She turned two in February, and she is just a spectacular human being on and in this world. She is just deeply magical. She's interested, and she's interesting. I feel like I could talk about Lois for a long time.
J: What are some of Lois's favorite Foundry Home Goods if she has any?
S: Well, she's playing with one right at this very minute. She has recently become obsessed with play dough, and my mother has brought a couple of batches of homemade play dough with her from the Co-op recipe, which is the school where I went when I was Lois's age. Lois has one of the little rolling pins and also an olive wood spoon, so she uses the rolling pin to roll out the play dough and the olive wood spoon to push it into an old biscuit mold. She also loves the Old Mill Beeswax Crayons. They fold up in a sweet little canvas rollup so we always carry them with us so she can draw on the move. Crucial at a restaurant.
She's also very curious, and she loves everything. It's so awesome. She loves cooking and she loves food, so we have a step stool thing that puts her at counter height in the kitchen. She's legit helpful, and she's two! Children can do way more than you might think if you give them a little breathing room. We have some enamel bowls that are not breakable, so she'll crack eggs into the enamel bowls for breakfast. She's super good at cracking them on the edge and then taking the shells and putting them into the compost. You wouldn't want her to crack them if you needed every yolk to stay intact, so, like, no soufflés, but she loves making waffles and does the batter herself. She has a little children's whisk that she uses and her own little apron. My mother made matching ones for us all. The pocket fabric has llamas playing guitars on it.
I have to check myself sometimes when I'm writing the descriptions, because I see so many of The Foundry things through the lens of Lois. There's infinite incredible things that are just for children at The Foundry, but then also, because all of the things have this level of intention, it's like everything could be awesome for a child. I don't know. If you did some kind of find-and-replace on all of the descriptions that was like, "Also makes an ideal X for a child," it would be, like, literally everything...They just started carrying these insanely beautiful Danish furniture pieces and there is this truly exquisite free-standing Teak drying rack. Like, I see that and, obviously it's absolutely ideal for the intended purpose of stylishly drying all of your laundry. BUT it's so gorgeous and sculptural and the base is so teepee-like if you had it covered in drying sheets it would also make this incredible hidden fort zone for a little person while it was also doing its primary job. So many layers. Motherhood is like: I can't unsee the world of possibilities.
But then, like, I got one of the mini Chari Baskets for Lois but then decided I had to keep it for myself.
J: What's that?
S: It's amazing! It's like a fishing creel style basket that has little loops on the back so you can attach it to bike handlebars as well as a strap that you can wear like a backpack or like a purse but I like to wear it around my waist when I'm out exploring, finding finds.
J: Finding finds?
S: Oh gosh, like, my favorite thing. I am always on the lookout for feathers or bones or special rocks or seaglass...just finds. It's amazing what you can find if you are simply engaged in the radical act of being present and paying attention. My pockets are always full of acorn caps and old pennies and stuff. I brought the basket for Lois on a trip to South Carolina to visit my best friend Ravenel at her farm, and Rav and I were walking through a just-plowed field and kept finding all of these ancient flint-struck arrowheads. I put them in Lois' chari basket and strapped it on never looked back. I had already stashed a few feathers and a dove call in there "for her" so it's not like it was too big of a leap.
J: So that's still on her wishlist maybe. What are some of your personal favorites that you use on a day-to-day basis, Foundry Home Goods?
S: Well, I think one of the biggest revelations has been the brushes, which I think has been a real a paradigm shift in my daily. The specialized dish brushes and the brush-that-is-basically-perfect-for-cleaning-coffee-mug-dregs-you-let-sit-on-your-desk-for-12-hours have really changed how I interact with my whole kitchen and sink systems in this way. I also keep a little hog hair nail brush there which has become totally essential. Especially since my gardening style since Lois' arrival has been much less "dedicate an entire glorious afternoon tending and therefore do something sensible like wear gloves" to "blitzkrieg pull any crown vetch you happen to notice encroaching on the anemones on your way back from dumping the compost and come back inside with coal miner fingernails". There's also a BAR of dish soap. Thanks to The Foundry, that's what we have at our house instead of Palmolive or whatever, and it confounds my mother's generation visitors. They're like, "Where's the plastic thing?" I'm like, "No. Just use this bar."
J: Would you say there's before brush and after brush? Do you look at your life that way?
S: I do. Maybe it's more like the existence of the gnarliest sponge that ever was, and then the banishment of the gnarliest sponge there ever was.
J: Post-gnarly sponge era.
S: Yeah. We're living in that post-gnarly sponge paradise right now. Oh! Another thing that's not, like, an "everyday item" since I don't go into my beehives every day, is a horsehair bee brush that The Foundry Family gave me for Christmas last year. The Foundry doesn't normally stock them since it's such a specific item (like, only a beekeeper would know what it is) but Lillian and Anna saw that their German brush maker makes them and they special ordered it for me. My heart was so full. It is so beautiful and essential. You use it to brush bees off of frames gently and safely when you're working in the hive. It's particularly useful when you're getting ready to harvest honey and want to be sure you don't bring any bees with you into the honey house. (Foundry Note: though we don't keep these bee brushes in stock, we'd be happy to place a special order for any interested beekeepers!).
Lois, in her special bee suit, with her grandmother, Ann, in the Fennario Beeyard. Susannah is holding the honey and taking the picture.
J: That's amazing. What would be on your wishlist that's in The Foundry catalog?
S: I have a shocking level of covetousness for so much of it, and I feel like what I am lusting after at any given moment is literally whatever is the most recent thing that I've been writing about. I just did a deep dive into the Northern Dyer botanical dyes. It's a small company run by woman who lives in Minneapolis and has her own botanical dye garden and also does a lot of wild dye foraging I think perhaps she's a legitimate elf. I just did a bunch of research into the history and culture of natural dyes and dyer's woad, which is what would make a deep indigo blue color, and using marigold petals, which makes this super-saturated Hare Krishna yellow color.
Right now, I have a high covet level for that. If I lived in Minneapolis, it would be so dangerous. I count on time and distance to keep myself in check a little bit, because then I have to take a step back and be like, "All right. How many seed-to-dye kits do I actually need??"... Because that's also the thing. These dye kits, she gives you the seeds to plant the plant and then instructions on how to cultivate it, grow it, then harvest it, pluck the leaves, and then how to use the leaves to dye.
J: I mean, it's to dye for.
S: It is tie dye for. I don't know. The dyes. Maybe the Great Dixter spade, honestly, would be the thing.
J: That's from the new Dutch shipment of Garden Tools?
S: Mm-hmm and Great Dixter is an iconic, beautiful old garden in England that was landscape architected by this legendary British gardener. He was well known, unlike many British gardeners, for having all of his plants very close together in this super wild, really beautiful, organic way so that the heights and the grow times of them are all specifically in tune so that it's always really lush, and there's always a bunch of textures. But to do that, you need a special short shovel that you can get into each tight spot and get out the plant that you want to take out and then surgically extract it or plant a new one in a super-specific place. That gardener, or his heirs, talked to Sneeboer, the Dutch tool company, to make a spade that is exactly to that specification. That, my friends, is the Great Dixter spade.
Susannah's kitchen herb garden, future home of Great Dixter Spade interventions.
J: What makes The Foundry family a family? What do you feel like the team culture is, and how is it unique and special?
S: Honestly, I've worked with a lot of retail teams, and I've never seen anything like it. It is just so marvelous, lovely, and real. You're interviewing me right now, or I guess I'm just talking at you right now, but I have had the opportunity to interview all of the other Foundry family members, which has been just so wonderful, almost surprisingly so. We set aside 20 or 25 minutes out of their day, and then I end up talking with each of them for an hour and a half. They're just beautiful people, and they're legitimately passionate about so many interesting things. All of the things that they're passionate about organically tie back to their strengths and their passions as they are manifested at The Foundry.
Mara, who makes the incredible cutting boards, she is legitimately obsessed with wood and has been for her entire life and has these stories of her and her father going and chopping down trees in the dead of night and hoarding the wood. By magic, organically, she finds herself to The Foundry where, "Do we know any resident woodworkers?"
Erin is a consummate entertainer. She and her partner have this outdoor space, and they're always throwing these giant parties where 40 people come for dinner. It's just this effortless, long evening time, and they just keep bringing more and more plates out. So she has this attachment to all of the glassware and all of the plates.
Adam is this incredible performer. He is this magnetic dynamo in the shop, doing high kicks and bringing this potent, beautiful energy. He's a connection maker.
Lillian is pure magic, but Anna is pure magic also in her very specific Anna way. So to have two people who are both magical beings, but in their own very distinct way, in one place? It seems almost unfathomable to me. Lillian has an incredible garden and an incredible sense of wanderlust, and this exquisite sense of the possibilities of home and the possibilities of abroad. She is brilliant and passionate and funny and takes these incredible trips with Detective. I'm like...is it weird that I want to take a roadtrip with you? Can I?
You know Anna. She is, I think, actually a unicorn in Anna clothing. I'm sure that somewhere under effortless linen layers and crown braid is a horn. I met her for the first time with you and with Katie Rose and that connection is the cinnamon raison d'être of my relationship with this incredible place. I don't think I've ever met someone who is truly kind, who has this super grounded hands-in-the-dirt capacity for working hard and building something beautiful, but then is simultaneously also incredibly glamorous. It's this really wonderful juxtaposition, which I see in Katie Rose (Anna's Sister, Jay's Wife) also. But there's this...Glamour is the only way that I can think to describe it. It's this-
S: #EarthGlam. Do you think that's taken already?
J: Not yet. We need to buy earthglam.com.
J: What about the menagerie?
S: The girls?
J: Well, there's Detective, Turnip, Ruby, and Janet, right?
S: I don't know Janet.
J: Oh, you haven't met ... Janet's the walrus who lives behind the counter.
S: Is it Janet? Is it Janet the Walrus? Well, then-
J: In her sorority days, they called her Jan Jan.
S: Is Jan Jan glad that she was at school before the advent of social media?
S: She must have a tusk or two.
S: Well, the girls are just shocking. That's another thing too. I don't think that Adam has a pup. Everyone else, though, you see these beautiful little vignette videos that they shoot at impromptu, legitimate pop-up Foundry dinner parties, just at someone's beautiful zone, and there's just dogs everywhere just hanging out being their own authentic selves. I have met Ruby in person, but I haven't met Turnip, Detective, or Valentine, and...I only have a correspondence relationship with Janet. She's an incredible letter writer.
J: If there's some fun fact that people would be very surprised to know about you, what would that be?
S: Surprised to know? Oh, my goodness. I'm actually an introvert.
J: Whoa. Good one.
S: Do you think there's anything surprising about me? I feel like I'm pretty much just myself.
J: I don't know, because you're so familiar to me that nothing is coming as surprising, but I'm sure there's something that would...I'm trying to think of what people out there in the blogosphere might be surprised about.
S: I have custom made monogrammed cowboy boots with my initials on the back of one heel and my accordion on the back of the other.
J: That's a fun fact. We're going to need a picture of that. What else?
S: I always wear pink mood lipstick from Morocco.
J: That, I didn't know, but not surprising.
S: I always travel with a Turkish towel. I like to go swimming whenever humanly possible. I've been in some very cold water, but I've never regretted it, ever.
J: That's a great quote.
The coldest water ever she swam: glacial melt, Lacs d'Ayous, Pyrenees. NO REGRETS.
J: Lastly: are you more of a Ruby or a Turnip?
S: Well, I thought about it beforehand, and I'm actually a Sophie.
J: Ooh. A Sophie. Ruby's and Turnip's cousin. (Deep Foundry reference for those of you who may remember Ruby wearing Sophie's old stitched leather collar in her first wild years of North Loop living).
S: Yes. Because you know, we're on the same level, I'm part of the family, but I'm not there. But I'm making my own magic elsewhere and I love to be interconnected in their universe. It's like we're in the constellation of sisters, even if we aren't in the same place all the time.
Whew. That was a long one! Leave it to the wordsmith to use all the words. Thank you, Susannah, and thank you, Jay!