Joshua Vogel's Best Of
The Hudson Valley
Upriver from New York City and its heavily settled suburbs – and a world away from the cramped glamour of the Hamptons – a community of world-class talent is thriving. Ulster County, in particular, seems to be fueling creative innovation in every field.
For all its beauty, Revolutionary Era-history and rich tradition of art and music, there’s an easy, unassuming vibe to the County. Though there are celebrity residents and pockets of extraordinary privilege, the place feels pleasantly low-key.
The combination of affordable space with an interesting community will always be a magnet to artists, and it’s no surprise that the beautiful setting is inspiring high-end design. At the apex of the scene is Joshua Vogel, artist, designer and author (“The Artful Wooden Spoon”), and co-founder of Blackcreek Mercantile. The clean, calm, heartfelt lines of his work have made him a rock-star among wood carvers, and he’s a charismatic philosopher of craft (his book is as much inspiring guide to life as wood-carving manual). His joy in making things is infectious – work, for him, is a creative meditation – and the life-enhancing properties of his designs are manifestations of his “dedication to a life better lived.”
Josh first discovered the Valley thanks to its proximity to the city. Having co-founded the legendary furniture and design company BDDW in New York, he came up to go fishing in the Esopus – and found he was himself hooked. “I think I’m attracted to like-minded people, creative environments, and perhaps I find myself in these spots not by design but by magnetism.” From that first pull, he felt ready to settle.
“Being a woodworker and being in the forest makes perfect sense. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by all of this natural environment. The woods offer both food for thought and actual material for my work.”
He talks warmly of his fellow residents – musicians, painters, ceramicists, chefs, and a few woodworkers. “If you know your neighbours and enjoy being with them and the community is supportive, it’s easy to call it home.” The sculptor Martin Puryear made a particular impact: “To have one of your heroes come in the shop one day and just say hi – an artist of that calibre, a man who is completely influential to my design and thought process…” It felt both a privilege and an indication that he was in the right place.
“Ulster County has more artists per capita than any other county in the country. Even so, it feels like you’re dealing with a handful of individuals. Everyone has enough elbow room that they can be collaborative and not on top of each other.”
“It’s a big area, and if you want to come explore, Kingston makes a great hub.
Eat and Drink:
“The favorite restaurant of all the local folks around is Elephant. The Peace Nation Café also serves amazing food. The Redwood Bar and Boitson’s have roof decks with great views of the Catskills.
"Tuttletown Distillery, the oldest in our area since the laws were relaxed. And The Kingston Wine Company is fantastic.
“Visit The Falcon in Marlboro for world-class jazz and dinner in a renovated music hall.
"The Deer Mountain Inn. They have a design ethos around Rip van Winkle and mountain life. They serve wonderful food and have a great little bar.
“I’m the worst person to talk to about shopping. Fleishers is a great butcher, and Kingston has a great farmer’s market where you can find quality meats and vegetables, some wines and ginger elixirs. All local made. And if you’re into people watching, some pretty interesting people show up there… The Stockade generally is the spot for hitting the street.
"The Clearwater is a wonderful distraction and organization that is trying to educate everyone about the Hudson River and sailing the old way. They celebrate the river as it once was, the Sloop as the conduit by which everything moved up and down the Valley.
“The Walkway over the Hudson is another wonderful thing.
“Explore the Catskills themselves and Kaaterskill Falls.
“The Esopus is appealing for anybody into fishing. I throw back all the fish I catch. My dad was a wonderful fly fisherman and in the last part of his life decided he would smash all the barbs of his flies, and collect pebbles for every fish he caught and released. At the end of the day, he’d have dozens of pebbles and I’d have one or two.
“Westwind Orchard has wonderful pizza, pick-your-own organic apples and a great country store.
“A significant new regional specialty is the cider. Hudson Valley has been growing apples for so long but it’s hard to grow organically without spraying in our climate. With cider, ugly organic apples can be pressed into the best cider.
“The great thing about this area is nothing’s a fixture, it’s all growing. Regional specialties are here for discovery. Come explore.”