AHA! A House for Arts


Tivoli Mushrooms

Learn about Devon Gilroy's budding mushroom business, Tivoli Mushrooms, and see how he spreads the fungus among us. What started as a hobby has evolved into a successful business and way of life for Honeyrun Farm. Check out Jeff Vollmer's wood-working way of life. Meet the Kovermans. John’s painting abilities and Marcia’s ceramics skills help create intricate art made entirely of tile.

AIRED: October 10, 2018 | 0:26:46

(wondrous music)

- On this episode of AHA...

Forage for mushrooms.

- Really my dog is what started this business.

- [Matt] The art of beekeeping.

- [Man] This is chock full of honey.

- [Matt] The transformation of wood.

- [Man] Sometimes the wood is gonna let you do things,

and sometimes it's not.

- [Matt] Tiny tiles make beautiful images.

It's all ahead on this episode of AHA.

- [Announcer] Funding by AHA has been provided

by your contribution,

and by contributions to the WMHT Venture Fund.

Contributors include the Leo Cox Beach

Philanthropic Foundation,

Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

and the Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation.

- At M&T Bank we understand that the vitality

of our communities is crucial to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M&T Bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts,

and we invite you to do the same.

(upbeat jazz music)

- Hi, I'm Matt Rogowicz, and this is AHA,

the house for arts, a place for all things creative.

Devon Gilroy is executive chef at The Corner Restaurant

at Hotel Tivoli in Tivoli, New York.

But he also has a passion for mushrooms.

So much so that Devon is starting a business,

Tivoli Mushrooms, so that he can spread the fungus among us.

Let's follow Devon into the woods

on a mushroom foraging adventure to learn more.

- We're really looking at the trees.

That's the,

so like, we're looking at old growth oaks

and maybe some pine.

The mushroom and the tree essentially work together

in the environment.

It's pretty cool.

So come on in.

(zippy classical music)

(zippy classical music)

What we know of as a mushroom is actually

the fruit of a larger organism.

Which would be the mycelial body.

So when you find a, say, like an oyster mushroom

or a maitake or a chicken of the woods,

that is an expression of the life cycle

of the mycelium.

(fast paced jazz music)

So I was working in New York City.

My sister and I, who helps me with this company.

We grew up in a restaurant family.

My dad has restaurants.

He has a bar called Employees Only.

In the city, they've been awarded best bar in America.

They've, you know like, so we grew up

in this hospitality industry.

Grace ran hotels in the city.

I ran restaurants.

We opened a restaurant together.

And really worked out to be like 12 years

of cooking there.

(horns honk)

(birds chirping)

We left that to move out to the country.

To find a little bit more creativity,

have a little bit better quality of life.

And I moved up here to open Hotel Tivoli

and The Corner.

(elegant classical music)

Moving here to the country...

You're not just exposed to all this beautiful product.

But you're really in touch with the seasons.

So it really...

You're inspired by the recurrence

of specific vegetables.

Tivoli mushrooms started in Tivoli.

Really my dog was what started this business.

I would walk my dog and I'd find mushrooms,

and I found an oyster mushroom for the first time.

You know, like five years ago.

And it blew my mind totally.

It was just this log covered in golden pleurotus mushrooms,

which have these beautiful dimple.

And they're bright yellow.

I'd say walking my dog, finding that first flush

was really what sparked my interest in mushrooms.

Being involved with food, I could look at that

and say, okay, this is beautiful.

I relate to this.

I can sell this.

I love this.

We started doing it.

People were so excited about it

that it pushed us to go further.

(relaxing music)

Mushrooms are an entity that colonizes a substrate

or an area.

That's what we're doing here.

We're confining a substrate to a plastic bag

with a set mix of mainly American hardwoods

and grains.

We add our mycelium to that bag,

and it colonizes that bag.

And then, just like in a tree,

where that mycelial body as it is consuming that tree,

when it reaches say the bark of a a tree

and then it has that oxygen exchange

or light exchange, it sends a signal to the mycelium

to fruit.

What we're doing here is colonizing these bags,

allowing that life cycle to happen that would

normally happen in the earth or in a tree,

inside that bag.

And then we force fruit it,

which is then puncturing the bag

and allowing that oxygen exchange

and some light exchange happening.

And then we're fruiting our four different types of,

oyster mushrooms, chestnuts, pioppino, and shiitakes.

Starting a company

and running a business, that takes a lot of passion

and focus.

And you're only as good as how much you put into it.

The goal here for me is to support my family

and be creative and grow something

like literally and figuratively.

And set an example for other people

about how do you build an organic solvent business?

We're not taking any debt out.

We're not taking any credit.

It's been very slow because of that.

I mean we've been in construction for three months.

To be a part of the local economy,

it's been interesting to create relationships

with people that I wouldn't normally meet.

But really in the end

the goal is to create something that's stable

and greater than myself.

- Honeyrun Farm is a small family-run farm

near Williamsport, Ohio,

that makes the most out of their bee byproducts.

What started as a hobby has evolved

into a successful business and way of life.

Take a peek at what all the buzz is about.

- [Isaac] Look at that.

That makes me a happy beekeeper.

(Flight of the Bumblebee music)

So the main thing we do is produce honey.

I'll pull this frame out.

I think this is solid honey.

Yeah, this is all honey here.

Here you can see a little pollen.

That yellow stuff, that orange stuff is goldenrod pollen.

And that's their protein.

That honey is their carbohydrate.

This is good, good to see

because this means they're gonna make it through the winter.

Well, Jayne and I work at Honeyrun.

It's a small family business.

- [Jayne] We have four kids.

They're all six and under.

Growing up I was always around my parents,

working together on the farm.

And I think that helped influence my choice

of wanting to be on a farm so my kids could be around me,

see what we do, help out.

- Mom, what is in there?

- After college, met Jayne,

and she says that I mentioned to her

that I wanted to keep bees,

and I don't even remember that,

but she for Christmas got me a beehive.

So I put it together and started reading about it,

got interested, and that first summer,

we ended up having two hives.

(bees buzzing)

This didn't really become a business

until about 2008 or 2009,

we started selling the honey at farmer's markets.

Eventually we were up to like 150 to 200 hives,

and in 2011 I quit teaching.

And this is what we been doing since.

It's been a slow process,

but we're up to near 400 hives now,

and I'm hoping we'll be up in the 500 range next year.

This is the brood chamber,

where the queen and the brood are going to make it

through the winter.

The excluder, it's called a queen excluder,

it's shaped basically to where the bees can come up

but the queen is too big to get up through there.

And that prevents her from laying eggs

and having a brood nest up in these top chambers.

These top chambers are called honey supers,

and you hope that the bees fill it up with honey.

And that's what we'll harvest here today.

Oh, that looks great too, you know.

This is chock full of honey.

The bees have got this honey pulled out

as far as they can, and it's goldenrod honey.

In the summer it's a different color.

It's more white.

If it's got a strong clover flow, it's like snow white.

But this is more yellow, and it's goldenrod honey.

We pull honey spring, summer, fall,

and as the flowers change you have another taste

in the honey.

In the bottle of fall it's a little darker look.

That's just the honey looks darker,

and it's mostly from the goldenrod.

The bees are foraging on goldenrod,

and then the astir comes on.

And the taste of that honey is going to be

way different from the summer.

It has a more rich butterscotchy taste.

And that's just because the nectar of the goldenrod

is different than the nectar of say, clover in June.

The bees are collecting honey for them.

It's not for us.

And so they have all these carbohydrates ready

for winter.

And in our case, if we steal the fall honey from them,

which they need, we've gotta supplement it with something.

I rob them of their good box of honey on top.

So you supplement it with feed, for one.

If it's warm enough, liquid feed works fine.

This stuff is a mixture of sugar and water,

and basically a lemongrass

and minty essential oils.

It's good for the bees going in the winter.

- [Jayne] I grew up in a Mennonite house,

and so everything, we did a lot of making things

from scratch, keeping things very simple.

The products from the honeybee really are amazing

because they all get used.

So the honey can be extracted.

Whatever is excess honey that the bees don't need,

we can take, it can be used to eat

but also put into soap and lip balms and things like that.

And then the beeswax, which is used as we scrape that

from the comb, we can clean that, render it down

to be used as a candle.

Put it in soap, put it in beeswax, lip balms.

So really there's no hive product that is thrown out.

It's all re-used.

- [Isaac] I plan on doing hives until it kills me.

I love this job.

- Woodworking is more than just a hobby

for Jeff Vollmer of Cincinnati, Ohio.

With a creative mind and fine details

he sculpts complex wood boxes that are a treat to open.

Check it out.

- A puzzle box is a puzzling box.

It' a box that's also a puzzle.

You have to work your way into the box.

(bright music)

That's the hard part.

You can't really describe how a puzzle box looks

because every one looks different.

That's part of what a puzzle box is.

It's something that's a little more unusual in its shape,

its configuration.

There are never two identical pieces.

I only know how to make snowflakes.

If anybody would have told me I would be

a professional woodworker in my life

I would have laughed at them.

You know, really?

Ah come on.

I was a buyer for a department store chain, God sakes,

you know?


But you learn and you adapt.

And you have fun doing it.

(machine whirring)

When we start the process of making a box,

first thing we do is dry our wood.

I work with wood most people wouldn't even

bring in the house and put in the fireplace.

Most of my wood comes from the west coast.

Because I work with burls.

And burls are the roots of the tree.

(harmonica music)

Hardwood basically dries at a rate of an inch per year.

People don't realize you've only got

a five-inch-thick piece of wood,

it took me five years just to get that piece of wood

to where I could work it.

I never know how things are gonna turn out

until they're done.

Because there's no plans,

we never draw anything out.

I can't draw.

In fact I'm useless with a pencil.

To design them you have to let the wood talk to you

an awful lot first off.

And sometimes the wood is gonna let you do things,

and sometimes it's not.

So, if it's got a particular shape

or odd thing to it, you try to do something with that.

So, when we start making our cuts,

and cutting is all done on one saw.

Primarily 99 1/2% of our work is done on a bandsaw.

Which is a circular blade going around,

and we use an eighth-inch blade.

All of our work is done on that.

Sometimes we use a drill press to drill the holes

for magnets or springs or things.

But pretty much we use a bandsaw to make the (mumbles)

And then we gotta glue pieces back together.

(blues music)

Then we go through lots of sanding.

I mean we got sanding we can't wait.

(blues music)

Then we put lacquer on at seven coats of lacquer

over that.

(blues music)

Then we put our felt lining in the box.

And the last thing we do is put little feet on the bottom

and I sign each piece by hand.

And we put a price sticker on them and it's done.

About 20 years ago, give or take a couple,

I woke up one morning at 4:00 in the morning.

And this thought in my head.

Well, I got out of bed at 4:00 in the morning,

came down to the shop,

and my thought was at 4:00 in the morning

does a drawer have to be straight?

I never saw a drawer that wasn't straight.

It doesn't mean they have to be.

So I came down to the shop and I made a small box

that had one round drawer.

It went in one side and came out the other.

20-some-odd years later,

now those are what I call the ultimate jewelry box.

So yeah, it's probably my favorite piece

is the big and round jewelry box.

They're the hardest pieces I make,

they're the most time consuming.

Some of them will run up to 100 man-hours.

25 years I made boxes and every year

I've found a new way to do something bizarre.

To create something, to hide something.

I love hiding things.

We have boxes we call our cash boxes,

which are designed to hide money.

When you open the box up it looks like

a very simple little piece.

Then you see a note inside that says,

look for the hidden money.

And people laugh at me and say, oh, there's nothing

in there.

And I say certainly there is.

There's $1000 in that box.

And not only is there $1000 in that box

but it's in its own box.

You just haven't found it yet.

20 minutes later they're calling me a liar.


I say thank you.

I want people to have fun.

I want people to be mystified.

I want people to look at it and say,

how in the hell did that cray guy do that?

Or maybe...

Why would somebody do that?

- Finally, college sweethearts John and Marcia Koverman

are passionate about the arts.

With John's painting abilities and Marcia's ceramic skills

this Cincinnati, Ohio, couple creates intricate art

made entirely orf tile.

(soft acoustic guitar music)

- When somebody asks what we do,

generally we say we make tile.

And then we say, really really really little tile.

After that we go on and explain that we,

what we started out basically doing production tile,

12 by 12s and borders.

We recently come into the art end of it.

(mid tempo acoustic guitar music)

We met as seniors in high school,

and wound up at college, not intentionally,

wound up at the same college.

Both wound up, not intentionally, going into art.

And that kinda let to the whole thing.

Here we are today.

So we go to Kinko's tonight...

- [John] I got old slims from...

In school she was in ceramics.

I was painting.

So that's how this comes together.

She knows the clay.

I mean for what we're doing now,

that's pretty important.

- You know, it seems like something

that people might like.

It's not too cliche.

It seems a little too cliche (mumbles)

John's background is in painting,

and he is a master at color.

The glazes only come in X amount of colors,

and his mixes create even more than that.

- [John] But in the end the final image

is kind of a collaborative thing.

She is just as much a critic as I am

in terms of getting the thing right.

We're gonna go directly from the photograph

rather than try to reproduce it ourselves.

And we put the image under the plexiglass.

The tile will slide on that a lot easier

than putting it directly on the paper.

For me it's a function of just getting

some distance from your piece,

'cause you can't...

- [Jayne] He can take his tiles and slide them around

on this piece of plexiglass,

and look in this mirror that's off to the side,

which reflects off the mirror in the ceiling,

and it gives him that distance.

It's just a painterly kind of a thing

just using mixes of tile.

(mid tempo music)

Our process is we'll take a block of clay,

maybe a good size block of clay.

We have a wire cutter that we can take down into that

and have various slices.

We take that slice, put it on the tin,

roll it to the right height.

We glaze it wet.

We, because the clay sticks to the tin,

we can then take a wire cutter,

various, whatever size we want,

whatever size tile we need,

a wire cutter one way and a wire cutter the other way.

We trim it up.

When it's dry we can just slide it off of that tin

and put it on the kiln shelf.

- [John] One advantage that we have that other people

who work in ceramics don't is the tiles are so small

that we can glaze it wet, which is a no-no in ceramics.

Usually doesn't work, but they're so small

that nothing happens.

So we can get away with it.

(mid tempo guitar music)

What is interesting about this as opposed to painting,

though, is painting you generally work

from the most general to the most specific.

And so you're not making those decisions,

those color decisions immediately.

This, you really have to start in one spot

and kinda build out.

And you're on the final level of detail

right at the beginning.

So you have to make kinda intricate decisions

when you don't really even know where it's going.

Even though mosaic has been around for, you know,

since before history,

it's still kind of a...

I don't wanna say a lost art.

- [Jayne] And I think some of John's pieces become

so painterly that people, they're almost too painterly,

so people walk in and don't even understand that it's tile.

And a lot of people don't even realize that we make

our own tile.

Which surprises them.

- [John] But it is interesting,

no matter how much it looks like a painting,

it's still the tile that people see.

- [Jayne] Little tiny tile.

- [John] The image is till on the tile

regardless of what the subject matter is.

- And that wraps it up for this edition of AHA.

For more arts and culture, visit wmht.org/AHA

where you'll find features about our creative world

in our backyards and across the country.

Until next time, I'm Matt Rogowicz.

Thanks for watching.

(mid tempo jazz music)

- [Announcer] Funding for AHA

has been provided by your contribution,

and by contributions to the WMHT Venture Fund.

Contributors include the Leo Cox Beach

Philanthropic Foundation,

Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

and the Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation.

- At M&T Bank we understand that the vitality

of our communities is crucial to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M&T Bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts,

and we invite you to do the same.


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