Tucked away in an alcove in the Springfield Museum of Art this 19th century desk begs more questions than answers. The form itself is typical of furniture built in a rural setting by a cabinetmaker who sparingly added a few touches of ornament in arches above the doorways and a few curves on the base apron.
Then something wild happened. Another artisan, possibly 50 – 100 years later carved the existing desk lid and chest facade with a riot of poppy flowers and vines.
If that was not enough, they put an exclamation point on this oddity and ebonized the carved panels. The museum attendant had no idea of the story behind it and one can only guess. The carving is expertly done, so much so that it makes one wonder why the carver went to so much trouble to mis-match it with this vernacular piece. It’s hard to imagine someone with so much talent choosing this chest for a canvas. Did they do this at gunpoint? Perhaps they were making a statement or making a joke. Any ideas why this might have came about?
George R. Walker
Seth with an old nail apron. What a combination – Star wars and Mule Hide Roofing
It’s 6AM and five year old Seth, sitting beside me on the couch wrapped in his favorite blanket, looks up and says,
“Poppy, can we go downstairs?”
“Downstairs” is Seth’s word for my basement workshop. It’s a place where he can play with toys unlike anything from the McGiant toy store. “Downstairs” contains cigar boxes with string, old pulleys, hinges, and rubber bands. There are bins filled with cut offs, and the joy of double stick tape, and nails and hammers, and Poppy never tells him to stop making noise. He’s always dusting off some box of treasures I forgot about. Seth’s job is to point out the wonder in the everyday, and mine is to preserve that fire in his imagination. He’s much better with a mallet than he was last summer and just now getting the hang of drawing circles with a compass.
Jim Tolpin and I have been thinking a lot about preserving the fire lately, and we have some fun and exciting plans in the works. I’ll have more to share about it in coming days but I promise it will be more fun than a cigar box full of string!
George R. Walker
” One basic quality unites all the works of mankind that speak to us in human, recognizable voices across the barriers of time, culture, and space: the simple quality of being well made.” – Bill Reid
A few weeks ago I posted a design critique from Petri in Sweden who built a table and then took on the task of designing chairs to go with it. After several versions, here’s a rough mockup of a chair design with some elements echoing his table undercarriage. Here is Petri explaining his latest iteration:
“As I wrote earlier, too much thinking always makes for more choices and revisions.
Alas, I think this is pretty close now.
So, a quick description .. the fanback will now have two equally tall centers, 120 cm, with three descending pairs to either side. The four in the middle will have zero splay but some splay to the outer pairs. Approx ten degrees rake for all.
As to the undercarriage, the frontpair will be square to the seat with the backpair raking back 25 degrees.
The dowel from the table will be mirrored with a rusty iron hexagonal rod in the front …
As always, all input is valuable!
All the best from Sweden!
“Peace” by Barb Walker
Barb and I wish you the best blessings of Christmas.
George R. Walker
It’s a common problem for a chair builder to get requests to design and build a table to compliment some chairs. Furniture builder Petri Nojonen has this dilemma flipped around. After building a contemporary table of his own design he’d like to design and build some chairs to compliment the table. We had a bit of early discussion about how to capture something that echoed the table design and avoid seating that looked like and afterthought. His first thought was to build some Welsh stick chairs inspired by Chris Schwarz. That may be a perfectly good idea but I encouraged him to think about details in the table that he could use to link them. This actually brings up a bigger question about how to link furniture pieces together. Is it enough to simply use similar wood and finish? Or should he just grab a small detail like a curve, or perhaps think about sinking a contrasting strip of wood in the seat like is used in the table top? In his first attempt he wondered if the structure under the table could be somehow built into the chair undercarriage.
Below are some details on the unique design of the table and then a look at his concept sketch for the chair design. Your thoughtful comments are welcome. Hopefully we can help him find that chair design he’s searching for.
Table has a wood and metal undercarriage
Detail of his connection between metal rail and legs
His jumping off inspiration for the chairs is from this Chris Schwarz Welsh Stick Chair
Here’s Petri’s the concept sketch for the chair design.
The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin 1880 (Cleveland Museum of Art)
What might happen if we pulled together three tribes from the furniture world that don’t often travel in the same orbit, furniture builders, conservators, and the world of furniture scholarship? The result might be a unique blend of perspective and inspiring insight. You can get all that in the inaugural issue of Mortise and Tenon Magazine now available for pre-sale. My hope is that this publication will play a vital role in keeping our craft alive and vibrant. I just purchased my copy and look forward to reading every page. Treat yourself to “issue one” of Mortise and Tenon Magazine.
George R. Walker