Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Class warfare, furniture style...

I'm a product oriented guy.  I don't get hung up with cutting dovetails or about having a chisel that is honed to 15,000 grit and will shave your eyeballs with just a slight look in the direction of the cutting edge.  But, I do get a little sentimental  about the simple, every-day furniture of the past.  And I do take great pleasure in reading the posts of other similar-minded folks, such as this post by Robin Wood.

For example, on a recent trip to the East Coast, I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Of course, I was impressed with the large scale, high end casework, tall clocks, etc., but what really got me were the simple objects.  The painted chests that still bore the date of a past marriage.  The pine chest of drawers with the turned ball feet in front, one of which had a very prominent, unrepaired shrinkage crack.  Simple turned bowls and utensils.

These pieces witnessed it all and survive to tell the tale. The dings and scratches that come with real age makes it easy to imagine the historical setting in which the past owners of these pieces lived and died.  This is something I find next to impossible with the "tour de force" pieces applauded by antique dealers and reproduced ad nauseum by woodworkers. Many have an air of sterility about them, as if they have never lived outside of a museum setting. 

The study of high-end furniture is an interesting work area for some woodworkers.  But for me, with rare exception, I'm more interested in the simple pieces, things I might have owned had I been born in the 1680s rather than the 1980s.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels this way.  Or maybe I am... but I'm ok with that.

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