Sunday, June 28, 2015

Seeking the Story They Tell


In less than two weeks I’ll be at Lie-Nielsen in Warren, Maine as one of their Open House guest demonstrators. July 10th-11th this year Tom is opening up his place again to allow any and all to come tour the factory, try out high quality hand tools, learn from demonstrators, and chat with hundreds of other like-minded woodworkers. The event is always a blast.

Because of my Introduction to Furniture Restoration workshop in September, I will be there demonstrating furniture conservation practice. I will bring along my bench and furniture in need of work. I’ll be showing the guests what exactly furniture conservation is by demonstrating techniques for disassembly, repair, and inpainting with shellac and pigments. I will also have actual examples of period joinery and surfaces for folks to examine.

I’m looking forward to this class because spreading enthusiasm for furniture conservation is something I’ve felt evangelistic about. I know so many makers that honor our woodworking heritage by learning to reproduce the techniques and objects of the past. While making new is fun, what if you got to work on the originals themselves? I honestly get more out of conserving actual 200-300 year old relics than making a brand new copy of them. My good friend Jon Brandon put it this way to me, 

I’ve built reproduction furniture.  For example, there was a set of chairs that needed extra chairs made to fill out the set. It was a fun project. I loved doing it to match the old chairs and everything but when I had looked at those brand new chairs that I had made, even though they matched the old chairs, I had an empty feeling. I had made them and I felt proud of that but those chairs said nothing. You look at those 200 year old chairs and they were saying an awful lot.”


Jon’s right. When handmade furniture survives through centuries of use, abuse, and repair there is a rich story to tell to those who look for it. This happens for every single object that comes in my conservation studio, not only on rare masterpieces. My goal is to help others learn to seek the story in order that they may find it.

I truly believe my furniture making had a tremendous jump start because of my familiarity with the ins and outs of surviving period furniture. All the best makers I know of, in fact, had this background before making so if someone were to ask the best way to learn to how to build beautiful historically-informed furniture I would tell them to learn to restore the originals. I will be spending the two days of the Open House showing the guests exactly why they would sign up for my workshop in September. Check out more details on the workshop here: https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/97


Otherwise, I’ll see you in two weeks!

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