From journeyman to elder, a craftsman redefines his role.
By Matthew Teague
The story of Brian Boggs’ first foray into building chairs has become almost mythical among furniture makers: Then a struggling artist in his early 20s who picked tobacco in the fall and did occasional carpentry, Brian stumbled across a copy of John D. Alexander’s “Make a Chair from a Tree.” Having little money for tools, Brian sharpened the end of a screwdriver to function as a chisel and set about building his first stool, and soon after he built his first chair – both using exactly the same processes Alexander taught.
Almost 30 years later, walking through the door of his current shop and gallery, 4,000 square feet at Biltmore Village in Asheville, N.C., those humble beginnings could seem a distant memory. It’s quite the opposite. The three-slat ladder-back, perhaps Brian’s most iconic design, is prominently placed and shows a clear but refined lineage to that first greenwood, Appalachian ladderback design. The other chairs and furniture in the room – a full line of outdoor seating, a heavily sculptural musician’s chair, a six-slat rocker, a couple of dining tables, a headboard and a few others – have veered drastically in form from Brian’s early chairs, but even at a glance something ties them all together. Perhaps it’s the consistency of the lines in the backs of Brian’s chairs, the attention to detail in the joinery or the hand-textured surfaces that adorn many of the pieces. Whatever it is, Brian’s designs long ago became his own, both structurally and aesthetically. Taking a seat in a quartersawn oak outdoor chair that has recently gone into production, I’m reminded that not only are Brian’s chairs stunning works of art, they also are arguably the most comfortable wooden chairs ever made.
Video: Find Brian Boggs’ DVDs, “Hickory Bark from Tree to Chair: Weaving Hickory Bark Seats,” and “Drawknives, Spokeshaves and Travishers: A Chairmaker’s Tool Kit.”
Blog: Read an excerpt from the interview for this article in which Brian Boggs discusses his design theory and methods.
Web Site: Read Brian Boggs’ article, “The Myth of Original Design,” from the December 2011 issue, #194. Read more
In the November 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, a special 200th anniversary issue celebrating some of the best makers working today, I wrote a piece on chairmaker Brian Boggs. In doing so I spent a day in Brian’s shop and gallery in the Biltmore Village in Asheville, North Carolina, where we talked about everything … Read more
Our publishing schedule is pretty straightforward, except for the confusing parts. We put out an issue every other month, starting in February. But the February issue is really January/February so it comes out at the end of December, the month before the cover date. Then there is an issue for April, June and August. But … Read more
The second episode of “The Highland Woodworker” web TV show is out and if you haven’t seen this new show yet, it’s definitely worth a look. Produced in conjunction with Highland Hardware in Atlanta, the show provides great woodworking advice and visits with some of the best woodworkers out there. (The first episode included a … Read more
One of the best parts of this job is getting to meet great woodworkers, guys who have managed to make a living doing what the rest of us do for fun. We feature woodworkers now and then in Popular Woodworking Magazine in articles we call “Great Woodshops.” One of my favorites is a gentleman I … Read more
Consider yourself a midwife to creativity.
By Brian Boggs
From the December 2011 issue #194
Buy the issue now
I have taught a number of classes on designing chairs and it’s always interesting to watch students’ creative processes. I like to keep my classes as fresh as I can for my own benefit if not for the students’, so I plan each class a bit differently. Still, every design class seems to run into the same wall. This wall appears in the form of the question: “How do we come up with good design ideas?”
WEB SITE: Discover the Boggs Collective, located in Asheville, N.C., and take a class from Brian and his fellow craftsmen.
Chances are you’ve read comments by famous (and not-so-famous) woodworkers regarding their relationship to the materials with which they work. George Nakashima described the “soul” of the tree and noted his responsibility to give the tree a second life through the furniture he fashioned from it. James Krenov inspired many woodworkers with writings on using … Read more