If it ain't baroque…

I’ve learned alot about baroque carving making this chair. Yes, yes, I know this is a Rococo carving and Rococo is different from Baroque. But I yes, it’s the baroque aspects of the design that I plugged into.

I could write a lot about my experience carving; the tools, the stones I shaped to sharpen the tools, the “flattening” that naturally occurs when one copies a copy, that copied a copy of a photograph.

I don’t consider this carving wholly successful. And the project as a whole is a nightmare. But I think I get the relationship between this style and the baroque; the contrast of light and dark, near and far.

I also imagined a scene that I’m sure I saw in some Jane Austen movie that really helped with the Rococo aspects of the design. It’s a windswept hill top. A portion of a classical column has been over grown with vines. Ladies enjoying a picnic have placed wild flowers tied up with ribbons atop the column. It’s rustic, classical, and natural all on top of each other, intertwined physically and metaphorically.

Can I just add that I hate this kind of talk. And I typically hate woodworkers who engage in such talk. They rarely know what they are talking about. It’s sales speak used to exhalt one’s self or work or both. But it rarely has the desired effect.

Yes, I’ve learned alot carving this chair. Lesson #3026: Be careful about your rhetoric Adam. And don’t be so darned judgemental.

Because in this case, I think this sort of mental imagery is essential. Whether my work is good or not is regardless. This is artwork. It requires that we use our imaginations and link up our hearts, eyes, and hands (yeeck- this is so hard for me. See what I do for you?).

Copy too much, and your artwork will lose it’s “life”. These carvings have to be bold and exhuberant. This is the second leg. It’s not just like the first. And it’s not just like the original. It’s like a column, on a windswept hill…. and no kidding. I wish there was another way around it guys.

Adam

Fight if you must, and don’t let the wife see the box of tissues, but for the good of your work, you might need to get Emma (Kate Beckinsale version is better imho than Gwenyth), Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson), or Pride and Prejudice (get 6 hour A&E version) from Netflix. This may be what you need to progress. So important are these films, I hear Megan is considering having them as required viewing at Woodworking In America: Chicago!

7 thoughts on “If it ain't baroque…

  1. Adam Cherubini

    Greg,

    I agree on all points. In this case, (and as I said in the first article) I’m reproducing the work of several highly trained and skilled specialists. It would be fun to get closer to their abilities and experience. If we were to find 18th c industrialization that would please the power tool guys, it would be in chair makers’ shops.

    I did make several legs, tho none in mahogany. In retrospect, that was a mistake. Mahogany carves much easier than bass (and hard maple!). I definitely need to do another crest rail before too long.

    I think you talked me into it. Pretty sure I have enough stock for one more chair.

    Adam

  2. Greg Bétit

    Adam,
    Your comment about the legs not being quite the same made me wonder if you were planning on making a mate to, or perhaps a set of these chairs. It would be a shame to let all the lessons learned atrophy before you have a chance to put them to good use. It would also be a good exercise to gather data about the nature of the 18th century woodworkers’ learning curve.
    greg

  3. Don Butler

    Adam,

    If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fiquse it!

    Yours truly,

    Don "Dances with Wood" Butler
    Waterford, PA

  4. dave brown

    Nice work on the carving Adam. And, nice work on the entire chair. Thanks for sharing so much of your work with us — warts and all. It serves as a reminder that we all go through this learning phase when we try new skills.

    re: your flowery picnic on a hill — was that the opening scene from Much Ado About Nothing? Emma Thompson, Denzel and Keanu?

  5. David

    Adam – I’m betting you might feel a little like I did after I learned to carve – what looked completely overwhelming and byond reach turned out to be no big deal when presented (and treated) as a step-wise learning process. It’s often forgotten that the 18th century guys that did this all day were there to make money, and there was a definite balance between getting things "just right" and getting them done. Excpet perhaps for the Cadawalader furniture, most 18th century American carving wasn’t that complicated.

    I’d disagree with you post in only one respect (and a mild disagreement, at that) – what you’ve carved could most certainly be considered late Baroque. "Baroque" and "Roccaile (corrupted to "rococco")" don’t have a bright dividing line, and the carving you’ve shown is bilaterally symmetrical, which is a hallmark of late baroque/early roccoco. Later Roccoco emphasized strongly asymetrical elements – there’s a fairly good discussion of this in Mack Headley’s recent "WoodWright’s Shop" episode.

    Nice chair.

  6. Mike Bridger

    Adam,
    The first thing I saw when I clicked in just now was the photograph of your carved chair leg. Wow! was my first impression – and my second and third. I have enjoyed every episode of this project, and your honest presentation of the problems you encountered and the lessons learned. Here’s a quotation that I’m going to keep in mind on my journey in woodworking: “None of us will get better at this sort of stuff unless we try it.” Yep.
    Thanks,
    Mike B.

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