In Arts & Mysteries

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A lighter than expected turnout at Mt. Pleasant yesterday allowed me to sit in on Chris Storb’s presentation. It was great and I learned a lot. But as I sat in the room where John Adams may have been received, the day’s fine light streaming in through the 18th c window, listening to one of our nation’s most accomplished 18th c carvers, I considered two things: 1) How privileged I was to have had this experience and how many of you would have gladly been there if you could have. 2) How “behind the ropes” access to 18th c masterpieces has changed my perspective of period furniture.

When I think of the top reproduction furniture makers in the country, they are all privileged to have exceptional access to period furniture. Let’s just name a few names off the top of my head: Allan Breed, Gene Landon, Mack Headley all have exceptional access.

As you and I look to increase our furniture making skills, I think its important to look to every opportunity to improve our access; through museums, events like the one in Mount Pleasant yesterday, Williamsburg’s conferences to name a few. I’m not trying to put anyone down here. In fact you can view this as a compliment. But I think woodworkers who can’t see, preferably touch, crawl under 18th c masterpieces are at a severe disadvantage. Museum catalog books may be your best alternative. But I’m finding more and more that information from folks like me with spotty access and only pictures of my own furniture to share is really not as helpful.


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  • Adam Cherubini

    Great point. I agree. Unfortunately opposite the Designer Craftsman show is an event in New York city that is exactly what you describe. You can go into the major auction houses and look at really fine pieces of furniture. I’ve never been there. I hope D-C gets the earlier weekend next year.


  • J.P.


    One does not need access to museum collections in order to see period originals. Auction houses are a very good way to take a loook at "real" antique furniture and pull out drawers, look at back boards, remove tops and all other manner of examination.

    Antique shops are another way to get a good look as well however it is advised to ask permission first if you are not intending to purchase.

    Auction houses are a safe bet for good information since you really get up close and see for yourself the type of work typical of period craftsman. Of course, many of the pieces may not be destined for museums, but are representative of the type of work-a-day goods sold during a time when all decorative and functional items were made by hand.

    I do quite a bit of repair work on period pieces and am,unlike you, impressed by the level of quality achieved by period makers. I work on mostly American and English furniture from the 17th to early 19th century. Most of the English work is very "neat" and quite exceptional. While the American pieces have a little more variance in quality, for the most part, they are typically well built. Yes, unseen surfaces were left rough, but most of the joinery is spot-on and even things like glue blocks and drawer stops are well placed and even laid out evenly spaced and cut to similar size.

    I could blather on for paragraphs, but really, most folks just need to get out, shut off the computer, and head out the door to find some good things right under their noses.

    If you have the time check out Pook & Pook. I believe they are in your neck of the woods.



  • Adam Cherubini

    Chris Storb and I were talking about painting. I like to paint. I think I’m a better painter than furniture maker. But I always preferred to paint from nature as opposed to looking at a photograph. Technically there’s a big difference in what you actually see and understand from a photo. But there’s also a difference in the feel of the work. I think Impressionism was sort of about this, but it applies to furniture as well.


  • Gary Roberts


    So good to hear this perspective. I have the Boston Museum of Fine Arts that I can go to to drool over the furniture. It’s one thing to stand at a distance and admire the fine woods and design, it’s another to get up close and see how the make is not machine perfect. The handwork is evident in drawer fronts, dovetails, dimensions, etc. The whole melds into one perfect piece of furniture and from that, I learn of who handwork and design come together. Anyone who can get to a good museum, living or otherwise, to a local historic society or house should do so and spend some time looking, really looking at the furniture therein.


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