“The customer is always wrong,” Felix Klipstein in the John Brown column #129, December 2002
I never got to meet John Brown, the Welsh chairmaker, artist, writer and author of “The Anarchist Woodworker” column in Good Woodworking magazine. But he is with me in the shop every day.
I saw one of his Welsh stick chairs in Good Woodworking in the 1990s, and it changed me in an instant. I knew that the chairs he’d dug up from the rustic countryside and dragged into the modern shop were exactly the type of chair I wanted to build.
Yes, I like Windsor and ladderback chairs. But Welsh stick chairs, which look more primitive and animal-like, are far more interesting to build.
I wanted to take a class with Brown, but I missed out on his short visits to the United States. And going to the United Kingdom in the 1990s to learn to build chairs was just a crazy idea with my salary and my young family.
So I sought out closer chairmakers to learn about Welsh chairs, which took me to Cobden, Ontario, and Paint Lick, Ky. Yet it has always been Brown’s chairs that I have been studying and striving for.
This fall I finished two chairs that are influenced by chairmaker Don Weber (I love the rake and splay of his legs), by Brown (the four-spindle back is classic Brown), and a little Schwarz. I lightened the arm bow, altered the seat plan and designed the crest rail from scratch.
When I sat down these chairs for the first time, I wanted to smoke a cigarette – and I don’t smoke. But Brown did (check out his book “Welsh Stick Chairs” for some great photos of this). So I might be getting close.
Thanks John Brown, wherever you are.
— Christopher Schwarz