Nothing to Divorce

“After he moved to Indiana, and from there to Ohio, Chester (Cornett) again held his raw materials in a gentle embrace as he shaped them, once more using hand tools which were extensions of himself and with which he caressed his loved ones. He could express his feelings and emotions in the things he made, but he seldom displayed affection for people or for those things in the world that seemed beyond his control and inferior in importance to his immediate concerns. The more strongly he attempted to dominate the objects in his environment, the more enslaved he became by them. Freedom was withdrawal. The day would come, however, as he mistakenly thought it had on several occasions in the past, when he might step forth in the world of men bathed in the glory of his brilliant creations. With his wife gone again for the third and apparently the last time, Chester had only himself and his work, with nothing to divorce the two.”

— “Craftsman of the Cumberlands: Tradition & Creativity” by Michael Owen Jones (University of Kentucky Press)

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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9 Responses to Nothing to Divorce

  1. Mike Dyer says:

    Did he get visitation rights?

  2. tsstahl says:

    Roorkhee chair assembly line has made the wife a woodworking widow?

  3. pfollansbee says:

    Chester’s was a mixed bag. I remember seeing the Appallshop video of him & being struck by how sad his tale was. Clearly some kind of chairmaking idiot savant – a thrill to watch him work with the simplest of tools, but heartbreaking to see his life unravel. “Bathed in the glory?” – that was brought on by Jones. Used by the academes might be more like it…

  4. dzj says:

    Poor guy. He should have started a woodworking school.
    Workshops, classes, instructions…a nice steady source of income,
    Selling furniture sure ain’t.

  5. David Barbee says:

    A few years ago I recommended this book to Chris. Very interesting book but unlike most woodworking stories, its a tragic tale. Chester had a brilliance and a stubborn streak that I recognize today in a lot of older appalachian craftsman. I really appreciate the video posting. Having only read the book, that was a real treat.

  6. John Vernier says:

    A lot of Cornett’s works and tools were exhibited at the Mathers Museum at Indiana University, Bloomington a few years ago, and I believe they hold those objects in their permanent collection. The exhibit texts were less romanticized than the book.

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