Plate No. 1


When reviewing the literature on vernacular furniture since 1500, here is the writers’ universal observation: There is not much scholarship on this furniture. And that is amazing and disappointing.

As you might know, I am not a scholar. I don’t pretend to be anything more than a guy who likes investigating forgotten forms of furniture, building them and writing about the experience.

So as I started exploring this stuff about five years ago, I allowed myself to take an odd, unscholarly tack.

All of the high styles of furniture from the 18th century were explored in “pattern books” put together by luminaries such as Chippendale, Hepplewhite, the Adams brothers and on and on. There were hundreds of pattern books for furniture and home decor. But none for vernacular furniture.

And that is what “The Furniture of Necessity” sets out to be – a pattern book that transmits the core ideas of furniture that has remained unchanged for the last 500 years.

So, like the pattern books of the 18th century, we need intaglio plates.

One of my close partners with this book is Briony Morrow-Cribbs, an intaglio artist and art professor in Vermont. She is working on the sketches for the plates that will illustrate “The Furniture of Necessity” that will become copperplate etchings for the book.

Today she sent me the sketch for Plate 1, which is the first project in the book (see above). After she finishes work on this sketch it will be photo-etched in a traditional manner to become a plate that can be inked and pressed on paper – just like a traditional 18th-century illustration.

As she starts to etch and ink the plates, we’ll post photos and videos of the process. It’s quite cool.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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32 Responses to Plate No. 1

  1. therealdanh says:

    This project just keeps getting more interesting! I am looking forward to this book. It will be something completely new.

  2. jonathanszczepanski says:

    I love seeing cross-pollination of the crafts. Looking forward to the photos of the process.

  3. Not to be pedantic, but are those sketches (ie. hand-drawn) or CAD drawings?

  4. tcaley says:

    I don’t think that all of the drawings showing the bottom of the seat agree with each other. It seems to me, that the lines designating where the holes for the legs to be drilled don’t all line up the same.

  5. rondennis303 says:

    The way I see it, you are an artist who found his voice in the printed page and found a group of patrons to support your pursuit of your art. And I for one, am damned pleased to do so.

  6. noelhayward says:

    Keep up the good work Chris, I look forward to getting ”The Furniture of Necessity” when it is published.

    It is interesting that you started with the 4 legged stool, I made myself a similar stool in 2013 after seeing one in an antique shop here in Sweden.

    I hope you are going to make reference to the 3 legged version of this stool that was used for years when milking cows. This stool dates back to Viking times, remains of which were found in Lund that dated back to the11th century. If you search under “Viking Stool, Lund”, more information can be found.

  7. ctregan says:

    You need the funky numbers and cursive lettering on the bottom of the plate declaring it “plate No, 1”

  8. bernardnaishb says:

    Etchings? Should they not be wood engravings?

    • Nope. Roubo et al made their plates using a copperplate intaglio process.

      • miathet says:

        Besides intaglio is an awesome word

      • jenohdit says:

        Copper plate engraving and etching are both intaglio methods, but they aren’t even remotely similar in technique or appearance. The results will undoubtedly look cool, which is justification enough.

        • Indeed. Briony does etchings. Sorry if that wasn’t clear for some reason. Engravings are done with burins.

          Both are intaglio processes. Check out the Wikipedia entries for details.

      • jenohdit says:

        It was clear that Briony does etchings. It is also clear that Roubo et al did not, those books were engraved, which looks completely different.

        Wikipedia has a great entry on détournement as well. Might I reccomend that? They devote a whole sentence to Slavoj Žižek’s echoing of Naomi Klein’s arguments about irony reifying rather than breaking down power structures.

  9. paulobro says:

    Was looking forward to getting a copy of “Furniture of Necessity” to feed my curiosity but already I am giving up the idea: All the rigmarole concerning intaglio plates printing will not only considerably delay publishing, but will also ban the digital version as per the usual reasons…

    • The book is still on track for January 2016, as it has been since the beginning. There will be a digital edition at our normal discount.

      But I am certain it will still disappoint.

      • paulobro says:

        Yay, great news, there will be a digital edition.
        Thanks much for the info.

        I doubt it. I expect nothing from your work but information and that, you deliver aplenty, and quite coherently.

  10. Evan Ramsey says:

    Any plans to investigate American empire furniture? There’s a vernacular furniture that sorely needs some careful attention.

  11. The sketches seem to be on par with those in the Chairmakers Notebook. Can’t wait to see more

  12. Having just revisited Weald and Downland yesterday ( and looked at all their lovely reproduction furniture, I’m champing at the bit for this book.

  13. nealm44 says:

    I have to admit I love pattern books of all kinds, and that I spent many happy hours leafing through my Grandfather’s with him. This one seems to be going to lend a whole new meaning to the old “want to come up and look at my etchings” line! I think I better go ahead and start on another bookcase.

  14. “But I am certain it will still disappoint.” I don’t think the book will be a disappointment, but even if it is a commercial failure you will have learned where the edge is. “If you aren’t living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.” – Gerco Van Hoften

  15. Sean Wiggins says:

    How obese must I get in order to break those legs???

  16. You must surely get in touch with Jack Baumgartner at some point. He has an incredible website, Intaglio and woodworking are two of the many arts at which he seems incredibly gifted. I expect you two would have a great deal to talk about over a beer!

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