All the good furniture designers I know are deeply informed by the past, and they either fold it into their work or rebel against it.
I always try to come clean about my design influences for several reasons. First, it’s only fair to acknowledge the people who blazed the trail before you were born. And second, I hope to inspire other makers to plumb the past to inform their contemporary work.
Today I applied the final coat of paint to a pair of Welsh stick chairs for a customer in Colorado. No detail of these chairs has been copied. I designed these from scratch. Yet, I’d be a liar if I didn’t acknowledge all the places where these chairs came from.
First there’s John Brown. His writing introduced me to this form, and his book “Welsh Stick Chairs” had this drawing in it, which has haunted me for about 20 years.
It’s a stick chair with a back that has four spindles and a bent arm bow. And the legs have always mystified me. While they have no stretchers, there are holes drawn on the legs that suggest the chair might have had stretchers at one time.
Then came Don Weber. I’ve taken his chairmaking class twice now. The first time was more than 13 years ago, and a second time was this fall in conjunction with his new video: “Build a Welsh Stick Chair.” Weber is an excellent instructor and makes the construction process easy. I highly recommend this video if you would like to build a chair in this vein.
And there are many other chairs that I encountered on the way. Some had stretchers. Some didn’t. Some had simple turnings. Others had bulbous English-style stretchers. I’ve tried to boil down all the details so they are informed by the past but are not tied to a particular era.
I know, it seems a messy way to design furniture: Gather all the designs you like and put them in a giant food processor. You hope for transcendent guacamole and fear fluffy mackerel pudding.
— Christopher Schwarz