Today I’m going to tell you a nice story. Later in the week I’ll tell you a shocking one.
For the last couple weeks I’ve been unusually chipper, despite all the crap I’ve been managing with my father’s estate. In fact, the other day, my spouse, Lucy, looked at me a bit odd as I was making coffee at 6 a.m. with a s&*t-eating grin on my face.
“You OK?” she asked.
Being somewhat self-aware I answered. “Yes. This coming week is the closest I’ll ever get to taking a class with John Brown.”
Welshman John Brown died 10 years ago after changing the lives of thousands of woodworkers with his book “Welsh Stick Chairs” and his columns in Good Woodworking magazine. The chair he showed in his magazine articles inspired me to seek out chairmaking classes and to dive deep into the historical record of vernacular furniture.
At some point, Chris Williams sent me an email about his work with John Brown, which began in the mid 1990s and ended with John Brown’s death in 2008. After hundreds of emails across the Atlantic, I resolved to bring Chris here to teach Americans how Chris builds a Welsh stick chair. It’s different than John Brown’s, and that’s part of the shocking story coming later this week.
We’re calling this chair the Williams Welsh Chair (#williamswelshchair), and it’s unlike anything most American eyes have seen.
Today we glued up the arm bow and saddled the seat for this chair. I’ve worked with a lot of chairmakers in the last 25 years, and I can honestly say that the way Chris approaches his chairs is unique and definitely worth listening to.
And that’s the point of Chris’s upcoming book (with the help of Kieran Binnie) tentatively titled “The Life & Work of John Brown.” While today was overwhelming (and the next four days will only get worse), I managed to snap these photos of the construction process. I hope you enjoy them.
— Christopher Schwarz