There are lots of vernacular stick chairs styles out there if you do a little digging. Researcher Suzanne Ellison has been turning over a lot of rocks lately to find stick chairs in countries such as Sweden, Germany and Italy.
Today she sent over a load of images of Irish chairs, and this one stuck in my head. It’s a fairly common form and common paint scheme. Interestingly, these chairs were referred to as “fool’s chairs,” “famine chairs” or “hedge chairs.” Sometimes this form is called a “Gibson chair.”
I need to do a lot more digging to learn about the names of the chairs. I couldn’t find much on the origin of “fool’s chair,” except for a reference in “A Dictionary of English Phrases: Phraseological Allusions, Catchwords” (1922). That book defined “fool’s chair” as:
A chair with a leg missing, on which fools attempt to sit and consequently fall.
The origin of the name “famine chair” is said to relate to the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1852), during which the great poverty of the country resulted in furniture that was made by tenant farmers that was on the crude side.
I haven’t been able to dig up much on why it would be called a “Gibson chair.” So more research is ahead.
While this particular chair doesn’t grab me as much as some Welsh designs, it does have its charms. I particularly like the front-on view and the dramatic lean to the back sticks.
— Christopher Schwarz