After making Welsh stick chairs for almost 17 years, I am accustomed to strong reactions to the form.
“I hate to tell you this,” said one recent visitor. “But I think Welsh stick chairs are butt ugly.”
Asked another: “You sell these chairs? How much money for a ‘regular’ chair? You know, a ‘normal’ one.”
Or the always fun: “Really? I mean, really?”
These comments don’t hurt my feeling. In fact, I like the fact that the chair’s design is polarizing. I’ve never enjoyed making least-common denominator anything. Chris Williams, the author of “Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown,” seems to feel the same way. He wrote:
“They are all different – and a smidgen off being ugly to some.”
What keeps me going on these chairs is a short encounter about four years ago. I was getting set up in our storefront in Covington, Ky., and had just assembled a pair of Welsh stick chairs for a customer. Still in the white, they looked like albino porcupines with their pale wood and untrimmed wedges jutting out every which way.
To get them out of the way, I stuck the twin chairs on top of one of the workbenches by the storefront window and turned my attention to something else at my bench.
A few minutes later, I heard tires screech to a stop outside the store. I looked up and a car had jerked to a stop in front of the window. After about 30 seconds, a young woman got out of the car – still blocking the entire street – and she scurried to the store’s entrance. I thought she might have a medical emergency, and I met her at the door.
“What,” she asked, “are those chairs?”
I told her: Welsh stick chairs. She orbited the chairs a few times and asked to touch the faceted legs and stretchers. Meanwhile I watched her abandoned car from the corner of my eye, the driver’s side door still hanging open.
“I saw them and had to stop,” she said. “I want to buy one.”
I explained that these two were bound for the West Coast but that I could build her another. I gave her my contact information and she reluctantly left, looking at the chairs the way my wife looked at our kids when she left them at day care.
I never heard back from the woman, but that’s OK. It is still a good moment when your furniture can stop traffic.
— Christopher Schwarz