When I drove away from Jennie Alexander’s Baltimore home in 2014, I had her somewhat-reluctant agreement that together we would publish “Make a Chair From a Tree, Third Edition.”
Her reluctance wasn’t due to a lack of passion for the book’s subject – the simple but gorgeous object that we now call a Jennie Chair had been an obsession of hers for decades.
Instead, she didn’t know if she was physically and mentally up to the task. You see, she didn’t want to simply revise the two previous editions of this book. She had learned too much since they were published. She wanted to start from scratch.
So I enlisted Larry Barrett, a chairmaking student of Jennie’s, to help her write and re-write the text. And I can honestly say that if it weren’t for Larry, the book you are holding would never have existed. For four years, he patiently helped Jennie explore her chairmaking process in almost-molecular detail.
When Jennie died in July of 2018, I wondered if the book was going to the grave with her. We didn’t have a finished manuscript. We didn’t have step photos or even a plan for illustrations.
But what we had was a long list of people who had been touched deeply by Jennie and her work and who volunteered to throw themselves at this project.
Larry polished the latest version of the manuscript. One of Jennie’s daughters, Harper Burke, arranged for us to build a Jennie chair and photograph the process in Jennie’s Baltimore workshop. Brendan Gaffney dropped everything to help with photos and illustrations. Nathaniel Krause, one of Jennie’s students, wove the hickory seat for the book.
And Peter Follansbee, one of Jennie’s most devoted students, volunteered to edit the whole thing into this intensely technical (but easy to understand) and personal (but not maudlin) document.
Suddenly, all the barriers to the publication of this book were swept away. Tom McKenna at Taunton Press graciously allowed us to use drawings from the first edition. Anatol Polillo made any copyright problems disappear.
Basically, we got anything we needed to ensure “Make a Chair From a Tree, Third Edition” made it to press. There’s no room to list everyone who helped. You know who you are. Thank you.
I sometimes wonder what Jennie would think of the finished third edition. I know she’d be delighted by the contributions from the people she taught and who, in turn, inspired her.
But I also know that she’d say the book isn’t finished. There are still some loose strings, especially in the section on “bound water.” And perhaps we should just start again at the beginning….
Thank you Jennie, but the burden of refining your gorgeous chair and its elegant construction process is now firmly on our shoulders.
Off to Press
This week we sent “Make a Chair from a Tree: Third Edition” to press. With any luck, the finished result will be in our hands in late June or July. When it arrives, we will begin selling it immediately. We will sell both a hardbound edition and a pdf version. For the first 30 days, customers who buy the hardback book from us will also receive the pdf for free at checkout (sorry, this offer is not available to people who buy the book from our retailers). The book will be $37 plus domestic shipping.
Like all Lost Art Press books, “Make a Chair from a Tree: Third Edition” is produced and printed in the United States. The book is 184 pages and measures 9″ square – the original trim size of the 1978 edition. Unlike the original edition, our version is in full color and the book is hardback.
Except for a few drawings, the book is completely revised and almost 60 pages longer.
As always, I don’t have any information on which of our retailers will carry the book. We hope that all of them will, but it is entirely their decision. The best way to find out is to ask the retailer directly.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. If you can’t wait, we recommend you check out the “Make a Chair from a Tree” video from 1999.