The documentary, titled “The Master Craftsman: Richard Grell,” was created by Phillip James Sieb and assisted by Philip C. Leiter for Hudson Community Television, a non-profit station based out of Hudson, Ohio. It begins with footage from NBC Cleveland in the 1970s. The news reporter is sitting in one of Grell’s Windsor chairs next to a fire.
“You’ll be dreaming of spending part of a cold winter relaxing in front of a fireplace in a Windsor chair by Richard Grell,” the reporter says. “It will cost you $250 up, depending on the style. How available are these chairs? Well, he’s now taking orders for Christmas.”
The news clip then switches to footage of Grell, saddling a chair outside on fall day.
“The Windsor chair is something that you just can’t go buy in a store,” Grell says. “You can’t buy a handmade chair that’s built around you, to fit you, your size, the color, the style that you want, so I’m trying to bring back being able to build chairs, custom-made, for the people.”
After some more 1970s footage, the documentary moves to modern-day Hudson, Ohio, and Grell’s idyllic shop. He talks about his family’s generations-deep love of woodworking, his start in chairmaking 50 years ago, why he prefers hand tools, making a living selling furniture and looking for ideal trees in the woods on his property.
“A lot of years of my life looking at these trees as they’ve grown,” he says, his hand on a tall, straight hickory. “I love them.”
Walker, credited with archival research in the film, is interviewed throughout, speaking about the history of Windsor chairs, furniture design and creative freedom.
“Chairmaking itself is this real specialized craft,” Walker says. “It’s something that goes back millennia.”
Also interviewed are Grell’s wife and business partner, Gay; a client, Kathy Russell; and a woodworker/ER physician, Dr. Rafi Israeli.
About Grell Walker says, “He is an extension of this craft tradition that has gone back many, many generations. He is not reproducing Windsor chairs. He is making his own chairs that are refinements of chairs that have gone before him.”
Thirty minutes long, it’s a perfect morning coffee accompaniment. Enjoy!
— Kara Gebhart Uhl