The following short story was passed to me by a guy at the John C. Campbell Folk School, and it is well worth reading, especially if you are a vernacular chair nerd.
Published in the Christian Science Monitor in 1986 (the year I graduated high school), the short story “I’d Like to Make You a Chair” by Pippa Stuart begins with a couple’s home being burgled. It ends with a chair and complex thoughts about forgiveness.
As I read this story, I tried to envision the chair the Scotsman was building. I concluded that it had to be a stick chair.
Read the story for yourself and make up your own mind.
— Christopher Schwarz
17 thoughts on “A Short Story for Chair Nerds”
I read this story, thinking of Tolkien. Something small but epic – a decision made against the norm, with greater result than expected.
The author’s words … into a Tolkien poem …
A burg-a-ler, a bung-a-ler …
Are there any plans to publish plans for the stick chair on the cover of welsh stick chairs by John Brown?
That chair requires a branch for the arm. Or some other method to avoid a short-grain break (making a bent lamination, using plywood, etc.) It is a gorgeous chair, but tricky to build a reproduction.
A touching story and a lesson worth remembering.
Good story. Thanks for posting it.
As far as I can tell the only sentence in the story to give an indication as to the chair’s style is this one:
” It was not a Van Gogh-like chair, not yet a Chippendale or Sheraton, but it had a fine, clean line, its own elegance.”
Well there’s a Van Gogh painting called “Van Gogh’s Chair” which is a very simple, woven seat straight backed chair. Kind of Shaker-like but not as delicately limbed. Huskier, thicker and more stolid. Van Gogh also painted “Paul Gauguin’s Chair” – a more ornate chair with, I believe, a cushion seat. I don’t think the author meant that one.
Then we have, in the sentence, Chippendale and Sheraton. Looking at those styles I concluded that the sentence provides a style range – from simple to ornate:
Not as simple as the Van Gogh chair but doesn’t approach the ornate level of Chippendales/Sheratons (”…not yet…”).
And so I think Charlie’s chair adheres to the basic structure of that range: Too tall posts in the back: two short ones in the front and the level of ornateness falls somewhere in between but closer to Van Gogh’s chair. Mainly because of the “… fine, clean line, its own elegance”.
There’s no comment about the seat so we don’t know if it was carved or woven or cushioned but I’d say that since the story only talks about wood, it’s most likely carved.
Given the examples in the sentence none of the examples include the many spindles that stick chairs have (though I do see some spindles in some Sheratons but they are decorative and not functional) . I don’t see any evidence to conclude that it’s a stick chair. At first, I thought it might be something more akin to a Brettstuhl. But that doesn’t fall within the “range”. In the end, I don’t think there’s enough evidence in the story to really tell but that’s my guess.
Would that the last sentence in the story were true.
Having grown up in a Christian Science family, and now living in Scotland, this story touched me. It’s also good to read some proper Scottish dialect once in a while! Thank you for sharing.
Readers who are interested in Pippa Stuarts’ writing might be interested to know that her work is collated in a book published in 2007, called ‘Consider the Animals’. For some background, please see here:
You can always find good in people if you stop and look
I’m a sucker for a good redemption story, thank you!
Beautiful story. Perfect timing as I am in the middle of music producer Rick Rubin’s book on creativity: “The Creative Act, a Way of Being” and Charlie is definitely channeling the creativity gods.
I read it in Sean Connery’s voice, was a good read. Thanks!
I truly appreciate the article. Thank you for sharing.
Yes probably a stick chair. I wonder if he used the walnut or the oak? Good read, thank you.
Redemption and grace, a great combination. Well told, thanks for sharing.
Yes… well worth the read and then some. Thank you.
Lovely. Thank you.
Thank you so much for sharing this story. The quote from Thomas Carlyle “Blessed is he who has found his work. Let him ask no other blessedness” is now up in my shop, to remind me of that blessedness, which can be so easily forgotten or misplaced. Thank you again.
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