As a reminder, Sean and his brother, Simon Clarke, are the second generation to run Christopher Clarke Antiques, in Stow-on-the-Wold, England. Sean and Simon, who helped Christopher Schwarz with his research when writing “Campaign Furniture,” are considered leading historians of campaign furniture.
In this lecture, Sean covers the history of campaign furniture during the golden period for portable furniture, the many different types of British and Irish makers, those who used campaign furniture and its eventual demise.
Sean notes that wealth and rank mattered, and how well your tent was fitted out was a good sign of your social standing.
“There was the opinion that the better prepared you were, the better you would do your job, so camp comforts were a necessity,” he says.
He quotes from a lieutenant’s diary, written in 1813 during the Peninsular War, about the need to equip one’s self with 600 pounds of personal baggage. “The more an officer makes himself comfortable, the better will he do his duty, as well as secure his own health, and the comfort of those belonging to him. It does not follow, that because we attempt the best in every situation, that we cannot face the worst.”
Later in the lecture Sean shares this cartoon, drawn by A.S. Boyd, published in “The Graphic” on October 19, 1901. The soldiers are weighted down by their furniture and personal items, which in the illustrations includes everything from a grandfather clock and a piano to a cradle and lawnmower.
The great joy in this lecture is the many clever examples of ingenuity in the metamorphic furniture shown. Consider the patents alone. Before 1866, Sean says there were 28 patents for chairs. Between 1866 and 1900, 306 patents existed for folding chairs alone.
In this lecture you’ll see a late 18th century mahogany cylinder bureau bookcase that, at first glance, you’d never guess would break down – but it does, considerably. A four poster patent screw bed by Thomas Butler, circa 1800, that is easily set up or taken down without screws, nuts or bolts, and even has a canopy for mosquitos when hot or drapes when cold. There’s a mahogany Naval bureau from 1750-80 with a top that comes off allowing the bottom to become a temporary operating table if needed.
The Victorians broadened the campaign furniture market, building furniture such as the Thornhill Patent Games Table, circa 1910, which easily folds into a small suitcase and could be used at home, in the garden or while on picnics. Sean points out that a plastic version of Thornhill’s folding picnic table and benches can still be found in most camping shops today. And, of course, the Roorkhee Chair is the predecessor to the folding chairs we take to our children’s sporting events, minus the cup holder (and elegance).
Many of you have asked how the crowdfunding campaign to save Wille Sundqvist’s tools turned out, which we first wrote about here. With a goal of $4,000, the campaign raised $19,183 in just a couple days. Here’s what happened.
When Jögge Sundqvist’s father Wille Sundqvist died in 2018, Jögge and his two brothers assumed that many of Wille’s tools, sculptures and items from his shop would go to them, particularly to Jögge, who has been instrumental in keeping his father’s legacy alive by teaching traditional carving methods via books, videos and classes around the world. Wille lived his last years in Högland, a small village in the Bjurholm Municipality.
And although Jögge and his brothers have been in agreement throughout the entire process of dealing with their father’s estate, there have been others who have not; as so often happens with families, wills and second marriages, things got complicated.
For the first 10 years of Jögge’s life, he and his family lived in an apartment where his dad had his little workshop in the boys’ bedroom. Jögge and his brothers slept on stacked beds next to their father’s workbench, chopping block, axes and saws, and a beautiful tool chest with a precise interior with parts that flipped in and folded out so that every tool had its special place. It’s a long and private story, but even after offering to spend what translates to nearly $1,800 USD months prior to this most recent auction, Jögge and his brothers were unable to gain ownership of their father’s tool chest.
Eventually Wille’s house was sold and all its contents were put up for auction. If Jögge or either of his brothers wanted anything that was still available, they were going to have to buy it. When a Facebook announcement came up about the auction Jögge instinctively posted something along the lines of hoping that the people who buy his father’s remaining tools and things take care of his father’s heritage and share his stories.
In less than 20 minutes Jögge received a message from Ty Thornock.
Jögge first met Ty several years ago. Jögge was teaching up north and Ty, who lived close by, sent Jögge a message and said he wanted to say hi and have a fika (coffee).
“So we did,” Jögge says. “We had a coffee. And that was right after my father’s death. And then all of a sudden he shows me a spoon he made with some kolrosing in it. And it was a picture of my father, in the spoon blade. And I was totally – it was so nice of him. It was so gentle and so warm and he did it in such a beautiful way. And I was so happy to have that spoon. So this is one of the treasures now in my home. He actually gave it to me. He was such a nice guy.”
Ty and Jögge have kept in touch, and Jögge says that Ty has also generously helped him write about kolrosing techniques for his new forthcoming book about Scandinavian chip carving.
So Ty’s a great guy. And he messages Jögge to ask, “Do you want me to set up a GoFundMe?”
Now Jögge had never heard of GoFundMe.
Ty asked how much Jögge thought he needed to cover the tools. Thinking of only the tools and nothing else, Jögge suggested $4,000 USD and sent Ty a picture of Wille. At 6 p.m., Ty posted the campaign on the GoFundMe website. And Jögge? Well, he was invited to dinner at woodworker Beth Moen’s place.
“We had a wonderful evening, good food and we had such a good time together,” Jögge says. “I mean, we’ve known each other since the early ’80s and we’re deep friends.”
Once home that evening, at about 11 p.m., Jögge finally looked at his phone again. “What?” was all he could say.
The campaign had already raised $15,000 USD.
“That was so amazing,” he says. “I couldn’t believe my eyes. I said, there must be something wrong with this. Because I know the slöjd world. I’ve been teaching in Europe, England, United States, Japan, all over. And I know many people in the slöjd world aren’t very rich people. So I was totally blown away. I called my brothers and said, ‘Wow. This is amazing. The slöjd community did it. Now we can buy tools and items from this auction as we want.’”
A few months after Wille died, Jögge had reached out to the municipality of Bjurholm to talk about creating some sort of installation, a memory room if you will. The problem? It’s one of the smallest municipalities in Sweden, just 2,500 people, and not a lot of money is available for such endeavors. And when all the problems with obtaining the items began, the conversations halted. But now? Jögge entered the auction with a new vision.
“I had this in my mind that maybe we could buy things that could represent my father in the room with some text, some videos, some items and some tools,” he says. “So during the auction I tried to buy stuff that would represent his workshop. So I got the chopping block, I got some axes, I got some sketches, I got his apron, I got his signs from the workshop – I think I have a pretty decent collection now, which is special in showing who he was. So I’m very happy about getting all these things.”
Jögge says he also felt a sense of relief knowing these items weren’t purchased using his money or his brothers’ money.
“This is the slöjd community in the world that stood up and said, Fight for it! Go for it!,” he says. “And without that I don’t know if I would have been able to actually have the power to do that because it takes – when you lose a father, which you had taken a responsibility for the cultural heritage that he tried to pass on, it’s so tough. And it was so emotional to go there in the workshop and see all the people in the workshop, looking at the things and wanting to buy them and all that stuff. I couldn’t stand it. So I was just sitting outside waiting for the auction to begin. But then knowing that people around the world were in my back, so to say, was just kind of, I was so happy, you know. When I came home, feeling that, OK, well we solved this, we finally kept a private collection and managed to spread the word about my father, with a little help from my friends.”
And the funding truly was worldwide. Jögge laughs and says only a few Swedes contributed money to the campaign, simply because they couldn’t understand it.
“This way of financing things in Sweden is way beyond,” Jögge says. “It’s not happening at all. We have no tradition of private people giving money to others. Because we have a social democratic society you apply for grants or official funding.”
Some of the Swedes who were following this on social media even sent Jögge private messages. “Oh, something is going on?” Jögge says, reciting a typical message. “‘Do you actually need money?’ They couldn’t realize it was happening! It was so special. For a Swede, seeing this, it was blowing my mind in a way.”
Jögge and his brothers still don’t have the tool chest, some meaningful sculptures and some items that are personally important to them. There’s still a lot of hurt.
“For us, it’s not the money,” he says. “I have to be clear about that. It’s not the money. Even though I’m not a rich man. For me it’s the memory and the stories about father and what he actually achieved with his work that I want to preserve.”
Some years ago, taking a group of children round the Tate Gallery in London, I was hurrying them through one room remarking that there was nothing much there, the more interesting pictures were further on, when one child stopped suddenly. “Oh no, don’t go on. There’s a lovely picture over in that corner. Look!”
Her quick eyes had discovered the one picture of note the room contained. It was quite small, a boy’s head sensitively silhouetted against a dark background, the best thing John Opie, a fashionable portrait painter of the late eighteenth century, ever did.
We crowded around and the little girl planted herself in front of it and gazed her fill. “It’s beautiful,” she declared, stoutly and convincingly. “It’s the best picture we’ve seen to-day.” To her it would remain a lovely memory long after all the others had been forgotten. She may even have gone back to look at it as soon as she was old enough to take herself to picture galleries. It is the kind of thing we all do with our first loves among the arts. Actually some time afterwards a few of the more outstanding works of British painters in the Tate Collection were transfered to the National Gallery and, if I remember righty, this picture was among them.
In the end, everything comes round to the person. If we are to be satisfied, we ourselves have to be the doers, the makers of things, even of discoveries, although we may have the wisdom of the centuries to guide us. Every man may not be guided into the same groove, not see things with the same eyes, and it is well that it should be so, for hence comes the interest and variety of everything to which men set their hands.
— Charles Hayward,The Woodworker magazine, 1962, excerpted from Honest Labour
Nancy Hiller’s forthcoming book of essays, “Shop Tails,” (hopefully out later this fall) is a companion book to her first book of essays, “Making Things Work.” In “Making Things Work,” Nancy shares her life story as a series of vignettes, each with a lesson about craft, business and personal relationships, all centered on cabinetmaking in some form.
While cabinetmaking is central to “Shop Tails” simply because a) Nancy is a cabinetmaker and b) many of the animals featured live in her home and shop, the essays in this book aren’t all about cabinetmaking – or the business of, or the art of, or the joy of. If “Shop Tails” were a carousel, woodworking would be the center pole. It’s always there, but it’s the wildly painted horses moving up and down and the amusing characters sitting on each that have your attention.
At first, Nancy wondered if we’d even publish it. And I suppose, if you look at our catalog of books, it can feel “off brand.” But we had no hesitation. As Chris recently said to me, “LAP isn’t one thing. And it will be different tomorrow.”
It’s certainly not necessary to know an artist to appreciate their art. But I do believe doing so can add depth. Sometimes curiosity’s reward is intimacy coupled with better understanding, especially when considering a person’s background, even in terms of craft. So if you enjoy reading our Meet the Author series or Nancy Hiller’s Little Acorns, or if books like Trent Preszler’s “Little and Often” (William Morrow) are on your nightstand, you’ll likely enjoy Nancy’s latest offering.
This, from Edith Sarra, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Indiana University-Bloomington, after reading “Shop Tails”: “It’s hard to describe these essays without lapsing into the kinds of qualifiers that usually sound (but definitely are not, in this case) overblown: breathtaking, searing, hilarious, intricate, and above all else – wild and original, like nothing else I’ve read (and I read a lot of memoiristic narrative, across three languages, and many centuries).”
And now, an excerpt from Chapter 15, “Warring Parties (2011-2017),” with a good mix of cabinetmaking and memoir.
— Kara Gebhart Uhl
About a year after Winnie died, I was ready to get another dog and fantasizing about a trip to the animal shelter. At the time, I was working on a job that involved refacing and modifying the kitchen cabinets in a newly built house. The place had been built on spec, so the builder had been careful about where he invested resources. The kitchen had a modified galley layout – base cabinets and uppers against the back wall, stove in the center and a capacious pantry unit on one end, all facing a big island of matching cabinetry that housed the sink, dishwasher and one of those pull-out-then-pull-up mixer stands I’ve always considered a stupid waste of space – and never more so than in a small kitchen such as this one. The cabinets had been built by a local shop. They were perfectly well made, but nothing that I would call craft. The carcases themselves were functional and made to cutting-edge standards, with undermount drawer slides and so on; it was the parts you could see – the doors, drawers and end panels – that were the problem.
The clients had been referred to me by one of their colleagues. Martha said they were happy with the basic cabinets, but there was something she couldn’t stand about their looks. As soon as I arrived for a first meeting, I knew what it was: The cabinets were “walnut,” which in this case meant maple-veneered MDF with a semi-opaque medium-dark-brown finish. Martha’s eyes were used to real wood.
By way of illustration, I pointed to the cutting board by the sink. “This is walnut,” I said. I didn’t criticize the cabinets; I simply explained that the builder had probably chosen them because they were well made and more affordable than they would have been with walnut faces. She listed the details she wanted to have changed and I put together a proposal, which she and her husband accepted. The scope of work included removing the mixer stand, which I took to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore; refacing the cabinet end panels, including those on the island; making new doors and drawer faces; and switching out the vaguely Craftsman-style brackets supporting the overhang of the island counter with more modern brackets in welded metal. I was especially keen to replace the glazed doors at the top of the cabinets along the wall; instead of making them with rails and stiles, the original cabinetmakers had simply cut out a rectangular opening in each blank of MDF, probably with a CNC router, and left the inside corners round. In place of glass bead, they’d fastened the glass in the rabbet with flexible “glass bead” in “walnut.” Ouch.
I refaced the cabinets with custom-veneered panels that I cut to size, edged and fitted by hand. I made new glazed doors out of solid walnut with mortise-and-tenon joints, proper rabbets and wooden glass bead. Then I took them to a locally owned fabricator, Heitink Veneers, to have them faced with sequence-matched offcuts from the rest of the doors and drawer faces so the grain would run continuously from the tops of those doors through the ones below.
Late in the day, I was still dreaming about getting a dog when Mark texted me that he had a surprise waiting at home. “Is it a dog?” I asked. He refused to say. If it was a dog, that would certainly be a wild coincidence. As I pulled into the parking area at the top of the driveway that evening, a young cream-colored dog with rusty speckles on her legs ran down the hill from the house, barking ferociously, convinced that she was guarding Mark and Jonas from an intruder. “Henny!” I cried, the name inspired on the spur of the moment by her spots, which reminded me of a speckled hen. “It’s OK! I live here. I’m not going to harm your men.”
Mark told me how she came to be there. He’d been on his way home, driving along a favorite back road, when he reached a three-way intersection. The dog was standing there while two other drivers, who had each pulled over, were discussing what to do. “I’ll take her,” said Mark. He picked her up and held her in his arms. “She smelled like a baby,” he remembers; she was perfectly clean and well fed, not the condition you’d expect in a stray. Like Lucy, she appeared to be a cross between a pit bull and a Lab.
We reported her to the shelter, certain her owners must be looking for her, but no one ever called. So she joined our household.
I often took Henny to my shop, where she dreamed of playing with Louis. In typical feline form, he refused to acknowledge her presence. She’d lie down on the floor in disappointment and chew wood scraps to console herself. When I delivered pieces of work downtown, I took her with me in the truck. She sat in the front seat and napped, waiting for my return. Though quick to bark in defense of her family, she was exceptionally ingratiating toward one person: Mark. She’d laid her claim on him the day he brought her home. With the utmost delicacy, she would crawl, not jump, into his lap, and gaze adoringly into his eyes. She grudgingly acknowledged that I was the one who shared his bed.
Last week we reviewed the final page proofs of Monroe Robinson’s “The Handcrafted Life of Dick Proenneke,” finished up the diestamp (more on that soon) and sent everything to the printer – that felt good. We had hoped to have this book available for purchase by the end of the year, but it may be early 2022. As Chris wrote about here, U.S. printing plants are shutting down and consolidating, and we are working around significant paper shortages.
In the meantime, here’s a short excerpt from the first chapter, Starting from Scratch, written 53 years ago this week. A lot of the book is like this – excerpts from Dick’s journals (in regular font) accompanied by Monroe’s commentary (in italic font) and photography.
— Kara Gebhart Uhl
August 13, 1968:
Today was a day to clean up my leftovers from the cabin. Saw them to length and split them for wood. A good pile by the time I finished.
I drew up plans for the fireplace and they look very satisfactory to me. Now I must try to figure out how much cement it will take. Yesterday I had sawed a few blocks of wood at both the main and guest cabin. Enough to last a day or two. Today I cleared the drift wood from the landing beach and picked up more big rock to make a beach a pilot would enjoy coming in to.
More small jobs – clean up the canoe paddle and give it a coat of shellac. Sharpen and oil the planes and chisels. Ready to return them to the main cabin.
Dick stacked the large rocks he removed from the beach to start a small jetty on the up-country side of the beach. The photo on the first page of chapter 7 shows Dick’s rock-free beach after he and his brother Jake stacked rocks to create a large jetty to protect their J-3 Cub airplane from the west winds.