It's an interesting prospect making Windsor chairs for a living in Australia. On one hand your a relatively good sized fish in a small pond, demographically speaking. On the other, there's none too many other chair makers just hanging around for you to chew the preverbial fat with. And so, with the exception of good mate Bern, I tend to spend time searching for inspiration, as opposed to perhaps being inspired by others plying the same craft.
So you can imagine what it is like for me to be fairly and squarely in the workshop of one of the States best Windsor chair makers and a house full of his creations. Suffice to say it gives you food for thought.
Playing with the Tim Manney made Adze…. amazing fun
The time to actually be present in a workshop that is not yours and doesn't have all the limitations and boundaries of your own, is an interesting place to find yourself in. To have time to carve or steam bend a part that is not earmarked for a commissioned piece, but to you is an exercise purely in honing skill or understanding a technique in a greater sense, can be very rewarding. To have no time limitations is a bonus too. To work green and dry timber alike, that is of text book quality as opposed to scrounging for a log of that species, let alone one that is straight enough to fashion a spindle from.
It seems a lot like a dream at present. Pete put it well just the other day when Charlie expressed concern to him about me being out in the heat splitting maple. "Don't worry about him, he's just having fun experiencing what it's like to be a chair maker here."
Oh Well, I guess I'll make another few spindles outta this horrible wood...
But there's also a more confronting aspect to the picture. It begs the question, are you becoming staid? Are you at the forefront of your craft or is isolation from or lack of interaction with other makers meaning that you are treading water? I've asked and answered that questions of myself a few times since I've been here. ( No, I'm not audibly talking to myself in a corner somewhere ).
There's been no real resolution and I think I'll have to see through the end of the trip before I'm quite assured of the answer, but I am content that the process of asking those questions is valid given my circumstances. And hell, even if the ultimate answer is not what I want it to be, then more reason to work towards changing that, and achieving the right end goal. Win win eh?
But while on the subject, I feel very fortunate to have been a guinea pig of sorts for a while in Pete's workshop. As you would all be aware Pete is currently in the process of writing his book on Windsor chair making. He has also kindly given me access to parts of the draft copy to read.
One part was in reference to a technique for fitting a part of one of the chairs featured in the book. Pete asked me to read it and then based on that, complete the physical task on that particular chair part
( sorry I can't give away any more detail for obvious reasons ) But what I can say, is based on Pete's text and illustrations alone I completed the task and it worked about as perfectly as you could ever want. I was supremely impressed.
So how good do I think this book will be? Well lets just say that I will strongly recommend that anyone taking one of my classes in the future reads Pete's book first. Despite the fact that in doing so they probably won't need to take a class with me at all.......?? Hmmm might have to rethink that one….
But seriously, I honestly believe it will be the 'go to' book of our time for anyone wanting to make Windsor chairs. It truly is that comprehensive. And it is beautifully illustrated by Pete too. He is a rare talent.