The Arts & Crafts Movement is where I park all things having to do with the Arts & Crafts movement. This may include places I’ve visited (museums, exhibits, or attractions), tips for better collecting, or just some interesting knowledge about the movement and its furniture. Whatever the subject, you’ll be sure to learn something interesting about the Arts & Crafts movement here…
This is the final post in a three post entry on the Grove Park Inn’s Vanity Chair. Read the first post, The Grove Park Inn’s Vanity Chair, and the second post, The Grove Park Inn’s Vanity Chair, Part II.
With a thorough understanding of how the chair was originally constructed and repaired I was able to restore the chair’s frame to a structurally-sound condition by repairing and restoring the original spiral grooved dowel joinery. The mortise and tenon joinery used to house the chair back’s vertical slats required no repair or restoration.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk about collecting Arts and Crafts furniture with one of the great experts–Stephen Gray. Stephen has been collecting since 1976 and has published and edited many books on the topic, and his collection was featured in a show at The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.
Stephen’s collecting story began in the mid-1970s when he bought a turn of the (20th) century farmhouse in Columbia County, New York and decided to furnish it consistent with the house’s construction period. In college he had studied architecture and ultimately was drawn to the rectilinear, organic, and durable nature of Arts and Crafts furniture. As his tastes evolved he was further drawn to the experimental, earlier works of Gustav Stickley, and this is where he focused his collecting efforts. Throughout my conversations with Stephen five central themes evolved as the keys to his success in building his exceptional Arts and Crafts furniture collection. In this post, I’ll share those themes with you.
As an admirer of all things Arts and Crafts, I enjoy visiting Asheville, North Carolina’s Grove Park Inn, often attending the annual Arts and Crafts Conference that takes place at the inn. During my many visits to the inn I’ve come to love its furniture collection, especially the original furniture still used in the main inn’s rooms. For me, this furniture is a great example of pieces produced in factories during the Arts and Crafts era.
There are many unique things about Charles’ work. For starters, on the surface his furniture does not appear to be from the Arts and Crafts era, however, he is considered one of its great designers because of his “his highly-individualistic, sophisticated design vocabulary as well as his use of quarter sawn white oak fully-expressed joinery and relatively direct approach to forms.” Now I’m not sure what “fully expressed joinery” is; but I can tell you from a furnituremaker’s perspective his work is interesting because he didn’t always employ traditional joinery-this exhibit reflects some of his work that utilized dowel construction and screws.
The joint I found the most interesting in this exhibit was the 3-part mitered joint employed where the three stretchers met in the center of the Trefoil table base. Of particular interest was how Charles reinforced this joint, he used a round block of wood glued (?) to the bottom of the joint. By the way, that reference is a good example of how you can spot the woodworkers at a furniture exhibit. They’ll be the patrons on their hands and knees looking underneath the furniture, as I had to do to spot that round reinforcement block!
Perhaps the neatest trait one can take from Charles Rohlfs is hope. Hope in that Charles did what a lot of weekend woodworkers would like to do. A self taught woodworker and furnituremaker, he won local, national, and international acclaim for his furniture, and competed with the giants of the furniture industry of his day. Not too shappy for a guy who only produced approximately 500 pieces over a ten year career.
The Charles Rohlfs’ exhibit runs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 23, 2011 in The Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery located on the first floor.
But if you miss the exhibit, there is an excellent accompanying book.