I’m aware that, to the casual observer, all my chairs look exactly the same; four legs, a seat, maybe some arms, maybe not – a bit of bark, possibly a splash of colour and not much else going on. A chair is a chair, after all. And, that’s fair enough – I get it and I can’t argue with it. But, to me each and every one is unique, not just in dimensions, proportions and other minor details, but also because of the little journeys they take me on, the thoughts surrounding them and the reveries they inspire, or spring from.
If I were to place all the chairs I have ever made side by side in chronological order I would see a gentle progression, in style, and thinking. The line is an unfinished story, and each chair is a chapter. I completed another a few weeks ago.
When I begin work on a chair I usually make a miniature, or at least a child sized version of what I have in mind. But, sometimes, this can be misleading – I may love the look, the feel, the proportions of the miniature – but, when I scale the chair to its intended final dimensions it doesn’t always work so well for me.
So, feeling experimental and being aware of the limitations of the miniature, I decided to go for the jugular, make the full size version, and see what happened. I gathered the willow, prepared my pipe and immediately sat down to ponder for an hour or two.
I ended up with, to my eyes, a lovely side chair that works in many ways, but also needs refinement in others. Still, no matter, it is experimental and for no other purpose than to see what I could do. I won’t mention the abject failures.
So, I sat and I pondered long. I smoked some beautiful Virginias, and the occasional robust latakia blend in the company of this chair. We sat, gazing at each other for many, many hours – I adored its delicacy, and its potential.
Then, I set to work on another chair, The Poets Chair, using what I had learnt, and incorporating elements from the gentle willow. When I finished, I wrote about the chair – in reality it was about Emily, and the chair was the justification for all I had to say. This done I had to deliver the chair, so I took a road trip to see my little sister in the home that I have never visited.
We sat around the kitchen table, ate magnificent food, washed down with large mugs of steaming black tea, before finishing off with a couple of slices of homemade brack. Through it all we laughed, loud and long, from deep inside.
The newly delivered chair sat quietly in the background, its work done.
Its work done!
Its purpose fulfilled!
I only realised this as I drove home through the dark. The chair, unwittingly, was a means to an end, pure and simple. What I wrote about its creation, and the long delayed visit it precipitated, are all that matter, all that is important. The chair itself can fade away, be forgotten.
As it is with The Poets Chair, so it is with the delicate little willow chair. It has served its original purpose, and so much more. From it sprang a chair, some words, an important road trip, and laughter; mainly laughter. It takes its place in the line, its importance not diminished by its fleeting existence, its ephemeral being.
So, I will sit with it for a while longer, and smoke a pipe, admiring its beauty, being grateful for all it has done for me. I will let it go – flames will save it from an undignified obscurity gathering dust in the workshop, or dismissive glances.