The Beginnings of Provenance
Why would someone travel perhaps a thousand miles to my brick shop at the end of a dirt road to buy a piece of furniture? Part of the answer lies in the word “provenance,” a somewhat snooty term in the antiques world that traces the lineage of an object. Often a piece is passed down though many generations of a family, from father to daughter to grandson and on and on. Perhaps it is a beautiful desk that became part of a family’s history, something that survived because it was well made, well cared for, and well loved. Maybe it was made in a shop down a dirt road.
What furniture will you leave to your children and they in turn to their children? Today we own many things, but not necessarily much worth passing on or made well enough to last. Even more sad is the lost connection between us and the person who grows our food, builds furniture, or makes any of the many things we use daily. Things that were once made entirely by hand are now produced entirely by machine, or by low-skilled labor elsewhere. We and our children are losing our understanding and appreciation of the unique skills of making things — beautiful things — by hand.
The bright side is that hand craftsmanship survives in small shops and studios tucked here and there across the countryside. For those entering my workshop, the aroma of fresh shavings, hand tools arranged around my bench, patterns and furniture parts hanging from the walls, and the quiet and beauty of the pastoral surroundings are as unfamiliar as they are deeply alluring. My shop represents me as much as the furniture produced here, and in an indescribable way forever imbues that work. It is not just in the way I use those hand tools to cut surfaces that speak clearly of hand craftsmanship, but that often furniture from my shop started as trees growing in my forest just a short walk away.
Designing and building each piece of furniture is as different as the personalities involved — a balancing of function, beauty, and desire. I bring a unique style and sense of design, and an understanding of materials and techniques. I am also part teacher, explaining why certain joints, construction details, or carefully chosen woods will survive generations. Working together, client and maker have the freedom to make almost anything, rich with detail, playful perhaps, simple and functional.
Handmade objects have a soul. Just as the furniture I build here absorbs some of the atmosphere of my shop, it is also imbued with my personality and that of the client’s as well. Walk into a house filled with handmade things and you can sense this. Run your hand over a surface or along an edge and you can feel the subtle marks left behind by sharp tools guided by a skilled hand and eye. Open a drawer and everything from the silky feel as it glides open to the clear pine bottom expresses construction meant to last. Maybe someday your children will open that same drawer and turn it over to find my signature and date, and yours as well, a beautiful start on a long provenance.