A while back I acquired a rather special plank of Sugar Pine. It was 2" thick, 22" wide, and 11' long. It was also completely clear, meaning it didn't have a single knot. The end grain of the board shows 118 years of growth rings. Some rough calculating estimates the tree this board was cut from would have been at least 4 feet across, and been over 300 years old!
I barely even saw Sugar Pine when I was an apprentice; old timers would lament it's scarcity, telling stories about how beautiful it was, how lovely it was to work, and how much millwork used to be made from it. I've considered using this board a few times, but each time decided it deserved a better idea.
This past December a few things converged into inspiration: I needed a Christmas present for Rachel, she had previously shown me a photo of a chair that she liked, and I realized that I could make her a chair based loosely on the photo using 4 pieces of the plank.
So out came the saw.
Like most rough sawn boards, this one had a pronounced cup. A cup a curve that runs the length of a board, sort of like flexing the two long edges of a playing card toward each other. This happens as lumber is dried. Usually, this cup is planed away, yielding a board that is thinner, but flat with smooth faces. However, here I wanted to keep the rough sawn surfaces because they had such a beautiful patina and would look perfect with the fabric I planed to use for the upholstery. So I oriented the cup in the sides to give a welcoming flair to the char, and in the back and seat to cradle the sitter.
The seat and backrest are scribed and fitted into the sides. Everything is joined together with a line of wooden pegs.
My friend Barbara, who owns a local shop called Patriae made the cushions. She specializes in antique european textiles. We chose old hand woven hemp/linen grain sacks. The monogram is hand dyed to mark a particular farmer's grain sacks, and the patches were hand stitched on to extend the life of each sack.
Barbara's fabrics have such beautiful texture, feel, and color. It is always a wonderful surprise to take a closer look at utilitarian objects and find such beauty.
Inspiration is a fickle thing. I don't often experience it in a flash. I like Chuck Close's explanation: "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work." At the end of this process sits a chair that I think is beautiful and is already filled with history, stories, and collaboration. That's inspiring enough for me. And yes, Rachel loves her chair!