Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shaker Furniture

I spent about a month filming Maine furniture maker, David Margonelli, making two beautiful tiger maple chests with concave and convex curves. They are part of his Flexure line of furniture which incorporates curved pieces that nest together perfectly to appear as one larger piece, or stand on their own as his and hers, and provide different functions, such as coffee table sections that accept a glass top, or an upholstered top. I think it is inevitable that when two furniture makers spend some time together that the conversation will turn to Shaker Furniture, and that is exactly what happened with us. David said something very interesting which I believe holds true for the vast majority of furniture makers: "Shaker was my inspiration and my teacher". The only adornments in Shaker furniture are form and the wood, and Shaker methods of construction stand the test of time. Mortise and tenon and dovetail joints constitute the makeup of most all Shaker furniture, and are an absolute must for any furniture maker to master. Shaker was indeed my teacher too, and I can see the Shaker in David Margonelli's furniture: shape and the grain of the wood. And as the Shakers would hang their chairs on the wall while they swept the floor, David has provided similar function is his pieces.
I believe Shaker furniture can be an inspiration and teacher to people who don't have their own wood shop, especially to those who are looking to buy their first pieces. The simplicity of the design (form) makes it perfect for nearly any space. The grain and/or figure in the wood makes each piece it's own, with it's own unique presence. Its durability will surprise you. You can take comfort in knowing you will not have to buy the same piece again. If you can't cannot afford an entire dining room set, start with a table that can be accompanied by a wide variety of chairs and benches. Build your collection one piece at a time, because it is an investment. It is actually less expensive than buying cheap imported pieces every time you move. I believe that once people realize all the great things Shaker furniture has to offer that they will inevitably seek out other styles of furniture, such as Mission Furniture, Colonial Furniture, and Contemporary Furniture, which all share in form and the natural wood grains. Every local furniture maker can build Shaker. Some stay with it because it is their passion, and others, like David Margonelli, incorporate Shaker into their own designs.
I invite you to view two profiles at Chris Becksvoort (Shaker) and David Margonelli (Contemporary). They are masters at their craft, and if you look closely, you will see their similarities, even though their work is very different. Follow the links to their websites, and read what they have to say, and please keep visiting the site because we are adding woodworkers every week. Thank you!