Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Chairmaking, Gimson, Philip Clissett, Lawrence Neal, tradition and revival.
Today in the New York Times there is a good article on Philip Clissett Herefordshire chairmaker it gives some of the history but there is more to add so here goes....
Philip Clissett was one of very many country chairmakers. The windsor chairmaking tradition around the chilterns is widely known but there were very many more chairmaking centres and small local makers too. These are wonderfully recorded in Bill Cotton's book the English Regional Chair.
Clissett was one of these and his name along with the rest would hardly be known if it was not for a chance meeting with Scottish architect James MacLaren who encouraged the Art Workers Guild to commission Clisset to make chairs for their meeting rooms in London. I took this pic when I visited in 2009.
Anyway the NYTomes finishes the story with Ernest Gimson learning the trade and he popularised the design to such an extent that this design is often generically refereed to as a Gimson chair.
Gimson in turn taught Edward Gardiner who in turn taught Neville Neal who in turn taght his son Lawrence Neal. I visited the workshop when Neville was still alive and weaving seats, maybe around 2000, today Lawrence still turns out great chairs at very reasonable prices. He uses Gimson's original shave horse to shave down the parts with a drawknife.
This is a lovely video of Lawrence going about his work.
and this is his website http://www.lawrencenealchairs.co.uk/index.html
There are many people running chairmaking courses now but Lawrence is the only person I know who makes a full living from just making chairs. Probably the best known of the course providers is Mike Abbott who learnt much of what he knows about ladderback chairmaking by visiting Lawrence's workshop so a long unbroken tradition being revived in the 21st century.