I have just begun reading an obscure second hand book I picked up. Its title is Country Chairs of Central Pennsylvania by Marie Purnell Musser. (I read stuff like this all the time.) The books is a large format paperback published in 1990 by an 85 year-old local historian. In the Introduction Marie describes how she traveled all over Centre, Union, Snyder, Mifflin, and Juniata counties seeking out decorated, plank bottomed country chairs. She also sought out chairmaker descendants and interviewed them about their ancestors.
I am not far into the book. In fact, I only read the Introduction. However, I was so impressed by something she wrote I stopped to ponder it. I am going to quote her, but first I have to set up the story. If you have taken a sack back class with us, you have heard my discussion of the Four Objectives. These are the objectives we all want to accomplish whenever we set out to make a piece of furniture.
The fourth objective is to make a piece that elicites a favorable response from the people who look at it. It is a natural desire on our part to want people to like and appreciate what we have made. I note that the large number of 18th century chairs still extant proves that the chairs we make will outlast us. In my discussion these leads me to point out something else that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. It is the thought of a great-great grand daughter showing someone our chairs and saying, “Those were made by my great-great grandfather. He was an amazing craftsman.”
Now you know how Marie Musser’s experience fits into our experiences as chairmakers. This is what impressed me and made stop reading to write to you. She wrote, “During these forays for information, I met and came to know many fascinating people whose pride in their ancestors’ work remains undaunted by time.”
Keep making chairs, not only for people alive now, but for generations yet unborn. Who knows, a future Marie Musser may track down your descendants to gather information about you.
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