While I’ve not posted an update on the progress of the John Brown book for a while, behind the scenes we’ve been working hard on interviewing people who knew (or were influenced) by Chairman Brown, investigating historic examples of Welsh Stick Chairs (see my article for Furniture & Cabinetmaking this month for a beginner’s guide to the chair form), and working out how exactly we are going to structure the book.
Today I am heading down to Carmarthenshire to spend a week with Chris Williams. We will spend the next week hunkered down in Chris’ workshop – him building a Welsh Stick Chair while I photograph and document the process for the book. This will form the basis of the “Build a Welsh Stick Chair” section of the book, a section we started last year with our trip to the timber yard. Over the course of the next week, we hope to be able to capture how John Brown built his chairs, but also how the chair design has continued to evolve in the years Chris has been buiding them since John’s death, and why Chris has changed some of the techniques he uses to build them. Researching these chairs over the past year has highlighted how dynamic a form they are – they constantly evolve maker to make, and often chair to chair. We hope over the course of the next week to be able to lift the lid on some of that process.
At the end of the week we should then be in a position to write the “Build a Welsh Stick Chair” chapters, and a substantial element of the book will be complete (at least in draft form). And so I’m looking forward to setting out westwards this evening. Not just because this represents a major milestone in the development of the book, but also because of the opportunity to learn first hand from Chris – to watch how he crafts his beautiful chairs and to ask questions about the process, the evolution of his approach, and his relationship with John Brown. The next five days or so promise to be a real education, one which we plan to share with you through the book.