Friday, October 15, 2010

Tabouret Pour Les Clef

I have always enjoyed visiting antique shows. I rarely go to buy anything, since I never seem to have "lots of money." I go to just learn and expand my understanding of the world of ancient objects. I guess that is why a lot of people spend time wandering through antique shops and shows. You never really know what to expect or what you will find.

For example, if I need a pair of shoes or some food, I know where to go, how long it will take, and what I am looking for. It is really more of a chore, since there is really no excitement, and perhaps there is actually disappointment if the store doesn't have what I am looking for.

With antiques it is the opposite. No matter what city or country you are in, you can always pass a pleasant few hours walking through the antique stores or shows. You do not need to purchase anything to experience the joy of discovery. There is never disappointment. Often you discover something which you already own, and often it is priced higher than you might have paid, so you feel rewarded. You might trip over something which completes your collection, but is rather expensive. However, if you look at the average price of all the similar objects in your collection, you could perhaps justify the extra cost, just to add value overall.

One of the best shows in the year happens each spring in Maastricht, Holland. I have had the pleasure to have been invited to that show for several years, during the 1990's, since I knew several of the dealers and collectors who attended. It is amazing. Everything is the highest quality (and price). The dealers often will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to set up their booth. The convention center is huge, and was built by the city exactly to the show's requirements. Thousands of fresh tulips fill the aisles, and are replaced as soon as they show any fatigue. The antiques range from medieval armor to modern art. It might take you two days to see the show, assuming you walked fairly quickly. The combined knowledge and experience of the exhibitors is beyond measure.

One year, as I drifted through the halogen lights, from treasure to treasure, I discovered a small stool, or tabouret, sitting at a desk, with a large price tag. Actually, none of the things at Mastricht have price tags. That would not be classy. The normal procedure is to ask, and the dealer will usually hand you a glossy printed book or professional photographs, along with a letter of provenance and, at the end of the material will be the price. That way, you know why it is so cher.

In this case, I happened to think of my dear client, in Sacramento, who owns my Biedermeier jewel cabinet. That cabinet has lots of secret places, and lots of locks with several keys. She often needs to call me to ask which key does what, or how to open a drawer where she keeps something special. She also has never found a good place to hide all the keys, and constantly forgets where they are.

So I asked for the information, and was handed a nice set of photos, along with dimensions. When I returned to the shop, I selected some interesting French walnut veneer and made the tabouret. There was one important change. The original had a simple silk covered seat, fixed in place. I decided to add a "secret" compartment under the seat, which lifts up on hinges, after you unlock it with a single key. The interior cabinet is lined with silk, and provides a secure place for all the other keys that work the jewel cabinet, along with "hints" to remind the owner how to access the secret areas.

Everything in one place, accessible by one key. Even a place to sit while you decide which jewels to wear that evening.


Chuck Walker said...

Patrick, how did you apply the veneer to the tabouret pieces? Was it by hammer or pressed with cauls? The underside of the curved arms looks very difficult.

W. Patrick Edwards said...

I veneered the entire project with hammer veneer methods. When I demonstrate hammer veneering I always stress that "practice, practice, practice, repeat" is the best advice. Once you learn the proper viscosity of the glue (rather thin) and the speed with which you need to work, you can veneer anything. Practice with scraps of veneer on scraps of wood until you understand the mechanics. It is not only easy, it is fun.