The Chairshop Goes on the Road

Centerbrook recently showcased The Centerbrook Chairshop for a week at the Mystic Seaport Museum. We mounted a pop-up exhibit at the Thompson Exhibition Building, which has become a Seaport fixture since we completed it four years ago.

We shared Thompson’s Collins Gallery with shipwrights who were restoring the wooden tender Afterglow. They are the high priests of the hand made. We had to bring our A-game.

We transported 20 chairs, designed and built by our staff, along with sketches, models, mock-ups, and full-sized breadboards. We hung photographs of the chairs and their builders on walls graced previously with masterpieces by J.M.W. Turner. Another high priest.

We also “set up shop” with machines, tools, and materials so I could replicate one of our favorite chairs and engage curious museum patrons. Being the gregarious type, I did more talking than working.

I described how building a decent chair involves many “micro decisions.” How sometimes you have to go backward to go forward. How a pre-made jig can save lots of time. How, at some point, you just have to commit and make the cut. How compromise and economy can still yield beauty. How admitting and then fixing your mistakes can be liberating.

Chair lessons, and life lessons.

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All who visited the exhibit, especially children, were delighted, opinionated, and interested. Like architecture, each chair spoke to them in different ways, challenging them to pick a favorite.

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