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Thursday, February 21, 2013


I’ve never met him but now his life is part of my memories—this craftsman somewhere in North Carolina who, over the years, worked on woodcraft, including making miniatures of … other miniatures!  That is, my latest chair acquisition is this craftsman’s attempt to replicate one of the rockers put out in the 1950s by Strombecker, a children’s toy manufacturer for much of the 20th century.  The Etsy seller told me this chair was purchased from an antique dealer who, in turn, purchased it from the wood craftsman in Asheville, NC: “The craftsman was closing his shop, and this was in a basket of goods that he'd put into a storage locker. That basket was full of different items that he had tried to replicate, but he never offered them for sale. Supposedly the items were all over 25 years old.”

This chair intrigued me for several reasons.  First, it seems not all that was in the basket was a success—but this chair is a convincing replica.  I liked the idea of giving a home to a successful work by someone who put in years working at his craft.  Another reason had to do with the influence of Tom Pfannerstill, an artist who’s blessed my home with two works:

Tom Pfannerstill picks up debris which he brings back to his studio.  Then he makes replicas of them.  The replicas are astounding – in the case of the works in my home, he carved wood into the shape of the trash and then painted them.  I never fail to be amazed at how he was able—through paint on wood—to capture the faux plastic surface of a milk cartoon, as well as the sheen of plastic in the candy box.  Anyway, if you click on the link (beginning this paragraph), Mr. Pfannerstill says something about the effect of his art on others—an effect I would hope for my poems to have on their readers: “The fact that this work can slightly alter a person’s perceptions, even if only for a short time, ‘open their eyes’ or make them view their reality in a slightly different way, is a very important aspect of what I do.”

Indeed, the whole world of miniatures can sort of make a person look at the world differently, doesn’t it?  Scale matters, and the viewing of something that can be held on, say, the palm of one’s hand can effect interesting shifts in vision.  So, all those thoughts were murkily brewing in moi mind as I looked at this craftsman’s attempt to replicate a child’s toy.  I like that this piece makes me think about certain things … things that relate to what I’m trying to do in poetry.  Here it is, modest and unassuming and yet with a presence:

If you Google images of Strombecker dollhouse furniture, you will no doubt come across this rocker's image.  Now that I’ve seen the craftsman's chair, I can see the presence of the hand – it’s well-made but not perfect. But its imperfection only makes it true-r: it’s a chair imbued with the artist’s struggle to manifest reality from vision.  Such is not an easy task but it’s so worthwhile, which is why plenty of sages observe that it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts.

[Prov.: The Blue Daizy. Size: 7”” tall, 4” across the seat, 3 ½” deep]

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