My latest projects have focused on Pennsylvania Dutch (or German) inspired small carved birds. In looking for possible markets for these birds I’ve looked back at my earlier work designing and building early American furniture. In doing so I (re?)discovered the market for primitive craft and decor.
When I was building country federal style (era?) furniture in the late 1980s and early 1990s I was shocked with the crap that people would purchase and covet. It seems this trend continues.
I believe that there are two reasons that this is true. First, the good pieces are generally significantly more expensive than the junk. Second, many folks don’t know the difference.
Though the first is generally true — good pieces can cost more — it’s not always the case.
During this time I found a niche building cherry topped painted dining tables with tapered legs. I hand picked beautiful local curly cherry for the tops. I used a multi-staged finish technique that brought out the depth of the grain. All finishes were durable, beautiful and authentic. Most parts were hand planed and displayed authentic tool marks. Joints were pegged. Breadboard tale ends utilized joinery techniques that allowed for wood movement, yet looked like they should.
They sure were pretty. I know that they look even better with 20+ years of age and often wonder where they are.
These tables cost half of a similar sized and styled table at an area high-end furniture store.
Time and again consumers went to the high-end store for the product. They bought metal fastened tables with woods of unknown origins. Finishes were modern, hard and sprayed. There were no tool marks. Worse, the pieces lacked the smell and feel of linseed oil and wax.
They didn’t know the difference.
I’m a career educator. I live to teach. Let me share a few of my thoughts about what is important in choosing, building, designing or purchasing reproduction pieces.
My opinions are mine. I am not judging your pieces or your taste. I’ve made mistakes and learned from them all. I hope this process continues.
Over the next few weeks I will be adding chapters to this introduction exploring themes of design, use and construction within the primitive reproduction market. I invite you to share your own views and opnions.